Opinion: A note of warning to the so-called blogtivists

By Nwachukwu Egbunike

Having drunk from the bowl of power, some have morphed into agenda setters, news framers, experts on all matters, and final social arbiters whose views, judgments and solutions must always prevail.

The Nigeria blogosphere is increasingly becoming a political springboard for what I term blogotivisim (blogosphere-activism). With the democratization of the media space, an ever increasing number of blogotivists command large constituencies of followers and now see themselves as powerful persons whose voices must not only be heard but also feared.

Having drunk from the bowl of power, some have morphed into agenda setters, news framers, experts on all matters, and final social arbiters whose views, judgments and solutions must always prevail. And such solutions are not in short supply but are sadly either time bound, simplistic and/or betray an obsession with the here and now. Therein lays the danger of immediacy – that of thinking that the change we all hope for will come like a flash of lighting. Or even worse, with the same immediacy of the social media. It not as simple as think, touch, post and problem solved!

Are they in touch with the realities of the average Nigerians? These questions are worth asking since many blogotivists presume to speak for most Nigerians. However, the fact remains that in this country, digital natives are still an exclusively elitist public; compared to the majority of other publics who lack internet access. It is pertinent that the Nigerian blogotivist should continually do a reality check by walking more on the streets and interacting with ‘normal’ people. This would yield a rich and humbling perspective that cannot be achieved via virtual communication alone. Unless we do such a reality check, most of us run the risk of developing a Messiah Complex that deifies ignorance and naivety – because most of so called problems we scream ourselves hoarse about are not really the concern of the man/woman of the street.

While it’s easy to parrot about the power of the Nigerian youth – many blogotivists have crowned themselves emperors/empresses of the youths! It might be pertinent to ask if this also includes the majority who are in the country side. It is simplistic to generalise ‘youths’ as those in the city, who may lack uninterrupted power but are nonetheless literate and tech-savvy. What about those who cannot go to school and are doomed to a life in subsistence farming or fishing? Or the numerous Almajari’s who roam the streets of Sokoto? The run of the mill Onitsha or Aba guy sees no reason for a formal education while there are millions spilling out of Main Market. And what about the average lady in Bere who from childhood was confined to her mother’s road side buka that specialize in Amala, gbegiri and ila? These are the people blogotivists must seek to find and connect to if we are to be spared the pains of irrelevance and self-promotional posturing.

The blogotivist sees himself/herself as member of a select group with a mission to clean up the mess of Nigeria and right all the wrongs of the past in one fell swoop.  But can one really address a rot without a proper understanding of its origins and evolution? Let’s take a step back: when did this rot begin? The 1980’s and 1990’s saw the worse of the death knell that assigned us to an inevitable post as a failed state. The institutions that had once guaranteed our survival as a nation were violated and destroyed. The IBB’s and Abacha’s of this world gagged, kicked and sent to the gulag anyone who dared opposed them. Agriculture, education, manufacturing, etc – all these wealth generating industries were totally decimated. Others fled while some remained: either passive or were bribed and/or assigned oily posts that kept their mouths stuffed and turned off perpetually. Until we do a proper assessment of the real damage caused in these years let no one expect a sudden alleluia chorus. SAP, for instance, was one of the worst maladies that were inflicted upon us. Have we assessed its impact up till date? And not a wish-wash exercise but an objective peering into the ills of yester-years. Until we have the courage to look back at the past with the fortitude of identifying our pitfalls, we may never arrive at the paradise we all desire.

When the Nazis invaded Poland, they decimated the universities, arts, music, etc. The target was to erase the Polish identity and keep Poles submissive. The Polish resistance was a counter force that worked towards the preservation of their identity. The core of the movement was intellectually driven and the backed with realistic but realisable goals. That resistance movement also allowed space for dialogue and conversation among its members. But look at blogotivists in Nigeria!

