Chuks Okocha in Abuja
Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka has said former President Muhammadu Buhari was an, “idiot” for banning Twitter in Nigeria.
Soyinka said this in an interview with Arise News Channel at the CANEX Live Theatre closing ceremony of the 3rd Intra-African Trade Fair (IATF) 2023, convened in Cairo, Egypt by the African Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank), in collaboration with the African Union and African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).
He argued that the internet and social media space had been infested with foul communications and languages by people of, “lower intelligence, integrity and sense of concern of involvement, regulation of social media should be constructive, methodical and structured.”
The Nigerian government led by Buhari had on June 4, 2021, “indefinitely suspended” Twitter’s operations in the country.
The suspension was announced by then Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in a statement: “The federal government has suspended, indefinitely, the operations of the microblogging and social networking service, Twitter, in Nigeria.”
The ban lasted for 222 days as it was lifted effective from 12am, January 13, 2022.
When asked if he strongly believes in regulation of the internet, Soyinka said: “Theoretically, if you are going to regulate, who regulates it? How does he go about it? Does regulation begin from education – new education? Do we include teaching from the level of primary schools because even children now speak a language which I don’t understand – internet language?
“Watch them at work there, I’m like an illiterate and I will never compete with that.
“So, maybe we will have to totally revise our educational system to take in this new monster which, however, is a valuable contribution to the entire human enterprise.
“So, while we talk about regulation, I want us to be very careful there. I don’t want some dictator like this last one (immediate former President Muhammadu Buhari who banned Twitter) attempted to do; who woke up and said I’m banning Facebook (Twitter), Idiot!
“You just wake up and say you are banning Facebook, that is nonsense! Do something constructive, methodical, structured about it, including making the criminals understand that they deserve to be somewhere else.”
Soyinka said Nigeria and Africa, in general, may have to totally reverse their educational systems to take in what he described as a new monster.
He stressed that the internet and social media remain valuable contribution to the entire human enterprise.
According to Soyinka: “I see everything of value being debased; values which I grew up with as a child and that includes language, use of appropriate language.
“When I see a space being infested, a communication space infested by the people of lower intelligence, integrity, sense of concern of involvement, then existed in the print media; we should also remember that this internet, there is nothing novel all about it, it is an enhancement of something we have always been doing before.
“It is an enhancement of the print medium and there is a more critical approach to the print medium – the editor sits down, even letters to the editor particularly go through full vetting processes.
“But now you can have any kind of pig from the gutter who simply because he’s got a paw and therefore can put that paw in the dirt, in filth and then imprint it on the nearest space, that is the internet has become.
“Having known better from childhood, all the way through my development, it is an abysmal stage of one’s compelled existence to have to confront things like that.”
The literary icon added: “Something drastic has to be done about it. The publishing enterprise has a huge role to play.