Nigeria’s federal government on Wednesday accused the social media giant, Twitter, of double standards in its treatment of issues affecting Nigeria.
It warned that it would not allow the microblogging site to dictate to President Muhammadu Buhari his views on national issues.
The accusation followed the decision of Twitter to delete a controversial post by Buhari on the Nigerian civil war.
The president, in the post on Tuesday, had warned against insurrection, saying that those fomenting trouble in the South-east are in for a rude shock.
Buhari, in a series of tweets on Tuesday via his verified Twitter handle @mbuhari had 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.”
Buhari’s statement, which was also tweeted, sparked outrage on the social media with some Nigerians reporting it to Twitter.
However, some said the president sounded firm in his warning against perpetrators of violence in the South-east.
But on Wednesday, Twitter pulled down the tweet for violating its community standards.
Twitter, in a comment, said: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules.”
The federal government, however, kicked against the decision with the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, wondering why Tweeter would object to a submission by the president on national issues but would ignore provocative postings by the leader of the proscribed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu on its site.
The minister told journalist at the end of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja that Twitter’s mission in Nigeria is suspect.
He wondered if Twitter has ever deleted offensive tweets by Kanu.
He said: “The mission of Twitter in Nigeria is very suspect. Has Twitter deleted the violent tweets that Nnamdi Kanu has been sending? Has it? The same Twitter during the ENDSARS protests promoted tweets trying to raise funds for the ENDSARS protesters. It was the first to close the account of former President of US, Donald Trump.
“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 at the Capitol, it became 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, who is destroying police stations, who is destroying INEC offices should be ready for the consequences; is that inciting violence?”
While accepting the fact that Twitter may have its own rules, Mohammed said that should not stop Buhari from expressing his views against a banned organisation like IPOB inciting people to commit arson and the likes in the South-east.
He stated: “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? We are the one 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.
“But I’m saying that you cannot compare anybody with Kanu who boldly say, go and kill policemen. I think sometimes…policemen are brothers, they are our uncle, they are children. We kill them their wives become widows, their children become orphans. And what is the offence of these policemen – because they are working to keep the country one. What about soldiers that are putting 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, go and kill policemen.”
Asked why Sheikh Ahmed Gumi whose comments were perceived as justifying Boko Haram actions has not been arrested, Mohammed asked who appointed Gumi as the go-between between government and Boko Haram.
“Who appointed Gumi middleman between government and Boko Haram? Listen, for me, unless you come and tell me this what Gumi said that is inciting that you are comparing to Kanu… anyway what we’re discussing is different. We’re discussing Twitter. If you want to ask any question about Gumi or any other person, go ahead but please, be objective,” he added.
He also said if government had resolved to pick up all those critical of the Buhari administration, the detention centres would have been full by now.
He said: “There are so many people who have been spewing hate against Mr. President, against this governments. So if you want to comment, be fair; don’t take a position, which is not objective. 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.”
Reacting to Buhari’s tweet, human rights activist, Aisha Yesufu, described as “insensitive” the civil war analogy by the president.
Yesufu, in a video statement yesterday, said: “My name is Aisha Somtochukwu Yesufu. I am Igbo, a threat to the Igbo people is a threat to me. Any attack on the Igbo people is an attack on me. Any malignment of the Igbo people is a malignment to me. We are all Nigerians and no Nigerian is more Nigerian than the others.
“The government must ensure that it deploys its resources and its apparatus equally to every section of this country.
“I totally condemn the tweet from the president where the president is threatening the Igbo people. He is threatening them with what happened in 1967. What happened in 1967 was a genocide; a crime against humanity and it must never ever be allowed to happen again.”
She added: “For a president to come out today and use 1967 as a yardstick to threaten people with what happened then, with the 30 months of gruesomeness, with the 30 months of heinousness, with the 30 months of atrocities that were meted out on human beings, on fellow brothers and sisters, on children in this country, is inhumane, it is insensitive, it is callous, and it is unspeakable.”
Former Ekiti State Governor, Mr. Ayodele Fayose, however, called on Twitter to hold presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu and Mohammed accountable for the controversial ‘civil war’ post.
Reacting in a string of tweets, Fayose wrote: “A president who cannot address his own people in time of crisis can certainly not be the one tweeting on the crisis. Twitter should rather hold Garba Shehu, Lai Mohammed and co (others) accountable.
“It is obvious that those using the president’s powers for him do not know when and where to stop their power. Regrettably, Twitter may not know that Buhari is not the one operating the handle.”
Deji Elumoye in Abuja