Are we really having a conversation? I don’t think so. We have loads of noise and sentimental effusions of irrationality. The goal of a conversation – not argument – is that each party listens and take turns. It takes openness to the truth and great deal of maturity to hear out those who have dissenting views. Therein lies the essence of any conversation. Unfortunately, the Nigerian blogosphere – especially some of her Twitterati – are immersed in the dictatorship of arrogance and self deification. Most tweeps suspend their grey matter on their tablets and are in a hurry to prove a point. And when they meet a wall of opposition, they either hurl ad hominem slurs on their opponents or intone a victim chant.

The changes we seek are deep and fundamental. They will not happen immediately. Our minds must become attuned to accepting a gradualist approach to change and more importantly to accepting that a plea for gradualism is not a sellout. As Tayo Fagbule continually insists we must have the humility to accept that the change we crave for may not be achieved in our lifetime. When we do this, the blogosphere becomes best suited to aid our toil as a means to an end and not a model for flash instant social change – such change belongs to the world of superman – and superman exists only in world Disney.

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Nwachukwu Egbunike blogs at Feathers Project and is the author of Dyed Thoughts: A Conversation in and from My Country

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

Comments (19)

  1. Reading the article was heart-warming. Reading the comments was awe-inspiring.

    Author was spot-on in drawing attention to the illusion of influence by twitter activists with upwards of 500 followers. They so often miss the point!

    On the other hand, comments by KA, Wildeyq and Bimpe open up space for a more robust intellectual discourse.

  2. from my assessment of both article and comments,u guys have not looked @ the article and KA's comments from an objective point of view!both have raised strong points that have not been addressed and yet,we re all arguing blindly.while I agree KA is kinda aggressive with his comments,don't b so quick to judge or dismiss him,rather read the article and his comments again,answer d questions KA asked,then pick out the points they re making,then tk it 4rm there!

    It seems Wildeyeq is d only person dt gets it!

  3. Thank you Nwachukwu Egbunike. You are certainly on the right track. This is the best article I have read in recent times. More grease Sir. Salute!

  4. This is quite wrong. Calling out folks like this seems out of place. From your tone of voice, I also feel that objectivity might be lacking in your submission. Do have a pleasant day.

  5. It is funny but I somehow think that Mr. Nwachukwu Egbunike kinda talked about folks like you. Why would you hurriedly dismiss the value add in this piece. Have a great day.

  6. Blogtivist would've been way catchier than Blogtivist.

  7. @KA…ur comments makes 1 things clear…"Summary" as a topic, and english language as a subject wasn't taken seriously in ur secondary school. You not only missed the point,but went on to betray the essence of a conversation the author mentioned. In his words,"It takes openness to the truth and great deal of maturity to hear out those who have dissenting views.", and these you conspicuously lack. Such a shame, being immersed in the quagmire of arrogance and self deification.

  8. I am so happy for the author that he gets it and that I'm not alone. I have interacted with some of these activists and I can not stress enough how disappointed I am. I have said and will continue to say that the problem with Nigeria is the Nigerian people themselves some of whom happen to be in government. Look at the type of comments that are already being attracted here. We have a wrong societal value system.

    With respect to having a conversation, I invite the author and any other person interested to please join me in starting a great group called The Intellectual Society which you can do by following @IntelNG and await further info. Prof Pat Utomi has graciously offered space in his offices at Victoria Island for our conversations

    @OIbhagui

  9. The point of the article is that thinking overestimating the power of social media is an illusion.

    1. The use of social media (mainly twitter) for activism and driving social change is a relatively new phenomenom especially in Nigeria. So talking about overestimating its power is laughable. Social media will only grow in influence in Nigeria and trust me, some people will use it properly and the impact will be tremendous. This whole article and subsequent comments are amusing in that none of you would ask a Newspaper editor to find ways to engage the illiterate or folks who can't afford the paper, same with TV. But the social media activist is easy prey for people who attack but offer no alternatives

  10. It seems KA's reaction highlights the point made by Mr. Egbunike that the what we get this day on Twitter is not conversation but pontification.

