Buhari’s strange social media regulation ambush
Journalism professional bodies and indeed officials of the Nigerian Press organization (NPO) comprising the Newspapers Proprietors Association of Nigeria (NPAN), Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE), the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) should be vigilant about the new project of Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture: strange social media regulation project.
The tone for this new bugbear has just been set with the Minister’s repeated warning that the government of Buhari would, “no longer fold its arms and allow activities capable of setting the country on fire to continue unchecked”. According to the former spokesperson of the ruling APC, the social media is “currently out of control, featuring “fake news” and “hate speech” and like the broadcast media, needs to be reined in. Besides, they have the potential to harm the country’s democracy and threaten “national unity”.
And here is the thing, now that the apex court has rounded off all serious petitions over the 2019 presidential election, there is an urgent need to look beyond Lai Mohammed and meretricious regulation of the social media.
I mean senior citizens and patriots who want democracy to be sustained here should begin to look at a possible rise of a strongman who may want to tamper with press freedom again for some curious agenda. I mean our President, Muhammadu Buhari who said that, “it’s time to move on” now that the Supreme Court has dismissed all petitions against his victory, may return to the country soon to begin a strange project against freedom of expression in Africa’s most populous country.
We need to be vigilant. We need to be more resourceful because the already disorganised opposition party is going to be weaker as more of their assets will soon cross over to the governing party in pursuit of food and vainglory. The political class here has always been unreliable. And sadly, the power elite hasn’t got any clear consensus on what to do with the country beyond a flurry of many tales told by simpletons, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. The press has been weakened by poor capitalisation, nurtured by some dubious proprietary interests, which have undermined its independence. And so, any strong man can rise now with strange doctrines and extra-legal policies to undermine democracy and the rule of law.
There is already a fertile ground for any evil to thrive in today’s Nigeria where a Chief Justice was removed within weeks by an administrative tribunal without any judicial pronouncements. We are talking of a country where even opposition figures, civil society organisations, citizen journalists, mainstream press and even the Bar Association cannot raise any questions about why ails the leader of the most populous black nation on earth who is again in the United Kingdom until November 17, this year. I am talking of a country of anything-is-possible where soldiers will just rise and declare a strange search on all citizens of about 200 million people because they are looking for insurgents who they claimed have escaped from two states of a federation of 36 states.
Despite all these, I believe in Nigeria where so many young men and women are prospering without any critical infrastructure and flexible loans to do business. I believe Nigeria will rise again when these villains and scoundrels in power all over the federation fizzle out soon. That is why I want to appeal again, for us to be more vigilant. I am calling on all citizens to continue to keep vigil over this democracy as I did on 14 October, 2018 in a piece titled, Keeping vigil over this democracy.
I would also like to encourage the growing army of concerned some old and young citizens to be ready from any eventuality from our president who may return from London to implement his new deal called ‘social media regulation’ even the federal executive council (FEC) has approved. It will be recalled too that I also warned here too on August 19, 2018 about the possibility of president Buhari tampering with press freedom again in another article titled, Before Buhari tampers with Press freedom again.
We should really be vigilant enough to recognise emerging rule of a strongman in this country. Whenever you see strong words coming against the media inform of mulling malicious regulation instead of taking erring media men to court, you should get prepared for the arrival of strongmen. Our strongman who is resting in Europe at this moment is satisfied that he has conquered us with the wobbly democracy we have in place now without strong institutions to nurture it.
The elements of a functional democracy always include part or all of the following: participation of the people either directly or indirectly, independent judiciary, separation of powers, the rule of law, the respect for fundamental rights, free and fair elections, multi-party system, freedom of the press, accountability and transparency of governance process, among others.
Is it therefore surprising that everywhere you go in Nigeria today, speakers and keynoters are still saying openly that Nigeria still requires capable, reliable, and sustainable institutions: strong and credible legislature; capable police forces; independent judges; a free press; a vibrant private sector and a reliable civil society to give life to our democracy.This is where a strongman can thrive…
As ‘The Economist’ warned in a cover in 2018, “…the world should be worried about the rise of strongman politics”. Now, I need to sensitise our people to get prepared for war on truth. There may be some curious correlation between the strategic launch of war on (social) media, failed attempt to regulate the civil society and the military’s takeover of internal security role from police in the name of operation positive identification (OPI) at this time. I hope no one will insinuate that there may be some third term agenda in all these curious warming-up activities to launch emergence of strongman politics.
