Lift On Twitter Ban, A Triumph In Patriotism And National Security, by Dahiru M Lawal
“If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm” ~ African Proverb
When on June 4th 2021, the Federal Government announced the suspension of Twitter operations in the country after the social media giant deleted a post by President Muhammadu Buhari for “violation of the company’s abusive behaviour policy,” some Nigerians not only failed to take that decision on the merit of which it was approved, but the ensuing head over heels scramblings in using the strongest possible words to ridicule that decision exposed the lack of love, loyalty and patriotism for National Interest harbored by most Nigerians against Nigeria.
Infact, many immediately initiatiated the process of circumventing a national proclamation besorting to Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) to gain access behind the walls.
This echo-chamber no doubt created a vista for more meddlesomeness from foreign quarters.
Curiously, this is not the first time Twitter is having a showdown with Sovereign Powers. As of 2019, the governments of China, Iran, North Korea, and Turkmenistan have blocked access to Twitter in those countries.
Infact in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, Twitter users are prohibited from tweeting content that is contrary to public morals and the principles of that country.
Similarly, Turkey blocked access to Twitter in March 2014 in the run-up to local elections. It lifted the ban on Twitter after the social networking site complied with its request to remove photographs of a slain Istanbul prosecutor.
While it is easy to glorify these moves as repressive, the cradle of free speech and expression itself – the United States – is equally guilty of same.
In September 2020, the Trump administration announced banning of China’s TikTok and WeChat services from mobile app stores in the country.
Administration officials called the bans necessary to protect national security and prevent Beijing from exploiting the apps to collect user data or disseminate propaganda.
While the Biden administration dropped the ban in June 2021, it however included caveats which mandates accountability measures that TikTok does not currently have, including “reliable third-party auditing” of the app for possible security risk.
In the end, it turns out that for each country, no matter how self glorifying, national interest supersedes both internal and external usurpation.
I have always maintained that this is one of the most vulnerable moments in world history; a time when internet community coordination and mobilization is becoming a highly potent weapon for disruptive convergence, a time when dissents are evolving from being pressure bodies to being more daring and lethal actors who defy civility, ruffle authority, invade sanctity and inflame nationality.
In an article I wrote in January last year: Between Nigeria’s ENDSARS and US Capitol Insurrections, I highlighted that fact that, “this is creating a new dynamics for citizens agitations towards seeking redress over grievances and one can bet that every Nation has its fair share of ups and downs, but National pride has always been the defining point between citizen patriotism and treachery.
Ours may not be going through the best of times but in cases where we find ourselves on the brink, opening our doors to “sabi it all” meddlesome actors is a trajectory that is bound to injure our fledgling honor.
From the foregoing, it’s obvious that acts of meddlesomeness and expression of diplomatic finesse is not a game of who cares more for the welfare of citizens of other country but a game of interest for which only the smart and cunning holds the ace.
While we continue to hold our authorities to their responsibilities in our own different ways, Nigerian’s must learn to come through for their country in times like this.
It is therefore a welcome development when the Director General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) issued a loaded, detailed public statement on what transpired before the lifting of suspension on Twitter operations in Nigeria.
Twitter’s compliance to FGs conditions before the ban is lifted proves beyond doubt that drastic times requires uncommon decisions.
Complying to our own laws, being legally registered with the CAC, paying tax, screening inflammatory contents, fake news and hate speeches, setting up local offices and employing Nigerian’s are enormous benefits that was worth the 7-months wait. In the end, many citizens that used VON to hurl words at the FG are bound to benefit from the outcome of the same act they desecrated.
This is indeed a triumph in patriotism, national interest and national security. It is a solemn reminder of the fact that we have our own peculiarities and uniqueness that should be driven by our own values, we do not need the dictates of external interests to determine and shape our journey.
While applauding citizens who are always very meticulous in balancing between their bias and National interest, I should reiterate the need for us all to be wary about enabling malign actors who sow division and amplify conspiracy theories against our collective Nationality.
That these disruptive insurrections against authority are being coordinated on social media, once again brings to the front burner the debate on free speech – with a new reality on ground, to what extent does the world want to define it and where does it lead to?
On the Twitter ban, Yes! we have had a very long and excruciating wait, but there is no denying that the gains incurred far outweighs the fatalities encountered and we have this singular FGs decision to thank for it.
Dahiru, Coordinator of the Network of Advocates for Digital Reporting (NADIR) writes from Kano..