#NewMediaNG Day 2: “Ministers ran away from tweet-meets because of the abuse they were getting”

by Oluwatobi Soyombo

Soyombo had an amazing time on Day 2 of the New Media & Governance Conference – which held on Tuesday, May 16 – just as he did on Day 1! See below his personal report.

The Conference couldn’t have ended in a more exceptional way. Today, the Minister of Youth Development, Honourable Bolaji Abdullahi graced the occasion. During his speech, the Minister made several negative points (for personal reasons) about the use of Social Media among youths. During his speech, he made it clear to the audience that the tweet meets were stopped due to the numerous abuse they got from the previously organised ones.

“Before the Minister of Information took over, about one or two ministers wanted to take advantage of the platform and speak to young people and tell them what their plans are and what they have been doing,” Abdullahi said. “After some time they stopped; so I went to them after a executive meeting and asked: what happened?”

The minister got dramatic at this point: “They said to me: all we got was abuse! Here we are trying to talk to them and trying to get them to listen and get their feedback and all we were getting was abuse! Maybe you can talk to them, because it’s your ministry and you have no choice, but for now we will find other ways to engage.”

The minister took few questions from the audience and took his leave. He requested that Mr. Ohimai Amaize, his special adviser on advocacy represent him going forward as he took his leave. The first plenary session continued with Banky W, Darey Art Alade, Efe Paul (a poet), and Ohimai Amaize as the discussants. According to feedback from the audience, this session was the best and most interactive of all. Chude Jideonwo was the moderator for this session.

Chude gave a summary of the session which dwelled much on the use of social media tools in driving mass engagement in Nigeria. Talking about social media, he said “…it is also important to know that it is not the “almighty formula” capable of solving any and all problems, and in so far as it is limited to the ability to possess or have access to these tools, its impact remains limited to a certain cadre of youth: those who can keep up with the rapidly changing information landscape. But, we know this is a powerful tool. More powerful than anything else we’ve ever had. So the question is – how do we maximize its effectiveness for the benefit of the country? … But for effective engagement and participation; it needs to become more than that.”

Efe Paul spoke from a different perspective. His speech was centered around what happens after all the social media activities about certain socio-political issues. He gave examples about the January campaign against fuel subsidy. According to him, the discussion about the fuel subsidy removal versus good governance declined immediately after the occupy Nigeria protest. His advice was that the engagement should continue until good governance is achieved. He proceeded by stressing that, “Youth engagement and participation is not an end, it’s a mean to an end. The end is good governance.”

Efe Paul also emphasized the need for Nigerians to build strong capacities beyond social media. In his words, “Power does not shift but for superior power. Outside of social media, we don’t have enough discipline and organized structure to push our agenda”. As he concluded, Efe dropped a word of advice to the music starts in the hall, “We’re going to have to push out more socially conscious music.”

Darey Art Alade made his way to the lectern. He started by talking about the low level of infrastructure in Nigeria. He made such notable statements as “My basic question will be infrastructure.” “Without access to the Internet, new media does not exist”, “Who make up the government? Technically, it should be the youths; but is that the reality?”, “May be some of us should produce more socially conscious music.”, “The honest truth is that we all need to be a little bit more committed to being part of governance”, and many more.

After Darey stepped down Bank W picked up the mic. He stressed that he was going to be optimistic unlike the previous discussants. Banky W encouraged the audience to take full responsibility of the new Nigeria project. “Until we decide to take power back from the government, we will just keep organizing conferences,” he said. For emphasis, Bank W yelled, “We will change this country when we decide that enough is enough!”

During his speech, he gave several practical examples, one of which was the process of rigging an election. He said “Here’s how they rig. They print ballot papers, if you don’t show up, they stamp it.” Banky W made several sensitive statements than this post can accommodate. He did a great job of steering the audience to action.

Ohimai Amaize’s speech was short and straight to the point. He questioned several statements made by Banky W including why he refused to publicly support and endorse any of the presidential candidates during the 2011 elections. Banky W responded, “I didn’t endorse any of the candidates because I didn’t believe in any of them. I respect your candidate, Dele Momodu as a publisher and not as a president.”

Ohimai also questioned Banky W about why he refused to accept an earlier joke by Chude about him being the president of Nigeria by 2015. “Constitutionally, I cannot be a president in Nigeria. Why? Because I wasn’t born in Nigeria,” Banky W responded. The session ended with a question and answer session.

Breakout Session I

The session was divided into two units. Attendees were left to decide on which to attend. The sessions included:
Governance: Transparency, Leadership, Accountability. Discussants include: Chuks Ojidoh (Community Life Project), Jessica Musila (mySociety) and Oluseun Onigbinde (BudgIT Nigeria)
Social Trends: Driver for Progress. Discussants include: Gbenga Sesan (Paradigm Initiative Nigeria) and Chude Jideonwo.

Breakout Session II

The session followed immediately after lunch.
Capacity building: Citizen Empowerment Strategies. Discussants were Femi Longe (Co-Creation Hub), Jonas Schwarz Lausten (Seismonaut Africa) and Oluwaseun Akinfolarin.
Early Warning Systems: Citizen Protection. Discussants include Daudi Were (Ushahidi), Y.Z. Yau (Center for Info Tech and Development – CITAD) and Kaptin Idoko (Gidi Traffic).

His Excellency, Ambassador Chris Cooter, Canadian High Commissioner gave the closing remark of the conference. In his words, “New Media is influential but it can be consequential. You have the fastest growing telecoms market in the world, how can you take advantage of this opportunity? If you are going to be leaders, you have to be responsible.”

“You have to be careful about what you say and the consequences. You need to take these tools and make new policies. Can you imagine an online project for accountability about oil revenue? You can make a mobile app to report bribery and corruption. I’m not saying you should see government as neither your opponent nor partner. See the government as your servants. Tell them what to do in numbers.”

In response to the stance of some of the facilitators about the regulation of social media in Nigeria, the High Commissioner said “The default position for progress is free speech. You don’t start off by talking about regulation. Your economy is handicapped by youth unemployment. It is like a massive brake on the economy. It is like squandering your richest resource – youths! And it’s not because you don’t have the work, it’s because the youths lack skills. New Media can transform your country through social governance. It can help Nigerians get along.”

What an awesome conference!

Editor’s Note: Culled with permission from OTeKbits


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