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Nigerians and The Social Media Bill

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“So, will you join the #SayNoToSocialMediaBill protest?”

“What protest?”

“The one against the bill titled ‘ Protection From Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill’ which all its 36 clauses bring nothing but doom to our ‘stillborn’ democracy”

“You people always have things to say about all actions of the government, if it were fair and truthful, you should commend them, but No, you’re used to coming up with false and frivolous allegations. It was better before now but with the ‘social-mediaquake’ in this present clime, it has become worse but thankfully, our progressive Senators have come up with the bill to make sure we have a sane online media environment. But as always, you have taken to this same social media again to still spread falsehood about the , nothing is bad in this bill….”

“It is all bad…”

‘No”

“Yes”

“I said No”

“Maybe you’ve not gone through the bill and that’s why you still think there’s any good that can come out of this bill. This is a declaration of war on the people! Even the voiceless now speak using the social media and the new plan by the powers-that-be to regulate it tells a lot. Before you even go on to talk about the content of the bill, why should our government ‘clone’ the same bill used in ? I’m quite sure you know the answers to that; they are too lazy to come up with one that might reflect the Nigerian realities. Let them take the bill back to .”

“What on earth are you saying? You see, that’s the major problem- IGNORANCE. There’s absolutely nothing bad in the similarity that you see in the two documents of the different countries. I wasn’t thought before I knew that no text exists in isolation. You must have heard of inter-textuality I believe. Especially a legal document, it is not out of place to draw from similar documents in other nations. Even if it is copied verbatim as some of you claim, there are still variations; this is never a case of plagiarism. It is even very far from it!

“I see you are echoing the sentiments of your pay masters. Let’s even try to pretend that we do not know that Singapore is infamous for clamping down on dissenting views. Singapore is even ranked 151 out of 180 in world press freedom. Are we even supposed to see reflections of documents of such a country in ? Even if you clad the truth, your conscience will make it audible. That’s if you have -like some of your paymasters defending the bill. Nothing is good about the bill and it is even such a slap on the lexicon ‘bill’, the appropriate word should be ‘will’ -a statement of distribution of deceased property- To make it easy for you, let’s call it ‘The Social Media Will’!

“I really don’t understand what’s making you livid about this bill, from the name itself, you shouldn’t be scared if you have no skeleton in your cupboard. The bill is named ‘Protection From Internet Falsehood and Manipulation bill.’ It shows the sincerity of purpose”

“Sincerity of purpose my foot! It seems obvious that everyone in the senate supports the bill except the People’s senator, Senator from Enugu alongside the two Senators from Ondo state that kicked against it. But the planned coincidence is that all those who stood to back up the need for this draconian bill have at a point in time been called out on the social media. From the sponsor of the bill to the other senators who spoke in its favour. One thing is obvious about this bill- it is ‘the government versus the masses bill’. And we are really ready for this show down!”

“That one of the senators spoke against the bill at the plenary makes him a saint right? That’s ridiculous. He just played the popularity card on you. That’s how populist do. Stop the social media falsehood accusation! And what do you mean by all those who spoke in favour of the bill have been at the receiving end of the media? Stop promoting internet falsehood”.

“I wouldn’t bask in a sophistry of mirage in a sensitive issue like this. You should remember who the sponsor of the bill is? Senator . You remember how he was called out on the social media? It’s just some few months ago. He was the member that worked for ”.

“If the bill were a law now, you won’t be saved with such a false allegation! A politician working for INEC?”

“Listen, you remember that politician whose company supplied INEC with the machines used in printing the Permanent Voters Card? I bet you do! That’s your man. The independence of INEC was tainted by its dependence on a politician from the ruling party. His name was out there and he must have thought that such exposure that came through the social media would have been prevented and people like you can boldly call us Ignorant. I assume two belated ‘ifs’ must have crossed his mind when he stood to propose the bill. The first would definitely be ‘If the social media ‘will’ were a law then, the first person to raise the alarm would have been arrested for spreading falsehood and the second could be ‘if the ‘will’ were a law then, it wouldn’t have spread like it did”

