by Mark Amaza
I found myself shaking my head in disagreement with the views of the writer. Personally, I believe that the democratization of the media space through the rise of blogging and social media is one of the best things to have happened to our political space.
I read an article by Nwachukwu Egbunike where he took on blogger activists (or ‘blogtivists’, in his words) and criticized them for quite a number of things. He started by saying that young people who made us of blogging platforms for their activism were mostly out of touch with the bulk of young Nigerians who did not have access to the internet, and hence were not on social media.
Beyond that, he claimed that these young people, cocooned in their worlds on their devices had arrogated themselves the position of emperors and spokespersons of young Nigerians, while in reality, they were out of touch with the true desires of young Nigerians. Even worse, he claimed that they refused to engage in a dialogue with other young Nigerians, preferring to attack or at best, ignore those who disagree with them and seem to be more interested in having lackeys who always agreed with them.
Not only that, he described the solutions they propose as simplistic and mostly unworkable, and concluded by saying that for social media activism to have a stronger impact, these bloggers and activists would have to truly interact with other young Nigerians, especially those in the rural areas and at the bottom rungs of the economic ladder in order to really be a voice for them.
Through most of the article, I found myself shaking my head in disagreement with the views of the writer. Personally, I believe that the democratization of the media space through the rise of blogging and social media is one of the best things to have happened to our political space. As someone who had written several articles and sent to media houses with no positive outcome, the opportunity to set up my own blog where I could post what I want to post was more than a welcome relief. This is also the case of almost every blogger and online writer: there are no editorial controls and ideological beliefs of newspapers to keep us locked out. We could now speak to the world when we wanted to.
This freedom afforded bloggers by the internet has definitely been taken advantage of by many bloggers, myself inclusive to set the agenda and discourse rather than always speak on the hot issues of the moment. This is because every blogger saw it as an opportunity to speak on what he was most passionate about and propose solutions to the problems he is most pained about. For example, in my own case, I have written consistently about fiscal federalism, education reforms and entrepreneurship, things I am very passionate about.
Have some bloggers emerged through this and consider themselves to be the emperors of all young Nigerians and their official spokespeople? Definitely. Are there those who refuse to engage in dialogues and prefer to only communicate with those who agree with them? Without a doubt. So also there exists those who proffer simplistic and shallow solutions or who cannot really engage in intellectual discussions as they prefer to rant, though this is a very subjective argument.
But this group of bloggers are only but a small percentage of the entire population of the Nigerian blogging and social media community. There are also a lot of bloggers who truly engage with even those who disagree with them. They know and believe that we must not and cannot always agree on issues, and they use debate to validate their ideas. These bloggers also present beautiful proposals which can by no means be described as simplistic. They are well-thought out and intelligently presented proposals.
As to the allegation that bloggers cannot be seen to be speaking for all young Nigerians when they do not interact with, in the writer’s words, “the almajiri in Sokoto, the uneducated run-of-the-mill Aba or Onitsha guy, the average lady cooking amala and gbegiri in her mother’s roadside buka”, I disagree that unless they are able to interact with them, they cannot be said to be speaking for same youths.
The idea of blogging is not to present ideas that are already popular and accepted, but propose ideas which shall be supported for the betterment of everyone. Hence, bloggers, like all writers and speakers, have their audiences and they direct their arguments at those audiences. It does not in any way make their ideas less credible. One does not also need to interact with everyone to be able to know what the problems are; our major problems to everyone. The solution one proffers is then a matter of perspective.
In conclusion, the beliefs that the writer shared of bloggers hoping for ‘instant social change’ is an erroneous one, as very few are of that mind-set. Rather, they are of the belief that applying consistent pressure in the areas they are passionate about would one day force a change. And so far, they seem to be succeeding as can be seen by the way government has been talking of ‘regulating’ social media.
What we need to do is to encourage blogging and social media activism as many seem to be achieving where our traditional media has failed.
Mark Amaza blogs at www.markamaza.wordpress.com and contributes to many other sites such as Nigerians Talk, The Scoop, Omojuwa.com and many others.
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