The last 72 hours have produced much drama about the infamous statement by President Muhammadu Buhari on the issue of handling violent agitations in the South East akin to what happened during the bitter Nigerian civil war.
The controversial statement initially shared as a series of tweets on the President’s verified Twitter account @Mbuhari; sparked heated debates across social media on who among his media aides could have put up such an insensitive tweet.
In the end, this would not matter much as thousands of Nigerians largely outraged by the President’s remarks reported the tweet to the parent company of the micro-blogging site, who wasted no time to take it down for violating its community rules. A decision that although celebrated by dozens across social media riled up the Federal Government.
Expectedly, the reaction by the Information Minister was to accuse Twitter Inc. of double standards and sinister motives; while citing ‘its role’ during the October #ENDSARS protest, which it claimed led to the destruction of private and public properties alike.
Shortly before the government’s reaction, many were shocked to learn that the ‘abusive tweet’ taken down by Twitter was actually a transcript of the President’s exact words. He had made the remarks while receiving national officers of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) who were at the State House to escalate the issue of commission’s facilities which were being destroyed across the country, and the likely consequences on the 2023 general election.
Not done with his ‘sanitation exercise,’ a huge number of social media users were pleasantly surprised Thursday, to see that the President’s video threat posted on the official handle (@NGRPresident) of the Presidency had also been deleted. It is reported to have been deemed as ‘genocidal’ in certain quarters.
Diverse reactions have continued to trail the entire developments but we must accept that no explanation by the Presidency can justify such insensitive remarks on the civil war. The remarks – “Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” came barely forty-eight hours after a section of the country observed a forty-eight-hour Sit at Home exercise to honour its heroes lost to the conflict, described by many as a genocide.
What lessons are there to learn?
The President has a lot to learn in the area of dialogue rather than seeing every issue from the prism of a sledge hammer.
His handlers must also ensure that the Commander-in-chief doesn’t have to wait until a crisis erupts before his voice is heard. It is a clear observation that the citizenry are already disappointed and in most cases, outraged about the president’s silence and indifference on critical issues. Most often, his delayed statements or actions afterwards usually compound the issues and demarkets him than ever before.
Similarly, the Information Minister must make it a priority to attend a masterclass on issues to respond to or those to sit out. To put it succinctly, who compares the President of a continental super power as Nigeria with the leader of a secessionist group in the name of proving a point on double standards?
In so far the Nigerian President or any other individual who occupies that office chooses to use that platform for communication, he/she must discipline himself/herself to conform to the community rules or risk being embarrassed from time-to-time.
The experiences of President Donald Trump (January 2021), Chinese Embassy in US (January 2021), New York Post (October 2020), Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka (April 2020), Ali Khamenei -Supreme Leader of Iran (February 2019) all of whom have been suspended by Twitter at one time or the other should serve as past questions to the Nigerian President.
With these bold actions of Twitter however, it may safe to conclude that the President may have been treated in a language he truly understands; albeit by a mere foreign corporation. Talk about Language 121.
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is a Journalist, Political Analyst and Satirist with major interest in Nigerian Politics, Governance and Sports.