Eniola Akinkuotu,Friday Olokor, Leke Baiyewu, Solomon Odeniyi,Lesi Nwisagbo, DeborahTolu-Kolawole, Stephen Angbulu, Maritha Ebolosue and Tony Okafor
3 June 2021
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• President’s comment suggests violence, may incite bloody reactions – SANs, CSOs, others
• FG threatens US firm, accuses Twitter of polarising Nigeria, alleges mission suspicious
Senior lawyers, human rights groups and the Igbo socio-cultural organisation, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, have hailed a social media giant, Twitter, for deleting a controversial post by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), on Nigerian Civil War from 1967 and 1970.
The tweet, which was posted on Tuesday, read in part, “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.”
The tweet attracted strong criticisms with many Nigerians saying it was a threat to commit human rights violations.
Following several complaints, Twitter bowed to pressure, deleting the tweet.
A comment by Twitter stated, “This Tweet violated the Twitter rules.”
The social media giant had earlier in the year banned then United States President, Donald Trump, for his inciting comments which led to the attack on the US Congress.
FG angry, accuses Twitter of polarising Nigeria
The Federal Government in its reaction said Twitter’s mission in Nigeria was suspicious.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Muhammed, who said this while addressing State House correspondents at the Presidential Villa, Abuja on Wednesday. He labelled Twitter as complicit in the polarisation of Nigerians.
He said, “Twitter may have its own rule but it’s not the universal rule.
“If Mr President 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, when an organisation 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, then you are the one guilty of double standards.”
Referring to the Indigenous People of Biafra and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, Mohammed said there was no reason to justify a leader who “stays somewhere outside Nigeria, and directs his members to attack the symbols of authority, the police, the military, especially when that organisation has been proscribed.”
He added that no one could justify giving orders to kill policemen or “anybody you do not agree with.”
The minister turned his attention to the social networking service, Twitter, which he accused of having a suspicious mission in Nigeria.
He said, “The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very suspicious. Has Twitter deleted the violent tweets that Nnamdi Kanu has been sending? Has it?
“And you see, when people were burning police stations and killing policemen in Nigeria during #EndSARS, for Twitter, it was about the right to protest. But when a similar thing happened on the Capitol, it became an insurrection.
“You see, we are not going to be fooled by anybody. We have a country to rule and we will do so to the best of our ability. Twitter mission in Nigeria citing those two examples is very suspect. What is their agenda?
“How does Mr President’s speech that anybody who is destroying infrastructure, police offices and INEC offices should be ready for the consequences, inciting violence?
When asked why the Islamic Cleric, Shiekh Ahmad Gumi, who openly defended the deadly Boko Haram terrorist group, had not been picked, Mohammed said, “you are again mixing things.”
He said anyone asking about Gumi had to be specific about the very comments made that incited violence.
“If you want to ask any question about Gumi or any other person, go ahead but please, be objective.
“There are so many people who have been spewing hate against Mr President, against this government.
“If we were to pick up everybody today who had been abusing this administration, the detention centres will be filled up and you will be the first person also to talk about lack of tolerance, lack of rule of law.
“But I’m saying that you cannot compare anybody with Nnamdi Kanu who boldly says, ‘go and kill policemen.’
“Policemen are also brothers, they are our uncles, they are someone’s children.
“When we kill them, their wives become widows, their children become orphans. And what is the offence of these policemen?
“They are working to keep the country one. What about soldiers that are laying down their lives so that you and I can sleep?
“It is not acceptable anywhere in the world for anybody, anywhere, to stay in the comfort of wherever he is and now give directives to go and kill soldiers and policemen.”
Twitter’s action, warning signal to Buhari – Ohanaeze
But the Vice President of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Damian Okeke-Ogene, in an interview with one of our correspondents commended Twitter.
He said the development should be a warning signal.
He said it was clear that there was maladministration in the country.
“Things are not working out well in the country. People are being slaughtered like animals everyday in the country. It should serve as a lesson to him (Buhari). It should serve as a lesson to the government of Nigeria that the international community is no longer happy with what is going on in Nigeria.
“It should be a thing for sober reflection. It’s time for them to find solution to all these problems. The situation in this country is not conducive. Nigeria is a big country that any bad thing happening here would have ripple effects on other countries, particularly the countries in sub-Saharan Africa. So, nobody should be surprised that the international community is getting involved. It is a warning signal.”
