The first meeting information and culture minister Lai Mohammed had with the media took place in Ikeja, Lagos on November 23, 2015.
It was a meeting with online publishers. I was privileged to be there as a reporter with Newsroom.
A key worry expressed by Mohammed’s guests, the online media community of social media influencers, bloggers, news publishers, etc, was fueled by speculations President Muhammadu Buhari — a man known to have disdain for free speech as military head of state — could exhibit same toward the online space.
Mohammed allayed our fears with a kinda “are you kidding me” look on his face. Like “Seriously? You guys think Buhari is here to regulate online media? C’mon! We know free speech helped us defeat Goodluck Jonathan so we’re here to stengthen, not weaken it. Keep calm”.
The information minister even issued a statement insisting such would never happen. Buhari, Mohammed and the APC had also been pushing the “Buhari is a born again democrat” narrative. So, well, we believed them.
As we approach another election cycle, it is appearing that Mohammed, during that 2015 meeting, may have lied on behalf of the Nigerian government. Mohammed may have deceived us.
Or it could be that realising the same power of free speech that helped removed Jonathan could disgrace APC in 2019, the Buhari government had to do something about it.
BREAKING NEWS: The National Council on Information (NCI) has recommended the “setting up of a Council to regulate the use of social media in Nigeria” state-run NAN reports on Monday! Ghen-ghen!
Mohammed chairs NCI. Ghen-ghen!
“The recommendation is contained in a communique issued at the end of Extraordinary Meeting of NCI on Hate Speeches, Fake News and National Unity held on Friday in Jos,” the report says.
Who determines what “fake news” and “hate speeches” and so on? If this regulation passes, can I still tweet that the unity of Nigeria is actually negotiable (a fact)? Can I call Buhari a failure and Mohammed an apparent liar (debatable)? And still walk free?
“The Council noted that Social media has no address as such vetting and editing posting in social media might be difficult,” the report says.
Lol. They want to monitor, track, spy on everyone online. Holy Molly! This is not good. This is not good. *Sigh
But this is their real fear:
“The Council noted that social media might take over the 2019 elections because Nigerians had come to rely more and believe the social media over the conventional media,” the report says.
I support this one but we can’t regulate social media without curbing free speech. 👇
“It directed the Federal and State Ministries of Information to use jingles to promote peace and come up with cartoons on the TV and Newspapers telling the dangers of fake news and hate speeches.”
Here’s the rest of the report where defaulters are recommended to be treated as CRIMINALS!
The collaboration must start with National Orientation Agency and the state governments, the Council recommended.
The Council underscored the need to start talking to those responsible for law and enforcement of justice to address the issues of citizens taking laws into their hands.
The body also emphasised that “the welfare of the people is paramount, people well fed will listen to their government”.
NAN reports that the extraordinary meeting of the council was declared open by Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau, represented by his Deputy Prof. Sonni Tyoden.
Mr. Lalong observed that the combination of hate speech, conducts, commentaries, writing and displays that combined with the engagement of Hate Media Platforms had in global history proven their ability to incite genocide.
He emphasised that any person or group of persons using any media outlet to bait and explore the innocence and gullibility of a few people must be condemned and sanctioned as criminal, by all people of conscience
NAN also reports that the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, in a keynote address, expressed displeasure over the hate spewed on radio stations across the country which according to him has become alarming.
The Minister said the careless incitement to violence and the level of insensitivity to the multi-religious, multi-ethnic nature of the country must not be allowed to continue because it is detrimental to the unity and well-being of our country.
The National Council on Information is the highest policy making body for information articulation and delivery in the country.
Delegates to the Council included Heads of Parastatal Agencies in the Federal Ministry of Information and Commissioners for Information in the 36 States.