The ‘converted Democrat’ vrs. Twitter [Article]

Daddy Wa’s dance after spotting a beautiful girl on the street is one thing that never gets old. Same can be said of Nasty Black’s facial expression anytime something goes profoundly wrong for him in a skit.

These characters, played by young Nigerian entertainers and content creators, have both gained a cult following across almost all the social media applications including Twitter.

Mr. Macaroni’s famous ‘Daddy Wa’ character for example has enabled him to feature some of the film industry’s biggest players like Patience Ozorkor,  Kanayo O. Kanayo, and many others.

The dire economic effect

Twitter is home to 1.2 million of Mr. Macaroni’s audience, while Nasty Black can boast of 315,000 people on Twitter who subscribe to the content he produces. This is why the ban on the use of Twitter is expected to hit these two gentlemen and their ilk like a swung wrecking ball. According to Netblocks, an organization that monitors governance of the internet, there is an estimated daily loss of 2.5 billion naira as a result of the Federal Government’s ban on Twitter.

Small and Medium-scale enterprises that are heavily dominated by folks as young as Mr. Macaroni and Nasty Black have relied on Twitter to have a wider reach of customers, both inside and outside Nigeria.  The impact of the Coronavirus pandemic resulted in a spike in Twitter patronage for both customers and owners of these Small and Medium scale enterprises and even as the pandemic takes a downward trajectory, Twitter remains a popular and convenient platform for the engagement of economic activities. Buhari’s ban serves as a bulwark to this economic progress.

VPN to the rescue?

As expected, Twitter users in Nigeria, especially those who have a lot at stake like Mr. Macaroni and Nasty Black have found a way to circumvent the ban that threatens their means of livelihood. With the country’s unemployment rate ranked second by Bloomberg in the whole world, the temporary demise of Twitter in Africa’s largest economy would definitely have some folks living in denial and absolutely determined to make sure the ban does not affect them.

This is where the Virtual Private Network (VPN) comes in. The VPN allows users to disguise their identities and evade country-specific limits- in other words, evade the ban on Twitter imposed by the Federal Government. In response to this, the Attorney General of Nigeria has threatened to prosecute Nigerians who refuse to adhere to the ban on Twitter.

To make matters worse, the Guardian Nigeria reports that there have been attempts by the Federal government to engage China’s assistance in blocking the VPNs used by Twitter users to circumvent the ban. This, dear reader, is the extent to which the Federal Government is willing to go in implementing this twitter ban.

Why the ban?

One may ask why at all is the government of the ‘converted Democrat’ banning Twitter in the first place? The official reason- at least the one told to Mary Leonard and other diplomatic representatives from the United Kingdom, Canada, and the European Union was that the federal government intends to advocate for more responsible use of social media.

This reason, given by Foreign Minister Onyeama Geoffrey was rejected by Ambassador Mary Leonard of the United States who made the point that having access to voice our opinions is more important in troubled times.

Having stated the official reason for banning Twitter in Nigeria, it is only fair that the ‘real reason’, as some call it, or the events preceding the ban of the social media giant in Nigeria too is made known. This can be traced to the day Twitter removed Mr. Buhari’s tweet because it violated Twitter rules regarding abusive behavior.

Targeted at a secessionist movement in southeast Nigeria, the president threatened to treat them ‘in the language they understand. Then shortly after the tweet was removed, his administration announced the ban on Twitter. Coincidence? I would let you be the judge of that.

A converted Democrat?

There is hardly any keen observer of the Buhari administration that was shocked after the government gave the infamous directive. Reference could be made to his military or ‘autocratic’ background and subsequent rebranding which caused him to refer to himself as ‘a converted Democrat’.

However, in determining his true political identity, it is reasonable for one to rely on the wisdom in Matthew 7:16 which says ‘by their fruits you shall know them’. In transposing the insightful words in Matthew 7:16 into this context, Buhari’s record on handling elements of democracy demanded by the people ought to be analyzed.

An example that easily comes to mind is his administration’s handling of the Endsars protests. This demonstration which sought to protest police brutality ironically displayed the phenomenon at its worst. The movement brought to light the extrajudicial killing and harassment that had been endured by the Nigerian youth and it all eventually culminated in the Lekki gate massacre.

Mention can also be made of the administration’s suggestions of regulating social media since it came to office in 2015. So for Mr. Macaroni, Nasty Black, and the other 40 million users of Twitter in Nigeria, President Buhari’s fruits are as conspicuous and glaring as any ripe fruit, and this directive is the latest example of the fallacious description of Mr. Buhari as a ‘converted Democrat’.

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