The Senatorial Slap Called Social Media Bill

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First, it was the controversial N8.64 billion wardrobe allowance for the then newly sworn in legislators. Then the most incredulous and shocking one so far…in what was described by the Senate President, as “a watershed moment in our vision to take lawmaking back to the people,” the Senate President’s Suggestion box was launched. Just in case you haven’t been in tune with happenings in Nigeria’s political space; Yes, you read right. Suggestion boxes were launched in the chambers of the nation’s highest law making body. In the 21st century. In this digital/technological age. Ribbons were used for decoration and a tape was cut (you get the drift…all the works were in place) to launch suggestion boxes by our senators. Then, the latest may just be the final straw that breaks the proverbial camel’s back- the proposed clampdown on social media critics who “falsely” criticize public officials or institutions.

Since its inauguration in June, it is safe to say that the Nigerian Senate has been on a roller coaster of gaffes in the course of discharging its duties. What is not certain is if these series of errors have been committed as a deliberate affront to the people of Nigeria, or if they are a reflection of innocuous mistakes made by a “teething” Senate. The proposed social media bill is one gaffe too many, and our lawmakers may just have bitten more than they can chew if the outrage on social media is anything to go by. It is sad and unfortunate that Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah, a member of the “Change” chanting All Progressives Congress could conceive this idea, let alone propose it to his colleagues. It is worse that it is actually being considered to be passed into law.

During the launch of Saraki’s suggestion box, the Senate President reiterated the legislator’s commitment to ensuring Nigerians are given the opportunity to engage the upper legislative house robustly by encouraging an enabling environment for feedback from the ordinary man on the streets. In his words ” a strong feedback mechanism that is non-discriminatory, direct, open-minded, uninhibited and continuous…” hence the decision to make suggestion boxes available for that purpose. It is baffling that the lawmakers expect that Nigerians scattered all over the country should have access to a box that is placed in a guarded location like the National Assembly complex. One wonders what other medium provides all the characteristics listed by the Senate President aside the social media. A platform that they have now ironically declared war on.

The bill which has quickly scaled through two readings within the first two weeks of its introduction states that “abusive” posts with intent to set the public against any person and group of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law could face imprisonment and a $10,000 fine.” How will the lawmakers determine the fine line between expressing a strong opinion and an intent to set the public against a person? They also clearly forget that the Nigerian constitution aligns directly with Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says “Everyone has a right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” This not only means that the proposed bill is unconstitutional, it also translates to the fact that our lawmakers are infringing on the right of Nigerians to freely express themselves.

During electioneering, the same politicians who are now seeking to muzzle users of social media deployed media such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to drive their narratives and political campaign. A number of them employed Twitter overlords and celebrities to campaign for them via these sites. But for some reason, they seem to have suddenly developed amnesia now that they have benefited from social media. In this day and age where information and free speech is encouraged, who contemplates stifling the voice of the people? In the first place, why should a servant of the people be averse to criticism? The ordinary man who is not in government gets criticized daily. As a matter of fact, whether a person is in the private or the public sector, it is virtually impossible to live a life that is devoid of criticism, and even insults from time to time. It’s the way the world works! Anyone who desires to do anything tangible or make a significant contribution to humanity must be ready to face opposition. This should be a no-brainer for our lawmakers.

In a country where major challenges in security, the health sector, education, the petroleum sector and virtually every sector of the economy remain an embarrassing albatross, it is heartbreaking to realize that the people whom Nigerians spent hours in long queues, and the scorching sun voting for have turned around so soon to stab them in the back. It may interest our lawmakers to know that a huge percentage of the people who actively use social media are the youths, and any attempt to stifle the voice of this category of people (many of whom are already frustrated by the system due to the pervading unemployment and a country that increasingly shows them that they hardly matter in the scheme of things) will be resisted to the uttermost. Already the “Say No To Social Media Bill”  and “March On Nass” hashtags have been trending on Twitter. There have also been talks of moves to recall Senator Bala Ibn Na’allah by his constituency. A step in the right direction if you asked me.

I am also aware that a few Senators have distanced themselves from the obnoxious bill. This is good, but they will only be taken seriously when they speak against it on the floor of the house, just like President Buhari has done. How can our lawmakers quickly forget the huge role social media played in fighting societal ills and advancing worthy causes such as the “Occupy Nigeria” movement, the Ebola awareness campaign and the “Bring Back Our Girls” hashtag which went viral quickly and ended up getting worldwide attention.

Social media is the place of solace for the ordinary Nigerian. It is provides an avenue for him to air his views and vent his frustrations about issues freely. To attempt to take that away from him would be tantamount to embarking on a suicide mission. The draconian bill must not see the light of day.


