By Bola Bolawole
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I wouldn’t know if you have read the piece below on the Twitter ban or suspension by the FG. In summary, it states conclusively that the Muhammadu Buhari administration only cut its nose to spite its face; was kobo wise but pound foolish; and that, all considered, the president and his advisers leaped into the dark before they looked. They thought to harm Twitter but ended up shooting themselves in the foot. Ever read William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice? Liken Buhari to Shylock who thought he had a glorious opportunity to kill an adversary, the anti-Semitic merchant, Antonio, but in the final hour, Shylock’s mirth turned into ashes in his mouth.
Antonio had taken a loan of 3000 ducats from the Jew (Shylock) to help his friend, Bassanio, court wealthy Portia but couldn’t pay back within the prescribed period of time. Shylock, without a dot of human blood flowing in his veins and devoid of an iota of mercy, demanded the unusual collateral he had set beforehand for the loan, which was a pound of Antonio’s flesh. Everyone thought the end had come for Antonio but the heiress Portia, now the wife of Bassanio, dressed like a lawyer and pulled a stunt on Shylock. Yes, Shylock could have his pound of flesh but precisely no more and no less – and no drop of blood to the bargain! And so did the tables turn on Shylock who, thinking he would carry the day, had saluted Portia as “a Daniel come to judgment”!
Read the post titled “Twitter Ban: Evading the Law of Unintended Consequences with Systems Thinking”: “I woke up (one morning) to see that Twitter was trending with multiple terms related to the state of affairs in Nigeria. I found this rather odd and here’s why. I use Twitter more as a listening tool to keep my finger on the pulse of things. One look at the trending topics and you could have a summary of current affairs for the day.
“When I left Nigeria, I updated my location on the Twitter app to ‘United States’ as I now wished to be updated on current affairs in the US. Consequently, whenever something significant happened in Nigeria, I learned of it rather late and typically by word of mouth because I could only see US trends. And so when I woke up to multiple Nigerian items on the trending section, I thought the app was experiencing a glitch, showing me trending topics in my former location, Nigeria. After a few seconds, I laughed as I realised what the real situation was. There was no glitch after all!
“Here’s the breakdown of what happened. Whenever something tragic or contentious occurred in Nigeria, the citizens would tweet about it, and the topic would trend – TO NIGERIANS. This meant that even though the complaints and agitations of the citizens were being posted to the public social media platform, the issues seldom ever registered as the trending topics of other countries. However, there was a twist here which leads us to the Law of Unintended Consequences.
“The Nigerian Government banned twitter and this led the mammoth Nigerian youth population to download VPNs to bypass the ban. On most VPNs, the United States is the default or preferred location. And so millions of Nigerians who would normally tweet and register their discontent as the trending topics of Nigeria were now registering the issues on the trend list of the United States.
“If the Nigerian government had not banned Twitter, the displeasure of Nigerians would have been localised. In the wake of the ban, the displeasure of Nigerians was being broadcast to the centre of the world through VPNs, creating global awareness for a matter that would have otherwise remained local. Most Nigerian VPN users didn’t plan for this effect. It was just an unintended consequence of using VPNs, albeit a welcome one! Another unintended consequence here is that Nigerians may have now learned how to ensure that topics of agitation are registered on the trends lists of the United States – by mobilizing Nigerians to tweet via VPNs with the US as their virtual location.
“The Law of Unintended Consequences can be avoided by utilizing a thinking tool called Second Order Thinking (which) posits that there is more than meets the eye when solving problems, and that by solving one problem, we may inadvertently create another problem. We must therefore rigorously apply Second Order Thinking and even Third Order Thinking in order to arrive at a logical solution…
“Back when the British ruled India, they faced a problem with a rising population of venomous cobras in Delhi. To solve this problem, the British colonialists launched a bounty program, offering a cash prize for every cobra that was killed. All the residents had to do was: kill a cobra and present its body to the British government and claim the reward. However, the business-minded Indians devised a plan to ‘optimise’ their rewards – they would breed cobras privately, kill them, present the dead cobras to the British and collect the cash reward!
“The British were initially delighted to see that cobras were being killed in large numbers. On the surface, the bounty program appeared to be a raving success – 1ST ORDER THINKING. (However), the British soon found out about the breeding operations and terminated the bounty program – 2ND ORDER EFFECTS. This now meant that the Indian snake breeders were left with many snakes that could not be sold, and so they set them all free! There were now more cobras all over Delhi after the bounty program than when it was first started – 3RD ORDER EFFECTS.
“As with the Twitter ban and the British bounty program, we must seek to solve problems by seeing the whole landscape rather than what is readily apparent. We must consider not only the First Order Effects of our decisions but also their Second and even Third Order Effects. This overarching strategy is called SYSTEMS THINKING – and Second Order thinking is just one component of it.
“Say you were the Founder of a corporation and one of your founding executives was found to be engaged in fraudulent activity. A First Order approach would be to simply fire this individual. Second Order thinking would examine any potential consequences of dismissing this person. You may realize that this person may choose to express his disgruntlement by joining a competing organization and use company secrets to strengthen your opposition.
“Of course you could go to court but your lawyers…would charge millions of dollars to duel with your adversary over the coming months and years. Considering the cost of the Second Order effects of a straight dismissal, you may wish to act ignorant of the act of fraud and do something else instead: Create a small office in a far away country which is inconsequential to overall brand image and profitability. Puff up (this fellow’s) ego by offering him the role of Country Manager or ‘General Manager – Diaspora Relations’! This fraudster would feel valued and stay on your side while being tactically stripped of the ability to continually perpetrate fraud. You solved the First Order problem of fraud, cancelled out the chances of future fraud and potentially saved the company millions of dollars in legal fees…”
Does it grief your heart the quality of people this country has in the corridors of power? Yet, they are the ones taking important decisions that affect the life and livelihood of millions of Nigerians! Characters who continue to make this country look big for nothing and the laughing stock of the civilized world!
Let the Twitter ban continue! Thanks, VPN! We now know how to internationalize our struggles beyond the reach of closet dictators. The issues involved in the Twitter brouhaha are beyond legalese and include how government officials have, again, made a proper fool of themselves. Government cannot create jobs but can take jobs, especially from our youths. Coming after EndSARS, the government knows only how to oppress, repress, suppress, maim, kill our youths and throw them into the unemployment market. Buhari’s penchant for making incendiary statements and acting in ways unPresidential leaves much to be desired!
Remember his incendiary statements after the 2011 presidential elections? Remember his “arrest me if you can” statements daring the then President Goodluck Jonathan again and again? Remember his “the dog and the baboon will all be soaked in blood”? And now his unbecoming profiling of the Igbo whom he described as a dot in a circle! But be it known to Buhari that, more than the Fulani whose history in Nigeria is as recent as the early 19th Century, the Igbo are autochthonous to Nigeria. They are larger in numbers than the Fulani and have contributed to the economy of Nigeria many times over than the Fulani, SELLING THEIR SPARE PARTS AND ENGAGING IN OTHER ECONOMIC ACTIVITIES IN RELATIVE PEACE AND TRANQUILITY ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. If the Igbo are a dot in a circle, at least they have a permanent, known and incontestable place of their own, unlike the Fulani that have in their midst a largely migrant people causing problems all over the place!
A president who jives and acts the way Buhari does needs to be put in check. If it takes Twitter to do that, so be it!
Bolawole is a respected columnist and former deputy editor in chief of Punch newspapers