October 21, 2021


documenting the nigerian story…

Forbidding Twitter: Between objective situation and subjective policy

The title of this polemic comes, of course, from the raging Nigerian state official hanging of the social media tech-giant. It is obvious that one does not need to contemplate on the reasons for the suspension of Twitter. Evidence comes from the deleted President Buhari tweet and accusation from the Nigerian authority against the social media platforms of playing double standard in clear terms. This polemic also serves the purpose of distinguishing its argument from many others already available in that it focuses on the facts and existing feeling on the issues at hand and it is written primarily from a leftist slope.

Fortunately, the last couple of years have seen the emergence and entry of social media as a powerful political platform shaping, re-shaping and re-tooling the spectrum of political participation and development in Nigeria and globally. Moreso, it sums up the wave of conscious conditions of our society today. As Karl Marx opine that in any given society, “all history is nothing but a continuous transformation, say Marx in his work “The Poverty of Philosophy”.

We x-ray the situation at hand going by the suggested title of this polemic, first, by dissecting the objective in the sense of popular or typical right wing democracy belief in the freedom of expression of views and opinions must be guarantee at all times and no circumstances must hinder such freedom. Interestingly, over the years, these ideas have seeped into the popular consciousness via multitudes of channels-newspapers, schools, pulpits, films, television and so on. To give just one example, most constitutions of rights wing capitalist democratic states enshrined freedom of expression. The Nigerian State also subscribes to this as a practicing rights wing capitalist democratic state.

Besides, there are other important reasons why so many people accept the need for a guarantee for freedom of expression. Imperatively, it seems to correspond to explain a good deal of actual life experiences: to galvanise opinions for development: to promote concrete alternative views of ideas: to avoid silencing superior argument and not to cage oppositions as the case may be. Consequently, the above is true of the necessity for freedom of expression within any society.

Arguably, the betrayals and disappointment coming from the guarantee freedom of expression in daily life and the simple fact that most of the time, many citizens seem to have disregard for the principle behind freedom of expression and especially the fact that lot of citizens have also abused the logic behind freedom of expression, by eroding it on social media platforms is worrisome.

Thus, ordinarily freedom of expression in its entirety has been stood on its head. Regrettably, its usage is illogically expressed thereby negating the scientific assumption through-abusive languages, derogative wordings, deliberate scandals, character assassination, pull him down syndromes, and many other uncalled languages embellished in fake news.

Poignantly, in the capitalist democratic society we live today, the foregoing appears on the surface and certainly the court is said to be there to address and re-address any fall out or injury from negative impact of freedom of expression on individuals, groups and organisations. Indeed, the demonstration of this has been well orchestrated on social media through its numerous social interaction, views, expression and opinions platforms. Convincingly, we are made to accept it as fair enough for human co-existences.

Seriously, one vital respect for humanity and human freedom of expression is to be found to be attached to value for co-existence and socially necessary i.e. safeguard its existence, protect its livelihood and sustain its pro-creation as a being. If this were not the case, if citizens did not make good use of freedom of expression, they would have no reasons to complain when state authority turns around to make subjective policy to cage individuals or groups over their expressions. This brings us to the second part of this polemic argument, on subjective policy, being the fall out derived from of the failure of citizens abusing the privilege rights of expressions. It is this that leads to the utterly disregard for constitutional guarantee of freedom of expression and other rights by the Nigerian state officially. Of course it is true that the Nigerian state was not comfortable with the obvious activities of Twitter, especially the later comfort meddling in the former domestic politics as alleged.

Incidentally, the Nigerian state response by banning or suspension as the case maybe generates controversies. And by contrast this is expected going by what many also consider as anti-social medial standpoint of a struggling unpopular government. The claim by the Nigerian state that Twitter is meddling in the country’s domestics politics cannot be ruled out and should not be seen to be fiction. Reasons being that Twitter is a transnational giant tech corporation. Moreover, it is a member of the global capitalist whose survival depends on profits and exploitations. We cannot forget in hurry the roles played by Multinational Corporations all over developing countries in toppling governments with support from their home governments alongside internal collaborators especially in coup and counter-coups against regimes that do not favour them. The Nigerian authority could be right after all, but must take cognizance that the views and opinions expressed on social media depict the reality on ground.

The government has it hands full with domestic challenges from obtrusive economic performance, insecurity and ominous signs divided nations along ethnic and religious peak, widening gaps between the rich and poor and many others

Peradventure, the problem is not so much about the ban of Twitter, perhaps it is time to focus more on governance and drive an inclusive citizen’s engagement on all social and other media.


Adefolarin A. Olamilekan  is a Political Economist and Development Researcher