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Podcast Host On Escaping Nigeria's Twitter Ban

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

A social media crackdown in Nigeria is leading to a number of questions and consequences for the country's economy and free speech rights. It started back in June, when Twitter deleted a controversial tweet from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. The tweet was seen as threatening to secessionists in the southeastern part of the country. President Buhari, in turn, banned the platform entirely in Nigeria and threatened to prosecute anyone caught using it. The political atmosphere that led up to this Twitter ban has prompted many Nigerians to leave, and one of them is Chika Uwazie. She's a podcast host who formerly worked in the tech industry.

Welcome.

CHIKA UWAZIE: Thank you.

CHANG: So first, Chika, I understand that Twitter - you know, it's very important in Nigeria not only for public discourse but also for its gig economy. Can you just explain for people how Twitter plays such a vital role in Nigeria's reliance on gig and freelance work?

UWAZIE: Yes. So I feel like there's two layers to it. No. 1, definitely Twitter is a space for sharing information. There was a huge surge of information-sharing in the 2011 elections. I personally saw how Twitter was instrumental in everyone understanding what was happening. But also on the other side, definitely I personally, as a recruiter, have actually recruited people off of Twitter. I constantly see jobs being shared specifically for software engineers, graphic designers as well, using Twitter as a space to connect with people, network and to find job opportunities.

CHANG: And Twitter is also really important as a tool for political activism in Nigeria. For example...

UWAZIE: Yes.

CHANG: It's been vital for people who oppose the Special Anti-Robbery Squad police unit, the #EndSARS movement, right?

UWAZIE: Yes, exactly. That's actually where a lot of the information of when the protest was happening and even raising funds as well.

CHANG: And I understand that you actually left Nigeria a few weeks before the Twitter ban went into effect. Do you have friends and family members right now who are seriously consider leaving Nigeria?

UWAZIE: Yeah. I mean, I already have a group of friends who've already left. And actually, as we speak, almost every day, I'm seeing another group of people leaving Nigeria. Even yesterday, I connected with a friend who happens to be in Atlanta as I am right now currently. And she told me, yes, she, too, is considering leaving Nigeria. So I'm constantly connecting with people and hearing a lot of people just asking themselves, does living in Nigeria still makes sense? And I feel that Twitter ban was just another signal that Nigeria is going through a very difficult time.

CHANG: What would it ultimately take for you to decide to return to Nigeria one day?

UWAZIE: I would have to see a real infrastructure shift in the Nigerian government. For example, if you're setting up a business, just to even register a business takes months. I actually went through this process where it took me about four months just to register my business. So my problem is the government is very unstable for me. So until I see a shift where the Nigerian government is serious about enabling and empowering their people, I don't feel comfortable living there full-time again. I don't - I will always come back. I will visit. You know, I might even spend a few months there at a time. But to fully live there again, I would have to see a huge shift in the government and how they operate.

CHANG: That is Chika Uwazie. She is the host of the podcast "Women Who Transcend." She formerly worked in Nigeria's tech industry and is now in the U.S.

Thank you so much for speaking with us today.

UWAZIE: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF BLOCKHEAD'S "CARNIVORES UNITE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.