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Why Minister Lai needs to block social media

I love my country. Nations have aspirations and we are not left out. Some go to the moon while others want to explore other galaxies,…

I love my country. Nations have aspirations and we are not left out. Some go to the moon while others want to explore other galaxies, Nigeria has no such lofty desires and we don’t hide it.

While nations have launched into the technology superhighway, Nigeria wants to be the first nation to put a permanent wedge between its citizens and social media. That is the persistent call of Nigeria’s current information minister, Mr Lai Mohammed. Our rulers have decided even oxygen is not good for our lungs.

Lai has been mulling this idea and lately had the chance at the 2021 budget defence to remind legislators that it would be a fantastic legacy to leave behind.  When Lai has his way, technology’s thruway would be blocked. That’s Nigeria’s easy route to turning a vibrant nation into a relic.

You could express shock if you didn’t know that Lai Mohammed has no idea what true social media is. He is the first minister in the information age without a social media handle. You won’t catch him dead on Facebook. He probably thinks Facebook is a guillotine where angry people chop off the heads of their clueless leaders.

Lai has no Twitter handle. The idea that humans mimic the birds would sound strange to a minister of a nation that is yet to adopt any animal or bird as a national symbol – not even the holy cow! The honourable minister probably thinks of a handle as the wooden part of a sword, knife or hoe. In 2020, 70 per cent  of Nigeria’s subsistent farmers rely on those arcane implements.

A handle is not something the minister identifies with information dissemination. He still writes his speeches long hand for a typist, makes correction on Tipp-ex.

Under the APC, Nigeria gleefully announced it was going to be making pencils! Office memos are still punched into ancient manila flat files and stored in filing cabinets. If your file must move, you must oil the palms of the messenger to keep it going. Nigerian officials still carry suitcases loaded with these files under their arms for signature approval. It’s hard to teach old dog new tricks.

A Neanderthal approach to governance is one reason members of the Nigeria police see every young person as a threat. A youth could not walk freely carrying a backpack without arousing police suspicion. Backpacks are not in the police-training manual. If a laptop is found inside a backpack, officers see double. They believe that computers, gadgets and their owners are up to no good, after all the computer on the IG’s table is apparently there for decoration perhaps with a big sign saying – do not touch!

If you put a Nigerian policeman in a modern squad car, he would think you have invited him to a mobile movie theatre. Why is this so, you ask? It’s because Nigeria has people like Lai Mohammed as information minister. When gold rusts, woods are doomed.

If Instagram were a tool for displaying government projects, Minister Lai wouldn’t want it because Buhari has no projects to exhibit. Across the globe, television stations are struggling to keep up with social media, but minister Lai’s loftiest dream is to bring the moribund Nigerian Television Authority, NTA into par with 1980 CNN. He has done the maths and approached international donors for a $500 million loan to actualise this dream. CNN left that place long ago and they aren’t coming back. Nigeria’s economy has been so battered under this regime, money makes no sense except when it’s stolen.

With a 1980 style Nigerian CNN, Lai hopes to turn government’s drab diary into a soap opera to occupy the minds of an army of unemployed youth. Welcome to Lai’s 1984.

Lai has heard so much about the negative impacts of social media he wants to shut it down. It doesn’t matter that dinosaur Trump vents his spleen on it, or that Barack Obama leveraged on it for two electoral wins that sustained good governance. Buhari’s social media handles are filled with soporific drivel parroting gloomy speeches.

Minister Lai loves China, Nigeria’s biggest creditor. In China, indolent ministers are shot or imprisoned. When the Chinese make you a leader, they expect you to lead, not to make excuses. The Chinese built a robust foreign reserve from where profligate Nigeria borrows. China has its home-built social media platforms  engaging its citizens, Lai wants to block ours.

Lai was in China, but he did not see its gargantuan technology hubs, entire cities built in the middle of nowhere, waiting to meet the future. While Nigerian prophets masturbate on 5G, China has launched into 6G.

Nigeria has no housing for its ballooning population and technology is a mere buzzword to the dinosaurs ruining our nation. Lai missed his calling, now he craves a society controlled by deep state.

Of course, if Lai’s last impression was 1980’s CNN, he could not have heard how China cleaned up its polluted capital. Everywhere in Abuja, power generating sets spray carbon monoxide in the air. Abuja could be the pollution capital of Africa but pollution is the last thing on Lai’s mind. Check Lai’s diesel budget this year, it’ll be enough to equip a functional studio to make NTA signals get to my village.

Nigerian youths have just pulled off the biggest act of civil disobedience with the #EndSARS protest using social media. Lai couldn’t see the opportunity in this. Instead, Nigeria tested its newly acquired social media blocker. For hours, no Nigerian could tweet on Nigeria. Two years ago, the military warned it was monitoring us on social media.

Nigeria is perhaps the only country in the world whose governors (in noun and verb meaning) take offence at being called out on their social contact. Minister Mohammed believes challenging your leaders is insubordination, an insult on their fragile ego.

Minister Mohammed has not commissioned a single project worthy of note in five years in office. That is not a thing of pride. Service pride is ability to show tangible projects. Social media puts the indolent feet of the ruiner to the fire; the ensuing putrescence is becoming unbearable to them.

Where is good news in Nigeria? Public institutions are in ruins. Public universities are locked down while the children of the wealthy are abroad or in private schools. Less than 10 per cent of Nigeria’s population of 200 million enjoy stable power for six hours per day on the national grid. Less than 40 per cent of Nigerian roads are motorable all-year- round. Critics disappear without trace and citizens are murdered for their body parts while government naps.

Minister Lai and his friends in government fly over the head of citizens for fear of the road. They cannot walk or talk freely with those who elected them without fear of being mugged. This is the real fear of minister Lai and his clueless colleagues in power. Being part of such a regime calls for the shut down of social media.