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Twitter Ban and Nigerians’ “We Move” Mentality – By Chinemerem Onuorah

The World Happiness report 2019 ranked Nigeria the 2nd happiest country in Africa. A steep climb from their 2017 and 2018 rankings, which were 6th and 5th respectively.

Interestingly, this annual report is based on six key variables that support wellbeing: income, freedom, trust, absence of corruption, social support, and generosity. If you are a Nigerian or have spent time in Nigeria, you would expect that Nigeria will keep dropping from charts like this, but we climb higher thanks to the “we move” mentality. 

We move is a phrase of unsure origin, but has evolved to mean a sad acceptance of reality, a determination to move past unfairness, discomfort, and trouble, as well as a strong resolve to refuse the situation at hand from affecting you emotionally.

We move is what a Nigerian student says when he sees the C in his result because even though he did really well, the lecturer had earlier stated that grades A and B are for God. Grade C is better than an F, therefore we move. It is also a phrase to use when you are in the market and realize that products are now sold for twice the amount they were a few months ago. You need the product, you can cough up the new price, therefore we move

On June 4th, the Federal Government of Nigeria indefinitely suspended Twitter in Nigeria. The implication of this suspension is that more than 39 million active users of the microblogging platform were denied access to their source of information, communication, entertainment and in some cases, livelihood. According to NetBlocks; a watchdog organisation, with the suspension of Twitter, Nigeria loses over 2 billion Naira daily. 

However,  a few hours after the official suspension of Twitter, Nigerians resorted to the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPN) to bypass the suspension.

Aside from the extra cost of subscribing to a safe VPN, the undue strain on a device’s battery life, and the general caveat that not all your data are safe with a VPN, you realize the government was a little too quick to clamp down on citizens right to freedom of expression and information. 

It is now over two weeks into the suspension, and Nigerians are slowly easing into the use of VPNs. Yet again, we are normalizing the use of a proxy network to access information and as usual, we move. 

The We Move mentality is of course most prevalent in the youths. While the Baby Boomers and Gen X are more likely to hold conversations about how much the government has failed; how much the system is not working; and what it takes to fix it, the Millennials and Gen Z are more interested in scaling each hurdle, no matter what it takes, as long as they return as close as possible to normalcy. 

In late February, social media was wild with the news of the 800 million Naira ransom paid to bandits for the release of some kidnapped students in Kaduna State.  Similarly, the government is reportedly providing rehabilitation and scholarship schemes for “repentant” Boko Haram members.

The absurdity of the situation lay in the fact that this was coming after armed policemen were mobilized in their numbers to attack unarmed protesters at the Lekki Tollgate.

While Nigerians expressed their displeasure using their social media platforms, within a few hours “Canada” became the #1 trending word on Nigerian Twitter space, as the clamor for greener pastures outside the shores of the country became intense.

This just buttressed the general notion that Nigerians see the government as beyond redemption, and would prefer to leave, or imagine leaving the country than worry about the sad realities of the country or have conversations about possible solutions. We move

In Nigeria today, things are hardly what they used to be. Insecurity is the order of the day, prices are skyrocketing by the day, and the high cost of living is nothing to write home about.

But somehow, Nigerians manage to move. It seems to be the way we react to traumatic experiences. It was the same with the clampdown on cryptocurrency in Nigeria; it was the same with the EndSARS protests. The citizens’ problems are hardly addressed by the perpetrators because Nigerians manage to gather their problems and move

The We move mentality is a way of life which most Nigerian youths pride themselves in; but it is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, citizens are able to function in spite of the realities of the country and society; less-depressed (and this is tongue-in-cheek) citizens abound; citizens who deliberately choose to be happy; but on the other hand, the two generations of citizens who predominantly have this mentality are ironically the ones who are instrumental in fighting for and making a change. 

Thus this mentality creates individuals who would rather save up and leave the country, than stay, join a political party, run and contest for elections. They would rather blast their music and literally turn a deaf ear to the problems of the country, than attempt to fix it. The We move mentality is admirable, but only if we move enough to make the change we want to see. 

Chinemerem is a Communication Assistant at Yiaga Africa

She Tweets @Mererah

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