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On the planned social media regulation

by Bioreports
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Samuel O. Adeyemi

SIR: The #EndSARS protests that hit the streets jolted the ruling class into reality. The protests, propelled by young Nigerians, will forever be ingrained in the minds of everyone.

Before the protests hit the streets, the cyberspace provided the only channel where young people could ventilate their frustrations and anger against the system.

The young people that propelled the protests have been maligned and called all sorts of names. They have been labelled as lame duck when it comes to the issue of nation-building and changing government policy.

They have been called the ‘phone pressing generation’ interested only in voting massively during reality TV shows but fail to take a step further and vote during general elections in the country.

A leader once called them ‘lazy’. Yet, another lawmaker called them a ‘drug-ridden generation’. It was therefore a shock to the old generation to see these set of young people pouring to the street and sustaining street protests for more than two weeks.

Characteristically, instead of the government to show true sincerity in tackling the issues that propelled the protests, they went on information gagging spree. First, they fined AIT, Channels and Arise TV.

Their spotlights are now on regulating social media platforms. “We need a social media policy that will regulate what should be said and posted and what should not. We also need technology and resources to dominate our social media space,’’ so says Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information.

Not to be outdone, Desmond Elliot, a lawmaker in the Lagos House of Assembly, said: “In the next five years, there will be no Nigeria if we don’t act now.”

I can’t but find a parallel between Obasanjo’s Decree 78 of 1976 and the ongoing vigorous call for the regulation of the social media space by the Minister of Information and the Lagos lawmaker because of the exigencies of the moment and need to gag the vibrant and some rancorous voices on social media that propelled the peaceful #EndSARS protests across Nigeria.

Obasanjo’s decree of 1976 was enacted in the heat of the moment when he was the Head of State but it was not until 1995 that the same decree was used to nail him in the phantom coup trial by the Abacha junta.

Lai Mohammed and Desmond Eliot need to know that what goes around comes around.

They may succeed in pushing down our throat an autocratic law gagging the free flow of information on social media, but they need to understand that the night can’t go on forever, the bright morning is coming!

A time is coming when they would need this same social media to advance their political agenda, but that same law would haunt them and may be used to silence them when that time comes.

  • Samuel O. Adeyemi,

Lagos. 

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