TWITTER BAN IN NIGERIA: A SCANDAL TO DEMOCRACY
1.1 Background Of The Study
The growth of modern technology and the ever-changing complex nature of societies in the world have revolutionalized the way and manner information gathering and dissemination is carried out. Citizens have taken advantage of the opportunities provided by modern technologies in order to stay informed about what is going on around them (Trottier, D. 2012).The internet has become the biggest technological revolution of the 20th century, with a sizeable number of the population of the world having access to it. The use of these technologies in the efficient, cost-effective, and convenient sharing of vital information and opinions among people via online media tools such as Twitter has become so important in today’s society (Gerbaudo, P. 2012).
Twitter, therefore, promotes interaction and public participation in various issues of human concern. Thus, the unrestricted interactive nature of Twitter has provided numerous opportunities for the public to interact on a variety of Nigeria-related issues.More so, the social media (twitter) has been utilized by business owners and cooperate organizations to publicize their services. To small and medium-scale enterprises, it has served as a platform for reaching out to customers and targeted audiences, thereby promoting business growth (Edwards, Housley, Williams, Sloan, Williams, 2013). Hence, it is clear that Twitter is being used by the masses for reasons suitable for them, most notably to express opinions and freedom of speech on societal and political matters.
However, countries such as Turkmenistan, the United Kingdom, North Korea, Iran, China, Turkey and recently Nigeria etc. have declared and maintained the suspension of Twitter. The ban of twitter in Nigeria regardless of the immense opportunities and benefits it presents to the society and its implication on the economy is nothing but a violation of human right which can not be attributed to democracy (as the Nigeria acclaims to be a democratic nation). Hence, the ban on Twitter in the country is not constitutional but an unlawful and undemocratic use of power (Aljazeera New). In a democratic system, drastic decisions are taken and executed with regard to the people’s choice and welfare. This can be likened to the common saying that democracy is the government of the people, for the people and for the people, thereby portraying the fact that the citizens are at the center of the justification of every national decision. However the President Muhammadu Buhari’s led administration unprecedentedly and authoritatively executed the ban of twitter thereby bridging the citizens right to social networking on twitter. According to Aljazeera News, Twitter’s decision to choose Ghana over Nigeria was evident in a statement where the organisation described Ghana “as a champion of democracy, a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet”. “It’s not even been two months since Twitter opened its Ghanaian headquarters and they have been proven right,” said MacEbong (Aljezeera news report). The interviewee further said that “This ban will keep investors away. Global tech companies that want to have a presence in Africa are likely to look at a place like Ghana rather than a place like Nigeria. ” He says the suspension of Twitter sends the wrong signal to foreign investors, adding that small businesses using Twitter as a source of livelihood in Nigeria will be affected. “Businesses in Nigeria use digital media to reach customers, expose their brands and communicate with various stakeholders. That will definitely be affected by this erratic decision,” Sesan told AlJazeera. It is upon this background this study aims at examining twitter ban in Nigeria as scandal to democracy.
1.2 Statement Of The Problem
The President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration announced the suspension of Twitter on 5 June 2021, two days after Twitter had temporarily suspended the account of President Muhammadu Buhari for violating the social media company’s “abusive” behaviour policy. Buhari’s account was put on hold for 12 hours after he threatened punishment for regional secessionists blamed for attacks on government buildings. This erratic decision has been tagged “unconstitutional” and against the system of democracy. Social media users in Nigeria swiftly inundated Twitter to express their shock, anger and disappointment after the government announced the indefinite suspension of the tech giant’s operations in the country. The most shameful thing about the ban of Twitter in Nigeria is not even that it was announced; “It’s the realization that this government can’t see the divisiveness and irresponsibility of that Buhari tweet, and the barefacedness with which it is going about it.” (Aljazeera cites ‘Fisayo Soyombo’ on June 4, 2021.)In the same vein, Clement Nwankwo on June 4, 2021, cited in Aljazeera, said the Nigerian government’s suspension of Twitter, a medium of free expression and communication, is bizarre, unconstitutional and a violation of human rights and should be immediately reversed. The suspension exposes Nigeria to national and international ridicule and is unsustainable.
