Tolu Ogunlesi: This Twitter of a thing… [Random Observations] (YNaija FrontPage)

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.

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Comments (11)

  1. exactly! most times i'm sorely tempted to remind him of his own crimes as a political office holder, but i just move past that, the guy is so petty, his sole agenda is unseating pdp, but the alternative which is cpc (buhari) is much more distaseful

  2. I have been an ardent follower of Tolu Ogunlesi for a while, I bowed in reverence when we stood, side by side at the Ojota park to fight against what he has rightly described as 'crimes against humanity'. With his articles, colleagues and critics contort themsleves into postures of obeisance. However, there is a disturbing lack of balance that this piece unearths. The points presented here are well marshalled and finely argued – vintage Tolu. Truth be told, while we have achieved a lot with the online media and it serves as a vital sword wielded by civil society to correct the excesses of governance, online media has also served as a clog in the wheel of a seamless democratic process. The comment by Femi is a case in point. It is easy to see through the facade of patriotism to reveal the narcissism beneath. I remember vividly Mallam El-Rufai posting a link on Twitter to a story (written by another fellow) justifying the 'dog' and 'baboon' comment by Gen. Buhari. It is amazing how much damage we can cause in the pursuit of a greater society. Take Sahara Reporters fo example. Such egregrious disregard for journalistic principles in the name of citizen reporting. We all should hold ourselves accountable to the same standards we hold people in public offices to. Social Media is not inherently bad. It is what we do with it that matters. As for the sociologist's article, with all due respect sir, we know Naom Chomsky, we can recognize propaganda when we see it!

  3. God bless you, Femi. You pointed out precisely what myself and others have repeatedly condemned el Rufai for. The man seem to me like a a bored narcissus looking to retweet those showering his praises. Preposterous!

  4. Dear 'OmoWilliams' its obvious you are not only biased but are also quite ……. So the South-South have 'high intelligence' abi! I can see that as it reflects in ur son aka Dr GEJ. Please take him o. We don't appreciate his brand of intelligence

  5. @omo williams: u are full of bullshit, & itz ple lyk u that cause conflict in this country :((

  6. Lol, Tolu were you expecting Airtel to go "oh we really didn't mean to be insensitive, but hey we are currently doing great things like this and that for/with the Nigerian youth"? I sincerely hope not.

    I think in most cases organizations hide behind the need to be 'politically correct' and what this ends up doing is stifling dialogue.

    Twitter is a great platform for engagement with like minded people and for gauging people's reaction to different ideas and opinions. Plus, you get to meet great people like you.

  7. Twitter 'activism' represents mostly Young Nigerians from the South West and Northern parts of Nigeria anxious for a return to hold on power,which gave their fathers undue adavantage and ruined the Country, and envious of the rise of the hitherto relegated South-South and South-East , who with a combination of Oil wealth, high Intelligence and undisputable enterprise, will give them little chance of competition in any fair environment. However, this fears and insecurity is carefully disguised as'social activism' and propagated by ceaseless insults using the Presidency as focus, but it will be unlikely to prevent the separation of these two areas, the SouthSouth and South East, from the rest of Nigeria, finally, eventually , having discovered their inherent incompatibility with the disgruntled South West and North,who have been slowing their progress and the increased and unprecedented political understanding SE/SS, even if it means having to fight for it.

  8. I follow El Rufai just to remind myself of how unintelligent the people who have ruled us for years are. The man I thought would be president is full of rhetoric and hot air, unable to respond to people who really to do intellectually challenge his tweets and analysis. But than God for twitter, I would never had known how volatile and close to a nut he really is.

  9. Corporate organisations in Nigeria are slowly, but surely waking up to the effect and influence of social media on their image. The faster they adapt to its reality the better. Thanks Tolu for highlighting this.

  10. There are also several cases of Nigerians ranting about poor service, and the issues rectified. Lol.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail