PROLOGUE: Buhari’s leadership blueprint, in the past six years, according to commentators and analysts, has been muscle flexing, not only with the elites in opposition to the president’s ruling party; but with the citizens who elected him to office; rather than providing leadership dividend. Leaders, like Buhari, they say, forget that it is admirable to have a giant’s strength, but tyrannical to use it like a giant, according to Shakespeare.
Leaders who are intoxicated by the sweet fragrance of power, do not listen to the strident voice of history. If they do, they would be reminded that ultimate power belongs, not to the leader, but to the people, who temporarily, surrendered it to the leader, to hold it in trust for them. The people are the fountain of power, they hold the key to power.
Myriad of voices, within and outside the country, are urging Buhari to present to Nigerians, agenda of action to solve the multifaceted problems plaguing the country. And to offer everyone the opportunity to voice his feelings on how the country can be governed progressively. No man, after all, is all-knowing, and knowledge is complimentary. When more Nigerians offer Buhari’s government their views, the richer the options are available to the government for decision making. But not the case, analysts say, with Buhari’s government.
PRESIDENT BUHARI’S GOVERNMENT, as a survival life belt, seemed to have taken to repressing, not only its citizens, but also, ideas from international communities and investments; as a way out of the government’s credibility deficit. The government now unleashes measure for measure, on the country’s democracy; while the peoples confidence in his government continued to recede. The latest is the high-handedness in suspending Twitter’s operation in Nigeria.
Analysts and commentators, see the indefinite suspension of Twitter’s operation in the country, announced last Friday, by Segun Adeyemi, media aid to Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed; in retaliation to the deletion of Buhari’s tweet, last Tuesday, by Twitter; which made reference to Nigeria’s civil war, in which millions of Igbos in south-east Nigeria were killed, as further intimidation for free speech.
Buhari’s tweet reads: “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.”
Nigerians reacted and condemned Buhari’s deleted tweet. They said the tweet evoked the [1967 to 1970] civil war experience; with derogation that those, the president perceives as “misbehaving” in south-east Nigeria, are too young to understand the gravity of war. And “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand”.
Wednesday, June 2, the president’s tweet was deleted by Twitter. Twitter said the tweet violated its rules that prohibit users from making statements that “threaten violence against an individual or a group of people; engage in the targeted harassment of someone, or incite other people to do so; nor promote violence against, threaten, or harass other people on the basis of race, ethnicity, national origin, caste, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or serious disease.”
Lai Mohammed’s statement on Twitter, announcing the ban said: “The Federal Government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.” The minister further stated that “the persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
BUHARI’S SIX YEARS in office, according to observers, benchmarked his leadership as a “General-President”, fighting many perceived enemies at the same time. Great generals, they said do not commit resources fighting many battles on many fronts, and at the same time; as Buhari seemed to be engaged in doing.
Buhari’s critics believe that one of his weaknesses, as a leader, is his inability to have a “large heart” to welcome constructive criticism, accommodate workable suggestions and solutions proffered by seasoned professionals in politics, economy and international relations; outside his ruling All Progressive Congress, APC.
Some believe that Buhari is out of touch with reality of the myriads of challenges confronting the country and the deteriorating state of the nation. He is said to be trading Nigeria’s unity for his “rigid self-willed” stance in governance. And confined to listening, only, to those they described as his “kitchen cabinet”. This has prevented the president from rising to statesman, and depriving him from developing and projecting Nigeria as a benevolent nation to the world.
AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, in its reaction to the suspension of Twitter operations in Nigeria, sees the action as an attempt to gag the social media platform. In a tweeted statement, Amnesty called on Buhari’s government to reverse the suspension.
“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,” Amnesty tweeted.
NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION, described as illegal, government’s decision to suspend Twitter’s operations in Nigeria; and threatened that it would challenge the action in court, according to NBA’s statement by its president, Olumide Akpata.
NBA’s statement reads: “The Nigerian Bar Association has noted with great concern the extraordinary decision of the Federal Government of Nigeria to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria and, by necessary implication, the right of Nigerians to freely express their constitutionally guaranteed opinions through that medium.
“Whether one likes it or not, we are operating a constitutional democracy, the primary consequence of which is that everything must be done according to law; and government must be conducted within the framework of recognised rules and principles which restrict discretionary power. Consequently, if this decision is not immediately reversed, the Nigerian Bar Association will have no choice but to challenge same in the interest of the public and our democracy.”
MIKE OZEKHOME, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST, and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, sees government’s action in suspending the operations of Twitter in the country, as attempts to “cover its atrocities from the international community”. His statement is titled: “When A Tottering Government Twiddles Twitter”.
Ozekhome said, “Well, I am not surprised that the Federal Government has suspended Twitter operations in Nigeria. Are you? I have always said that this Government has a very thin skin for criticism. It is a government that cannot take punches, but delights in always giving punches to adversaries, real or imaginary.
“The Government knows that Nigerians now express their resentment and protest through Twitter, by telling the whole world how Nigeria has been turned into a corruption haven, and a sprawling field of butchery, extra-judicial executions and slaughtering. Those in Government do not want the world to hear about their atrocities. So, they just gleefully tell the world that they have suspended Twitter and that they would soon license other OTT and social media operations”.
Ozekhome wondered what Buhari’s government thinks Twitter stand to lose by suspending its operations in Nigeria. Rather, government’s action aggravates the suffering inflicted on Nigerians in six years of his leadership. And Twitter may not bother whether Nigerians use the platform or not.
His words: “So, it is the same beleaguered Nigerian people that will suffer, not the Federal Government or Twitter, because the Federal Government is a minute minuscule aspect of the Nigerian society, made up of only a few selected elites that do not care about the common man.”
LESSONS OF POWER, is that leaders befuddled by the cologne of power, undermine the potency of power. Ultimate power belongs, to the people, not to the leader. The people are the fountain of power, they hold the key to power. Nigerian people gave power, through the ballot, to Buhari in 2015, for four years; and renewed it for another four years in 2019.
Nigeria’s forbearance leaders, over the years has, painstakingly, patched together the component parts of Nigerian union; a nation of diverse nationalities and regions, through mutual respect, understanding, compromise, and readiness to listen to the pulse of the people in the regions and sections of the country. The reverse is the case in the past six years of President Buhari’s leadership.
Under Buhari’s watch, Nigeria’s nationhood has been threatened and shaken to its foundation. The vibration from the nation’s heartbeat is bewildering. Economic, political and social analysts are unanimous in their assessments of the present state of the nation. That the country is in doldrums. In dire need of unity – unity borne out of mutual respect for one section and the other.
Observers and commentators, say Buhari’s government owes Nigerians programmes and policies that should be seen to be inclusive, fair and just. Only then that the recurrent drum beat of instability across the regions and sections, can be significantly reduced and the country reasonably stabilized.