Twitter and the Illiterates of the 21th Century By Martins Oloja
I was reflecting at the weekend on how to expand my view that we should not push buttons on balkanisation of our great country because of the many troubles with our president, Muhammadu Buhari when the federal government announced indefinite suspension of Twitter operations in this our country of anything-is-possible.
It will be recalled that, ‘Let’s Not Break Up Nigeria Because of Buhari’ is a subtitle in my article titled, ‘Let’s keep Nigeria together for Mandela (2)’ here last week. I still believe in the substance of the argument that we should not champion a cause to break up this beautiful country because of poor leadership we are experiencing at the moment. I believe that under a good leader, the country has the dynamic capability to be the authentic leader of the black race and become part of the First World.
Part of what I wrote last week:
‘…But let’s organise to isolate all these dealers who masquerade as leaders especially since 1966. We the younger ones who have tolerated them thus far should not allow the destruction they have callously unleashed on this beautiful country to provoke us into break-up warfare. Yes, they don’t care if Nigeria comes to harm. We elected them to improve the economy. Our leaders, sorry our dealers looted the treasury and then cried foul and set up anti-graft agencies to search and try mainly petty thieves. They have ignored what a foreign policy expert and journalist, Sarah Chayes, calls “thieves of states”. We elected them to improve education standard but they destroyed the schools and set up their own schools and universities with their loot that anti-corruption agencies can’t detect. We elected them to provide good roads. They have looted road infrastructure funds to buy private jets to fly over our bad roads. Nigeria’s wicked power elite know that Nigeria can work, but not under them. The world powers too know that Nigeria can be great and become a big player on the world stage. The seven big men in suits (G-7 powers) know enough to know that Nigeria has inestimable brainpower that can be harnessed to be one of the greatest powers on earth. They all know from White House though Kremlin to Whitehall that Nigeria is Africa’s Power House. They have not forgotten that it was Nigeria that (spoke for Africa) in January, 1976 looked them in the face and told them point blank, ‘Africa has come of age…’
Yes, they know more than Mandela that Nigeria is the face of Africa and indeed the black race. That is why they can sell even deadly weapons to insurgents that can fast track Nigeria’s failure….’
The power elite would like to cause distractions from our discussion points on nation building every week: One week, one trouble, one distraction. I think most of us should continue to stay on the narrative that Buhari our leader should be encouraged to complete his term peacefully so that we can enter a new phase of national development plans in this country. We should concentrate on and work against the shenanigans and peccadillos of those who packaged him for us in 2015. Instead of lamenting on the incompetence and mediocrity that have characterised the last six years, we should encourage enough-is -enough Movements against all the enemies of the people who are masquerading as leaders now. I mean instead of agonising a great deal about the consequences of indefinite suspension of Twitter in Nigeria, we should be resourceful in organising and encouraging those who would like to run the country after the Buhari’s historic but didactic administration.
Here is the thing, we have read the beautiful reportage of global outrage over the federal government’s suspension of Twitter operations. United Kingdom, the U.S, Canada, Swedden, among other world powers have expectedly warned against rights violation. NBA, SERAP and other civil society organisations have cried foul and threatened court actions. These are positive responses to yet another tragic errors in this government. Even what Hurricane Donald Trump could not do to Twitter when it suspended his account, Nigeria’s government has done. Oh Power. Raw power! Where is thy powerlessness?
Where can I get a copy of a review of Dr. Fidelis Amatokwu’s book in those days by Prince Tony Momoh, the reviewer titled, ‘The Ignorant Tyrant’? The book by the then mass communication lecturer at the University of Lagos was torn to pieces through a quite objective review when the reviewer called the author an ‘ignorant tyrant’ as a result of too many errors of parallax and avoidable slips including ‘Nigerian Union of Journalists’ instead of ‘Nigeria Union of Journalists’. May we not be taught and led by ignorant tyrants in this perilous time!
Now that what we have feared most – attack on free press – has come upon us, we need to continue to reflect on President Barack Obama’s observation that ‘elections have consequences’. We need to note that we are still facing the dire consequences of our choice in 2015, which has become an eye opener, a testimony of some sort, after all as I noted here the other day.
We need to have some introspection on the fact that if no one from the kitchen to the legal cabinet could tap the leader of this country on Friday June 4, 2021 that indefinite suspension of Twitter, a micro-blogging platform where the old and the young meet to express themselves and even conduct their businesses, where the federal government even announced the ban was going to set Nigeria back, we should note that there is no need to sing any redemption songs for this administration.
