June 8, 2021

Of Twitter and Buhari’s controversial tweet


By Segun Ige

Twitter’s deleting of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet sharply brings to remembrance a lot that have been unconsciously repressed.

The pretext of the post, Twitter argues, violates its rules – in particular, of inciting and invoking war and hatred. “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” Buhari tweeted on Tuesday.

In the meantime, President Buhari is not, and would not, be the first and last President’s tweet to be deleted by Twitter. In the Tuesday, June 1, tweet, to put it as clearly as possible, Buhari was making reference to the 1967 Civil War, claiming that “the wild men in the wings” who were not present at the time, and who have taken the bull by the horn in making sure the country is in desolation, would be dealt with in an utterly “understandable language”. 

What kind of language, you ask? Well, I don’t think it’s that kind of Buhari’s “body language” Aisha Yesufu claims to be responsible for the recursive, cathartic stories of abductions and kidnappings. Twitter highly frowns upon destructive and eruptive remarks nowadays, that even the hoity-toity, rabble-rouser U.S. President Donald Trump’s Twitter account had to be permanently suspended. Ideally and ideologically, it behoves us to assert that similar rhythms and rhymes – “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” – are deeply rooted in the tweets of the two presidents. 

I observe presidential parallels in the two administrations: a few months before the unprecedented sweeping election in 2020, President Trump had been making some claims about the coronavirus, specifically that the coronavirus was “China virus”, potentially and practically that the virus did not exist. Twitter believed Trump was tremendously tweaking the truth and could not but fact-check many of those “unsubstantiated” claims. Sooner or later, Trump began to deploy his most arguably social-media arsenal, Twitter, to denounce the envisioned landslide election win by Democratic challenger Joe Biden. Such strong language of war is what Buhari is technically trying to establish, even from the social media, even at the face of a woebegone economic and political state Nigeria is enwombed, not to say entombed, in. Buhari also, a few years into 2023, is already bringing to bear pragmatic language of presupposition premised on the perpetual decision problems of leadership and capitalised on the cyclic mass shootings and killings and abductions. 

Clearly and considerably, this is not the time to be using arbitrary and military language. Buhari has uncontrollably been putting himself on the spot of controversy and condemnation. The issue of Isa Pantami is a crucial one: technically the groundswells that Pantami should resign, particularly with his firm persuasion that Osama bin Laden is “a better Muslim than myself” and because of his unflinching, uncompromising avowal for the Al-Qaeda, have tentatively yielded no fruit. 

Such is the systemic burial and betrayal of matters of extreme importance in Nigeria, especially those where truth is tested along ethno-religio lines to the core. And so Buhari sides with Pantami, namely that all of the fundamentalist views he held at the time were borne out of his impetuous, impressionable avant-gardism mind of Islamic extremism. And that, indeed, could mean a lot for the safety and security of Nigerians, in terms of the NIN-SIM integration exercise, which Pantami indefatigably makes mandatory for every Nigerian, with equal and possible sanctions both from the Nigerian Communications Commission and the National Identity Management Commission, and which a certain number of Nigerians terribly and frankly deemed to be politically motivated by the underbellied bellicose intention of leader of questionable national loyalty. That’s how “deadly” and “dangerous” we are at the dysfunctional hands of a president whose apparent simplicity has now been (mis)appropriated at very disproportionate and disadvantaged levels of politicking.  Another thing: Buhari’s deleted tweet could be a possible answer to the traumatising and troubling question of secession and sedition across the country.

It would be pointless and perverse, however, to say Twitter did such because its headquarters is not based in Nigeria. Perish the thought! Nigeria, in actions and in words, is definitely losing its “Giant of Africa” worth. Words sometimes speak louder than actions – and the words of the President, the elite and “experts in legitimation”, are increasingly incommensurate and incompatible to their rightful fight against insurgency, insecurity and, in fact, insurrection – culminating into the coup de grace of some “transcendent purpose.”

*Ige, a Lagos-based freelance journalist, wrote via: [email protected] Twitter and Buhari’s controversial tweet