Social Media Regulation in Nigeria

The Federal Government of Nigeria has not made hidden it’s a desire to stamp it seal on the usage of social media in Nigeria as it aims to control how people use this platform across the 36 states of the Nigerian Federation.

This plan while it has been brought forward several times in the course of the nation’s National existence has always been met with stern resistance from the Nigerian Populace over the need for the Federal Government to assume control over this platform.

Social media no doubt has been an immense contribution to the social outlook and engagement for the Nigerian Populace as the platform has been used by many to advance their business, boost networking processes for both personal and communal growth and development.

National integration has been made possible with the existence of numerous social media platforms on the internet. The Nigerian Federating unit which houses people of various ethnic groups, tribes, and religious affiliations has been further united through the platform afforded by social media.

The beauty that comes with this viable tool afforded to us all thanks to the invention of the new age scientific cum technological revolution of the 21st century cannot be fully comprehended. It has in many ways offered the diversity in the Nigerian outlook to appreciate its differences, celebrating them all which has strengthened the Nigerian National entity itself.

Talk about its ability to ease the communication process, shoving to the background the obnoxious and cumbersome old means of communication which is fast becoming antique and a thing of the past.

Adding to this, the growth of many small and medium scale enterprises in no small measure has been attributed to the conducive business atmosphere created by these various social media platforms. The recent Covid-19 pandemic brought to the forefront the importance and significance of the internet and social media as a tool for not only communication but also national survival.

While there’s a temporal ban on physical activities that requires contact, otherwise known as the social distancing regulations, with market place closed and offices shut down, the social media space became the new market, offering users a near real-life market experience.

The effects and impacts of the high rate of unemployment level in Nigeria have been cushioned by the advent of social media as many have constructively engaged these various platforms legally to make a living in the country.

Many benefits follow the existence of this 8th wonder of the new world, of its greatest importance and significance to mankind is that it has given everyone, and most importantly the common man a platform for expression. One that can to a very great extent call theirs.

The common man had no access to power, very little access to money. The connections to approach the right persons, offices, or channels to express himself or air his concerns especially when it comes to National issues do not come very easy for them, and in other cases, he never gets these chances or luxury. The only thing that offers him solace and a platform is social media.

These aforementioned must be respected and sincerely acknowledged by the Government. The thought of censoring the social media space in Nigeria is one that can be described as a step closer to beginning the entrenchment of autocratic tendency in Nigeria.

Social media holds great power and essence which must be left in the hands of the people and not the government.

Explaining this position, to give the Federal Government of Nigeria the right to censor and control the flow of interaction, the manner of dialogue and social engagement on the social media will only amount to granting it too much power. One that must be avoided at all cost.

Government already have the grasp on political power, on Economic power, to give them the opportunity to control the media space will ultimately led to a state whereby they will get too powerful and autocratic.

The Federal Government of Nigeria must come to understand that certain powers and luxury are not meant to be theirs to control.

While it’s understandable that the social media has been used in recent times to carry and spread fake news, cause social unrest in Nigeria, however salient measures must be put in place to ensure the future prevention of these cases.

Without sentiments attached, The Muhammadu Buhari led administration in Nigeria has over the years defined itself as an administration which does not tolerate criticisms. The case of Omoyele Sowore,  Agba Jalingo are typical cases of a government or system that is hell bent on crushing the voice of the opposition.

The social media has truly revolutionized the media and journalism outlook in Nigeria, the people have come to understand that they can gainfully employ the use of the nation’s social media to call the government it elected to order.

The Nigerian constitution gives Nigerian the basic right of expression, freedom of Association. Also the United Nation’s Human Right Charter Advocates for the right of citizens to peacefully express themselves.

When the flow of media engagement and interaction do not favor the government, the response must not be one which is tailored to gagging the social media of arresting those using the platform.

Inasmuch as they do not act in such a way that can pose any threat to the sovereign status of the Nigerian government.

More than the good the Federal Government under the Leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari aims to do or achieve with the regulation of the social media in Nigeria, there’s more harm attached to this.

The social media affords the government to have an honest overview and understanding of not just the need of the people but also the impression and thoughts of the people especially the masses towards them.

Going ahead with this regulation will only make the masses believe and conclude that the government does not care about their welfare and the only thing they so desire to save and protect is their cabinet members and their policies which does not reflect the will of the people.

Also going ahead with this plan will create undue tension across the 36 states of the Federation, when the flow of information are being censored by the government on the social media, there will definitely emerge new medium and platforms, sects will spring up, groups will resort to physical meetings to discourse national issues, one which breeds tension and division. And when if not well tended to, it might become an extreme one which will become another huge fire for the Federal Government of Nigeria to tame.

Adding to the aforementioned, on the international level, we move towards portraying ourselves as a government who are anti-people.

While we cannot deny the fact that the federal government of Nigeria has the sole responsibility of regulating the social media in order for it to ensure the adequate protection of the citizens and the sovereign status of the country from the case of potential harm, however we must also be careful less they set itself on the path where it will turn to another avenue for it to muzzle, clampdown on the opposition and the voice of critics who offer constructive criticism.

The social media has come to stay and the government must come to terms with this or learn to come to terms with this. The Federal Government must come to understand the need for it to know that a citizen who is vocal and visible is better than a citizen who is somewhere tucked away in the dark orchestrating the unknown.

The Social Media, Nigerians have in times of despair, sadness and disappointment learned to create great moments for them.

The best approach which can be used and employed by the government as a veritable response to regulate the social media is by taking that bold step of enacting more masses friendly polices, business encouraging reforms. All these rest on the ability of the Federal Government to put itself on the path of good governance and stay committed to it.

When the people are happy, when the youths who constitute the major chunk of the social media users are gainfully employed, their needs well tended for and the nation is advanced at all front. Definitely the social media will speak well of them.

To go ahead with the social media regulation will only amount to a situation where there will be a great gap between the government and the governed. It will only result in a breach of trust between the two parties as the people will be fully convinced that there’s something fishy about the government which they are trying to keep away from the public glare.

The federal government must work towards securing the legitimacy of its existence and mandate from the people by taking a step closer to them, giving them a huge sense of belonging that they are part of the governing process as emphasized by the definition of Abraham Lincoln in his definition of Democracy.

He defines it as a government for the people, by the people and of the people. The beauty of the social media must be respected and allowed to thrive. It must not be allowed to become an avenue to silence the yearnings and thoughts of the Nigerian populace.

Marcus Amudipe

November 6, 2020

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