Nigeria: Freedom of speech and Donald Trump — Daily Times Nigeria

Nigeria: Freedom of speech and Donald Trump

Freedom of speech

Promise Adiele

British god of literature, William Shakespeare needs no introduction. Like a colossus, his works continue to bestride the entire literary community with extraordinary consistency. Indeed many people have imbibed the Shakespearean creed because for them, therein lies the truth and secret of life.

In his eponymous play “Julius Caesar”, when Murellus admonishes the plebeians thus: “you blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things, O you hard hearts, you cruel men of Rome” he is pointing to their obvious stupidity and lack of intelligence.

What did the plebeians do to deserve such tirade from Murellus? They declared a holiday and wore their best clothes to welcome Julius Caesar to Rome after defeating Pompey. Is their lack of intelligence and stupidity attributed to their social status as commoners?

If so, that is arguable and perhaps understandable. But I have seen sensible common people too. However, when educated people, with good social standing manifest tendencies of “blocks, stones, and senseless things”, then it gives the conscious observer a good reason to worry.

My father once told me that educated people are not necessarily intelligent, but I didn’t believe him. As a young boy, I found it a bit difficult to separate education and intelligence, yet the difference bulks large in the daily dynamics of workaday engagements.

I have seen many educated people betray unintelligent emotions, but I was not convinced. Although I have always doubted it, now I am convinced beyond measure that there are educated people who, as the plebeians are “blocks, stones and senseless things”.

Such people revel within the boundaries of ignorance and frolic in the dirt of callowness. My conviction arises from the events in the US, which have got the whole world convulsing in utter dismay. In as much as I try to concentrate on the events in my country (there are too many of them), I can only get involved in the messy affairs in the US if it provides me with a template to interrogate developments in my country Nigeria.

His name is Donald Trump, the embattled President of the US. To maintain my sanity, I will carefully ignore Donald Trump and all the tensions his caustic character has generated across the world.

In the wake of the invasion of the Capitol in the US following Trump’s inciting messages conveyed through various social media platforms, majorly Twitter, the globally acclaimed media platform banned him from using their facility. According to the management of Twitter, Mr. Trump violated the basic rules governing the use of the media platform, therefore, had to be banned.

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However, what confounds the realm of sanity is the kind of outrage Mr. Trump’s ban has generated in Nigeria. It insults commonsense and violates the sensibilities that some people in Nigeria who you would otherwise see as educated lack the basic intelligence to appreciate the scenario playing out between Mr. Trump and Twitter management.

These people have shamelessly gone ahead to argue that if anybody supports Trump’s Twitter ban in Nigeria, then nobody should complain about the proposed Social Media Bill in the country.

This is not only ridiculous but goes to show an abysmal lack of discernment by many educated people. Indeed, education does not necessarily confer intelligence on people. Now, let us critically examine the issues.

The proposed Social Media Bill in Nigeria is aimed at muffling voices and denying the people the freedom of self-expression. It is the kind of dictatorial policy that characterized the military regime when people were not allowed to express themselves freely.

Degree 4 of 1984 under Mr. Muhammadu Buhari and the late Tunde Idiagbon readily comes to mind. I do not support blackmail or the abuse of free speech. There are provisions in our constitution to take care of people who indulge in the reckless use of various media platforms to incite or propagate falsehood which can inflame the polity.

Our constitution, notwithstanding its anaemic, deformed conditions takes care of the abuse of free speech. In that case, the intention of the sponsors of the Social Media Bill is clear, muffle their voices and then go on to enunciate policies that would trammel the people.

To compare Nigeria’s proposed Social Media Bill to Trump’s circumstances is naïve and pedestrian. Twitter is a private company. The rules for using their platform are clearly stated and presented to individuals before subscription.

Once a user contravenes the rules, he/she is promptly removed temporarily or banned indefinitely. Many people across the world have been banned from different social media platforms at one time or another. Most times they were re-admitted, other times it was an outright ban.

Mr. Donald Trump invidiously abused Twitter and other social media platforms by using them to incite demented Americans who fail to see through his beguiling, treacherous intentions.

At the prompting of Mr. Trump, these fellows stormed the American Capitol and desecrated the hallowed chamber of the monumental edifice.

In his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief, it was a gross show of irresponsibility capable of harming an entire nation. Following the riots and desolation of the Capitol, police officers lost their lives and the US was embarrassed to no end before the entire world.

Twitter acted promptly and banned Trump for violating the rules governing the use of their facility. How does this compare to the proposed Social Media Bill in Nigeria and freedom of speech?

I am sure Twitter and other media platforms would have banned Mr. Muhammadu Buhari if he had used their platforms in the past to say that the “dog and the baboon will be soaked in blood” if what happened in 2011 elections repeated in 2015.

Every company or establishment has rules and regulations. Schools, universities, corporate organizations all have rules which govern the conduct of people who subscribe to their services.

If any part of the rules is breached, such an establishment reserves the right to expel, sack, or suspend the offending individual. Donald Trump contravened the rules of the various media platforms and he was appropriately banned.

Is that rocket science? What is difficult in this matter to understand? If this government is looking for a way to muffle the voice of Nigerians, it should not hide behind the dubious and pathetic Trump/Twitter imbroglio to expunge freedom of speech, a cardinal ingredient, in our democratic menu. Twitter reserves the right to ban anybody who abuses their facility irrespective of the person’s standing in society.

I am aware that many Nigerians have buried their heads in the US since the election in that country while ignoring more pressing issues in their country. Different sections of social are agog with people who support Trump with revolting, base energy only comparable to a bull in a China shop.

The Trump supporters, like Trump himself, are ready to rain abuses, insult, and call down hellfire on anybody who, as much as dissents or shares a contrary opinion about their principal. The obnoxious narrative that Trump is God sent and will advance the course of Christianity could only have emerged from a schizophrenic entity.

To attribute a character like Donald Trump to God’s divine protocol is creeping blasphemy. I am still waiting for 20th of January when we were told by prophets who claim to hear from God that Donald Trump will be sworn in to continue in office as the President of the US.

If by a stroke of magic, Trump is sworn in on the 20th, it means that God actually spoke to these prophets in which case they must be honoured. However, if by that date Trump is not sworn in, it means Satan spoke to these prophets in which case we must permanently ignore them.

Our educated compatriots who compare Trump’s travails with Twitter and the proposed Social Media Bill in Nigeria should please get intelligence. A law by a country muffling the voices of citizens and denying them the right to free speech is not the same thing as when a person contravenes the laws of a media company.

About the author

Promise Adiele

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