Tuesday, 08 June 2021 03:50

[OPINION] Nigeria, Twitter and Other Stories - Reuben Abati

“Omo, I see you are still on Twitter. How you dey take do am? Come and teach your brother…”

“Eishhh, Ishhh…Will you keep quiet?”

“But I noticed you tweeted something not long ago, despite the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria”

“Hey…hey. My family offend your family? This man. I commit crime to know you? What is the matter with you? Have you not heard that anybody that uses Twitter in Nigeria is now considered a criminal? You want to send me to jail? Please, please, please.”

“But I saw a tweet that came from you?”

“Hey he. Which kain enemy of a friend, friend of an enemy be this?”

“I just want to if you have joined VPN. I have been looking for someone to teach me how to by-pass the suspension and join VPN. I hear it is the only option available to users of twitter in Nigeria.”

“I am not saying anything to you. If you want to go to jail, God help you. But don’t come and drag me into it. Where were you when the Federal Ministry of Justice said that any Nigerian that uses twitter should be ready for prosecution?”

“Oh, I get you now. You dey fear? All of you are afraid. I can tell you for free, nobody is going to any jail for using Twitter. Dem just dey Shakara you. If all of us use Twitter, where dem go put us? Dem go jail us tire, hey, hey, hey, dem go jail us tire, how many people dem go kill. This is the time for us to show our power.”

“Dey there. I don’t want to show any power. In fact, as you see me, I no get any power. I am busy looking for money to send to my children who are in school abroad. Naira is now N720 to the pound sterling, N500 to the dollar. If I get locked up because of Twitter, who will help me? Jack Dorsey is running his own business. If he and the Nigerian government are fighting over a tweet or a video, how does that help the government of my bedroom? If they tell us not to use Twitter, then let us leave them and Twitter to fight themselves. Do I know Jack Dorsey? Does he know me? Why should I fight the Nigerian Government because of him?. Even the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria have since complied. They have since blocked access to Twitter on their networks.”  

“Cowards. Those ones are cowards.”

“They have a duty to obey their regulator. Regulatory risk is the biggest threat to business in Nigeria. Why should telecommunications operators risk their own business to protect Twitter which is another man’s business?”

“Bootlickers. The speed with which they even complied is laughable. They didn’t even try to spare a thought for their customers. They acted like zombies. Shut down Twitter now! Yes sir! …. I will like to see someone take them to court and sue for damages.”

“I can’t blame them. Even the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) has directed all broadcast stations in Nigeria to get off Twitter.”

“NBC? What has NBC got to do with Twitter? When the Minister kept referring to NBC, I actually thought he was mixing things up. The telecommunications spectrum is regulated by the National Communications Commission.”

“Both are involved. It is the case of Okeke and Okereke. NCC controls the network infrastructure. NBC controls the content on the networks. They are both determined to teach Twitter and other social media networks a lesson. I don’t want to be anybody’s scapegoat.”

“You have to stand up for the freedom of expression, and the right of every Nigerian to protest.”

“You are already doing so. Continue to do it on our behalf. No carry me join wahala.”

“What people like you do not know is that the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria means nothing. The internet network is an open system. Once you are online, nobody can ban you. It is a world wide web. It is not a Nigerian web. Twitter doesn’t even have a Nigerian office not to talk of operation. When Twitter decided to set up its headquarters in West Africa, they chose Ghana. They avoided Nigeria because as they put it, Nigeria is not a good environment for free speech.”

“Grammar. The way you are carrying on. When they arrest you, you will go and prove all these points in court.”

“Under which law?”

“The Attorney General of the Federation has told you that when you get to court, they will tell you which law binds both you and Twitter.”

“Who des that? Nobody can be prosecuted for an offence under a non-existent law at the time the alleged felony was committed. Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution. Aoko vs. Fagbemi. A.G. Federation vs Isong.”

