More than 72 hours after the Federal Government announced the lifting of the ban on Twitter, the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), is yet to tweet.
Several media aides of the President have resumed using the platform since the ban was lifted last Thursday, except the President himself and the Vice President.
In the early hours of January 13, 2021, the regime officially lifted the seven-month ban on Twitter.
According to a statement signed by the Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency and Chairman Technical Committee Nigeria-Twitter Engagement, Kashifu Abdullahi, hours earlier, the U.S. company had agreed to meet all the conditions set by the government.
It read in part, “The Federal Government of Nigeria directs me to inform the public that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the lifting of the suspension of Twitter operation in Nigeria effective from 12 am tonight, January 13, 2022.
“The approval was given following a memo written to the President by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof Isa Pantami.”
The Microblogging platform was suspended in Nigeria on June 5, 2021, two days after it deleted a tweet by the President. Telecommunication companies had blocked access to Twitter after receiving a directive from the Nigerian Communications Commission to that effect.
The Federal Government also accused Twitter of double standards and amplifying the voice of secessionists in the country. In a statement at the time, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, cited “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
Since June, the Federal Government and Twitter representatives have been negotiating over several vital issues, including Twitter’s registration with the Corporate Affairs Commission and opening a physical office in Nigeria.
Two months earlier, on April 12, 2021, Twitter announced that it was opening its first African office in Ghana. The Company said its decision is based on Ghana’s AfCFTA negotiations, internet access, online and offline free speech policy.
“As a champion for democracy, Ghana is a supporter of free speech, online freedom, and the Open Internet, of which Twitter is also an advocate.
“Furthermore, Ghana’s recent appointment to host The Secretariat of the African Continental Free Trade Area aligns with our overarching goal to establish a presence in the region that will support our efforts to improve and tailor our service across Africa,” it said.
On October 1, 2021, in his Independence day speech, Buhari said that he had directed the ban of Twitter’s operations in the country be lifted, but only if certain conditions outlined by his regime were met.
The President said the Federal Government made the decision after Twitter reached out to the government to resolve the impasse.
When the government finally lifted the ban last Thursday, several media aides of the President resumed using the platform, except the President and the Vice President, who only retweeted updates about Saturday’s Armed Forces Remembrance Day from other government handles.
Meanwhile, some Nigerians Tweeps threw barbs at the first tweet by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu. Shehu had tweeted that Nigeria gained “immeasurably” from the shutdown of Twitter when his tweets came under fire.
He said, “Welcome back—Let me join fellow countrymen and women in welcoming the resolution of the impasse between the Federal Government of Nigeria and Twitter Inc., leading to the laying of a ‘foundation for a mutually beneficial future with endless possibilities.’
“I join the leaders of government in appreciating all Nigerians, “especially the vibrant Nigerian youths who have borne with the long wait to resolve this impasse,” and as the government statement clearly says, the gains made from this shared national sacrifice are immeasurable.
“We hope that this is appreciated by all. The nation comes first. Once again, welcome back!”
Reacting, Nigerians asked Garba Shehu to state the gains of Twitter suspension. One of them, Chuks Uzoelue @uzoeluesamuel, said “We never stopped using Twitter. We should be welcoming you back.”
Abraham Ajibade @abram_superkey said, “Correction: The battle wasn’t between Twitter and FG but FG versus the young citizen. History will not forget this. You will be remembered for destroying the bridge through which you got power.”
@OdeyemiOladapo1 said, “So you think we do not know that you guys lifted the Twitter ban because of the 2023 general elections? Twitter will never stoop so low to let you guys that have zero impact outside the shores of this nation tell them what to do.”
The Vice Presidential Spokesperson, Laolu Akande, Tweeted, “Great to be back!” He was greeted with “Just tell Buhari not to tweet”— Lilposh of London @Lilposh5.
Francis oke @Doctorfrank2 said, “We are extremely happy to see you here again; Twitter is finally back.”
Dat_Afikpo boi @sparoswagg said, “See them. They have unbanned themselves. We are dey wait for una. People of Koo app”.
By Stephen Angbulu