Monday, 25th September 2023

Nigerians tackle north’s position on #EndSARS, social media bill

By Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Seye Olumide (Lagos) and Lawrence Njoku (Enugu)
04 November 2020   |   4:33 am
Criticisms and rejection have greeted the resolution taken on Monday by northern leaders regarding Social Media Bill and EndSARS protests across the country.

• Arewa youths kick against restriction on social media
• ‘It’s meant to keep North under perpetual subjugation’
• ‘Northern leaders may suffer worse attacks’
• ‘Describing EndSARS protest as coup against Buhari unfortunate’
• North’s position underscores need for restructuring, says Okorie

Criticisms and rejection have greeted the resolution taken on Monday by northern leaders regarding Social Media Bill and EndSARS protests across the country.

Nineteen northern governors, traditional rulers, legislators and other stakeholders had held an urgent meeting in Kaduna to discuss recent EndSARS protest and insecurity in Nigeria.

Inspector General of Police (IGP), the Ministers of Information, Lai Mohammed, the Federal Capital Territory, Musa Bello; Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; and the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari attended the meeting.

Their position was delivered by the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Simon Lalong. They condemned the EndSARS protest, saying, “the meeting rejects and condemns the subversive acțions.”

It also noted that agitators and other change-regime agents “outside the ballot box” took advantage of the peaceful protests to push for their separate agenda.

On social media, it said the meeting took note of the devastating effect of uncontrolled social media in spreading fake news and called for major control and censorship of social media in Nigeria.

In an interview after the summit, the President of the Senate, Lawan had explained that the meeting was called to review what happened during the EndSARS protests in the country.

He commended youths in the North for not participating in the violence experienced in other parts of the country.

The Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-rufai said: “We praise our youths for not succumbing to be used by those who have agenda against the government.”

BUT the leadership of the Arewa Youth for Development and Progress (AYDP) faulted the outcome of the meeting. The President of AYDP, Danjuma Sarki, said, yesterday, the position of the leaders that social medial should be regulated showed the lack of commitment by northern leaders to development around the globe and their “and plans to keep the North and the country under perpetual subjugation”.

Sarki argued that the position taken by northern leaders explained why the North had been backward, warning that “the attempt to trample on the rights of Nigerians through restriction of social media will fail and will be resisted”.

He wondered what concern the region’s leaders have with the use of social media.

He said: “Look at the way they speedily mobilised themselves: Governors, traditional rulers, IGP, ministers, the Senate and the Chief of Staff in the Presidency. They have never taken such step in addressing the woes of the North and Nigeria in general, despite the continuous banditry, wanton killings and kidnapping bedeviling the North and the entire country.”

Sarki said such vigour would have been used in addressing the backwardness in education and employment, stressing that the leaders had failed to take similar steps to address issues of Almajiri education and high level of poverty.

He accused the leaders of dabbling into affairs over which they did not have jurisdiction. He insisted that restricting of social media amount to gagging the people. He added that it was an attempt by northern political class to gag northerners and other Nigerians and ensure the people would not be able to express themselves.

He argued that without the social media, Nigerians would not be able to express themselves and check the excesses of those in power.

“Without the social media, the people would not be able to challenge bad governance in the North and Nigeria in general,” he added

He said the commendation given to northern youths for not being part of the EndSARS protest was meant to pit southern youths against their counterparts in the North, noting that the leaders only embarked on a futile venture.

He warned that the fact that northern youths were not strongly involved in the protest did not mean northern youths were ignorant of the malaise in the region. “If they are not careful, what will befall the northern leaders might even be worse than what we saw happening in other parts of the country”.

SIMILARLY, Southwest socio-political group, Yoruba Ronu Leadership Forum, described the position of northern leaders as unfortunate, which showed some northern leaders and governors still thought they were custodian of political power and governance in the country.

President of the forum, Mr. Akin Malaolu, told The Guardian that it was unfortunate for any section of the country to have said the #ENDSARS protests were targeted at removing President Buhari from power.

Malaolu said the group watched with great concern the utterances by northern governors and traditional leaders on the #ENDSARS saga, which they collectively described as attempt at regime change, saying the group owed it a duty to educate them that the peaceful protests occasioned by police brutality and extortion and killings, which started in Lagos and spread to all other parts of the country, including the north, was a confirmation that things were going bad in the country.

“Rather than see things from a better perspective, northern leaders are still anxious to maintain the status quo of power domination from which they have unwholesomely benefited for decades through ill governance.”

The group said it was perplexed that northern leaders misread the conditions of things in the country which led to the unrest.
The forum warned it would not accept subtle threats from any region.

Civil rights activists in the North also kicked against positions taken by northern leaders.

An activist, Abdul Bako, said attempt to restrict social media would spell doom for Nigeria’s democracy, which allows freedom of speech as recognised by the Constitution.

“When the governors say there are certain platforms that carry fake news, what will citizens say about governors that make campaign promises but never keep to them? Is that not fake news,” Bako queried.

He argued that governments abused the social media when they fail to keep to their campaign promises.

In the same vein, a former member of the Judicial Service Commission (JSC) Jigawa State, Sanusi Kazaure, said, there are more pressing issues disturbing the country, saying, “bad governance, insecurity, banditry, kidnapping and terrorism should be the priority of governors, rather than talking about censorship of the social media. “

“ I think it will be a misplacement of priority to ignore all these issues and try to control the social media. Every sane person should know that social media should be regulated, but not at this moment. There are much more pressing issues, which are more important than controlling social media,” he added.

ALSO, Chairman of the 2014 National Conference Advisory Committee, Senator Femi Okurounmu, dismissed the position of the north that the #ENDSARS protests was aimed at changing Buhari’s government. He said the north should better realise on time that Nigerians had become wiser and knew what they wanted from government.

“Any administration that fails to do the needful would definitely face legitimate and peaceful protests like the one our youths tagged #ENDSARS.

He also criticised the call on government to restrict social media. According to him, “I don’t see any reason for this, because this same administration took advantage of the social media in 2015.”

FORMER National Chairman of the defunct United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie stated yesterday that the outcome of the meeting of the northern governors with their traditional rulers was an indication that restructuring was inevitable and urgent.

Okorie stated that the resolutions of the meeting had drawn a line between issues that were of paramount interest to the northern zone different from the rest of the country, stressing that the National Assembly should do the needful and save the country from implosion by amending the constitution.

He said: “I have read the communique that came out of that meeting and everything that came out of it is simply confirming the fact that we cannot run away from the need for true federalism, the avoidable and inevitable need for the restructuring of Nigeria immediately. There is no doubt that each zone has its own peculiarity, but the line that is being drawn now between the north and south. I drew attention to that line when the Northern Governors’ Forum under Lalong as chairman, issued a statement that they are not against the SARS and that the #EndSARS agitation is a southern thing.

“So what they have done now is to expand stakeholders idea that have aligned with the position that the north and south feel differently both in security and values. Recently Governor El’Rufai has had cause to draw attention to the recommendations that his committee made regarding restructuring. Even in that very meeting, his recommendation is restructuring, state police and community policing. What I can say is that the National Assembly has a responsibility of saving Nigeria of imminent explosion and that is by acting on one thing on their table right now, which is the amendment of the constitution. I am hopeful that when the recommendations of the 2014 conference as well as others are factored into the amendments they are going to make Nigeria a better federation than what we have.”