Twitter has faced criticism and accusations over its deletion of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet referring to Nigeria’s Civil War of 1967 and its implications in light of the ongoing killings and maiming by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in the South.
The federal government and some experts accused the media giant of providing an unfettered platform to the likes of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu to perpetrate crimes against the people and the Nigerian state using non-state actors like the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
They said it was sad that Twitter allowed its platform for Kanu and his likes to propagate hate, killing of security operatives and destruction of critical infrastructure but quickly descended on President Buhari for reading the riot act to trouble makers.
President Buhari had in a series of tweets on Tuesday via his verified Twitter handle, @Mbuhari, tweeted: “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.”
Following several complaints especially by people from the South, Twitter deleted Buhari’s tweet, stating: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules”.
Half a century ago, one million people reportedly died during a 30-month civil war after separatist generals declared an independent region for the Igbo people in Nigeria’s South- East.
While a section of the media and most political leaders in the South-East usually attribute the ongoing attacks in the South to ‘unknown gunmen’, many of them yesterday described Buhari’s comment as a plan to attack “innocent people” in the region.
Twitter playing the ostrich
Reacting to the development, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, accused Twitter of double standards.
Mohammed said the social media giant has conveniently ignored inciting tweets by Nnamdi Kanu and his cohorts.
He said Twitter ignored Kanu’s remarks that encouraged the killing of police personnel and the show of similar biases during the #EndSARS protest where government and private properties were looted and set on fire, considering it “human rights”.
Mohammed, who wondered why the organisation now found President Buhari’s tweet offensive said Twitter’s role “is suspect and Nigeria will not be fooled.”
He said: “Twitter may have its own rules; it’s not the universal rule. If Mr President, anywhere in the world feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views. Now, we should stop comparing apples with oranges. If an organisation is proscribed, it is different from any other which is not proscribed.
“Two, any organisation that gives directives to its members, to attack police stations, to kill policemen, to attack correctional centres, to kill warders and you are now saying that Mr President does not have the right to express his dismay and anger about that? We are the ones guilty of double standards. I don’t see anywhere in the world where an organisation, a person will stay somewhere outside Nigeria and will direct his members to attack the symbols of authority, the police, the military, especially when that organisation has been proscribed. By whatever name, you can’t justify giving orders to kill policemen or to kill anybody you do not agree with.”
The five states in the South-East have seen a recent surge in attacks, with around 130 police and security officials killed, according to media reports.
A legal practitioner, Barrister Sani Sa’idu Ali, said the federal government was right for tackling Twitter. “The siege on the Capitol by pro-Trump demonstrators in the United States is still very fresh in our memory because Twitter called them arsonist as they were threatening the very foundation of their country.
“On the other hand, the Twitter called the #EndSARS protesters as human rights activists even when it was obvious that they wanted to bring down the Nigerian government. I support what the federal government did and it should go further by tightening its cyberspace because it is obvious some people want to see the country in flames,” he said.
Kanu’s inciting utterances
A critical analysis of the frequent broadcast by Kanu indicated that he makes use of social media to propagate hate and called on his followers to attack security operatives.
Another social media giant, Facebook had removed the page of Kanu for violating its rules on harm and hate speech.
Kanu had posted a video of a militia group, suspected to be from ESN, attacking and killing cattle in a herders’ settlement.
He also used the live broadcast to accuse herders of destroying farmlands in Eastern Nigeria. IPOB in his reaction accused Facebook of being “used by agents of oppression in Nigeria to suppress the truth”.
However, Twitter has failed to take action on the activities of Kanu, who regularly makes live broadcasts via his Twitter handle, @MaziNnamdiKanu.
In a one hour, twenty-four minutes long broadcast on March 30, a day after the police paraded sixteen suspects for complicity in a series of violent attacks on security formations in the South- East, Kanu accused the security agency of arresting and parading “innocent people” while promising that they won’t go scot free.
“ESN is in the forest, we are not in the street yet. You arrest pastors, torture them and gave them confessional statements to read.
“If you kill, you will be killed. Every police station where you mount this your raid, it is just a matter of time, you can’t escape justice.
“Keep doing what you are doing. You are only building up hatred and anger for the police and the army. The same thing you did with Boko Haram. Boko Haram was a peaceful movement. It was Nigerian police that kept on killing them before they turned violent. The army and police in our land, you will die there. The more you kill us, the more angry, fanatical we become,” he said.
He urged the native to resist security operatives from arresting “innocent people”, adding that, “without IPOB, you are all gone. IPOB is the last line of defence between the people and their oppressors. We must all fight to leave this unholy union”.