Also, the Indigenous People of Biafra said the development was a signal that the President would be heading to the International Criminal Court sooner or later.
The IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, said this in a statement sent to one of our correspondents.
He said, “The Indigenous People of Biafra has noted the action of Twitter in deleting the inciting and acrimonious statement by Muhamnadu Buhari, threatening another war against Biafrans.
“We know that the global outrage sparked by the evil, unpresidential and genocidal tweets made the cabal running the zoo to beg Twitter to delete them. But we want to assure him that the world has already taken note of the genocidal threat. He cannot escape the International Criminal Court to account for his actions sooner or later.
“We however, commend Twitter for its courage to speak truth to power. IPOB demands Twitter to go step further and completely delete Buhari from its system as a deterrent to other tyrants like him.”
On his part, the Director of Media and Advocacy, Armsfree Ajanaku, told The PUNCH that the action of Twitter was a direct repudiation of the angry and threatening tone, “which has become customary in recent communication from the Nigerian Presidency.
“The President should know his words carry weight and could become the basis for serious human rights violation. What the country needs is healing and reconciliation, not words of threat.”
Buhari’s tweet, admission of failure – CNG
The Coalition of Northern Groups described as “empty and thoroughly unpresidential”, the response by the President to the worsening security situation in Nigeria.
The CNG advised that the Igbo should be allowed to have Biafra Republic which they had championed intermittently for decades to avoid another civil war.
The organisation said the presidential tweet merely amounted to “admission of failure and loss of capacity.”
The CNG stated these in a statement by its Spokesperson, Abdul-Azeez Sulaiman in Abuja.
Senior lawyers and some civil society organisations also backed the decision of Twitter on Buhari.
They spoke in separate interviews with The PUNCH.
Norrison Quakers (SAN) said the series of tweets rolled out by the President, were a reflection of his military background.
He described the tweets as being undemocratic and unpresidential.
Quakers said “The language is unpresidential coming from someone who is occupying the highest office in the land. He is the President of a country and not a sectional President.
“He swore allegiance not to any segment of the country but to the Federal Republic and that he will discharge his duties without fear or favour.
“If for any reason, certain people are clamouring for secession as a former soldier who experienced the civil war, what I believe he ought to do in this instance is to hold dialogue.”
Afam Osigwe (SAN) also said the President’s comments suggested violence.
He said, “The President’s comments violated Twitter policy. It contains suggestions of violence against some people.
“Having been deleted for the moment, I think that should suffice and if the account shows to have a record against certain persons, then his account can be suspended.”
Mike Ozekhome (SAN) also backed Twitter’s decision.
He said, “If it could happen to President Trump, the then President of the greatest democracy in the world when he instigated a mob to descend on the Capitol in January this year, why not our President who is actually threatening his own citizens?
“Here is a President we have not seen empathising or sympathising with beleaguered Nigerians brutally murdered in their homes, suddenly coming out to threaten his own citizens. It is simply incredible.”
The Executive Director, Centre for Public Accountability, Olufemi Lawson, described the development as a welcome one, adding that it would serve as warning to leaders.
He said, “It is a welcome development and a warning to leaders who are emerging as dictators and are trying to exploit the massive audience that the social media guarantee, to perpetrate their attempt to take the right of free speech and freedom away from the people.
Chief Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), stated, “We ought to know that no nation is an island in this modern world. Whoever you might be, whether head of state, commentator or policy maker, you simply have to be careful about what you say and do.”
On his part, Mr Yusuf Ali (SAN), commented, “I want to believe that there are some individuals managing the social media handles of the President; these people should have known that certain comments cannot be attributed to the president of a country.”
Mr Babatunde Ogala (SAN), said, “To me, a terrorist is a terrorist, whether in the North or South. I believe the government should fight terrorism no matter where it arises. It really shouldn’t be about tribe or where the terrorists are from.”
Buhari’s civil war comment, proof president is a dictator, feudalist – Adebanjo
Leader of the Yoruba socio-political group, Afenifere, Chief Ayo Adebanjo, said the President’s threats were not surprising.
Adebajo, while featuring on Politics Today, a current affairs programme on Channels Television, stated, “It is a very unfortunate statement from a President of a democratic country. I am not surprised; it is those of you who voted for Buhari in 2015 that should be amazed. I warned you then that this man is a dictator. The man is a feudalist, he is trained as a dictator and he has no respect for the rule of law.”