“Nigerian government thinks that it can do just about anything that it deems fit but the world has moved beyond that stage ―Ebuka Onyekwelu
The evident political incompetence of the current Nigerian regime gives it away as a government that lives in the past. Even a casual observation of the choice of language used by known pillars of the administration smacks of empty arrogance with no substance in view. Clearly, not only does it appear as if the President does not understand the people, they, like the Minister of Information, said “rule”; but the administration it appears, has a regimented mentality wherein people under the government tend to deploy careless, unthought-of, languages in their formal communications, without liability
The way, language, and manner of communication essentially reveals the political judiciousness or otherwise of a leader, this is primarily because, the populace does not read what their leaders have in mind, except by what they say. Therefore every care is taken to skillfully and prudently use measured language and tone in communicating to the public. Although those close to the leader can read motive through various other means, and align, but not the people governed. By the time the people are also capable of reading these signs, then it is even more glaring than the government is politically tactless.
This regime also tends to act as if whatever the people may feel or think; do or say does not matter. That palpable superciliousness of ruler-ship, the attitude of whether they like it or not; such that are not entertained in some dictatorship models, and of course, lack of in-depth considerations. Those are some of the biggest setbacks of this government. Obviously, the more traditional suspicion that the government lacks fair grasp of the concept of modern governance in a democracy, is a foremost setback and the remote cause of the government’s ban on Twitter. All these make the government to keep abusing its own mandate while wasting opportunities they should have so easily converted to their political advantage. The fact of the matter however remains that governance does not only concern itself with leadership, it also involves politics and the government must correctly discern the feelings of the governed devoid of its propaganda machinery or machinations, and then by dent of political proficiency aggregate a mixed response that addresses all sides of any case in point.
Any government with the near 100% accuracy of prediction as the Buhari government has attained, of course, is a government that lacks the rigors of policy mainstreaming. For, to mainstream government policy, to govern well, to integrate various interests into government processes, no government under any semblance of democracy ought to be this predictable. But then, here we are. What this means is that irrespective of the circumstance, the government has an already fashioned way to respond to it. In appointing people into offices or replacing retired or exited appointees, there is already a replacement in accordance with this set pattern of response, needless to say, devoid of due considerations. In essence, what the government is saying is that no matter the situation, it already fashioned its style of response ahead of time. Perhaps the regime may think that because it is the only government since 1999 to actually attempt to deliver the second Niger bridge which has been a tool of political campaign of former Nigeria’s presidents in the Southeast since 1999, therefore Southeasterners should just follow whatever the government thinks is good for them. Sadly, in Kaduna state, a similar thing is also happening. The Governor there may be thinking that because he has initiated programmes that are of important economic advantage to the people, therefore, they should not question his decisions to sack workers indiscriminately or the ragging insecurity in that state or his attitude to kidnapped school children, among others. This speaks to a government’s inability to conduct itself within the ambits of governance in a democracy, in modern times. Being given mandate by the people does not amount to taking the mandate and doing just what one wants, without duly checking, exactly how the people feel. The hallmark of democracy is that no government should help her own people beyond how the people want to be helped. That is; if the people puts up a resistance to a government programme, then, no matter the nobility of that programme, that government has a duty to win the people’s support for it to go on or dump the programme.
The Minister of Information declared in his press briefing on the ban, that Twitter’s mission in Nigeria is “very, very suspect”, whatever he means by that.
More discomforting for the Nigerian government is the concept of sovereignty which globalization has profoundly distorted. Today, different people all over the world, different governments all over the world, diverse interest groups across the globe, all have a say wherever they may deem fit, without necessarily violating the territorial integrity of the country. In fact, the territorial integrity of nations has changed. This is one thing the government under President Buhari does not yet appreciate. The government still as can be seen, lives in the assumption that it can do anything that it considers the best for its citizens, irrespective of how the citizens see it. And then believing that how it deals or chooses to deal with its citizens is an internal affair that should not attract foreign scrutiny. So the other time, this government was accusing CNN of meddling in its affairs over the “Endsars” massacre report by the media giant and today, the government is accusing Twitter of stalking the embers of trouble in Nigeria. The Minister of Information declared in his press briefing on the ban, that Twitter’s mission in Nigeria is “very, very suspect”, whatever he means by that. But in fact, actions like a ban on Twitter by the Nigerian government have proven to have far more consequences than the government has possibly, previously imagined.
The United States, European Union, among others, have responded urging the government to respect freedom of speech. You see, while the Nigerian government sees social media as a place where, to borrow the President’s words, “lazy youths” go to waste their time, the world sees social media as a major instrument of free speech and of holding government accountable, to that extent, therefore, a significant democratic tool. Only yesterday, the Attorney General ordered that those who violate the ban on Twitter should be prosecuted and punished. This is simply the Nigerian government thinking that it can do just about anything that it deems fit. But, the world has moved beyond that stage. The government is now shocked at the responses it is getting not only from Nigerians but from around the world and from global leaders. Then yesterday evening, the regime’s spokesman made a release in which the “indefinite ban” was converted to “temporal ban”, in a most dramatic turnaround.
If we push it a little harder, it is safe to say that the Nigerian government just dragged itself into a socio-political armless warfare on the global stage.
The fact is, President Buhari, it is not certain, knows exactly how Twitter looks, much less use it. In other words, an aide uses the account by the President’s authorization and as a Twitter user, whoever uses the account is under the rules of the microblogging website, and so if he goes against that rule, the company will simply follow what its rules stipulate. But if the President is unsatisfied with the development as in this particular instance, or has reservations based on how other Twitter users who violate the same rules were not cautioned, then, he should make his case to Twitter. Sadly, the government’s political ineptitude, the general approach to issues in which the regime appears to act first and then think later, took the centre stage, and Twitter was banned. This action has far more consequences than the government can imagine, and not only on governance index and human rights but also on foreign investment chances and on the legitimacy of the government. The action gives the regime away as one that is not prearranged to due process in addressing issues of concern, as well as one that resorts to autocratic measures and potentially can abuse both power and extant laws to score irrelevant political points. If we push it a little harder, it is safe to say that the Nigerian government just dragged itself into a socio-political armless warfare on the global stage.
The only way the Nigerian government would have been justified and could have won this kind of war is if it is in alignment with its citizens in its action. Unfortunately, the government consistently acts in a manner that suggests a core belief that what its citizens feel or think about its policy options and proceedings does not matter, at least not to the government. By now, the government is already realizing fully the extent of the blunder it just committed. However, the damage has already been done. Needless to say that the government will move next to unban Twitter after it has caused considerable level of bad reputation for itself on the world stage. Again, the reality of modern governance is that any leader or country stuck in the traditional understanding of sovereignty will have difficulty with both its citizens and the larger and most strategic parts of the world. It is now left to be seen how the Nigerian government adjusts to these new realities.
♦ Ebuka Onyekwelu, strategic governance exponent, is a columnist with the WAP
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