On Subomi Plumptre and Bashir Ahmed’s pulling out of the New Media Conference

Yesterday, the flyer for this year’s Enough is Enough (EiE) New Media and Citizens and Governance conference and it caught everyone’s attention more than any of its other flyers ever had. It features Idris Okuneye (Bobrisky), the new media sensation as one of the key speakers alongside, presidential aide on new media, Bashir Ahmed; Femi Falodun of ID Africa and Subomi Plumptre of Alder Consulting as moderator.

Did I mention this flyer sent TwitterNG into frenzy overdrive? With most people questioning Bobrisky’s relevance on the panel.

Not long after reports surfaced that Bashir Ahmed will not be attending the panel tomorrow presumably because of Bobrisky’s inclusion. And finally, Alder Consulting, Subomi Plumptre’s firm has also released a statement that the inclusion of Bobrisky on the panel disqualifies her from participating on the same panel. Subomi Plumpte too has formally withdrawn her attendance citing the parameters upon which Alder Consulting staff agree to participate at any event.

Honestly, everyone has acted within their right so far. No one has personally cast aspersions on Bobrisky’s persona, or god forbid, his sexuality.

For Bashir Ahmed, he might as well have cited and official reasons for pulling out. The conversation will definitely spiral into gay rights or lack thereof in Nigeria and we cannot conscientiously fault him for not wanting to put himself in an awkward position with his employers who have already criminalised the being gay or wanting gay marriages.

We also cannot truly expect Alder Consulting to change their company policies last minute. But why? Why is Bobrisky’s inclusion on the panel so out of tune with the ‘seriousness’ of these individuals and corporate organisation(s)?

It would appear unfair that this is our first reaction to an attempt to engage Bobrisky in a serious conversation about the new media. After all, this year’s topic is ‘Engagement Unusual: New uses of social media’. Bobrisky’s rise to fame has been enabled by Snapchat, one of the newest and most penetrating platforms in use today.

Granted, Snapchat is a little more mundane whereas, Twitter, the platform that enabled the popularity of the other panelists is a bit more serious. It’s the perfect place to acquire an intellectual garb regardless of what a person actually knows.

The very fact that he (Bobrisky) stands at the other end of the pole from the other panelists shows the perfect reasoning of the organisers especially considering the topic to be discussed.

No one can deny the fact that Bobrisky has used his Snapchat and Instagram to promote some less than admirable causes over time. Some might even argue, as Alder Consulting seems to think, that there is nothing but sensationalism to him. Especially as he has refused to admit to any particular cause other than “advertising what he sells”.

Shouldn’t that that be the reason why he is so crucial to the panel? To at least engage him seriously. To ask him about his very unusual engagement of the platforms. To ask him if he thinks that it is really the consumers who determine the content and if he’d switch up if we started to demand more serious content from him beyond tales that cannot be verified. After all we are the ones who have enabled him. We are the ones who subscribe to his channels and follow him and keep the conversation revolving around him long after he’s posted anything.

One would imagine the moderator, Subomi Plumptre asking him how he thinks he is impacting the younger generation by preaching that it is okay to switch skin tones the moment one does not feel comfortable in their own skin. And then later ask him, not about Bae, but what he thinks of the rights of the LGBT community beyond the Nigerian law. If he’s ever been approached by gay rights activists to promote the cause and if he ever will, given the chance.

Honestly, this would have been an amazingly enlightening panel discussion. At best, we’d have finally been given a chance to see the Idris Okuneye, the University of Lagos accounting graduate. And at worst, we’d have confirmed that his popularity doesn’t go beyond the realm of sensationalism. And Frank Donga, who was also just confirmed by EiE would have helped douse any rising tensions with humour.

Pulling out of the event doesn’t reflect so good on Bashir Ahmed, Alder consulting and even Subomi Plumptre who has retweeted her company’s statement. It’s their right but it doesn’t reflect too well on them. There’s only one way to interpret their action in our opinion: that they have evaluated Bobrisky, and do not think he has anything to bring to the table.

 

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