ODDITY: LET THERE BE LIGHT…AND THEN CAME TWITTER!
From the moment God pronounced: ‘let there be light’ the world has never been the same again. That light that started as two lights – the greater light by day and the lesser one by night – has given man the impetus to see his environment however he chooses to. Man began to comprehend what he was seeing and how he could use his sights to make his world a better place. Literally man took that commandment seriously and discovered that he could create his own fire by striking two stones together. So from the stone age man began the journey that saw him through stones to bows & arrows, from caves to huts; through iron to steel, from huts to brick houses; through feet walking to horse riding, from brick houses to modest houses; through cars to planes, from modest houses to elegant houses. On and on this light kept on shining through the dark ages of slavery to freedom, of colonisation to independence, and in the case of Nigeria through military dictatorship to democracy.
From 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo ushered in the fourth republic, Nigerians heaved a great sigh of relief. At last, some light had come into our political atmosphere from the dark days of the Abacha junta. There was a general sense of euphoric aggrandisement about a new Nigeria. Hope sprung forth everywhere shining from the hills of Aso Rock and spreading to the highlands of Plateau to the Goya valley in Yobe state through the rolling hills of Okigwe to the polluted creeks (no thanks to the mis-used blessings of oil) of the south-south, into the Adire-making communities of Ogun down to Lekki Peninsula & the Badagry Beach of Lago.
President Obasanjo ushered in the GSM era along with dynamic reforms in many of Nigeria’s critical sectors & institutions only to tarnish his legacy with his attempt to pursue a third term agenda and in so doing, lost his credibility with most Nigerians. And if we are to believe Mallam El Rufai’s story book called the ‘The Accidental Public Servant,’ then President Obasanjo’s vengeful handover to the weak duo of Yar Adua and Goodluck Jonathan was not only a grievous mistake but also a blatant disregard for the whole of the Nigerian people.
To shorten a long story, right from the days of President Obasanjo till the present government of President Goodluck Jonathan, Nigerians have witnessed one failed promise or the other in the provision of the much needed social infrastructure that would better the living conditions of Nigerians. Corruption has become so pervading that it has effectively affected our political and socio-economic development and led to public-policy failures in almost every area of public service. Our political climate gets even worse especially with the present PDP government in power that has done nothing to alleviate the sufferings of the ordinary Nigerian citizen.
On their watch, political corruption has reached an all time high in Nigeria perpetrated by the elected and the appointed public servants: the Farouk Otedola saga, the oil-subsidy scam, and the latest, the allegedly missing $67B that the GEJ government refuses to account for. That tells us that corruption is institutionalised from the top echelons of power to the very last hierarchy of public administration in Nigeria. Chinua Achebe, our renown Nigerian novelist aptly summarises it well when he said the trouble with Nigeria ‘is simply and squarely a failure of leadership. There is nothing basically wrong with the Nigerian character. There is nothing wrong with the Nigerian land, climate, water, air or anything else. The Nigerian problem is the unwillingness or inability of its leaders to rise to their responsibility, to the challenge of personal example, which is the hallmark of true leadership.’ (Achebe 1984)
Simply put, history has proven time and time again that our leaders take Nigeria and do to her what Messi does to football – dribble Nigeria, toss her up, kick her around, pass her on to the nearest most likely team mate and then score a goal of selfish interest. It is wicked. It is painful. It is degrading. It is highly insensitive of the plights of Nigerians and therefore unacceptable! It is no wonder that we cry everyday on Twitter. It is no wonder that the average Nigerian is cynical and abusive of the present government. It is no wonder that Nigerians have absolute no faith in the Nigeria state.
And so Nigerians throng to Twitter out of our bondage, sorrow and pain, into the freedom that provides with an uninhibited expression of speech and exchange of opinions. You see, Twitter is where all Nigerians go to cry. You don’t have to be a Nigerian to truly understand why Nigerians go on the site every day. When I first heard of the word Twitter, sometime in early 2008, I thought it was just another social media fad. I ignored it and thought it would fade away. Again, in 2009 and 2010, it was catching on and becoming quite popular. Still I didn’t take it seriously. For goodness sake, I was already on Facebook and Linked-in, several online group sites, BB etc. adding another one to all that was beginning to sound like too much on my plate, so I thought.
