by Ama Awolowo
A look at the statistics of active social media users shows that a large percentage are either diaspora or based in Major cities like Lagos & Abuja. This shows that social media trends doesn’t depict the accurate opinion of Nigerians across board.
Nigerians have never been so concerned and involved in how their life is been run by those they put at the helm of affairs. The advent of social media has made every voice heard -no matter how faint. From Twitter to Nairaland to Facebook you can feel the outrage,the anger,the condemnation,the insults & sometimes occasional commendations. Pro-Govt and Anti-Govt commentators are in a never ending battle to outdo each other.
Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is the current president of Nigeria and from all intents is gearing up to seek another 4 years in office. Judging from social media trends, its safe to conclude he will be packing his belongings from Aso villa come May,2015. However,we need to ponder, can the hashtags,Retweets,Likes,memes e.t.c boot him out?
A look at the statistics of active social media users shows that a large percentage are either diaspora or based in Major cities like Lagos & Abuja. This shows that social media trends doesn’t depict the accurate opinion of Nigerians across board. Yours sincerely lives in the commercial city of Aba and has been quite active on twitter for at least a year now. However,for this past one year,am yet to meet an active Aba tweep. I bet this is same tale with tweeps in other known cities like Umuahia,Akure,Enugu,Jalingo not to talk of the rural areas. So clearly there is a disconnect between what happens on the virtual street of social media and in the real life streets.
Asides from making our voices heard,if we really want to kick President Jonathan out of Aso Rock come 2015 we need to have one prized possession in our kitty- Voters Card. According to a survey carried out by NOI Polls on registered voters,the age-group that has the highest percentage (89%) of registered voters is 46-60 years. An active social media user(especially twitter) will agree with me that this group is grossly under-represented online and the few of them who are online are not the most vocal. If our constitution says we can only influence change in government through the instrumentality of elections and with the use of our voters card,this statistics shows social media isn’t going to be of much influence. How many retweets,hashtags and likes make up one vote?
Let’s not kid ourselves,Religion & tribalism are part of our politics (at least for now) and its going to play a lead role come 2015. Nigerians respect their spiritual leaders alot as they are one of the major reason they have are able to daily pull through the harsh economic realities in the country. Forget what tweeps tweet or say online,truth remains when their pastor or Imam talks to them,they will definitely fall in line. So if GEJ’s team is able to influence these Men of God to be on their “side”,Your guess is as good as mine.
One common feature shared by most of us who are active social media users is that we are well enlightened. Our education,exposure,travels has made us appreciate what a normal modern society should look like and has pushed us to raise the bar on what we expect from our leaders. This is not the case with a higher percentage of our compatriots who are content with just having the basic of their needs provided. I was watching a documentary on how a once lively agrarian community’s economic life was brought to a halt due to the stoppage of the services on the Eastern Rail line .For us,we want speed trains with all the comfort but this community will just be satisfied if the old “locomotive” trains start moving as they can package their farm produce and sell to travelers and once again things will become rosy. Nothing will make this particular community not to vote for GEJ if he comes calling. This same scenario can be painted for most achievements of GEJ which we the “exposed” scoff at,from roads,GES,YouWin,Sure-P etc.
Recently,someone I follow on twitter shared a story of a woman he knows named “mama Aluta” who can afford to assemble a crowd of at least 1000 on short notice for either protests or rallies. Now this is what political parties structures do .The structures of political parties help them mobilize people to do their bidding. The president’s party,PDP, has a very strong structure manned by many “mama alutas” deeply rooted in all 774 LGAs and their wards. So what this means is apart from influencing trends on social media can you influence people who in the wards who do the actual work of voting? Ask yourself this,If political structures are not important,why did the defucnt CPC,ANPP and ACN merge to form the APC.
Make no mistake about it,Social media especially twitter is very powerful and has continued to shape and influence discourse on key burning national issues. Take for instance the current #BringBackOurGirls campaign,twitter users have shown how they can galvanize local and international support to pressure government into doing what is right.Twitter was the key reason @ciaxon who was illegaly detained by the SSS was fred. So many other examples abound. However, twitter (in extension social media) is still “elites” talking and pushing their government to do the right thing but is yet to gather an inclusive national appeal.
If the status quo as highlighted in this article remains till 2015,Social media will not cause a major upset in the general elections. Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan will be sworn in for a 2nd tenure for another term of 4 years on the 29th of May,2015 to the dismay of his critics and admiration of his supporters.
Ama Awolowo writes from Aba, Nigeria and tweets from @ama5swag
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.