    I agree with the author that amassing a number of followers on twitter leads to the illusion (or delusion) that on can be a real agent of change in 140 characters. And the illusion is very strong; so strong that it leads to the arrogance that is exhibited day by day by our dear Twitter activists.

    An example (and I will call names)I had a short conversation with @kathleenndogomo who was complaining about the recent ban by Covenant University of Yellow taxi cabs. Her complaints (as is usual) went to the other instances of CU's 'tyrannical laws'. I tried to point out that parents who send their children to CU do so knowing and most times approving CU's laws. She then rather rudely dismissed the opinion and insisted that we stick to the topic (the yellow taxis) and in the next tweet started complaining again about their policies on phones and Church services.

    Real discussion usually requires a bit more than 140 characters and the patience to think arguments through. if not what we'll continue to do is to blow hot air (or hot Tweets)

    1. @Ikenna I see no proffer of an alternative to social media as a platform to engage folks on the Nigerian question. Talk about hot air (or hot tweets)

  11. Very intelligent article! As I was reading it, it was only omojuwa I could think of that the writer is refering to. He feels he is the emperor of youths because he has some brain dead jobless followers on his twitter. Meanwhile these ode followers of Omojuwa don't know he is using them to step up his political/ financial status and he will dump them anytime soon! Ask yourselves fools, if twitter goes under today, isn't omojuwa back to square 1 as an irrelevant, obscure, obtuse, inconsequential nobody?

  12. @KA You failed to understand the salient points the writer was trying to make because U read it in a summarized manner..It is saying that blog activist(or even Netizens that loves criticism)should do more than using the internet media as a platform for activism..isn't it funny that most of our leaders we criticize barely make use of the internet?..I love this piece a lot.

    1. @Whyte I love the presumption that "I read it in a summarized manner" while you on the other hand took the time to read it in full. OK…having read it in full, kindly tell me what suggestions the writer proffered to the bloggers? They should do "more"? Such as what exactly? We have not even scratched the surface of social media activism and someone is suggesting they do more using other platforms? Basically, in activism as in life, people will use platforms that work for them. To pass jusgement based on the choice of platforms is juvenile. Interestingly the writer is using the same platform to malign his targets, I would suggest that he does "more" to reach out to ALL bloggers and warn them. Perhaps a TV show maybe?? More likely an appointment as a govt mouthpiece would just about do it for him

  13. KA, I think you fail to see the point that the article is trying to make: that there is the urgent need to take activism and our sphere of influence beyond social media and our immediate surroundings. That until we can saturate the minds of the masses with meaningful information geared towards changing the status quo of the Nigerian state, then we are merely whinning and ranting and nagging.

    In all fairness to you however, the writer fails to acknowledge the fact that some of these "blogovists" have been able to achieve considerable and lasting gains as regards informing the general public (some of whom aren't on social media) of their civic responsibilities and their duties towards building the Nigeria we all seek.

    1. @Wildeyeq in trying to advise social media activists on the need to reach beyond social media to the "masses" the writer failed to suggest a way to do so. Social media is free and it is interactive. Other options would be TV, Radio, newspapers and the good old megaphone on the streets. The costs and tedium aside, none of the above offer anything close to the potential reach and influence of social media. Furthermore to suggest that social media activists are out of touch with the masses is ridiculous as it suggests that access to a smartphone or computer makes one an elitist sellout who is out of touch with the masses. For all you know, these folks could be tweeting from a molue or ariaria market in Aba. On a lighter note, perhaps the writer should have opened with what HE is doing to help the Nigerian situation, other than running down bloggers ofcourse.

  14. This piece takes the reader on a meandering journey that ends in a steaming pile of shite!! I can never get baxck the 5mins I wasted reading this tripe. Activists will address their audience, one does not need to speak to or for everyone in order to make a difference. An improvement in power supply will positively affect everyone from the rural farmer to the onitsha trader you mentioned. Drawing a comparison between a activists in a democratic Nigeria and the resistance movement in occupied Poland is ludrcrous and suggests that perhaps all is not well upstairs.

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