In Nigeria’s recent feminist movement, there is hardly any doubt that social media and in particular Twitter, continues to influence how movements concerning women’s wellbeing occur.
From movements like MarketMarch, Operation Legalise Abortion, #SayHerNameNigeria and the creation of groups like Feminist Coalition, the role of social media in Nigerian feminist organising cannot be understated.
However, in recent times, Twitter has come under attack from the Nigerian government. In June 2021, shortly after a ban on Twitter was announced, Document Women reported this, analysing what the ban could mean for Nigerian women and feminist organisations.
The Twitter ban gave rise to the #KeepItOn movement, with Nigerians shared what the impact of the ban could mean to their businesses; this they did as they also advocated that the ban be lifted because it was a direct affront to the right to freedom of expression.
Although the ban was lifted on Thursday and Nigerian Twitter users can now tweet without the aid of Virtual Private Networks, the downside of the ban on Twitter users is numerous and may take a while to recover from. According to the NetBlocks Cost of Shutdown Tool, Nigeria’s economy lost N104.02 million ($250,600) every hour to the ban on Twitter. Sahara Reporters also mentioned that the Twitter ban affected small and medium scale business owners as their major source of building growth and customers were derived from apps like Twitter.
“This Twitter ban really affected business for us my fellow vendors, now it’s lifted I pray for constant customers and patronage. May our business recover in ten folds amen,” Twitter user Vughnn said.
In November 2021, five months into the Twitter ban, Guardian Nigeria reported that there were over 41 million small and medium-sized enterprises in Nigeria and women constituted 40% percent of this number.
While it is a good thing that the Twitter ban has been lifted, some Twitter users have pointed out that the ban was not lifted for altruistic reasons by the government. Rather, it has been said that due to the 2023 presidential elections nearing, Twitter is needed as a major election propaganda machine, especially for younger voters.
“Elections aren’t won on social media”, they tell you mockingly. Yet here they are, unbanning Twitter to kick off campaign season. Don’t be misled by absolute statements. Any national politician worth their salt understands what Twitter is useful for setting agenda,” Another Twitter user said.
However, since the ban should never have happened, Nigerian women should continue to use Twitter to mobilize and create movements that would spill into the offline space. More importantly, Nigerian women should endeavour to use Twitter to politically organise women, such that women voters have a stronger voice in the events leading up to the 2023 presidential election.