Twitter deleted President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet where he said he was going to treat Nigerians “misbehaving” in “the language they understand”.
Buhari said this after receiving security reports from the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), on the series of recent attacks on its facilities nationwide.
President Buhari followed it up in a series of tweet on Tuesday via his verified Twitter handle @mbuhari: “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.”
The tweet had widespread condemnations with good numbers of Nigerians criticising the president especially for making reference to the civil war in which millions of Igbos were killed.
Some Nigerians called on Twitter to take stronger steps to suspend the President’s account, claiming the his tweet “expresses intentions of harm or suicide”, as stated on Twitter’s usage policy.
Most observers had taken Buhari message as a direct threat particularly against the Southeast where government infrastructure and security agencies have been under attack in recent times.
This singular act by Jack Dorsey’s Twitter has continued to generate debate among Nigerians. For instance, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed accused the social media giant, Twitter, of taking sides against Nigeria in the agitation of the proscribed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) in the Southeast geo-political zone.
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The Minister made this known while reacting to the removal of President Muhammadu Buhari’s viral tweet. He accused Twitter point-blank of double standards.
He told reporters after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting at the State House, Abuja, that while Twitter had in the past ignored inciting tweets by the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, and had displayed the same level of bias against the government during the #EndSARS protest where government and private properties were being looted, they now find Buhari’s mild warning as an offensive tweet.
According to him, Twitter’s role is suspicious and Nigeria will not be fooled. His words: “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.”
The tweet by President Buhari sparked reactions from many Nigerians. Many commentators expressed displeasure and cited his reference to the civil war as a threat to commit human rights violations.
Former presidential candidate Kingsley Moghalu in his reaction said Buhari’s threat “is not the kind of word he should say as the president.” According to him, “I think language matters when you are a leader and when you are facing many crises because that language can be interpreted in many ways.”
Moghalu accused Buhari of “bringing up evocations that are very unpleasant” but said the president should have assured Nigerians that his government will continue to work to ensure the safety of lives and properties.
Twitter had also in the past deleted tweets made by former world leaders like former President of the United States of America, Donald Trump which the social media giant considered offensive. Trump was ultimately banned from the app altogether.
Many Nigerians called out the cognitive bias being displayed by those cheering Twitter for deleting Buhari’s tweets but criticised Twitter for banning Trump in 2020.
Although it is believed in some quarters that Twitter has the right to regulate what happens on its app, deleting President Buhari’s tweet and allowing those of the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu is condemnable. Kanu’s tweets, most times are much more inciting and provocative.
While Twitter cited how President Buhari’s tweet violated its rules, it is also important for the tech company to take a cursory look at previous tweets made by the leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu and do the needful. Anything less, the decision against President Muhammadu Buhari would rightly be considered biased.