PING, TWIT and SHARE: The Birth of the Social Media Generation
There is a shift, though gradual, in the mind-set and attitude of the average Nigerian youth as regards politics and affairs of the state. My friends and associates who have either displayed a passive interest or bland indifference and in some cases utter contempt to anything ‘political’, have quite literally awoken from the dead overnight. Suddenly you have an army of young Nigerians, whose only fancy hitherto to now has been the English Premier League and Sex and The City, debating hardline national issues. And in one massive stroke, the political ‘space’ has become inundated with die-hard activists, crusaders, bloggers and their ilk. They have over time ‘occupied’ it, making it theirs, exhibiting boundless talent, wit, energy and passion.
All these of course wouldn’t have been possible without the social media platform. It has empowered them to express themselves in a way unheard of. Though divided along religious and ethnic fault lines, with the chasm widening by the day, these Nigerian youths have found succor on these social media websites, learning to voice their anger and frustration at societal wrongs and rot. For how can one explain the speedy gathering of over a hundred youths at the Eagle Square upon a 1-hour notice on the first day of the Occupy Nigeria protests? How can one explain the alacrity with which information; both real and imagined is been disseminated across the land? How can one explain the growing number of youthful, zealous and in most cases quack economists, each postulating theories on how to go about the fuel subsidy debacle and other issues of national interest?
The social media is indeed powerful a tool; so powerful indeed that the (mis)Information Minister Labaran Maku in an attempt to score cheap political points for his paymaster sought Nigerians to be grateful to this government for introducing ‘facebook’ to Nigeria. How preposterous! But like the popular ‘Pirelli’ slogan, ‘POWER is nothing without CONTROL”; so also it goes that the social media platform has its alter-ego and if not approached and handled with the utmost care, it could mutate into some monstrous being. Sadly, mischief makers amongst us have cashed in on this fat cow, resulting in cases of breach of privacy, distortions and manipulation of sensitive information, callous propaganda of sorts and other nefarious deeds and misdeeds.
Lastly, a point worthy of note is an admonishment to my fellow youths; that the struggle for liberty and access to a more dignified existence does not and cannot begin and end on your blackberry, facebook or twitter. Yes, they are veritable tools in the struggle, but circumstances develop and demand that a certain degree of balance must be achieved between the real and virtual worlds. I say this because I noticed a worrying trend in the last general elections where most youths would rather stay glued to their phones or TVs ‘monitoring’ results as they come in. And even recently, quite a large number remained indoors, refusing to join in the protest during the #occupy Nigeria saga; observing events from the comfort of their gadgets. While it’s not my intention to sound all philosophical or preachy at the moment, as these things are all personal and one is at liberty to act as he deems fit for oneself; but the crux of the matter is with this nonchalance, we can never move as a nation from where we’ve been and where we are now to where we hope to be in the future.
And lastly, the #Occupy Nigeria concept transcends the fuel subsidy matter; its the people’s struggle and no one person or group can claim monopoly over it. Not NLC, not Tunde Bakare, not El-Rufai, not Dino Melaye and certainly not Femi Fani Kayode. Its about the Nigerian youth standing at the crossroads starring boldly at a failed generation of old men and women and proclaiming; ‘this shall not be our potion’…that ours and that of our children yet unborn shall be better. So help Us God…
Yobe State, Nigeria
@ibmaleeq on twitter