In another broadcast, which lasted for one hour, forty-five minutes on April 4, Kanu who made reference to the civil war, said members of the group were willing to die for the cause.
“We are in freedom fighting and there is no rule of engagement. That is why we raised the Biafra flag. If we don’t know the meaning of that, go and check. They are going to kill us, we are going to kill them but, in the end, we are going to win because we are not going to stop until Biafra is achieved. If it is only one boy or girl that is left, he or she should continue fighting. 1967 to 1970 is not in this era that we live in. I don’t want to see any police checkpoint in Biafraland. If you come out, you are going to die.”
In a question-and-answer session that lasted for over two hours on April 2, Kanu reiterated his claim that Nigeria Army does not have enough men to declare any operation in the region and urged for more funds from his supporters for the purchase of weapons.
In a recent broadcast on June 1, Kanu called on people to attack Nigerian soldiers and police.
“It’s not for the living to respond to the dead but given the lack of reasoning prevalent in the #Zoo Nigeria, I wish to assure @GarShehu, the Jihadi midget @elrufai & that Fulani lapdog Femi Adesina that any army they send to #Biafraland will die there. None will return alive,” Kanu tweeted yesterday and was not reprimanded.
Communication expert, Tunde Akanni disagreed with the decision taken by Twitter. Akanni, who argued that nothing was wrong with what Buhari tweeted, said the platform “over-reacted” by deleting the tweet by the president, who he said delayed too long in dealing with the rebellious elements in the South- East.
Akanni urged Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey, to commission a research into the crisis in the country and the destruction perpetrated in the South-East by agents of Kanu in order to have a comprehensive understanding of the situation in the country.
Security Risk Management and Intelligence Specialist, Kabir Adamu, who said it was imperative for the government to understand how Twitter works, stressed that the platform had continuously by its action showed that it does not agree with the FG.
“Twitter is a community and as a community, it is guided by its own politics, its own rules and guidelines. What it means is that if you decide to be a part of that community, then you have to comply with those rules and guidelines and every other principle like members of the community. If some people complain that Mr President’s statement violated the terms of the community, I am not very surprised that Twitter responded for a couple of reasons. Let’s take ourselves back to the EndSARS period, when the founder of Twitter disagreed with the federal government, clearly saying that he sees things differently from the way the FG sees it and that is one. Two, he decided to set up his office in Ghana as against Nigeria with a statement that the economic circumstances, conditions in Nigeria as well as the political climate in Nigeria is not conducive for its community. Lastly, when not too long ago, the various handlers of Mr President, especially the Minister of Information complained about how Twitter has been managing them and made it clear that he sees things differently,” he said.
Let Biafra be so peace can reign — Northern coalition
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) has asked President Buhari to make a way for the Republic of Biafra so that there can be peace in the country.
Reacting to the ongoing debate in respect of President Buhari’s tweets and the response by the media giant, the CNG in a statement by its spokesman, Abdul-Azeez Sulaiman, said the presidential tweet merely amounts to the admission of failure and loss of capacity.
The CNG described the president’s comment on criminal gangs that kill, maim and displace tens of thousands of citizens as a clear indictment on the administration and abdication of Buhari’s primary responsibility of securing the lives and properties of Nigerians.
“The President’s revelation that most of those involved in the current agitation for secession are those who did not witness the 1967 civil war is a vindication of our position that the only reasonable option to ensure a more secure future is for the Igbo to be allowed to have their wish for a Biafran nation.
“The fact that the strength of the Igbo agitation rests on youth who are mainly below the ages of 50, with diseased mindset, encouraged by their political, cultural and religious leaders to take up arms against the Nigerian state and Northerners, has rendered the nation’s unity negotiable.
“It is therefore unreasonable for those older Nigerians who are mostly above 70 to insist that the unity of Nigeria is sacrosanct whereas the people executing the dangerous Southeast secession agenda are almost entirely below 50.
“It is time for the Nigerian state and all stakeholders to wake to the reality that the only remaining option to avoid a civil war is for the Igbo to be allowed to have the Biafra they have used intermittently for decades to destabilise the nation and deny peace to other components of the country,” Sulaiman said.
Onion producers suspend supply to S/East
The Onion Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria (OPMAN) has announced its decision to suspend onion supply to the South-East over insecurity.
The National President of OPMAN, Aliyu Isah, made the announcement on Wednesday.
He said the association’s decision was based on the recent hijack of two of their members’ trucks by suspected IPOB members.
IPOB members had last week hijacked two truck-full of onions from the North in Imo State and distributed their contents to the public.