How can the leader of Africa and the black race take that kind of rash decision in 21st century?
We, the people indeed need some introspection on the way they once were in South Africa where an iconic author Alan Paton wrote a classic, ‘Cry, the Beloved Country’ from which we need to borrow some brilliance.
Throughout the novel, (‘Cry, the Beloved Country’) one of the major themes is the contrast between hope and fear, light and darkness. The author, Paton juxtaposes these contrasting ideas by using literary devices, such as vivid imagery and rich dialogue. Personification, similes, repetition, diction, symbolism, antitheses, dramatic irony, and allusions also supply the varying moods of the novel and distinguish the “light” of hope from the “darkness” of fear. This story, set in South Africa, is about how two fathers, Jarvis and Kumalo, and how their lives intertwine. It is also about how fear and hope are inseparable parts of life. Kumalo is a black minister in a small, poor town. Jarvis is a richer, white man who lives on the hill. This novel also has many allusions to the Bible. These allusions signify both fear and hope. One allusion that signifies both fear and hope is on page 62, when Kumalo prays: “Oh God, my God, do not Thou forsake me. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil, if Thou art with me.” This quote is both desperate and fearful, but it is also hopeful at the end when it says: “I shall fear no evil, if Thou art with me.”
Dialogue is a compelling device used to contrast hope and fear or desperation, as on page 108: “Sorrow is better than fear. Fear is a journey, a terrible journey, but sorrow is at least an arriving.” (Father Vincent) And where have I arrived?” (Kumalo) “When the storm threatens, a man is afraid for his house. But when the house is destroyed, there is something to do. About a storm he can do nothing, but he can rebuild a house.” (Father Vincent)…
That is where we should be: about the storm that is blowing now we can do nothing but we can rebuild our fallen houses and broken walls. Let us encourage our young and old civil liberty organisers and young politicians and even young journalists not to fear evil. They should brace up to say enough-is-enough. There is nothing we can do about the present darkness in the land. We all conspired with the corrupt political class to enthrone this governing party in 2015. Even the Letter-Writer-General of the Federation and the Nobel laureate in Abeokuta failed to see through the façade in the 2015 candidates. They too were naïve and we all followed them. We need to know that the evil geniuses who artfully designed the present darkness in which no one is safe at the moment are re-organising again. They have warehoused the Project 2023 war chest, though they are men without chests. They are strategising to confuse us again with their artistry and stratagem. Let us not be carried away by some naivety that Ministers Lai Mohammed and Abubakar Malami, for instance are the problem. They are not the real problem. They are part of a system that doesn’t work. Let’s look at the larger picture of the systemic failure that has heightened insecurity and food crisis at the moment. The leadership that appointed these people should be the focal point of discussion. The way the president, the governors and even the national and state assembly leaders emerged should be discussion and planning points. The role of money in our electoral process should be discussed now. How can the country recruit its leaders without moneybags and unpatriotic godfathers? We need to get those who will like to run the country to come out now to tell the nation how they intend to confront the present darkness and rebuild the broken country. Doubtless, this requires national re-awakening, lest we will regret again and wait for Godot that won’t come, after all. Let’s create our Godot today.
Meanwhile, the Buhari administration should not celebrate the arbitrary suspension of Twitter operations, which has been interpreted to mean war on the media and the youth. It is Pyrrhic victory, (which takes a heavy toll that negates any true sense of achievement or damages long term progress). The administration’s reputation managers should advise the presidency not to allow the world to address Nigerians and their leaders as the illiterates of the 21st century who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.
I have quoted Alvin Toffler, an American writer, futurist and former associate editor of ‘Fortune’ (magazine) several times here and this administration needs his brilliance now. To him (Toffler), ‘The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn. I am afraid, in this digital switch over (DSO) age, in this century that information and social technologies disrupt daily, a leader who authorises suspension of a popular micro-blogging platform and social networking service provider, Twitter will be regarded simply as ‘an illiterate of the 21st century’. Our leader should, therefore, swallow this pride and vanity and allow Twitter continue in Nigeria today. The journalism genre they practise isn’t a crime. It nourishes participatory democracy and has made journalism to be an enjoyable conversation. It is a significant part of progress and digital revolution Nigeria shouldn’t disrupt.
Martins Oloja is a Columnist with the Guardian
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