I am in the extreme late 30s, and Nigerians my age or younger have never been blessed with any form of good leadership in the public space, bar a few outliers – which in my case, is a rarity still, comparable perhaps only to diamonds – something, I have only studied in textbooks and classrooms and beheld only in shop windows and on the necks and fingers of celebrities.

Nigeria, rather has been blessed with the type of leadership that protects one man over another and takes actions and decisions based on selfish, personal expediencies as opposed to doing so in deference to the public good.

This brings one to the recent threat and subsequent ban of twitter’s operations in Nigeria.
No doubt, the Nigerian Government is in its right to take such actions. However, has it taken the action simply for the good of the Nigerian public? Or out of ignorance? Or to nurse the bruised ego of an incompetent class of leaders, superintending over the vast resources (human, capital and natural) that abounds in the country.

For any one with a measure of independent thought the clear answer is that the ban, isn’t in any way to protect the Nigerian public, but a careless, redundant and fruitless use of absolute power.

Background to the Ban

The president’s handlers issued genocidal threats on twitter –

Image courtesy of the New York Post
Image courtesy of the New York Post
Image courtesy Premium Times Nigeria
Image courtesy Premium Times Nigeria

These were marked either by the algorithms at twitter or the people there as genocidal and subsequently removed.

The New York Posts reports that the account of the president was subsequently suspended following the uproar by Nigerians of all walks pointing to the recklessness and danger of the president’s, which many believe, and rightly so, may heat up the polity.

This incurred the ire of the president’s handlers who resorted to using the powers of the state irresponsibly by banning Twitter’s operations in the country – whilst Twitter does not have an office in Nigeria (their decision to site their African office in Ghana and not Nigeria a few months ago may seem to have some merit now, as we would have now been treated to such a show of shame we only saw in the military era where offices of businesses that are not supportive to the government of the day are sealed off and destroyed in the process. We might have seen a case of Twitter Nigeria’s office being shut down).

The ultimate losers are Nigerians and not twitter. To understand this, let us look at twitter and how twitter have been used in Nigeria.

Twitter Nigeria

  1. The town square: Twitter has established itself as the town square where the nation’s youth gather to entertain themselves, fight over real issues as they do over sweet nothings, find love, and coordinate their efforts to see a better Nigeria evolve from the ashes of past injustices.
  2. The town crier: Twitter has morphed into a channel – perhaps only second in popularity to the radio – where the country’s public servants and government departments reach-out to its masses to spread information and propaganda.
  3. The marketplace: Merchants are known to have advertised their ware on social network platforms to productive outcomes. So have young job seekers reached out to prospective employers over social networks.

Twitter has ceased to be a mere social network, but a mixing bowl of sorts.

The ban is a fruitless initiative much like the fruitless government that initiated it

The government in banning twitter has instructed all licensed internet service providers to forthwith prevent access to twitter servers and services from within the borders of Nigeria. The government through its broadcasting watchdog – the Nigerian Broadcasting Commission – has issued instructions to licensed broadcast franchises across the country to cease to use their twitter handles and to desist from quoting and referencing content posted that that social network.

Effectively, compliance by all instructees will ensure all attempts by users to access twitter directly or over an API will be blocked and result in errors.

As a result, people (Nigerians and foreigners living in Nigeria) will not be able to access and use twitter directly.  And all services that rely on Twitter in some way or another will cease to function or function optimally – for example, services in Nigeria that rely on the twitter authentication protocol to verify users identity before access is provided, will cease to function optimally.

Not only will Nigerians loose access to their town square and the government will lose access to its most effective town crier, and the country’s modern market men and women will lose a significant part of a key source of income because one of the roads to its market has been blocked by an arrogant and self-serving government. A government that should be shopping for opportunities to keep its citizens enabled and empowered to leverage technology to improve their economic participation.

But not all will comply.

And it is easy to choose not to comply. Especially as the legality of the ban has now been questioned and the author expects exparte motions to be filed in high courts across the country prohibiting the Federal Government’s ban of twitter pending such clarifications as: the legality of the ban, the limitations that will arise as a result of the ban – the freedoms of free speech, freedom to gather and similar well entrenched freedoms in the

That the Nigerian government has failed its people and continues to do so is not in dispute.

