By Kazeem Ugbodaga
Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed on Thursday said the suspension of Twitter’s operation in Nigeria was a very tough decision the Federal Government had to take.
He said it was a tough decision because many Nigerian youths also use the platform for business.
Mohammed spoke at the State House, Ikeja, Lagos at the meeting of Information Managers of APC Government.
He described the social media as a double-edged sword, providing opportunities and challenges perhaps in equal measure.
“For the information and communication manager, the so-called new media provides the ultimate test. As you all know, we recently had to suspend the operations of Twitter in Nigeria because of the threat posed by the gross abuse of the platform to the nation’s peace and unity.
“Twitter is the platform of choice for separatist campaigners, especially those of them residing outside the country, who use it to issue directives to their followers in Nigeria to attack our security forces as well as to burn police stations and INEC offices.
“It was a tough decision to take, considering that many of our youths also use the platform for business. Such is the challenge posed by the social media. At its request, the government has agreed to engage with Twitter and, hopefully, we can both chart a path forward, without compromising our national interest.
“While many have accused us of stifling the press with the ban, we say Twitter is just one of many social media platforms being used by Nigerians. WhatsApp, which is most used by Nigerians, is there. And there is Facebook, Instagram, Google hangout, etc,” he said.
Mohammed said leveraging the new information and digital technology would undoubtedly facilitate the work of government information and communication managers.
He stated that the multiplicity, immediacy and pervasiveness of the platforms of information dissemination meant that more people could be reached much faster.
“Ordinarily, that should be a good thing. But when you remember that those who are trying hard to distort the information you are putting out also have access to the same technology, you will realize the meaning of the paradox of technology that I spoke about earlier. In other words, the democratization of the technology of information dissemination is posing new challenges to us.
“Anyone can wake up this morning and decide to become an online newspaper publisher, online television station owner, online radio station operator, a purveyor of news, photographs and videos using the numerous Social media platforms.
“They spread whatever information that catches their fancy without engaging in the rigours of accuracy, fact-checking and fairness imposed by the traditional media. But there is another problem: They have their own public, and this public believes whatever information they put out! To worsen matters, the traditional media is now increasingly regurgitating whatever is put out by these emergency purveyors of information,” he said.
“Then, and this is avoidable, there is the painful lack of synergy among managers of information and communication in all strata of our government. The clear demarcation of responsibilities is breached at will, as we seem to be competing against ourselves. Information Managers rarely compare notes, thus duplicating efforts while the myriad of information being generated from the various programmes I have listed above do not percolate enough to the grassroots, because the managers at lower levels do not utilize them well, or perhaps are not even aware of them,” he added.