The latest unnecessary and shameful incident between the Nigerian government and Twitter has denigrated even further with the latest lawsuit submitted by the Social and Economic Rights and Responsibility Project (SERAP) and 176 other ECOWAS stakeholders against the FGN. Their agitation highlighted how the government is depriving people of their basic and universally guaranteed right to exchange and receive information.
This incident embarrasses Nigeria because, as a major member of sub-regional institutions, Nigeria should not engage in such disputes with foreign non-governmental organizations. In addition, it is expected that Nigeria will be “blacklisted” for violating universally recognized rights of expression. If managed properly, the dispute between the Nigerian government and Twitter could have been easily avoided.
Twitter deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s posts because his tweets threatened to “use a language they understand” to deal with anti-government instigators in south-eastern Nigeria, which violates Twitter’s “offensive behavior” policy. Consequently, the FGN brought down the hammer on the operations of the social media giant in the country.
The announcement of the ban and its actual implementation did not appeal to Nigerians, especially young people who have found liss on the social media platform. In fact, many citizens simply cannot accept the idea of living in the 21st century with no social media, especially Twitter.
Outraged Nigerians promised to use the Virtual Private Network (VPN) to bypass the ban, insisting that the ban is a strategy to stifle freedom of speech. But the federal government has refused to tolerate such disobedience by citizens, and has threatened to prosecute everyone caught using VPN.
Needless to say that the use of VPN also comes with its drawbacks, these downsides include; slower internet connection, specific blockades of VPN services (case in point: Netflix), not knowing how strong the encryption provided by your VPN is, the logging and potential reselling of your internet habits to third parties, connection breaks, an unwarranted sense of online impunity, among others.
There is evidence that Twitter and the federal government are negotiating to resolve the dispute. The federal government should reach an amicable solution as soon as possible within the framework of global best practices. Of course, these platforms operate elsewhere, and sometimes the inevitable disagreements with the host country’s jurisdiction are resolved without the president clamping down hard on them.
In this case, there is no need to use national force to retaliate an individual vendetta. Good leadership is predicated collective benefit, not just interests of the leader.