Nigeria, which has ranked between the 11th and 13th largest producer of crude oil globally and is Africa’s largest producer and collected NGN1.4 trillion in December 2019 in total revenue, has very little to show. Insecurity is rife across the land, inflation is through the roof, the police harasses and kills citizens willy nilly. And with the twitter ban, confirms its descent back into the dark ages of dictatorship.

Most of the world’s poorest people live within the Nigerian borders. Nigeria’s youth litter the streets of Canada, South Africa, the UK, Libya and any country in the world with as much of a promise of as much as earning a decent living – where some have been unfortunate to enter into pseudo slavery and some have paid the ultimate price in their endeavour to improve their economic outlook.

At home, those who have chosen to stay see the government as a competitor as opposed to an enabler, and that is again what the ban on twitter has proven. The Nigerian government’s chief spokesperson, Chief Lai Mohammed, posits that twitter supported (and in my opinion, rightly so) the agitation by young Nigerians that the government ends the special police unit, SARS, which had become a scourge to the people it was meant to protect, but elected to censor the genocidal proclamations of Nigeria’s head of state.

Power to the people

The people will find their ways around the ban.

Organizations, like Paradigm Initiative, through projects like Ayeta have monitored and advocated for open internet for years. And have put in place an emergency ack to ensure netizens continue to have access should a government be irresponsible enough to attempt to lock its citizens in and prevent them from using the internet.

Some crowd sourced solutions to the ban include:

  • Using the Tor Browser: A secure end to browser

  • Modify your DNS Without boring you with the details of how DNS’ work, I can offer it as a way to side step the monitoring algorithms of your service providers. But for those keen on understanding how DNS’ work, please read here and here. And for those keen on testing out alternate DNS to their ISPs’ check here.
  • Using a VPN: VPNs at a minimum allow users to mask their origin and destinations. The later is of importance to this discourse, so I will expand upon that. With the twitter ban and how it has been implemented, electing to use a VPN that allows you mask your destination by tunneling your traffic to a server with IP addresses that have not been banned or seen as twitter IP addresses, and then rerouting your traffic to twitter will allow citizens sidestep the ban. However, not all VPNs are safe. The internet mimics the real world and criminals abound online possibly as much as they do offline. So to be safe, ensure you are using a VPN that can be trusted. Paradigm Initiative’s Ayeta offers safe and licensed VPNs, which anyone can apply to use.

Where next Nigeria?

The wind of this twitter ban will blow away.

The ban may become permanent, and people fished out and punished for evading the proclamation of the government of the day. Or the government releases its folly and walks back its decision.

But the question, which way Nigeria, will remain.

This is a question the #EndSARS protest underscored. And that #OccupyNigeria before it underscored. It  is the question sincere agitations for Nigeria’s restructuring points to. It is the question the current cross discipline brain drain in Nigeria underscores.

Making matters worse is the perception that the people have very few choices as the last general elections revealed. Whilst a multi-party state, the truth is that the country is a two party and both parties are indistinguishable bar their logos and slogans – the people in a party at any given time, were equally influential members of the opposition party at some point in the past. Folklore has it that a sitting governor was refused a ticket by his party to contest a second term in office – for reasons that made sense only to politicians and not to members of the public – the ticket offered instead to the candidate from the opposition party at the general election that the incumbent won. The incumbent having no choice – having explored possibly all the options he had, decamped to the previously opposition party, obtained their ticket to run and thus ran twice consecutively for office on two platforms that should be ideologically different and won both times. Except, this is not folklore. This is the story of Edo State in as recent as 2020.

Such stories litter the landscape.

In the 2023 elections, a whole two years away, Nigerians from all walk of life will be treated to the same shenanigans we have been treated to from circa 1999, when beautiful democracy reared its’ head a fourth time in our short history as an independent nation, two candidates both of which will represent the devil and the deep blue sea and Nigerians will be encouraged (with billboards carrying messages addressing the angst of the people), blackmailed (demi gods in the shape of authority figures as imams, pastors, baales, politicians), forced (by thugs on election day) to vote for one of the two clearly damaged goods.

Will we continue to sit on the sidelines and allow miscreants and beggars rule the wise? Or will the wise get together and put together a plan to retrieve the dreams of a nation from the hands of the clueless and the mad?

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