Feedback – Re: ‘Why Buhari may not make history’.
By Otunba Sola Olatunji
When I read Martins Oloja’s seminal piece titled, ‘Why history may not make history’ last Sunday, I was elated because it’s an opportunity for me to contribute my view to this subject of national importance.
‘Nigeria and visionary leaders’
In my small mind, visionary leaders can be seen or described from different perspectives but for the purpose of this topic I will simply describe a visionary leader as someone who came and impacted positively on the lives of his people and left them better than he met them or better still ,liberated his people from diseases, hunger , economic deprivation, ethnic conflicts, etc & restore unity , oneness, prosperity and orderliness in a society.
I do not intend to take you far about a few examples of visionary leaders we have produced in Africa. In Nigeria, we have produced the likes of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Alhmadu Bello, Sir Tafawa Balewa, Chief Anthony Enahoro & even our own Chief Olu Akinfosile, who could be seen as our state visionary leaders in their own right. We have state visionary leaders and even local visionary leaders depending on the space where such person is operating from. However, it’s a common saying that every politics is local. So, for you to graduate from one level of visionary leadership to the other, you have to show traits of leadership from schools, communities, society. One common thing that united these great men together was liberating their people from the yoke of imperialism by the British government and they successfully achieved their dream of independence for their people.
Although they are not with us today, the air of freedom we are experiencing across the country today can be attributed to their great work. However, the internal colonialism we talk about today is our making & we should all strive to resolve them ourselves. So, I would like to say that these great leaders came & impacted positively on the lives of their people and left them better than they met them so I have no hesitation to describe them as visionary leaders.
Visionary leaders abound in some parts of Africa too. Although some of them are no longer with us. Thomas Nyerere of Tanzania, Kwame Nkruma of Ghana, Nelson Mandela of South Africa etc are examples of visionary leaders in Africa.
Buhari and date with history.
The emergence of Buhari as the president of the most populous black nation in the world was full of hopes & great optimism by Nigerians both home & in the diaspora. Even friends & well-wishers of our country were not left out. The great optimism can be seen partly because Buhari was once a military head of State and his regime though seen as authoritarian but was able to restore order in our society through the implementation of War Against Indiscipline (WAI).
So, his emergence was full of hope an end to corruption etc. Secondly, that he was given the chance to have a date with history as the president after three attempts in the past is remarkable. There was a particular occasion when he openly wept for his failure to win an election. Therefore 2015 election & renewals of his mandate for his second term in office in 2019 provided greater opportunities for him to write a good history for himself as a visionary leader. In my view, he needs to do the following if he wants to make history as Oloja noted:
Ethnic bigotry: Mr. president should see the country as his constituency and not promoting disunity through ethnic governance. The next president after him will implement the same policy & there will be agitation, which may lead to disintegration. A visionary leader will run an inclusive government to promote unity and cohesion of the country.
Constitution and cost of governance: It is high time we restructured our constitution because the one we are using today was handed over to us by the military without input from “we the people” as claimed. As nation evolves. We continue to reform our constitution in respect of those things that will make us better as a nation. We should work on the federal character clause in our constitution, cost of governance as though we proclaim a presidential system of government but in the application, it is a unitary government. We have too many contradictions in our constitution. Therefore, Buhari should rise above ethnic sentiments and work for the country as a visionary leader so that he can have a date with history.
In summary, leaders don’t necessarily take the views of their advisers 100%. They usually have their own inner views and should be held accountable when they are in power and after office. They must take responsibility for their success and failures. Our president will no doubt be counted in less than four years from now among the visionary leaders we have produced in Nigeria, Africa & the world if he can rise above ethnic bigotry, pick the best hands to run the affairs of this country with him, run inclusive government, embark on constitutional reforms and reduce the cost of governance, sustain the fight against corruption, deploy recovered loots as social investments to reduce poverty in our society. Thank you.
Otunba Olatunji, a political communications consultant wrote in from Lagos.
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