By Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema
I could not resist the urge to rush to a virgin page on my laptop after reading online newspaper accounts that Twitter had deleted IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu’s latest tweet that threatened that any Nigerian army sent to Eastern Nigeria (Biafraland, in Kanu’s dictionary) would not return alive, even if, in the IPOB chieftain’s words ‘it means sacrificing my people.’ Twitter said the tweet violated their standards of social engagement.
First, I say thank you to Twitter for deleting that tweet. At this tense time in Nigeria it puts at grave risk security agents who may be sent to the East; also, Easterners themselves are at risk. Are Igbo, indeed, Eastern lives, worth sacrificing? For what, if I may ask? Does the average Igbo person anywhere want to die for Biafra as defined by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu? Nigeria’s security forces, if truth must be told, are not the most professional in their conduct. Already, heartbreaking reports of abominations being committed in the East by them in their bid to end the violence there are exacerbating tensions. What will Kanu’s tweet do to their psyche and disposition towards harmless Easterners in the theatre of internal security operations? Or has an undeclared war commenced in the East?
It is tempting to assume that Twitter is trying to placate the Buhari government for deleting the president’s ‘civil war, language they understand’ tweet. Although the Buhari government did not give that action as reason for its hard-hitting suspension of Twitter from the Nigerian cyber-space, it is believed that that deletion was the culmination of the government’s increasingly frosty relationship with Twitter since the End SARS protests. Twitter’s locating its African headquarters in Ghana instead of Nigeria clearly did not go down well with the Buhari government, though the officials put a brave face on it, and as usual, Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, blamed the citizens’ disposition and badmouthing Nigeria for Twitter’s decision.
Maybe Nigerians forget that Twitter is a business, a very big player in this globalized, highly networked and hyper-super information world. Twitter has core values and there are things they look for to set up operations, which need not be physical. At the same time Nigeria has her national interests. Agreed, Nigeria’s national interest of a corporate existence may not be for all the constituents that make up Nigeria because of the contradictions inherent in the mantra ‘united, one, non-negotiable Nigeria,’ but it is not Twitter’s business to shape the country’s interests. However, globalization means that both state and non-state actors must interface, and interests may collide. According to Statista, Nigeria has an active social media user population of 33 million, and 61.4 percent of them use Twitter. The implications of losing that matters to Twitter, especially when it is remembered that alternatives exist in this techno-savvy world, and there are what I call extended users whose markets and other economic activities depend on this 61.4 percent. Could Twitter be diplomatically be wooing back Buhari and his administration?
Be that as it may, Nigerians must take a stand on the conflicts rocking Nigeria. This unity we have is the unity of the grave. EVERY ENTITY HAS ITS LEGITIMATE GRIEVANCES. Sheer criminality has been baptized as agitation. Please, what nationalism is served by kidnapping children barely old enough to walk and twisting their poor parents for millions? What agitation is served by slaughtering policemen and soldiers? What nationalism justifies sending cattle across people’s farms to destroy their crops? The responses of Buhari and his men to these criminalities so far only compel most people doubt if Nigeria is for them.
I see no hope in the on-going constitutional review. Secession is too risky in this charged environment; it cannot be peaceful like the Czechoslovakia’s break-up in 1992. Our National Assembly cannot handle the process like the Czechoslovakia handled the process which culminated in the co-existence of the independent states of Czech and Slovakia; their cowardice and selfishness will not allow it. What Nigeria needs now is a confederation. Believe me, even Twitter will find a happy home in a confederation of Nigerian states.
Henry Chukwuemeka Onyema is an author, historian and teacher. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org