Finally, because I had been besieged into joining by a friend, I reluctantly registered in 2011 and got a handle and instantly forgot about it. I didn’t even know how it worked. Fast forward a year later, thanks to the Arab-spring & Middle-east uprising, I had begun to understand how the people harnessed the power of the platform to rally people together for the greatest up-rising of the 21st century. Now I knew what the hullabaloo of Twitter was all about. And since then, I’ve never looked back. From morning till the next morning, you’ll find Nigerians like me still tweeting: tweeting while driving, tweeting in the air, tweeting while the sermon is going on, tweeting while walking, tweeting at the filling station and even tweeting while dreaming. It’s a tweeting fever and it is endemic – it is catching on like never before. May I announce to you all, indeed, if you didn’t know it before, you’d better know it now, there is a Twitter spirit in the air.
Well, for those who are wondering what is the socio-political implication of Twitter in Nigeria? It is quite obvious. Not to know that there is an inextricable link between the oppressed & frustrated Nigerians and the social media is to have lost the true meaning of the realities on ground. It means you stand accused of committing the sin of deliberate stupidity in a social-media generation! Every day, with increasing knowledge of what is happening in the Oil sector, the Power sector, the Education sector, the Political sector, the Judiciary even and all the critical sectors that should be working effectively in order that the conditions of living might be better in Nigeria – every day Nigerians hear one dismal news story or another like a judge giving a fine of N750, 000 so a pension-thief can go scot free or the un-resolved accreditation issue of disappointed students of the university of Abuja not to mention daily kidnappings and arbitrary gun-toting terrorist killings and the most recent addition of the ansaru group to the unending woes of Nigerians bleak security situation. Come on!
Don’t you get it? That everyday Nigerians are beaten and with the advent of Twitter came an outlet to let lose their tears? Don’t you get it? That everyday Nigerians are beaten and with their tweets and opinions they let lose their frustrations? Don’t you still get it? That every damn single day, this resilient, hardworking, kind-hearted, church going-mosque going, fire preaching, quiet watching, joy-loving and long-suffering Nigerian is b-e-a-t-e-n and t-i-r-e-d and c-r-y-i-n-g and needs this outlet to remain sane? Twitter is the interactive and integrating environment for people of a common cause because basically, you actually follow topics and people that interest you. People retweet words or sentences that capture their attention or speak to the issues of their heart. Tweeters draw comfort from knowing that there are people out there who understand what they are going through or where they are coming from. A common denominator exist for all tweeters: Twitter is an effective platform of sharing and exchanging personal opinions.
It is an opinion market of real-time thoughts & ideas coming together to enlighten & educate. It is a market place where you transact (buying and selling of information) with the currency of words, replies & mentions – where intellect meets ignorance and thrive. The feeling you get when a mentor you might be following in faraway America or China or Australia or South-Africa or anywhere in Nigeria retweets or replies one of your comments is exhilarating. That one could have instant access to a Donald Trump or an Obama, a Pat Utomi or Rihanna, a Saraki or Weird Mc, an Omotola or a Bill Gates with the tip of one’s fingers is its magic. It is simply amazing that you seem to hear how the great men & women you admire and are following react to events all around the world.
You get to gauge their feelings, their thought processes, and their values – sometimes you even get a virtual peek at their daily events & activities by what they choose to share with their tweeps via pictures. Believe me, it is this accommodating and open fellowship that the human mind craves that makes Twitter such a great social media platform. I really hope that our Nigeria ruling elite know that Twitter represents a different kind of light to Nigeria’s teeming social media population and therefore it should be strategically harnessed in a productive manner? For me the platform has become the metaphorical light that PHCN refuses to provide. It is available, always constant and un-interrupted.
Chalya Princess Miri-Gazhi