Buhari’s lack of economic vision responsible for Twitter’s decision

Tony Ademiluyi

One of the noticeable gains of the advent of the internet was the concomitant liberalization of the media. The media has been largely democratized and anyone with a smart phone and internet access can now pass as a journalist.

A trend in the new media is the invasion of the space and the creation of media empires by non Journalists. Facebook, the world’s largest social media group has Mark Zuckerberg as one of the Co Founders and CEO with a tech rather than a media background. The same goes for Google with Larry Page and Sergin Brin.

Twitter made its debut on March 21, 2006 with Jack Dorsey, Biz Stone, Evan Williams and Noah Glass as co founders. Dorsey has been its CEO since 2015 and the micro blogging site has grown from no user to about 330 million active users as at 2020. Its net income as at last year was in excess of one billion US dollars and its total assets are in excess of thirteen billion dollars.

Like all other Silicon Valley Unicorns, it set its eyes on Africa as the world’s second most populous continent has the largest youthful population in the world and so it has the status of a beautiful bride.

After Facebook and its sister companies like Instagram and Whatsapp, Twitter is immensely popular in the continent especially in Nigeria which is the most populous nation in Africa. So popular is Twitter with the bird app logo that Jack Dorsey paid a visit to Nigeria in 2019 to see things for himself and interact with the influencers as well as top government functionaries.

Many Brands in Nigeria know the immense value of Twitter and we have social media influencers on the platform with a large followership who pride themselves as Twitter influencers as they make a fortune doing direct advertising for the brands to their millions of followers on the platform. So lucrative is the influencer business that a popular name, Japheth Joshua Omojuwa with about a million followers once said that he wouldn’t mind paying tithes to Twitter.

Unofficial statistics put the users of the brand at about twenty five million in Nigeria and so there was a natural uproar in the media space when Dorsey tweeted that it will cite its African headquarters in Ghana.

Nigerians were shocked by this business decision and took to both the traditional, new as well as social media to vent out their frustration. The position of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was that the Buhari administration’s lack of economic vision was responsible for the decision. Lai Mohammed the Information and Culture Minister said that it was as a result of the end sars protest.

Businesses are in a business to make profits and fulfill their obligations to their shareholders as well as employees. They are not houses of charity. Nigeria is an incredibly difficult place to do business in. Multiple taxation, anti people economic policies as well as a harsh business environment has contributed to the funeral of many bright business ideas. Inconsistent public policy has also played a key role in making Nigeria unattractive as an investment destination. Analysts will recall how the ban on motorcycles in Lagos State also known as Okada led to the exit of Gokada, O ride which led to job losses in its thousands. The promoters of the businesses invested millions of dollars in them but the government didn’t care that they were forced to leave due to its policy flip flops.

We recall the brutality meted out to innocent and law abiding citizens during the ill fated end sars protests where armed soldiers opened fire on unarmed protesters. Months after this brutal rape on democracy, no arrests or sanctions have been made. Why should Twitter a promoter of democracy and free speech site its African headquarters in a quasi civilian dictatorship? The government banned crypto currencies some months ago and pundits opine that it was in its bid to forestall another popular protest as Flutterwave co founded by two young Nigerians – Iyinoluwa Samuel Aboyeji and its current CEO, Olugbenga Agboola was the platform behind the crypt currency usage that led to the unhindered flow of funds during the end sars protest. Dorsey owns a payments processing company known as Square which has started accepting crypto currencies as a medium of payment. Wouldn’t it be contradictory to choose Nigeria as its headquarters when it has stifled Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) by banning crypto currencies?

The government appears helpless in the battle against the Boko Haram insurgents, bandits and Fulani herdsmen. Everyday news filters of the atrocities against Nigerians by these groups with the Buhari government playing the Ostrich and leaving Nigerians to protect themselves with minimal government input. Imagine the security risks of the Twitter members of staff with the current security challenge if they are domiciled in Nigeria! We recall that the current Defence Minister, Bashir Magashi told Nigerians to defend themselves. The whole world is watching the circus show of Nigeria due to bad governance and so it is not surprising that they chose Ghana over us due to its relative security, absence of insurgency and political stability.

Twitter once banned political adverts in the wake of the 2016 US Presidential elections and so good governance is a sine qua non for the San Francisco headquartered brand.

During the global lockdown, Ghana gave its citizens palliatives and even went as far as giving free electricity for three months to all her citizens. Nigeria left her citizens in the lurch and it was later discovered that palliatives donated by some public spirited individuals and foreign donor agencies were criminally stashed away which led to the well televised looting by some Nigerians last year after the end sars protests. This must have influenced their decision to go to the West African nation that was the first to obtain political independence from the erstwhile colonial masters.

Nigeria needs to put its house its order. Bloomberg recently said that we will soon overtake Namibia to become the country that has the most unemployed citizens. The current rate at over 33% is rather scary. The World Poverty Clock declared us as the world capital for poverty with life expectancy at an all time low. Our population which will balloon to around 300 million by 2050 may become more of a liability as it is not being harnessed to creating a rich force of human capital development. We need to create a more conducive environment for foreign investors to come in and support our small businesses as they are the fulcrum of any economy anywhere in the globe.

We should stop crying and whining like a baby whose candy has been taken away from it and get our hands dirty so that we can reclaim our lost glory and hold our heads high in the international comity of nations.

Our time starts now!

Tony Ademiluyi

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