The People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is planning to mobilise its members across Nigeria to protest against insecurity, the Twitter ban by President Muhammadu Buhari and other ills facing the nation.
The party is also perfecting processes for legal action against the Nigerian government’s suspension of the microblogging site, including the directive to broadcasting stations to pull out of the platform.
In a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary Kola Ologbodiyan on Monday, the party warned the government against harassing foreign envoys and other members of the international community in the country.
The #RevolutionNow campaigner and Sahara Reporters Publisher Omoyele Sowore is also leading Nigerians to protest on June 12, Nigeria’s Democracy Day.
PDP’s warning came on the backdrop of the government’s invitation to some prominent envoys in the country on Monday.
Minister of Foreign Affairs Geoffrey Onyeama had invited the envoys, including those of Canada, the Republic of Ireland, the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, and the Republic of Ireland and briefed them on the motive behind Twitter’s suspension.
The envoys had said they were strongly disappointed by the action of the Nigerian government, hours after the platform was suspended last Friday.
“We strongly support the fundamental human right of free expression and access to information as a pillar of democracy in Nigeria as around the world and these rights apply online as well as offline. Banning systems of expression is not the answer,” the envoys jointly said in a statement.
Minister of Information Lai Mohammed had announced the suspension last Friday over “persistent use of the platform for activities that are capable of undermining Nigeria’s corporate existence.”
Twitter had deleted Buhari’s tweet suggestive of a repeat of the onslaught against the South-East – the region that lost millions of its people to the country’s 30-month civil war.
The war took place between July 6, 1967 and January 15, 1970.
Buhari spoke against rampaging secessionists who wanted the Biafran nation for the South-East.
The agitation has led to attacks on security formations, killings of security officers, destruction of electoral institutions and other crimes in the region.
Security agencies and some governors in the region have blamed the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its security arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), for the attacks.
In its statement, PDP said it was alarmed by the invitation of the envoys, which it claimed smacked of intolerance towards the international community “as obtained in Idi Amin’s dictatorial Uganda of 1971 to 1979.”
It said the defence of freedom of expression was a fundamental duty that envoys owed their host nations and the international community.
The party argued that no law or statute prohibited foreign envoys from speaking out against the violation of internationally enshrined freedom of expression and right to social interactions as provided by Twitter and other social media platforms.
“It is instructive for the APC and the Buhari administration to note that given the current downturn of our national life under their misrule, Nigeria cannot afford to be declared a pariah nation. The PDP is worried that the APC administration has been overheating our polity leading to escalation of insecurity, killings, bloodletting and violence in the country.
“Nigerians would recall that ahead of the 2019 general elections, one of the leaders of the APC, the Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, had threatened that some of the foreign election monitors would be returned to their countries in body bags.
“Our party, therefore, demands that the Federal Government should listen to the voice of reason, end its misrule and desist from infringing on the rights of Nigerians as being witnessed in the illegal and vexatious ban on Twitter,” the party said.
PDP took charge of the Nigerian government from May 1999, when the country returned to democratic rule, till May 2015 after its candidate at the presidential poll and incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan was defeated by Buhari.
Meanwhile, as many Nigerians bypass the government using virtual private networks (VPN) to continue the use of Twitter, two clergymen with large followerships in the country defied the government’s order on Monday and vowed to continue to use the platform.
General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God Enoch Adeboye said he had his church in over 170 countries, adding that tweeting was in accordance with Article 19 of the UN universal declaration of human rights.
On his part, founder and General Superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry Williams Kumuyi said he had members in five continents of the world who shared the contents of the church’s Twitter page.
It was the first time both men would openly disobey the Nigerian government.