The world is full of stupid people, let’s face it, and mobile phones and social media have unfortunately empowered them and magnified their power to cause confusion
In the opening lines of that now-famous fascinating insider’s view of the presidential kitchen / dinner-table, spokesperson Reuben Abati descends hard on all who criticise the president – all those raving multitudes whose business cards ought to read something like: ‘Tamewo Olagbaja; Distinguished Hater of the President.’
Abati makes it clear from ‘GO’ that his piece is directed at “all the cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria, who seem to be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan.”
Now that, above, is a statement that one cannot completely dismiss as balderdash. The world is full of stupid people, let’s face it, and mobile phones and social media have unfortunately empowered them and magnified their power to cause confusion. Social media did not invent gossip, but it has succeeded in uniting the world’s thoughtless and undiscerning hordes into a group far more than than the sum of its parts. Think of all those false, patently stupid broadcast messages that regularly make the rounds.
If there was to be any acceptable argument for benevolent censorship of social media (there will never be, don’t worry), the actions of all those people would provide the bulk of the proof for the argument. So we can imagine that some of the presidential frustration at online rumour-mongers is justified.
Dr. Abati is evidently pained by the abuse his boss is getting, especially online, and therefore feels justified to dismiss them all. He’s free to, actually. But may I use this opportunity to remind him (in case he’s forgotten) of one of his boss’ post-PhD publications: ‘My Friends and I: Conversations on policy and governance via Facebook’; a collection of comments compiled from the President’s wall.
That was December 2010. The Jonathan/Nigeria honeymoon was still in full swing. Most were enamored of the story of this man, who, from more or less nowhere, and with no evident aspiration for political power, had the most prestigious post in the land thrust upon him. Six or so months earlier he’d joined Facebook, and within months accumulated hundreds of thousands of adoring friends; giddy Nigerians falling over themselves to praise and worship the breath of fresh air in the presidential palace.
Now fast-forward to January 2012. In what has emerged as arguably one of the silliest decisions ever in Nigerian presidential history (and believe me, the competition is stiff) Mr. Jonathan allowed a bunch of terrorists to detonate a New Year bomb in the pockets and lives of hapless Nigerians. In response several thousands of messages showed up on his Facebook wall, most of them uncomplimentary. The friends had, overnight, morphed into enemies (even though their generally atrocious English remained unchanged). An already shaky honeymoon had come to a decisive end.
Now, those same “friends” who barely two years ago deserved a presidential book and lavish book launch in Lagos are being dismissed as “the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria.”
It all starts to make sense. ‘“Friends” when they praise, “idle and idling” when they censure’ is apparently the way this transformational administration chooses to see it.
“The twittering, pinging, Facebook crowd of the new age must be guided by facts,” Dr. Abati says. Clearly you only need to show your facts when you’re abusing the president. When you’re praising him you don’t need any facts. You can simply praise him because by virtue of his name he will bring good luck into the lives of all and sundry. You can praise him simply because he is worthy to be praised. Alleluia somebody.
And one thing is now clear – the criticisms are getting to the presidency. As we say in pidgin, e dey pain dem. That’s good news. The downside of that is that we may well be on our way to a regime of censorship and clampdown. One day the president will get tired of complaining that he’s being abused, and he will bare his fangs. It’ll be a huge mistake on his part, but he’ll do it all the same. You’ll remember I told you this.
In conclusion I’ve got some advice for the “grossly misunderstood” President:
1. Do not allow yourself to get obsessed with all your enemies and critics. The only obsession permitted you at this time is Nigeria and the solutions to its many challenges.
2. It’s time for a sequel to My Friends & I, to be titled ‘My Enemies and I: Insults on Policy and Governance via Social Media.’ Since you and a growing number of your staff are convinced you’re the world’s “most insulted” Head of State, we challenge you to publish that book. So we know it’s real.
3. If you truly can’t stand the heat, then it’s time to step out of the kitchen, into a canoe that’ll sail, at no cost to you, to you-know-where. Let someone else come and take the heat.
* Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.