The arrest Friday night of Audu Maikori, CEO of Chocolate City Entertainment, has divided Nigerians on social media along party lines. Police picked up Mr. Maikori, 41, in Lagos around noon Friday for alleged attempt to “incite” the public, and subsequently transferred him to Force Headquarters in Abuja, his lawyer said.

Mr. Maikori’s lawyer, Mark Jacobs, said the arrest was in connection with a series of tweets posted by Mr. Maikori about four weeks ago in which he alleged the killing of some Southern Kaduna residents by Fulani herdsmen.

But details of the tweets, which Mr. Maikori said were obtained from his driver, turned out to be false, earning him vicious social media backlash. Mr. Maikori later retracted and apologised for the false information. A magistrate in Kaduna issued a warrant for his arrest, his lawyer said.

Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, told PREMIUM TIMES Saturday morning he was about to travel out of Abuja and would provide first updates about the arrest “in a few hours.”

But in the meantime, Mr. Maikori’s arrest is generating anger amongst his supporters, who lean towards the PDP, and praise amongst his critics, many of whom support the APC. The two factions appeared to have set the tone for pro and anti-government rhetoric in the fallout.

The #FreeAudu hashtag which his supporters created to demand his release had since been hijacked by his critics to make case for his continued detention. Those sympathetic to Mr. Maikori accused Governor Nasir el-Rufai of trying to silence him for his pro-Southern Kaduna advocacy.

They also drew similarities between Mr. Maikori’s false claims to some unsubstantiated allegations made by Mr. el-Rufai while he was a leading voice of political opposition to the administration of Goodluck Jonathan.

Femi James @femolevsky tweeted:
Was there any violence or attack on account of the post? So how can the fact of incitement be established?
el Rufai’s tweet about repaying the Fulani debt is more inciting than Audu’s post, in fact the SKD crisis can be so linked

Samuel Aruwan, a spokesman for Mr. E-Rufai, did not respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments Saturday morning.

Former presidential aide, Reuben Abati, and rapper Jude Abaga, who is under Mr. Maikori’s Chocolate City music label, have also joined call for his release.

Reuben Abati ✔ @abati1990
#FreeAudu. Freedom after speech is a constitutional right!
9:13 AM – 18 Feb 2017
561 561 Retweets 188 188 likes
Follow
Yung denzL ✔ @MI_Abaga
I voted for freedom of speech.. why is @Audu being denied it

But many APC supporters hailed Mr. Maikori’s arrest as a manifestation of an effective legal system.
Segun Dada, an APC strategist, said Mr.Maikori’s arrest was in order because a reporter who picked up the misleading tweets had since been arrested and charged before a court in Kaduna.

Gbenga Olorunpomi @GbengaGOLD
When you find where an apology is a defence for a crime in our constitution, please let me know.

D.O @DOlusegun
Personally thought it was unfair the Vanguard reporter who added spice to Audu’s lies was arrested and he wasn’t.

Gbenga Olorunpomi, an aide to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State and social media enthusiast, said the fact that Mr. Maikori apologised should not automatically absolve him from facing consequences of the controversies generated by his false Twitter updates.

Gbenga Olorunpomi @GbengaGOLD
I was sending DMs everywhere, calling for information and knowledge. All I got were insults. Even my kid brother told me to chill.

Gbenga Olorunpomi @GbengaGOLD
I hope @Audu gets justice. From where I’m sitting, justice is when he’s behind bars. He gets no tears from me. Not a drop.

Mr. Jacobs said Mr. Maikori was still in custody as at 12:00 p.m. Saturday, but added that they were upbeat about his possible release on bail today.