To be or not to be is the heart of the debate as the Buhari administration is relentlessly pushing for a regulation which would see Nigerians punished for the spread of misinformation and or indulging in hate speeches on popular social media platforms.
The argument by the Federal Government is that social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have been turned into headquarters of misinformation and hate speeches which according to it, is a major threat to a brittle country like Nigeria due to our peculiarity.
Nigerians on their part, see the move to regulate the social media space as ‘vicious’ especially when the main problems bedevilling the country remains unaddressed. You don’t cut down a tree from the top do you?
Using Nigerians as scape goats for government’s failures is considered as unacceptable. Pushing to punish them for demanding accountability, and or criticizing government even in a provoking manner, is seen as the height of insensitivity and irresponsibility of elected officials who should be more focused on improving the fortunes of the poor masses instead of nailing them.
Seemingly drawn into the heated conversation, former Military President General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, has joined nay sayers in condemning the aforementioned bill, calling the Buhari administration as ‘silly’ for not working on its failures, but wants to punish Nigerians for voicing out their concerns on issues that affects them on a daily basis.
He said, “I am surprised that this bill has resurfaced. There is no basis for this now. We are developing; we should be allowed to develop. If we make mistakes, people can be cautioned. If somebody goes off you have the right to call him to say, ‘no, we don’t want this,'” the former President said
“Unless people are able to express themselves, those in government or in authority will not know what is happening in the country.”
At the heat of the conversation as Nigerians demand for the scrapping of Anti Social Media bill, wife of the President Hajia Aisha Buhari, who has in the past months and years been critical of her husband’s government, shocked many Nigerians by voicing her support for social media bill.
Aisha who used China (a communist country) as an example, said there is a greater reason to push for social media regulation than not, since misinformation is a threat to the government and the country at large
“On this issue of social media, you cannot just sit in the comfort of your house and tweet that the vice president has resigned. It is a serious issue. If China can control over 1.3bn people on social media, I see no reason why Nigeria cannot attempt controlling only 180m people,” the First Lady disclosed on Friday, November 30, at the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) General Assembly and National Executive Council (NEC) meeting at the National Mosque Abuja.
But Nigerians aren’t impressed with the First Lady on this contentious issue. Using China which runs a communist system of government to justify the need for social media regulation, is baffling since we are talking about democracy here. Perhaps Aisha like her husband, have no clue what a democracy is and entails, as such, felt they could rule the country like a family business or a personal estate.
One facebook user, Apeh Mercy Umakani, said since the First Lady chose to use China as a model, then the Chinese policy of hanging corrupt public office holders, must be included in the hate speech bill as well. Besides, China with its huge population, is doing well unlike the corrupt government we have been recycling for years.
In response to the position of the First Lady on social media regulation, Umakani said , “If China can publish corrupt politicians by hanging them, I don’t see why Nigeria can’t do the same.”
Since the current government came to power, Nigerians are at a loss to what system of government the country is currently practicing. Totalitarianism? Where the three arms of government like in our case, is controlled by the Executive? It’s an open debate.