We can learn a thing or two from Nigeria’s Twitter ban

In the wake of the federal government arbitrarily banning Twitter in Nigeria, the bulk of the conversation being had is on the rights to freedom of expression enshrined in the constitution that everyone understands is being violated by the government.

More than conversation, however, just a day after the announcement of the ban, the Attorney General of the Federation, Abubakar Malami, by a simple declaration made criminals of Nigerians who found a way around the ban to still use Twitter. This group of Nigerians I will like to call ”Malami-criminals” understand that the declaration same as the ban have no basis in law, and even where a law passed today to that effect they know that while illegality does not mean wrongness. They know that they have a right to use Twitter, a right enshrined in the constitution and whatever the power that be may have to say about it they will be damned if they let a pesky unjust law stop them from doing what they want.

As has been noted by a number of right-thinking people, this is a mirror through which we can view the anti-gay laws in Nigeria which stand in direct contravention of the right to freedom of association guaranteed all Nigerians by the constitution but denied LGBT+ Nigerians by fiat.

Far from using this opportunity to gloat about how ‘oppression is like party Jollof that will get to everyone eventually,’ the voices inviting us to see how where we find ourselves now is a foregone conclusion from the moment we were okay with stripping the rights of any group.

The words of Lutheran Pastor Martin Niemoller resonates loudly here when he said in the wake of German atrocities towards jewish, LGBT+ and disabled minorities; 

First, they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—

     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The reason advocates of human rights push for the protection of everyone’s rights is because they understand that none of us is free until all of us are free. It was the gays once, now it is everyone with a smartphone, an idea or thought to share, a business to advertise, or just seeking community online via Twitter. 

Human rights protection works for all only when it works for the most vulnerable among us. It is something worth thinking about.

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