“We are both saying the same thing. You don’t need to quote the law here. Go and do that in court. But when they first arrest you to make an example out of you, don’t forget that they will start by keeping you in detention for as long as they wish.”

“No. The maximum time is 48 hours, Okay, may be 72 hours, otherwise that will amount to a violation of my fundamental human rights which we will enforce.”

“I say don’t worry! We are both saying the same thing. Just remember that before you go and create problem for yourself and your family, judicial workers have been on strike for months. They will lock you up and tell the public that your matter cannot be determined until the courts resume. When the courts return, they will then get some injunctions to keep you for another two weeks. While you are languishing in one dingy cell, the Federal Government of Nigeria and Twitter will settle their matter. Twitter top executives will even pay a courtesy visit to Nigeria. By the time they finally remember you and sign your release warrant, you will be lucky if you don’t get home only to discover that your wife is already pregnant for another man.”

“Don’t insult my wife. I will not take that.”

“Ah sorry oh. Wetin be my own?.”

“Everything you have said is the theology of the coward. We are dealing with tyranny in Nigeria. We are back to the era of military dictatorship. This is a time when real men must stand up and speak truth to power.”

“The thing go shock you, choke you. The President of your own country has told you categorically that those who are trying to pull down the country will receive a shock treatment. He has threatened that he will speak to them in the language that they will understand. And now, he has taken the first step by descending on social platforms, and you are here quoting the law and lawyers, fundamental human rights. Are you aware that the enforcement of those rights will cost you money? And affect your family? Why not focus on what is important to your life? Twitter? Didn’t we live when there was no Twitter?”

“You don’t get it. This is the problem with many of you. Twitter censored President Donald Trump in 2020. He got angry and issued an Executive Order to restrain big tech. In January 2021, after the attack on Capitol Hill, Twitter went a step further and banned President Trump for life. Facebook has also banned him.  Nothing has happened. Nothing has happened because the institutions in the United States work for the people. But here in Nigeria, the President only needs to sneeze and all departments of state will start running up and down. What we have is the rule of one man, not the rule of the people. Haven’t you seen the way government appointees and institutions have been running up and down to abuse Twitter, and show that they are loyal to the President? What has Twitter done? It has only enforced its community rules?”

“You are comparing apples and oranges. I don’t agree. Twitter Community Rules. Are those rules superior to the corporate existence of Nigeria which the Federal Government of Nigeria says has been constantly violated on Twitter? Shouldn’t international companies and multinationals be subject to the national laws of their host countries? If you were President of Nigeria, you will fold your arms and allow one tech platform to become a forum for promoting propaganda, hate and secession?”

“Just a moment, please. In 2015, and 2019, this same government used Twitter and Facebook and WhatsApp to campaign for elections and promote propaganda, and demonise the opposition. Why are they now protesting? They don’t want to hear feedback? The truth hurts?”

“What truth?”

“The truth that Nigeria is not working and government has failed. The truth that Nigerian youths are angry. The truth that there is violence and insecurity in the land. Unemployment is 33.3%. Stagflation. Hunger. Banditry. Arson. Terrorism. Ethnic violence. A near-complete return to the state of nature.”  

“Clap for yourself. Just listen to yourself. See how you are de-marketing Nigeria, your own dear native land.”

“No. I am not a native. In fact, I am so angry, I would prefer to relocate to the United Africans Republic (UAR) where I can tweet and enjoy my human rights.”

“When you get to that UAR in your head, may be Twitter won’t work there or it may get suspended, banned or abolished. I put it to you that one of the big challenges we face in the world today is the tyranny of big tech companies. There are countries that have refused to cede their sovereignty to the supremacy of technology. Nigeria has not done anything extra-ordinary. Twitter has been either banned or suspended in China. North Korea, Egypt, in 2011, during the Arab Spring protests, Turkey, Iran, Uganda, Cuba, Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Pakistan.”

“Look at the countries you are comparing Nigeria with. Dictatorship. Tyranny. I just hope that one day, the Nigerian Government will not wake up and we will be told that oxygen has been banned because it poses a threat to the Buhari administration.”

