Viewpoint: HOW I BECAME ADDICTED TO SOCIAL MEDIA by Dele Momodu
We wanted as much of a clean break with the past era of political thuggery as possible. We didn’t even think we should join any of the big parties in existence. We wanted to associate mainly with ideologically conducive parties, the reason I approached, and joined, the Labour Party, thinking we could galvanise the long-suffering workers of Nigeria into action and activism. We soon hit a brick-wall and ended up in a cul de sac. We retreated in earnest and meandered our way to the National Conscience Party, a platform that had such a reputable friend of the poor, Chief Gani Fawehinmi, as a progenitor and forerunner. But it seemed we were too idealistic and certainly ahead of our time. The position we found ourselves sadly remains the same today.
While I do not wish to discourage or kill the enthusiasm of my legion of younger friends now in next year’s Presidential race, but I must tell them the gospel truth, and nothing but the truth. Nigeria is not yet ripe for the true and genuine hope and brilliant promise they can offer our troubled, and troublesome, country. I couldn’t believe, or imagine, the reaction, and attitude of the same grumblers, who saw nothing good in any of our leaders, to our exceptionally innovative campaign. We had no funds, but we had amazing guts and took on the Lions of our tough nation with bare hands. They showed us what we didn’t know. The experience was surreal. The young people who should appreciate, and applaud, our audacity, chose to tease, and diss, us endlessly. But we gained something, against all odds.
The moment I encountered Twitter, I was soon on a journey to addiction. My success came through my literary background in Yoruba oral and written literature and English language and literature. It is such an uncommon combination that had already launched and propelled me on an exciting journalistic excursion into worlds I had hitherto dreamt about. Unlike Facebook and Instagram, you need some sufficient, if not substantial, understanding of the use of English language and expression, logic and intellect to operate effectively on Twitter. Twitter easily and readily exposes illiterates, dim-wits, half-wits and nit-wits, many of whom now swam the cyberspace in droves as trolls. Nevertheless, you cannot even ignore these category of people because they have their followership and can do great damage to reputations and careers.
To grow astronomically on social media, you must maintain your presence constantly and feed your followers the food of life regularly. You must possess the gift of tolerance and forbearance. You will receive insults from all manner of ill-mannered and manner-less people who hide behind computers and smartphones to haul diatribes, invectives and vitriol at those old enough to be their parents. Many of them are so uninformed or ill-informed, or both, but come and charge at you as all-knowing, and what is worse, without control. I have been at the receiving end at the slightest provocation, for something as insignificant as doing my professional job by interviewing someone they despise and don’t want to see on your page. They forget that freedom of expression is a two-way street and that rational people know that it is always better to hear the other side, no matter how we feel about what they may have to say. Justice always demands that the principle of fair hearing should be a cardinal principle that journalists, judges and all fair-minded individuals embrace.
As for me and my house, I have become a porcupine, who has the capacity to rebuff all the poisoned darts, barbs and arrows they fire from different directions. Most of my followers have come to like and acknowledge my unusual calmness in the face of reckless insults. My job is my only means of survival and that of many dependants and no one can succeed in telling me not to report any human being just because you hate him/her. If you don’t like some faces you see on my page, you have the total freedom to move on to other accounts. If I have not complained about your choice, why complain about mine, when I have not attacked yours? I believe I’m old enough, and have acquired enough experience, to help me form an informed opinion and arrive at my reasonable choice, whether you consider it wise or utterly stupid. That’s the whole essence and beauty of democracy and free speech. Many of those opposed to the re-election of the President, again in my view, do so because of the palpable fear that he is incapable of uniting the many ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria. How he manages to control and correct this anomalous perception would ultimately determine his success or failure in the 2019 Presidential election.He needs to start by asking for greater decorum for his baying and rabid attack dogs. It is clear to me that they are currently not acting at his behest or doing his bidding.
WhatsApp seems to be the in thing at the moment with a massive cacophony of information, misinformation and disinformation flying left, right and centre. The Atiku and Buhari war machines are in full throttle. It is a battle royale between the two determined, if not desperate groups, and troops. Unfortunately, most of the rival advocates for the protagonists have focussed largely on the personalities of the two main gladiators. There has been very little emphasis on ideology, principle, or policies of the respective Parties. Yet according to the Constitution, and as we have seen in practice, it is the Parties that contest the elections, and it is the Party that wins that is meant to run the country. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons, the present administration of President Buhari has not succeeded, because it has veered substantially from the policies it espoused in its manifesto before assuming power and the party has largely remained a rubber stamp. The curtailment or elimination of corruption cannot of itself make the government progress, unless effort and action are put into government and the provision of infrastructure and social welfare for the generality of the populace.
Social media could be used to re-energise and re-orientate the populace to focus on the essential things in this forthcoming election and compare the attributes of not just the two Presidential candidates, but what their respective Parties now have for us going forward. It is to the future, rather than the past, that the debate and discourse must focus. The past is merely something from which both sides should learn from. However, social media is not being properly utilised. Rather it has decimated friends and families like never before. All kinds of groups now exist where people tear at each other’s throats, in the name of politics, while the leaders still meet publicly or surreptitiously and cement pacts and relationships. My only hope is that Nigeria would survive the unprecedented bitterness of this foul season. Those who know how to pray should not stop screaming in their loudest voices to the God they worship.Read More