The World Today for June 23, 2021
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When Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Information and Culture announced a new ban on Twitter on June 4, they released their order in a tweet.
The social media platform is an important part of the West African country’s political and economic landscape. About 15 million Nigerians use Twitter either for business or for job-seeking. “Social media is where I eat,” Lagos-based entrepreneur Ogechi Egemonu told Reuters. “I depend on social media for my livelihood.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari ordered the ban, apparently, as payback. Twitter recently suspended Buhari’s account for 12 hours due to “abusive behavior,” reported BuzzFeed.
As the Guardian explained, Buhari threatened to deal with rebels in southeast Nigeria with the same ferocity as unleashed on rebels in the region during the Biafran-Nigerian Civil War in the late 1960s and early 1970.
“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,” wrote the president. “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
Buhari won the Nigerian presidency in democratic elections in 2015 after campaigning to defeat Boko Haram Islamist militants who had humiliated Nigerian military forces in the country’s north. He had been the country’s head of state before, however, in the 1980s after a military junta appointed him to that position following a coup.
He has since refused to say when the ban might be lifted.
In the meantime, many Nigerians are ignoring the ban. Using their VPNs, they are purposely using Twitter even though doing so exposes them to arrest and unspecified punishments, as the Washington Post wrote. Many said they wouldn’t let the government impose the same measures that have stifled dissent in authoritarian regimes in China, Syria, Belarus, Iran and North Korea or in countries such as India and Turkey where leaders routinely threaten to cut off access.
Still, that’s precisely what Buhari and his allies might be planning, according to News24 and the Nigeria-based Foundation for Investigative Journalism. Buhari’s ministers have reportedly met with Chinese officials to discuss how Nigeria might erect a “Great Firewall” to give the government greater control over speech online.
In an Al Jazeera op-ed, the founder of the foundation, Fisayo Soyombo, noted that the ban was the culmination of Buhari’s frustration with Twitter. His critics, human rights activists and others have used Twitter for a while now to organize and offer rejoinders to his official pronouncements.
Politicians are supposed to have thick skins. When they don’t, they cause more problems than they solve.
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