Chude Jideonwo writes on N1.2 million Facebook accounts and other non-scandals

Gani Fawehinmi


Gani Fawehinmi

About a decade ago, fiery activist and lawyer Gani Fawehinmi (of blessed memory) was in the news under rare public criticism – he had charged Senate President Chuba Okadigbo more than N5 million to represent him in court. “5 million!” his critics screamed. “And this, from an anti-corruption crusader!”

When Fawehinmi eventually emerged to defend himself interestingly, what he expressed as response was shock and rage. “What was the problem?” he thundered. As a lawyer with a track-record of winning, N5million was chicken change compared to what he could – and should – have charged!

When I saw the controversy yesterday that the National Sports Commission (NSC) was spending N1.2 million on a Facebook account, that story came to mind. Like the immortal Gani, I was equally alarmed.

Budgets are annual – meaning the amount is for Facebook management for 12 months, which would come down to 100,000 per month.

Let me assume an agency was employed for this. As part of a communication firm seen as a new media pioneer, the maths is easy for me: to get a professional to manage that account amidst the commission’s image crisis would require at least twice that amount (when you figure in the cost of a dedicated manager as well as retainer fees). In fact, there are recent NYSC graduates managing social media for corporate organisations who are paid more than N100,000 per month – even while they learn on the job. When you add cost of Facebook advertising to draw traffic to this page (which has a miserly 5000 members – miserly because this is a football loving country) and others, then it becomes apparent that this budget is, if anything, too poor.

In fact, in an industry with a notoriously low bar for entry, it is entire possibly that our friends at the commission have employed a rookie – perhaps the reason its Facebook activity has been minimal. (Not that there is anything wrong with Social Media inactivity per se. If I were advising Diezani Alison-Madueke for instance, I would have made it clear to her that the best response on Twitter during the latest fuel subsidy crisis should have been silence – since truth wasn’t on her side.)

The original Tribune report now being widely quoted indicates that the amount is for “opening” a Facebook account; and in a government where the information minister thanked the president for “bringing Facebook to Nigeria”, it is not difficult to imagine. But it is more likely that the amount is for management. In any case, the argument that is online largely encompasses both.

Now that the issue tethers on the political, it is also entirely conceivable that the NSC Director General will disown the consultant or staff that advised this and this will be cut off the budget because this is too small an issue for him to be embarrassed by. If this happens, it will be a loss for the many young people who position themselves as social media consultants – which is why the present knee-jerk outcry against this million naira budget is unproductive.

It is the same problem with the non-issue of government officials Tweeting for themselves. I blame President Goodluck Jonathan for this. Last year, when he opened his social media accounts to much fanfare, he made a gratuitous point of stating that his accounts are managed personally. Entirely unnecessary.

It is universally known that Barack Obama does not tweet by himself 80 percent of the time, if at all. US presidential candidate Ron Paul recently confirmed his tweeting is done by an aide. Mitt Romney clearly does not tweet for himself. Even down the line, after a dust-up from an ill-timed and ill-thought tweet, Ashton Kutcher recently handed over his account to a group of professionals – something Charlie Sheen should have done before it was too late.

In these days that a social media account is akin to a press release – there is no value for the image of a company to have a boss unfamiliar with social media handling his account. I would encourage a Nasir el-Rufai to tweet himself because he now has an understanding of the space, but I will sincerely discourage a stodgy Atiku Abubakar from taking his many gaffes online. Especially for late adopters, Tweeting and Facebooking without professional guidance is mostly ineffectual and counter-productive.

There is every possibility that it is some ignoramus with no real knowledge of how online media work (since many people apparently still think online media is ‘child’s play) that put together this budget, but there is also every possibility that it is a young professional who is only trying to do a good job. If the latter is the case, it is unfair and regrettable to put that entrepreneur or professional under a false dichotomy between patriotism and enterprise, especially in cases where the actions are consistent with global ethical conduct.

It is important in a democracy, accompanied by a free market, especially in our rapidly expanding new technology industry with its many opportunities, to begin to put these things in proper perspective.

Nigeria has a real problem with government waste. But in this particular instance, the problem isn’t government waste; the problem is that this controversy, such as there is, is a waste of time.

 

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Comments

12 Comments

  • Tobe says:

    Mr Chude, your comparism of Gani's Legal fees and the NSC 1.2m 'scandal' is

    outrightly baseless.Pls kindly explain how charging 5m for his sweat,hard work,

    make him less of an anti-corruption crusader?Pls u should use beta comparisms

    next time.