“You don’t get it, what was raised is the truth but it’s been exaggerated. This bill does not restrict you from saying the truth. Once what you’ve said is the truth, then you have no issues. You can see how is standing his ground about the alleged quid pro quo deal with Ukraine? That’s how the truth works; you’d stand your ground if you’re saying the truth”

“I’d rather not comment on the instance you used but with this bill, the truth will become as subjective as ever. We would be told what the truth is. George Orwell predicted 1984 in his book ‘Ninety Forty eight’, maybe it’s this clime after all and the real Big Brother could be gearing up.  Let me quickly help you with how some of those who spoke in favour of the bill at the plenary session have at one time or the other been criticised on the social media. The freshest of them is Senator , he was caught on video slapping a woman in a shop in Abuja, and such violence by a senator triggered the expected outcry on social media. Also, Senator was the first to support the bill, maybe he vividly remembered how he was widely criticised via the social media when he opposed the progressive Gender Equality Bill in the eight assembly. Another vocal supporter of the bill is Senator Abba Morro. I’m certain he hasn’t gotten over the online criticism he was subjected to. As the minister of Interior under the Goodluck Jonathan administration, he was singled out for the tragic jamboree disguised as the 2014 recruitment exercise by the Nigerian Immigration Service which led to the deaths of over a dozen of applicants. Amidst this, he was indicted by the EFCC for allegedly swindling applicants of hundreds of millions. The social media came for him and now he won’t toy with his chance to come back at the media.

“I can see you’ve chosen to utilise mere coincidence and make an issue out of it. You make this sound as if this bill is meant to protect the lawmakers and those in government alone. It is for you and I, it is for those that have been made to suffer through social media falsehood, it is for the media to curb fake news, it is for the national unity, it is for maintaining orderliness, it is for Nigerians, it is for Nigeria!

“I wish all you said were true, really, I wish we could have bills for the people but it is not this. It is to protect government officials from being criticised. It is quite clear, You shouldn’t be unaware of this part of the bill that states that ‘A person must not do any act in or outside Nigeria in order to transmit a statement in Nigeria, knowing or having reason to believe that it is a false statement of facts and…it will diminish public confidence in the performance of any duty or function of, or in the exercise of any power by the government.’ Read between the lines, what this simply means is that you could be jailed for criticizing government officials”

“Maybe just this part of the bill needs amendment; solutions should be proffered to such when this gets to public hearing and not outright condemnation of the bill”

“Another part most people haven’t really noticed in this bill is that it simply tells the court what to do. Nothing is more ridiculous than this bill, no sane democratic dispensation tells the judiciary what to do! A part of it reads ‘The High Court may only set aside a Part 3 regulation [if …’ This is a direct order given to the court by the legislature. That is what happens when you fail to properly edit a copied document from Singapore!”

“Well, maybe your criticisms aren’t out of place but the bill just passed its second reading and more justifications may be given for its becoming a law or its death on the floor of the senate”

“We won’t make it become a law! Never! But for the Senate, there seems to be no hope. The obvious sweet romance between the executive and the legislature won’t make you doubt that the most frivolous and anti-people bill could be passed. Even the Senate president confirmed it when he implied that everything that comes from the executive won’t be thoroughly checked. And don’t forget that the ‘disinformation’ Minister, ‘Lie’, has always echoed the need for this bill”.

“I disagree with you on that, I don’t see any sweet romance between the executive and the legislature. It’s been more animosity than friendliness. Or didn’t you read the news on odunews.com about the President’s rubbishing the constituency projects of the federal lawmakers and the lawmakers’ disagreement with such stance? What of its rebuttal claim that some federal government agencies haven’t audited their accounts for 20 years including anti-graft agencies like the almighty EFCC and ICPC? These shows that it’s not all bed of roses between them and that could be good for democracy”

“What’s good for democracy is the lawmakers’ deciding to throw the anti-social media bill into the waste bin! And they should stop justifying this bill by making reference to France, China, Singapore and other countries. They should read more about these bills in those countries and fathom what necessitated it. The social media bill in Nigeria is draconian and a reminiscence of the most stringent decrees in the most horrible military regime in the country -more austere than ‘his’ Decree 4! I’m done with this conversation; I have a protest to join!

Adelowo Adegboyega
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