Irrespective of the menace caused by the this vexatious decision, the Nigerian attorney general’s office ordered immediate prosecution of Nigerians who try to bypass the government’s Twitter ban after the government suspended its operations (aljezeera news report).
1.3 Objective Of The Study
The basic aim of this study is to critically portray the erratic decision of twitter ban in Nigeria as a scandal to democracy. The specific objectives include:
Determine if twitter ban is constitutional in Nigeria.
Determine if the Twitter ban was democratically executed.
Determine if bridging masses access to social media is democratic.
1.4 Research Hypothesis
An hypothesis refers to an experimental statement, tentative in nature, showing the relationship between two or more variables. It is open to testing and can be accepted or rejected depending on whether it agrees or disagrees with the statistical test.
The study will test the validity of the following hypothesis:
H01: Nigeria’s Twitter ban is not a violation of human rights.
H02: Bridging the masses’ access to social media is not a democratic thing.
1.5 Significance Of The Study
This study will delve into the internal and external consequences of the Nigerian government’s decision to ban Twitter usage.In light of this, the study will also educate/apprise the government on how this execution would affect its citizens and the need to always operate the affairs of the country democratically as a democratic nation to protect the country’s image in the international community. This study will also serve as a source of relevant information for students, researchers, other academics, and the public at large.
1.6. Scope Of The Study
This study will delve into the characteristics of a democratic nation and instantaneously assess the unprecedented execution of the Twitter ban in Nigeria against the attributes of a democratic system of government. Hence the public opinions of Nigerian citizens resident in Lagos State shall be sampled in this study.
1.7 Limitation Of The Study
The limitations of this study includes:
Finance: Due to the economic difficulties that people, including the researchers, are experiencing, the prospect of a greater sample size, which would have enabled the study to reach a larger region, has become impossible. Thus, this work will be limited to only Lagos State residences.
Time:It was not surprising that the researcher was limited by the time frame as it posed a direct challenge to the effective coverage intended in the course of this report. It is the intention of the researcher to interview all the employees of the selected manufacturing companies, but because of the numerous activities of the researcher, which border on both academics, work schedules and other social activities, it has become relatively impossible to explain the intention.
Respondent attitude: The majority of respondents failed to collect the questionnaires, and those who do collect them pay close attention to filling out and returning them, while others do not return theirs at all. Others were less accommodating and may have provided untrustworthy information because they were afraid of being exposed, despite the researcher’s promise that all information would be treated with the utmost secrecy and only for education purposes.
1.8 Definition Of The Study
Scandal: an action or event regarded as morally or legally wrong and causing general public outrage.
Democracy: Democracy is a system of government in which power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or through freely elected representatives.
Social Media: Social media is a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts, and information through the building of virtual networks and communities
Twitter: Twitter is an American microblogging and social networking website on which users post and interact with messages known as “tweets”.
Ajazeera New: How Nigeria’s Twitter ban stands to impact people, businesses:https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2021/6/7/nigerian-twitter-ban-how-government-restriction-affects-people.
Ajazeera New: Nigerians on Twitter react to Nigeria’s Twitter suspension: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/6/4/nigerian-twitter-users-blast-govt-ban-of-social-media-giant
Edwards, A., Housley, W., Williams, M., Sloan, L., Williams, M. (2013). Digital Social research, social media and the sociological imagination: Surrogacy, augmentation and re-orientation. International Journal of Social Research Methodology
Gerbaudo, P. (2012). Tweets and the streets: Social media and contemporary activism. London, England: Pluto Press.
Trottier, D. (2012). Social media as surveillance. Farnham, UK: Ashgate.