Evidently the present government is already threatened by social media contents and discussions. Nigerian youths do not just bully but they expose every pretender, accomplice in the social media. Many of these people stalked and monitored are government officials, politicians and solicitors. It is part of taking back their country which the youths are willing and ready to undertake. Incidentally, the government has posited that young people could be misguided by such contents if not regulated. The National Broadcasting Commission has so far hounded media houses for broadcasting what they considered injurious to the public consumption. The National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) Act is the major legislation on broadcasting in Nigeria. Just as the administration of Muhammadu Buhari made every effort to scuttle criticism, undermine opposition, gag the press, censor information, minimize accountability, control freedom of speech and ignore youth’s restiveness with unemployment; the present government might as well toe the same line. In 2019, the Senate passed a bill; “Hate Speech Bill” through which many opposing voices were silenced. Again, in June 2021, the Federal government banned the use of Twitter in Nigeria. The then Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, was always at work to impose sanctions on media houses through Nigerian Broadcasting Commission (NBC) all in a bid to monitor freedom of speech.
The 1999 Constitution has freedom of speech as an inalienable right of citizens. The United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights equally noted freedom of speech as a basic right of individuals. Significantly, banning social media sites might be the next target of a government that doesn’t want to be held on its toes or show to be accountable to the people. Nigerian youths have in October 2020 mobilized themselves on Twitter to protest against police brutality. Also, the 2023 general elections had mobilization on social media which the ruling party jeered at knowing fully what they had planned to do.
The term social media refers to a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts and information through virtual networks and communities. Social media is internet-based and gives users quick electronic communication of content, such as personal information, documents, videos and photos. Users engage with social media via a computer, tablet, or smartphone via web-based software or applications. While social media is ubiquitous in America and Europe, Asian countries like Indonesia lead the list of social media usage. More than 4.5 billion people use social media, as of October 2021. The largest social media networks include Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and TikTok. Social media typically features user-generated content and personalized profiles.
Presently, the citizens in the country just have only the social media sites to communicate their feelings, pains, discontent and express their assessment of the government
Billions of people around the world use social media to share information and make connections. On a personal level, social media allows you to communicate with friends and family, learn new things, develop your interests and be entertained. On a professional level, you can use social media to broaden your knowledge in a particular field and build your professional network by connecting with other professionals in your industry. At the company level, social media allows you to have a conversation with your audience, gain customer feedback, and elevate your brand.
Eventually, in the whole of Africa, Nigeria and Zambia are seen championing the course to quench the internet revolution of social media. We can see in some African countries that democracy has been sidelined or just on paper. The intention of the far-right governments to regulate and censor the social media network could be judged as the end of democracy and freedom. Of course, there are negative impacts or abuses of social media but that doesn’t discredit its usefulness. Presently, the citizens in the country just have only the social media sites to communicate their feelings, pains, discontent and express their assessment of the government. In Nigeria, pump price of petrol has no fixed amount, the Naira floats (devalued), citizens are to pay car ownership proof, 24% inflation, 40% increase on electricity tariff, demolition of properties, sacrifices by citizens which are never enough, high cost of living, suffering, moaning and weeping as many households starve.
The internet revolution has been a significant transformation and the impact is ongoing and evolving. With the introduction of the World Wide Web in the 1990s which made the internet accessible and easy to navigate for non-technical users, we started having smartphones in the late 2000s and the subsequent rise of mobile internet making people access and interact with the internet. With the IoT and AI, a lot more is yet to happen in the world of technology, even 5G networks. Some governments have justified the banning of social media sites by citing concerns about the spread of misinformation, hate speech, incitement to violence, or the need to maintain control over the flow of information.
The approach to regulating social media sites varies significantly across countries, reflecting the diverse legal, cultural, and political context in which they operate. More importantly, social media companies often develop their own policies, guidelines, and community standards to regulate user behaviour and content on their platforms. They may establish rules regarding hate speech, harassment, violent content, nudity, and other forms of prohibited content. Self-regulation can involve setting up mechanisms for reporting and flagging content, as well as implementing automated content filtering systems.
Nigerians can learn to make proper use of the social media by taking breaks when needed to avoid addiction. They can use the platforms to share meaningful and positive content, develop a critical mind when consuming content, manage their time, verify every information before sharing, avoid engaging in online harassment, cyberbullying, or spreading hate speech. They can always use their common sense by thinking before posting and always define their purpose.
Just as the tax collectors were despised and hated by the Jews because they were regarded as greedy mercenaries and traitors working for the Roman conquerors, so have Nigerians been fed up with the political structure in their country wishing and praying for a change of narrative and the birth of a new Nigeria. Nigerians have adjudged every politician of the old order as enriching themselves at the expense of the people. Nigerians have regardless of their anger and the wrath they feel within remained law-abiding, waiting for justice to take its due course. But the political class need to understand what leadership entails. It is about lifting the people who are still down to come up but the average politician in Nigeria feels he has risen and no one can bring them down. Change, improvement, growth, success, and victory don’t happen because they’re admirable concepts or desirable options. No, they happen because you’re totally committed and willing to pay the price. However, despite these challenges, social media remains a valuable platform for citizens to express their voices, mobilize for change, and hold governments accountable.