Thursday, April 17, 2014

What time is it ‘twittering collective children of anger’? By Biodun Shaiban

Published:

Nasir El-Rufai

Our fourth young voice this year is 31 year old Biodun Shaiban, who holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Metallurgical & Materials Engineering from Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife. He is an integrity engineer by training. He has huge interests in the Nigerian polity and understands the need to contribute enormously to help Nigeria truly develop.

Articles upon articles, day after day; I have read a lot of them and I am beginning to get apathetic. Though, I have found a lot of the articles fascinating and interesting, especially with the fanciful use of words and grammar, I sometimes wonder if they are having the desired effect.

I believe too much time is spent on social media, much more on reading and writing articles because most of the articles harp on the same point – deficiency of competent and upright leadership. These articles appear monotonous, result in reader apathy and only a minute amount of Nigerians end up reading the whole length of articles anyway. I am not sure if any article will be read by more than a hundred thousand people (this is a very generous estimate because only very few political personalities on social media have such a huge followership) out of a population of over 150 million people. That is less than 0.07% of the Nigerian population. You can then begin to appreciate just how many people out there we are reaching with the ‘change’ message.

Nigeria is a country where common sense is not so common. That is why you see most spiritual leaders live in opulence and extravagance and still continue to be supported and worshipped by their congregation even though majority of the worshippers are struggling financially. That is why you see a community consisting of men and women engaging in extra-judicial killings in broad daylight. It is also why the ‘Stockholm syndrome’ is prevalent here too. Yes, most people will sing and dance to praises of our past and present rulers. I still wonder till this day how on earth our president got to garner so much support and votes during the 2011 elections especially in the south of the country given the knowledge of his poor charisma in the public domain.

His refusal to participate in a debate with other presidential aspirants said it all. Besides, here is a man who always carried on with business as usual when he was deputy governor, governor, vice president and acting president before he became Nigeria’s number one citizen. He was in the public eye for most of the time, but the electorate still could not properly vet him. This is a man who had been tested several times and whose performances have been abysmal and a joke at best.

How on earth did you expect him to change overnight once he won a fresh term? Nigerians chorused: ‘We voted for Jonathan and not the PDP’. But since Nigeria practices what could pass for a democracy, no matter how ridiculous and unreasonable the system may seem, whoever gets the majority vote becomes the leader, or so we were taught in high school.

This is a sad fact the enlightened minority has to deal with. Which is why the onus is on the few enlightened ones to work tirelessly to show most of the populace ‘the light’; otherwise Nigeria may never get the change she needs. The minority will go about this by reaching out to other Nigerians outside the social media stratosphere, especially those at the grassroots (the bus drivers, keke napep drivers, okada men, cab drivers, market men and women, welders, vulcanizers, farmers, carpenters, tailors, cattle rearers, teachers, lecturers, students, traders, barbers, petty goods sellers etc in all the nooks and crannies of the nation).

Most of the people at the grassroots are not on social media and unfortunately they are the majority. Most of them do not even read newspapers because they cannot afford to. A few listen to radio and sometimes watch TV depending on factors such as electricity and affordability. Therefore, the masses need to be reached physically on the streets, rural areas, work places, farms, motor parks etc. I will admit that reaching out to them will not be an easy task especially because it involves huge funds, but that is what needs to be done: advertising, personal selling, direct marketing and public relations.

There is a need for effective communication between the politicians/activists and the grassroots (who are the majority). The message must not necessarily involve a lot of noise. There is too much noise on social and print media already! Majority of Nigerians are almost always on the go and battling with the necessities of life and don’t have the patience to read articles with hundreds or thousands of words.  The messages have to be tailored to each target market, audience or area. All regions need to be reached out to by the opposition parties. I am not sure if CPC or Buhari set foot or significantly reached out to the south-south during the last presidential elections. I am not sure if that can be justified.

The people should be galvanized and forged into a major force for election purposes because the enlightened ones amongst us all agree that for Nigeria to be much more progressive there should be a change of the party calling the shots at the Federal Level. If anyone thinks the PDP will ever change its selfish and sinister ways, the person needs to get his/her head examined. I also believe that the opposition parties, especially the ACN and CPC have a lot of shortcomings they need to work on. At least one of them should nevertheless be better than the PDP.

The opposition should learn to turn problems into opportunities. Since most Nigerians are sentimental or emotional, that could be an opportunity. If most Nigerians are yearning for any particular religion, tribe or ethnicity, why not encourage people from such backgrounds to vie at the party primaries and let there be true internal democracy and no imposition of candidates?

I am not sure if the opposition parties can figure out by now that Jonathan will definitely impose himself on his party in 2015 and run in the presidential elections.  If they are not looking at mirroring his candidacy by now, I mean finding ‘credible’ people from the south or even the south-south to contest at their presidential primaries; they may as well be ready to stay in the opposition till 2019. As it stands, with some manipulations of votes in the North and most votes in the south, you can be sure Jonathan will win the elections.

Due to our unnecessary sentimental and emotional attachments, you will frequently and still hear ‘just leave him alone’, ‘he is our son’, ‘it is our turn’ etc. A lot of people in the south still believe power has stayed too long in the north, and they will never reason that it is better for a credible person from the north to take over from Jonathan especially when he is yet to complete his ‘8 year tenure birthright’. For those thinking there would be no manipulations of votes because of the recent Edo and Ondo elections, I think they are deluded. It is easy for the opposition to deploy their resources and monitor one single state election in a single day but the presidential elections will hold simultaneously in all states on the same day. In this case, I am not sure if the opposition has the human and financial resources to monitor and checkmate the PDP in all 36 states and the FCT on Election Day. Reports have it that even opposition party officials, including CPC took money from PDP officials to look the other way round during the 2011 presidential elections. A single election day would be overwhelming for the opposition.

Now, only myopic people/parties will have their views fixated on only one candidate and will say he is the only one who can ‘fix’ Nigeria. There are other ‘credible’ people from all parts of the country. I use the word ‘credible’ because the reality is that there is no successful politician anywhere in the world who is completely honest and not tainted. That is just one of the numerous facts we need to deal with.

As mentioned earlier, I do not expect majority of Nigerians who are pivotal to the outcome of the 2015 elections to read this article because of course it is too long and will only find its way into social and print media—channels only a handful of rural folks have access to. I think it is time for the ‘twittering collective children of anger’ to leave the comfort of their offices, homes, cars and reach out to the grassroots if they desire genuine change. I expect the opposition politicians and activists to prepare adequately ahead of the 2015 elections. We have very little time on our hands to put Nigeria back on the path of progress.

 

You can engage the writer on twitter via his handle @beeshaiban

GTBank SME MarketHub campaign