14 Replies to “The Senatorial Slap Called Social Media Bill”

  1. These so called senators are nincompoops! They are actually biting the fingers that fed them, really what exactly are they afraid of if they do not have any skeletons in their cupboards? That bill must never see the light of the day in Jesus name,onward Nigeria!

    1. Hehehe! It is people like you that they will first prosecute if that bills comes to stay o! Anyway, it won’t. Thanks a lot brother…

  2. Though I voted for the APC during the elections on all platforms, I knew it wasn’t for the so called ‘change.’ there isn’t any difference from PDP. I mean since the house is flooded with APC members you’d expect something better but look at what we see. It’s just sad. There’s no way social media can be banned. That’s were everything in the world is happening. I was even shocked to hear that the national assembly members will take lessons on how to use social media, like seriously? Even a five a year old doesn’t need to be thought. Good thing Buhari vetoed the bill but even if he didn’t it can never work. I think all this points out to the fact that we need younger people in governance who can think with the tide, not those who accidentally say West Germany in the 21st century. That is demoralising and spoiling our image further. Countries are looking at us and will only laugh at all these scenarios.

  3. Brilliant girl!
    It is amazing that a man soon forgets the finger that fed it too quickly. In a world where most nations of the world tend to move closer to their populace through this medium; getting a different perspective to views and smarter solutions from other, someone (in the name of senate) will be shielding himself (themselves) from insults and verbal attacks. These people seems to want to fraustrate the so called Democracy that we are tending towards.
    Besides who says the world and all it’s wisdom ends in a place? At least I am glad people are not folding hands anymore. Democracy we call it and that it will be: FOR THE PEOPLE AND BY THE PEOPLE TO THE PEOPLE ! God bless Nigeria!

  4. The thought and proposition of this bill is a show of the composition of illiterate and unexposed complacent group of senators called leaders. Hopefully in the Near future we are able to have literate, purposeful and pro active youthful politicians step up and voted in.
    This is a cool write up and hope they get to read it…with all these self, one will wonder whether they read productive write up as these self.

    Thank you for writing.

    1. Oh well…let’s hope they just do the right thing, and jettison the unpopular bill in the wake of the all the protests and disapproval from the public. Thank you.

  5. That bill must not see the light of the day,this is rubbish, when they were campaigning, it was this social media they used to criticize the past government, now when it is their turn to be criticized, they are now feeling insulted. They now, know how Oga Jona felt,he was the most criticized president, but he still took it in good faith. They should learn to take it in good faith.
    We, the good people of Nigeria, must join hands together and say “NO TO SOCIAL MEDIA BILL”

    1. Don’t mind our lazy legislators. Despite the numerous issues currently challenging us as a nation, they decide to see a problem where there’s absolutely none. It just shows that we really have to be careful about the kind of people we vote in the near future. Thanks Mayowa.

  6. First of all I must commend you on the article. Well written.
    Our senators are products of the people they serve. Sometimes the way they behave I seriously doubt most of them went through any institute of education worth its weight in gold. Most of the time the senate is either half empty and those present are either sleeping or talking amongst themselves when the senate is in session.
    All what they have in their brains is how to milk the nation dry. From David Mark to Bukola Saraki, there is no difference between the kettle and the pot and the ten and ten pence. Why are nigerians so gullible and naïve when it comes to our so called “leaders”. We are so street wise in everything else.
    Between PDP and APC is like between the devil and the deep blue sea. Old wine in new casks. All june 12. The more you see, the more confused you become. Their suggestion box and the social media bill is not a gaffe. The senators may be anything else but they are not stupid.
    Rather they think we,the populace are stupid for not being able to see their beyond the words they mouth to their egoistic antics. How else do you explain a suggestion box most have no access to, even in an age where all they had to do was open up a website that can be accessed by all.
    How else do you explain the social media bill which despite the loud out roar, Saraki swore will see the day ?
    Both are an insult and an affront to the people and all Nigerians must be made to realise that they have the power to withdraw these parasites from the nations capital back to the hole they all crept out from.

    1. Public officers are definitely a reflection of the kind of people who voted them in (assuming they didn’t rig themselves into power). It’s really worrisome and I sincerely hope the electorate learn from their past voting mistakes. Thanks a lot Linda.

  7. A congregation of the lowly educated finely disguised as lawmakers.. I honestly think the constitution or the relevant set of electoral laws need to raise the bar in setting qualifying criteria for individuals vying for these positions.

    1. It’s arguable actually. The Senate President is a UK trained medical doctor. One doesn’t come more educated than that. You’ll also recall the many gaffes a certain PhD holding former President. Our lawmakers are just selfish and greedy. Shikena!

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