Name? Muhammadu Buhari
Westphalian identity? Nigeria
Why is he in the news? A few days ago, Nigerian President Buhari published a tweet stating, “Who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.” He drew a connection between Nigeria’s civil war decades ago and more recent attacks on offices of the National Electoral Commission. Twitter considered his words to violate its “abusive behaviour” policy and therefore, deleted his tweet.
Why do we care? Because Buhari reacted to his deleted tweet by banning Twitter for all of Nigeria. It’s not like certain former US Presidents wouldn’t have loved to do the same after their tweets got deleted…On a serious note, banning Twitter is an extreme step, perhaps a healthy move for some individuals, but certainly not for entire countries.
Why should you care? Twitter played an important role in Nigerian protestors’ efforts to pressure the government into dismantling the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), a squad known for its violent tactics. Protestors organised via Twitter and shared disturbing images of the squad’s activities, successfully pressuring the government through social media; not to the liking of President Buhari. The fact that such a powerful tool can simply be turned off for 39 million users should make you care 8/10.
Who else cares? Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo. The Twitter office responsible for deleting Buhari’s tweet was established two months ago in Ghana; a blow to tech-savvy Nigeria with 4 million more Twitter users than Ghana has citizens. The Nigerian ban of Twitter can also be understood as a message of anger towards Twitter for choosing the “better democracy” for its African headquarters.
Any further comments? We have voiced our concern about the power multinational tech companies hold over us before. Deleting Trump’s tweets has created a precedent Twitter is now acting upon. The fact that private individuals can seemingly silence Heads of States is equally as worrying as Heads of States silencing private individuals.