...Redifining Journalism for Development

Nationhood Question In Nigeria: De-tweeting the Twitter, by Prof MK Othman


Deepthought with Othman

The world is inching towards becoming a global hamlet from its current status of a global village. Thanks to Information and Communication Technology (ICT) that has made the distance, no matter how long, immaterial and allow people from different continents to participate in a common event in real-time. ICT is saving cost and time for several people from not being physically present in some events while partaking in such events effectively, thus, quadrupling their productivity.

ICT platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Instagram and many other social media use Internet services to link and network people for effective communication in the language of their choice without hindrance. While the technical innovators of these platforms are transformed into multi-billionaires overnight, the users of the platforms are getting effective value for their money.

This has produced a kind of a win-win case with the owners of the ICT platforms raking billions of USD in addition to receiving global accolades, and the users are highly contented for easy and effective communication. These platforms can be used as instruments of global unity and economic progress, achievement of peace and tranquillity. They can also be used to propagate war through distortion of information to make it false. They can be used to fool people or nations into war.

Yes, media can use the ICT platforms to propagate corporate and individual lies that instigate people into taking actions leading to unrest and confusion with unimaginable consequences. It is, therefore, pertinent that the platforms require strict regulation of the contents for their users. However, development and imposition of the regulations are difficult to achieve in view of fundamental human right for freedom of expression and freedom of speech. Language barriers and intricacies of translating messages from one language to the other with the potential of distorting the meaning of the messages, all add to the difficulty of imposing the regulations.

Now the world is excited and ecstatic with the emergence of the ICT platforms and too busy to think they can be used as an instrument for causing havoc, so far, no apparent and coherent regulations are in place. Even then, how free is freedom of expression? Can we voice out our thoughts on any issue at any time? I doubt it otherwise the world cannot contain the volume of conflicts likely to be generated by our big mouths.

This brings the issue of President Buhari’s tweet on the IPOB’s dangerous and unprovoked attacks of security personnel, their offices and INEC offices in the southeast with fatalities and wanton destruction of properties.

In the tweet, the President was quoted saying “Those of us in the fields for 30 months (Nigerian Civil war), who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand”.

The offensive words were “treat them in the language they understand”. Twitter promptly deleted the offensive tweet. Chain of reactions followed; Twitter ban, appeal to unban the Twitter, threat for court action against the ban and so on. Twitter’s action is fraught with suspicion of its real intention. While Twitter took prompt action against the President’s tweet but all along ignored tweets of Nnamdi Kanu, the embattled IPOB leader, which instigates youths to fatally commit atrocities in the name of realizing Biafran republic.

However, after 24 hours of deleting the President’s tweet and the reaction that followed made Twitter delete Kanu’s inciting tweet in which he vowed to unleash terror on Nigerian soldiers deployed to the Southeast. Whenever you listen to Kanu’s propaganda, one may think, Igbo people, are the most marginalised tribe in Nigeria contrary to the reality as they massively hold and strongly dominate the economic power of Nigeria. Even the political power, they need to strategise, be more communal, united among themselves and with other tribes, and be less individualistic, then, it will just be a matter of time when Nigeria will produce a president from Igbo extraction and not the Igbo presidency.

Two key lessons can be deduced from the Twitter-Presidency ruckus. The first is the agitation of war by Nnamdi Kanu and his likes. Those trying to ignite war in Nigeria are developing a Frankenstein Monster, kind of courting a suicide mission. If ignited, the inferno may consume all of us. War is not kidnapping, banditry or insurgency that affect few people in few places over a short duration. War is starvation, massive destruction of infrastructures and environment, massive killings of all kind of people, massive production of orphans and widows/widowers, economic extinction, exodus and other calamitous activities over a significant part of the country, if not all, over many months, if not years.

Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, and many other countries are common examples of the kind of war the agitators are calling for. The dead will be buried in mass graves; unknown graves and few known graves while the war survivors will never be the same again. During the war, sometimes, the living wishes to be dead because of unbearable sufferings. So, how can a sane person agitate for war in his country? So, the government should do everything possible to quench this agitation including dialoguing with agitators to make them see the futility of their efforts.

The second message is the kind of value we assign to our country, Nigeria and the need to provide good leadership. Irrespective of how we became Nigerians, many of us have no other country but Nigeria. What is the value of our nationhood? Few of the leaders may have a high premium for the country while some of the followers may not care if the country catches fire. It was surprising that some people supported the action of Twitter despite the damning statement on our nation.

Why should someone be jubilating when our country was insulted? We should unite to fight individuals, group of people or nation looking down on Nigeria. It is true, we have been experiencing bad leadership for over three decades but our democracy is growing and soon Nigerians will be capable of dealing with bad leaders. It is just a matter of time when Nigerian electorates will perfect their act for the emergence of leaders among us. Yes, it will soon be Uhuru, before then, we must be individually asking ourselves, what can we do to this nation to become great? Nigeria has all the attributes of being great.

Prof Othman writes from NAERLS, ABU Zaria and can be reached via email: mkothman@gmail.com.

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