The Curious Case Of Nigeria’s 21st Century Internet Brownshirts

I think I first began noticing the phenomenon sometime in late 2015. The existence of a group of online information warriors working for the government had been long rumoured, without much in the way of proof. 6 months after Muhammadu Buhari had taken office without deigning to appoint a cabinet however, this group showed its hand and made its existence public.

Known colloquially as the “BMC”, a name derived from the “Buhari New Media Centre” which coordinates their activities, they introduced the concept of organized internet bullying on behalf of a ruling government into the Nigerian public space. Overnight, any and all criticism of Buhari or the APC – even the most minute criticism – found itself slapped down with a mass of angry and insulting responses filled with threats and derision.

People soon learned to avoid criticizing the government or anyone perceived to be on the side of the government if they did not want their social media experience to become buried in a haze of attacks reminiscent of Adolph Hitler’s Brownshirts nearly a century ago. Most people, that is. There were a few folks who saw what was happening and solemnly swore to do something about it. One of them is the writer of this column.

Imitating Brownshirts Tactics

Just like Germany in the mid to late 1930s and early 1940s, Nigeria has spent the past 7 years being led by a regime that purports to represent the people, having been democratically elected, but which is actually fascist and authoritarian in its policy decisions. A key part of keeping Hitler’s power was maintaining a German social that favored him.

Also Known colloquially as the “BMC”, a name derived from the “Buhari New Media Centre” which coordinates their activities, they introduced the concept of organized internet bullying on behalf of a ruling government into the Nigerian public space. Overnight, any and all criticism of Buhari or the APC – even the most minute criticism – found itself slapped down with a mass of angry and insulting responses filled with threats and derision.e Kristallnacht were expressly dictated from Hitler to the boys on the street wearing the infamous brown shirts.

The BMC and their allied APC internet jihadists work in a very similar way, deploying insults, bullying, mockery and threats in groups to great effect. Some of the policy directions dictated from the top of the hierarchy include things like online scapegoating and ethnic slur campaigns targeting southeastern Nigeria, group bullying of dissidents, and mass gaslighting and bullying to escape accountability for events like the Lekki Massacre.

Also read: Rash of prison breaks on Buhari’s watch

But What’s In It For These Guys?

The key difference between Hitler’s Brownshirts and these clowns however, is that 1940s Germany offered a better standard of living to the Brownshirts than 2020s Nigeria does to the kamikaze warriors of the APC internet engagement team. Whereas the Brownshirts actively recruited gifted and capable young men who were able to carry out complex tasks in addition to merely acting like thugs, the BMC seems to recruit only the very worst of the worst.

Your typical BMC recruit is inarticulate, barely literate and unable to string 3 sentences together without making huge grammatical blunders, visibly less privileged sometimes to the point of being unkempt, and often obviously suffering from a debilitating inferiority complex.

This guy has had a piss poor education with no real prospects to look forward to in life, and the not-at-all life changing salary offered by the BMC can do little more than put food in his belly and data on his cheap Chinese Android smart phone.

And yet with unmatched zeal does this guy launch himself into the business of defending politicians with children his age who have no job, but have purchased $2.1 million condos in countries he will never be able to afford a flight ticket to. Hitler’s Brownshirts at least offered a career path into the big time.

The BMC emphatically does not. But you try telling that to this unfortunate young chap who thinks that by virtue of pressing a few keys on his touchpad regularly, he is part of a national power structure.

Spare a thought for the poor, poor fool.

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