“Excuse me. That is hate speech!”

“I will rather say fair comment because the way we are now carrying on, this government will blame anything and ban anything. The people who are considered enemies of government are the ones asking for justice and equity, and human rights. People with access to platforms. Protesters. Writers. Opinion leaders. I really won’t be surprised if the Nigerian government wakes up one morning and decides to ban access to oxygen in certain parts of the country.”

“I don’t have to argue with you. I think it is good that you and people who think like you understand the point that after God, it is Government. If you disturb government, government will disturb you. And if you ask me, I actually think that some people don’t deserve to enjoy Nigerian oxygen and work against the same country.”

“You will support that oxygen should be banned in Nigeria?”

“Why should you enjoy Nigerian oxygen if you don’t believe in Nigeria? We are in the age of technology. Go and ask Twitter to give you oxygen.”

“Before it gets to that stage, some of us will speak up. We will stand up. We will remind people like you that on June 12 democracy we stand. We will go to the streets and say No. On June 12, we will shout on top of our voices. We will write poetry on the streets of Nigeria.”

“You will go and confront people who have told you that you will be taught the language that you will understand. And that you will be shocked? As a Christian, I don’t encourage people to commit suicide. You know I like you, even if I don’t agree with most of the things you say.”

“I am not afraid to be part of the Nigerian Revolution”

“Sure? Have you visited Omoyele Sowore who got a small warning for talking about Revolution? Na ordinary tear gas cannister one Nigerian police woman take joke with am the other day oh, and him get wound. If anybody tries any protest on June 12, these government people, na armoured tanks dem go take send message oh.”

“They will attack Nigerians with armoured tanks? The same tanks that they can’t deploy to fight insurgents and terrorists? We don’t ever get our priorities right. Who advises government?”

“Nigerians like you and I. The ones who don’t want to go to Oduduwa Republic, Biafra or the proposed UAR. The push-me-I-push-am, na here I go dey crowd. “

“When something is not working, allow it to develop a rhythm of its own. It is possible to renegotiate the expired amalgamation of Nigeria. What are we afraid of? I’d rather die”

“Why not? It is sweet and fitting to die for one’s country. But don’t commit suicide.”

“Those of you who do not want a new reality can stay in Nigeria and die in it. Some of us are ready to have a new country. Even Daddy G.O. Adeboye has joined us. Pastor Kumuyi too.”

“You people have a hidden agenda”

“Oh, are you now afraid to die inside Nigeria?”

“No. Our Lord Jesus Christ saved the faithful with His Blood on the Mount of Calvary. Every living being, every good thing, will pass away and the world will be renewed. What we can do is to watch and pray.”

“Watch and obey. Your kind obeys every government commandment.”

“Pastor Temitope Joshua of the Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) just ascended to the Heavens to join the Saints Triumphant. His death leaves a very strong message for Nigeria.”

“Are you okay?”

“Have you not noticed that all the Saints, in our midst, are returning to Heaven, one after the other? They are leaving Nigeria. Can’t you see it?”

“What I see is that the demons have seized control”

“Be careful. These are dangerous times.”

“So when are you leaving, Mr Saint, so you can go and join Twitter Nigeria in Purgatory.”

“Ï shall not die any death.”

“Then keep safe and stop knocking your head against people who have served notice that they will shock anybody like potent electricity.”   

“Bad sign. What will tomorrow bring?”

“Let tomorrow worry about itself. Most of the people who claim they will die for Nigeria have dual citizenship, multiple visas in their passports, an open ticket to other countries, and foreign bank accounts. The only thing you have is your mouth. When things get rough, they will be gone in a jiffy.  My friend, don’t end up as an unknown corpse. Dem don warn you well, well oh, make you borrow yourself sense na im remain. This our Nigeria no balance again”.

“No. We no go gree oh. We no go gree.”

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