Days after Twitter deleted president Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet, which expressed harsh words to regional secessionists in the state of Biafra, Buhari’s government ordered the suspension of Twitter and insisted that those who use the social media platform will face prosecution. The tweet, which Twitter states, “was in violation of the Twitter Rules”, was in reference to recent attacks in the South-East allegedly committed by secessionists and a carry over from Nigeria’s 30 month civil war that lasted from July 1967 to January 1970. Buhari’s tweet read, “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.” Three days after the tweet was deleted, Buhari’s government banned the platform, ordering mobile phone networks to block access to the site.
Since, many have come out to condemn the government’s harsh action, speculating that the ban has more to do with the government’s sense of power in the face of recent protests than Twitter’s role in undermining “Nigeria’s corporate existence” as stated by Information Minister Lai Mohammed. The ban may very well be a clever piece of political opportunism from a government shook by the explosion of protest organized around the #EndSARS movement last year in which Twitter played a key role.
Artists and musicians also played a crucial role in spreading the word on police violence in Nigeria, guiding a narrative stemming from Nigeria’s outsized youth population which called for vast reforms and engaged people and personalities from across the globe including Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey. This artist activism is no coincidence. Twitter, while a powerful tool for political advocacy, is also a fundamental platform for artists to share their music and connect with audiences. Many artists throughout Nigeria have leveraged Twitter’s reach and retweet feature to grow their fanbase and create a deeper connection with those who engage in their music. In the aftermath of the ban some activists and artists are continuing to tweet despite the order, using VPNs to gain access to Twitter’s servers.
While the political implications on free speech remain the most consequential fallout from Buhari’s recent dictate, we wanted to ask artists how they felt about the recent ban and the role the platform has played throughout their career. We reached out to key figures in Nigeria’s music industry from established mavericks like Don Jazzy, to new school stars like Oxlade, and up-and-comers such as Ibejii. We admire these artists’ courage to speak out, and respect those who declined to respond, especially in the face of the government’s announcement to prosecute anyone found to have breached the country’s ban. Below you can find an insider’s take on the ban and what it means for Nigerian music.
Don Jazzy, originally a producer of albums like Wande Coal’s Mushin 2 MoHits, has since become a figurehead of the Nigerian music scene as founder and CEO of Mavin Records that hosts an impressive roster of artists including Rema, Ayra Starr, and Lapidoe.
I don’t think it was a right move by the Nigerian Authorities. Very very harsh I must say. As a label owner and a creative with over 6m followers, Twitter has been one of the most important Marketing tools for me in the last decade. It’s muscle memory now for me to use Twitter to do all the promotion for the label’s music. Banning Twitter has totally left us in a confused state. Cos I mean where do we start from. Unlearning something that has been a major part of our promotion strategy for a decade will be a very difficult task and would surely hurt our operations.
Oxlade is a 23 year old Nigerian singer that blends afropop, afrobeats, and lushes vocals for an immistacable style that has earned him a spot as one of Nigeria’s most sought after performers. Breaking out via a Blaqbonez collaboration on Mamiwota, Oxlade went on to release his debut EP Oxygene to massive critical acclaim.
Twitter has played an important role in amplifying Nigeria to the world. In as much as the government is trying to curb the spread of fake news and all, it’s this same Twitter where people have been made aware of the numerous achievements that are being made by Nigerians all around the world. There will always be a positive and negative effect of things and in this case the effects are more negative because Twitter has provided a platform in Nigeria where many people have used to scale up their businesses and make notable networks for life changing opportunities. We’ve had several influencers come up through that platform and right now with the unavailability of jobs in Nigeria it has become more difficult for people to survive. Twitter was very influential in my rise to fame and my journey in music. Davido posted a Tweet that made people on that space become aware of the fact that an Oxlade exists.. Twitter has helped me push my music beyond borders I have never been to. It is an important marketing tool for me as an artist.
Jujuboy Star is a Nigerian singer, songwriter and producer that has hopped on tracks with Jidenna, Adekunle Gold, and Simi among others. Best known for his 2018 hit Gimmie Love, Jujuboy Star continues to make waves with recent singles including Enjoyment released in April 2021.
It’s ridiculous. Twitter has been way more than just a social media platform, it has connected people to business opportunities, employers and a form of entertainment and stress relief for a lot of us. So to ban it because we choose to use it to express our feelings and show the world the injustice we are facing is inhuman. As an artist, I mean it’s a solid platform to connect to my fans. To share release dates, share my thoughts, check on them and what’s going on in their lives. I’m not so much of a social media person but Twitter is quite important to me.
Ibejii is an afro-soul singer that has dabbled in Nollywood and uses his music to give a voice to the common man. Ibejii is set to release his 5th project which will include his most recent single Gonto.
Twitter is lifeblood for scores of young businesses. It is where scores of our uneducated receive instruction. It is the village square to which all shades and colour of opinion are welcome. No responsible government could shut it down and proceed without regard. It makes no sense. As an artist, I draw inspiration from the diversity of the human experience. The human voice, with its complex tapestry and texture, is rich fodder for artistry. When you shut down any public space you shutter access to the true wealth that fertilizes craft and creativity. Banning Twitter is a dark event in my judgment.