  • Tobe says:

    Mr Chde, your comparism of Gani's Legal fees and the NSC 1.2m 'scandal' is

    outrightly baseless.Pls kindly explain how charging 5m for his sweat,hard work,

    make him less of an anti-corruption crusader?Pls u should use beta comparisms

    next time.

  • Sam says:

    Chude writes: "there is also every possibility that it is a young professional who is only trying to do a good job. If the latter is the case, it is unfair and regrettable to put that entrepreneur or professional under a false dichotomy between patriotism and enterprise, especially in cases where the actions are consistent with global ethical conduct"

    Haba Chude! What global ethical conduct are you talking about? A facebook account of a public organisation with stale/unregular updates? How much do you need for that?

    Pls, this entrepreneur or professional has dubiously failed to justify the amount he/they collected from record at the FB account.Period.

    How much do u need to put up regular updates? After we will say government is wasteful. Steven and others have spoken well in their comments.

    The youths are living up as change agents in our society through various tech and social entrpreneural ventures. We must not rubbish their efforts by grouping them with rogues masqurading as social media entrprenuers or consultants, whatever Chude calls it.

  • opemipo says:

    informed analysis. only, people would not want to take back their words even in the face of clear facts. its quite unfortunate that government actions and inactions in time past has gotten us to the level where even when the facts are true and arguments are correctly tilted in favour of government, we still feel there is something hidden and dont completely trust such facts. God help Nigeria

  • wale says:

    Go to the FB page urself and tell me d extras done on d page…… No extras, No adverts, No nothing….. Just normal posts and pictures + wit a link to a non-functioning website of NSC…….Pls Don't try to sugar-coat it…..A decorated monkey is still a monkey…. #WORD

  • wale says:

    Sir, u don't av a point……their website was created in 2008 and its not functioning right now…. Why are they not focusing on that instead of d FB page… Moreova we can all see clearly d content of d page… Dere is no big deal on d page…no extras… Just a normal fan page dat a 10yr-old culd create…. So, supporting this will just make the person look dumber (no offence)

  • Steven says:

    Just curious! Will any serious organisation employ somebody whose only job would be to manage a facebook account? Is social media equals to facebook? With all due respect to the Social Media Profesionals- Managing a facebook account and driving traffic to a facebook account is not rocket science and requires just a basic knowledge of internet and can be taught in 2 days! So what are those idle government staff and civil servants doing?

    Again, it is not the amount of money spent on anything that determines whether it is a waste , it is in relation to value derived from that amount, while one might consider a budget a of N5million for implementation a social media strategy prudent, the same would have no hesitation in regarding N1million budget for a mere facebook account wasteful!

    As a country, it now appears as if we have gotten so used to hearing "trillions" and "billions" that a million is worthless in our eyes!

    "Social media" is now the in-thing! But must everybody or organisation just start opening facebook accounts when they dont even know how it would add value to their mission.

    Finally, this incident, brings out the need for better budgetting and acounting practices that would always highlight the breakdown of expenses and not this lump sum idea we practice! Thats why laymen and non-ICT professionals like me are still at a loss as to what exactly is "PURCHASE OF E-GOVT. OPERATIONAL EQUIPMENT FOR THE OFFICE OF THE VICE PRESIDENT" that the sum of

    N250 million was budgeted for it in 2011.

    We will continue to depend on ICT consultants and Social media gurus like you to enlighten us.!!

  • Please, before any further comments are made,go to the facebook page in question and see things for your self.Zero work or management has been done there.Even the profile picture is dumb.Besides if you say the money is for wages then it should be under salaries and not facebook account.The idea was smart until they got caught.

  • May says:

    Chude, this is a nice and measured analysis of the "scandal". How I wish every Nigerian youth stopped to think before talking or tweeting.

  • Yemi Adetoye says:

    Quite valid points you've raised (though we still aren't sure of some facts). However, wouldn't it have been cheaper and more judicious to hire a general IT manager in-house who could manage this account in addition to other IT related duties (say website design/maintenance and network maintenance)? I have a feeling the require help in those areas too. Do they now outsource those too leading to a bloated budget for related projects?

  • Emperor says:

    Dang. You hit that nail on the head so bad! Well done

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