By Sunny Ikhioya
It still beats one’s imagination to realise that a government that rode on the back of total press freedom has turned full circle to take actions that undermine same. Who would have imagined that a government which has in its fold seasoned and eminent media personalities will be hounding the press. A government that rode on the popular wave of change and true democracy will be the one censoring the press. We like to pretend that we are in a democracy but will not want to practise what true democracies do.
Even with Donald Trump as US president, Twitter did delete some of his tweets that they found offensive and heaven did not fall. The Federal Government has taken a wrong step and should quickly retrace its step. Government officials are definitely under intense pressure because of the situation in the country, but that should not lead them into taking wrong decisions. In fact, this is the time for patience and clear-headed decisions on the part of government.
By banning Twitter, we have indirectly shot ourselves in the foot. Considering the great advancements Nigeria has made in digital economy, an attack on any of our social media platform will impact on us negatively, especially against the backdrop of the decline in our oil revenue. We have heard it several times, that the best way to defeat a negative press is to open up; showcasing transparency and the truth that everyone can see. Coming too hard on the press implies there is something you are hiding that you do not want the world to see or know about. The best way to contain a negative press is already in our laws.
When you follow due process through recourse to the laws, you win more respect from the people and place the enemies in a backtracking position. By banning Twitter, we have aligned ourself with countries like North Korea, Iran, China, Turkmenistan, all of which are totalitarian in outlook. If we do not rescind that decision, we will be giving the international community the impression that ours is a country that loves to run abroad for help over little things, including health tourism. This decision certainly is an ill-wind that will not blow us any good. Many Nigerians depend on Twitter for their fast-breaking news. If you ban Twitter, you will be incurring the wrath of this set of people.
The Federal Government must take note that we have less than two years to another election; how will it be judged by the people in the light of this action? It is obvious that government is becoming panicky and intolerant of criticism; it is not a good sign at all. And this seem to suggest that from the beginning it was not prepared for the challenges of governance. Instead of concentrating on how to fix the faults, officials were expending their energies criticising past administrations, forgetting the fact that they promised change to the people.
These actions were not helped by the fixation of the leadership in promoting the cause of one ethnic group and religion to the detriment of others. Having started on such wrong footing, government soon found itself giving excuses right for its inability to deliver as promised. And with criticisms now increasing in tempo, government officials have resorted to all manners of coercive force, the latest being this ban on twitter.
This government has not met the people’s expectations because of its ready recourse to excuses, and excuses never guarantee results, it blurs the mind and makes it lose focus; it shields the critical thinking part of you. You promised change, instead of the change you promised you are excusing us with past governments. We all know that the immediate past government did not meet expectations and that is the reason Nigerians voted it out of power.
There are waves of killings all over the country and your spokesperson is telling the whole world that these killings did not start today; is that the solution? Everyday, you wake up to the news of one killing or the other; people are angry and resistant groups are beginning to spring up all over the country. Any progressive government will be thinking of pacifying the people with the right words and palliatives, not issuing threats. There is always a tilting point to which you can push the people, like a goat driven to the wall.
This government must start thinking of the future and also begin to assess its performance in the light of the current situation in the country; it must assess its relationship with the people through how it relates with press. Governments come and go but the press is constant, there is no dictatorship that has outlived the press, no matter how powerful.
Garba Shehu, Femi Adesina and Lai Muhammed are all students of history and know that time catches up with us sooner or later; the decision they make today will be reviewed in the immediate future. The banning of twitter is not a well-thought out decision; a wise leader will always reconsider an unwise decision; it is the noble thing to do.
*Ikhioya wrote via: www.southsouthecho.com