Whatever the jokes may be about President Jonathan bringing Facebook to Nigeria, one thing is certain – the story of Facebook’s significance in Nigeria will be incomplete without him.
Social media doesn’t count (much)?
Social media doesn’t count in the larger scheme of things; it is just a bunch of privileged youth feeling super-important in a giant echo-chamber. Right? Wrong?
Sometime last year I sat in my University hostel room in Norwich, England, doing what I spent a great deal of that year away doing: tweeting. It was late, past midnight, if I remember correctly. I saw on my timeline a tweet about armed robbers in Ogba, a suburb of Lagos. The tweeter was raising an alarm, asking for police contact details. I retweeted it immediately. Two of the people who saw my Retweet searched for – online! – found, and called a police emergency line in Lagos. Now what’s news is this: one of those persons was in Amsterdam, and the other in London. So Lagos police were receiving calls from Europe to report an ongoing robbery in Lagos. All because of Twitter.
[Read a controversial analysis on the sociology of the self-acclaimed twitter activist here]
Whatever the jokes may be about President Jonathan bringing Facebook to Nigeria, one thing is certain – the story of Facebook’s significance in Nigeria will be incomplete without him. You may have forgotten this, but he first declared his presidential ambition on the social networking site. And he did it for a purpose – to take the shine off Ibrahim Babangida’s own declaration, at Eagle Square, the same day. That day, and the next, it was Jonathan who had the headlines, for a post he made on Facebook. Babangida’s real-life, face-to-face event was relegated to the margins of the cover pages. (I’m actually willing to bet that there are many Nigerians who joined Facebook because of the president’s ‘evangelism’).
The greying of Twitter
An older generation of Nigerians is taking to Twitter, some demonstrating even more savvy than the so-called youth. One of the most followed Nigerians is Nasir el-Rufai, who has parlayed his reformist credentials, “certified” penchant for “feather-ruffling” and his hands-on approach to tweeting into 85,000-plus followers. He is no doubt the most influential Nigerian ‘elder’ on that space. The only people more widely followed are the hip-hop stars.
I recently found that Femi Fani-Kayode has also taken to Twitter; I knew him as a passionate (and controversy-ridden) Facebooker. Ayo Obe, Dele Olojede, Fola Adeola – are on Twitter and from all available evidence doing their tweeting themselves.
We certainly need more of the older generations of Nigerians on Twitter, people who can help remind us young ‘uns of where, as Chinua Achebe likes to say (quoting an Igbo proverb), the rain began to beat us.
People Power / Mob Action
If this Government is to be believed, Twitter is to it what NADECO was to Abacha’s junta – the preeminent breeding ground of disgruntled elements. When, last year, Minister of Petroleum Diezani Alison-Madueke tweeted something to the effect that she had “appointed” Mallam Nuhu Ribadu to head a Task Force, the Twitter backlash compelled her to apologise shortly after. We also know that Finance Minister Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala was deeply hurt by the attacks she had to endure during the fuel subsidy crisis. It seems now that the terror of Twitter is one of the leading beginnings of wisdom in the corridors of power. At the recent Social Media Conference organised by Enough is Enough Nigeria, Sports Minister Bolaji Abdullahi issued a rather touching lamentation about the “the risk of being insulted, cursed, and abused.”
[Also read how Tolu Ogunlesi was mobbed by Arsenal fans on twitter here]
The view from the Corporate Comms cubicle
Nigerian companies are of course starting to take social media seriously. Last week a tweet went out announcing that a commercial bank operating in the country is seeking to employ a “Social Media Manager.” Interesting!
A few months ago I had a minor Twitter spat with one of Nigeria’s leading telecoms companies – Airtel. I complained about an advert of theirs I thought promoted an insensitive and unethical message targeted at young Nigerians. What I got in response was a series of defensive tweets that did the company no favours whatsoever. Shame. There’s too much old-age, ‘press-release’ thinking lurking in our corporate communications departments; too much of the suppress-all-negative-gist mentality, as opposed to a transparent-engagement model. I think Airtel lost a perfect opportunity to communicate the positive work they were doing with Nigerian youth (e.g. this and this – Airtel, expect my invoice!). I also recall that in a previous incarnation, i.e. as Zain, the company sponsored a pan-African University challenge. Alas none of their tweets mentioned any of that. Shame.
Editor’s note: Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.