Immediate past President of the United States (U.S), Donald Trump, has hailed the Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government over its decision to indefinitely suspend operations of the microblogging platform, Twitter in the country.
This is also the former U.S leader called on other leaders to follow suit by banning operations of the platform in their countries.
Trump while commending the Nigerian government over the action also suggested that he might consider taking such action if he wins reelection into the White House in 2024.
”Congratulations to the country of Nigeria, who just banned Twitter because they banned their President. More COUNTRIES should ban Twitter and Facebook for not allowing free and open speech – all voices should be heard.
‘’In the meantime, competitors will emerge and take hold. Who are they to dictate good and evil if they themselves are evil? Perhaps I should have done it while I was President. But Zuckerberg kept calling me and coming to the White House for dinner telling me how great I was. 2024?,’ Trump said.
It would be recalled that Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Friday evening, announced the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, in a statement issued in Abuja , citing the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.
The statement signed by his Special Assistant, Segun Adeyemi said the ‘Federal Government has also directed the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) to immediately commence the process of licensing all OTT and social media operations in Nigeria.’
Federal Government has been involved in a running battle with the social media platform over its decision to delete the tweet from the Twitter handle of President Muhammadu Buhari which had threatened to rehash the 1967 Civil war experience on those perpetrating destruction of the assets and critical infrastructure of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), particularly those located in the South East of the country.
Mohammed had dismissed the action of social media platform in deleting tweets by President Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday, accusing Twitter of bias.
According to the minister, President Buhari had every right to express dismay at violence by a banned organisation.
“Twitter may have its own rules, it’s not the universal rule,” he told reporters. “If Mr. President anywhere in the world feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views.”
Buhari had in a series of tweets on his verified Twitter handle, @Mbuhari, and also via the handles of his aides, said: “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
Following pressure by Nigerian users, Twitter later deleted the President’s tweet, saying:”This Tweet Violated the Twitter Rules.”
Reacting, Wednesday, Mohammed, accused Twitter of double standard, saying it ignored inciting tweets by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and others.
He accused Twitter of ignoring Kalu’s tweets in which he encouraged the killing of police personnel.
He also accused Twitter of showing bias against the government during #EndSARS protests in 2020.
“Twitter may have its own rules, it’s not the universal rule. If Mr. President, anywhere in the world feels very bad and concerned about a situation, he is free to express such views. Now, we should stop comparing apples with oranges. If an organisation is proscribed, it is different from any other which is not proscribed.
“Two, any organisation that gives directives to its members, to attack police stations, to kill policemen, to attack correctional centres, to kill warders, and you are now saying that Mr. President does not have the right to express his dismay and anger about that? Are we the ones guilty of double standards?
“I don’t see anywhere in the world where an organisation, a person will stay somewhere outside Nigeria, and will direct his members to attack the symbols of authority, the police, the military, especially when that organisation has been proscribed.
“By whatever name, you can’t justify giving orders to kill policemen or to kill anybody you do not agree with,” the minister had claimed.
The government’s decision has since come under heavy attack by Nigerians at home and abroad, as well as international organizations who have raised objections against the action while also threatening to drag the ban to court.
Only, Tuesday, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) caucus in the House of Representatives staged a walkout during plenary at the Lower Chambers.
The members had, earlier Sunday, also threatened to drag the government to court if it fails to rescind the ban on Twitter, even as they also notified the House of their plan to move the motion to debate on the ban on Twitter operations.
Also, envoys of the United States, United Kingdom and European Union, after Monday’s meeting with the Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs, restated positions already declared by their various governments, as they insisted that the Federal Government’s suspension of Twitter, is a violation of the fundamental human right of freedom of expression.
United States ambassador to Nigeria, Mary-Beth Leonards, who spoke on behalf of the envoys said: “We are here as partners who want to see Nigeria succeed. We want to see this place unified, peaceful and prosperous and that’s how all of our activities are arranged. I think we have to be very clear that we are Nigeria’s strong partners on issues of security and we recognise the daunting times and the array of security challenges that confront Nigeria.
“While they are daunting, they are not insurmountable and part of the way to surmount them is through partnership of the people you see represented here.
“Not only in physical security but in terms of expanding opportunities and promoting mediation and dialogue; this is all very important and we look forward to continuing that partnership and continuing our conversation around important issues like media freedom.
“We re-affirm our position that free access to the ability to express oneself is actually very important and perhaps more important in troubled times.”
Similarly, in a statement issued via its Twitter handle, Friday, human rights watchdog, Amnesty International urged the Federal Government to reverse the suspension and other plans to gag the media.
“Amnesty International condemns the Nigerian government’s suspension of Twitter in Nigeria — a social media widely used by Nigerians to exercise their human rights, including their rights to freedom of expression and access to information.
“We call on the Nigerian authorities to immediately reverse the unlawful suspension and other plans to gag the media, repress the civic space, and undermine Nigerians’ human rights.
“This action is clearly inconsistent and incompatible with Nigeria’s international obligations including under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” the statement read.
Main opposition Peoples democratic Party, while reacting to the ban on Twitter use in Nigeria, described the order as ‘blatantly unconstitutional,’ saying it was ‘illegal, null and completely of no moment.’
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Kola Ologbondiyan, said the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami’s directive to prosecute users of the microblogging platform ‘is not only downright ludicrous, but shows the frenzied desperation by the Buhari Presidency to muzzle, victimize, clamp down on innocent Nigerians and foist a totalitarian system on our country.’
“Nothing in our extant laws, not even the suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, constitutionally criminalized the use of Twitter by Nigerians or empowers the Federal Governments to arrest and prosecute any Nigerian for using Twitter.
On his part, Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka described the decision by the Federal Government as ‘unbecoming of a democratically elected president.’
According to the Nobel Laureate, President Buhari’s action has thrown up Nigeria as ‘collateral damage’ in the impasse with the microblogging company.
Reacting in a statement, Friday evening, to the suspension slammed on Twitter operations in Nigeria by the Federal Government, Soyinka advised that if Buhari has a problem with the platform, he should sort it out with them ‘the way ex-US president Donald Trump did and not rope in the right to free expression of the Nigerian citizen as collateral damage.’
Aside being blocked and his account suspended indefinitely by Twitter for allegedly provoking an insurrection and invasion of the Capitol Hill by his supporters, Trump had his suspension on Facebook also extended by another two years, as announced by the company, last week.