Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was in Nigeria on Tuesday and Wednesday to meet with technology developers in Lagos.
During his meeting on Wednesday the tech guru was asked about the introduction of Nigerian languages on Facebook. To this Zuckerberg replied, “I am glad we support Hausa and we are planning on supporting a lot more languages soon.”
His reply sparked arguments on the social media space as many were of the opinion that Hausa should not be given any special treatment. Others saw nothing wrong with what Zuckerberg said.
A former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode and a former special assistant to Goodluck Jonathan on Media and Publicity, Reno Omokri took to their various Facebook pages to argue out Zuckerberg’s comments.
Fani as he is popularly called took to his Facebook page to express his displeasure urging Nigerians to think.
He said, “Kerry comes to the north and sees the Sultan of Sokoto, northern governors and Buhari. One week later Facebook founder comes to Nigeria and says Hausa is a “unique language” which he has included on Facebook.
“Think Nigerians think.”
However, Omokri quickly countered Fani’s claim because according to him, Zuckerberg was simply stating a fact.
He said, “Olufemi Olu-Kayode I do not understand why Kerry did what he did, but as for Zuckerberg, all he did was state a fact. After Swahili, Hausa is perhaps the most widely spoken language in sub Saharan Africa.
“That is why BBChausa, VoAhausa, Deutschewelle and other world radio services all have broadcasts in Hausa.”
But Fani-Kayode did not agree with Omokri as he saw his remark as an affront to his struggle to free the South from “Western imperialists” and their “inner colonial masters”.
He said, “What Mark Zuckerberg said about the Hausa language being “unique” is not a fact but an opinion.
“You see unlike most I do not post, speak or write lightly. I take my time, I do my research and I am very precise. That is my style and nature.
“The choice of Hausa being put on Facebook is not just a matter of “linguistic uniqueness” I assure you. It is not just a matter of linguistic uniqueness I assure you but evidence of the fact that the British particularly always had, and still have, a strong partiality for the Hausa Fulani compared to any other nationality in Nigeria.
“I read far more into this matter than you do because I am not just a politician but a historian.”
Unperturbed by Fani’s assertion, Omokri said he was missing the point.
“You say I am naive for accepting, as Zuckerberg does, that the Hausa language is unique. If your argument is true and I am indeed naive then you would have to agree with me that BBC News, Radio France Internationale, Voice of America – VOA, DW Deutsche Welle, China Radio International and Voice of Russia are equally naive, because, like Facebook, they all have a Hausa language service.
“By including Hausa as an official Facebook language, Zuckerberg recognizes the fact that while there are literally tens of millions of Yoruba, Igbo and other indigenous Nigerian language speakers who can communicate in both their native language and English, the same cannot be said about Hausa speakers.”
Omokri went ahead to debunk Fani’s claim that Zuckerberg favoured the North by making Hausa language available on Facebook. He said that Zuckerberg’s investment and visit was to Lagos, a southern state.
“You may recall that Zuckerberg and his wife recently invested $25 million in Andela. That would be a most strange way to undermine the South given that all of Andela’s founders and most of their fellows are from the South. Talk is cheap but money makes things happen. Zuckerberg talked about Hausa, but he put his money in a Lagos tech hub. Does that not say something to you?”
Not one to back down from a fight, Fani said he was getting irritated by Omokri’s response as he schooled him on his antecedents as a public relations personnel and as a politician.
He said, “I have known the north and interacted with northerners far more than you and for far longer so I don’t need lessons from you or anyone else about who or what they are, either for good or for bad.
“And neither do I need to say only things that are politically correct about them or anyone else because, unlike you, I have paid my dues politically and in terms of public commentary for over a period of 27 years.
“I worked in the Presidency as President Obasanjo’s spokeman as far back as 13 years ago. I don’t know where you were then.”
He went ahead to state that he was warned by Governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El-Rufai about Omokri and urged him to return home rather than writing against the government from the comfort of California, USA.
“Our mutual friend Nasir El Rufai often warned me about you but I never listened to him. Now you have proved him right and all because you want to please your foreign and new-found northern friends.
“Maybe you should come home and see what is really going on here rather than continuing to write those great anti-government articles from the relative safety of California.”
Omokri in his response said he was no coward as he was in Nigeria a fortnight ago to preach in a church in Abuja, and that there is nothing wrong in persons disagreeing on a matter.
“Since it has reached the stage where you are irritated with me, I think it is best to leave well enough alone. Let us agree to disagree without being irritated by each other. I have said all I need to say on the matter of Mark Zuckerberg’s description of the Hausa language as being unique and I have heard all you have to say. Thank God we are both professing Christ followers and are thus familiar with the advise of Saint Paul in 2 Timothy 2:24 “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.”
“By the way, I was in Nigeria two weeks ago. I preached at Holyhill Church, Abuja. The pastor Sunday Ogidigbo publicized my visit. If I was a coward as you claim and was speaking from the safety of California, why would I visit Nigeria after my strong and very public criticism of the current administration?”
The question now on the lips of many is how did a mere off the side comment by Zuckerberg turn these allies to enemies on social media.
Dolapo is a writer and journalist who works with YNaija. He has interests in Christianity, politics and sports.