Social Media: My Man of the Year
The year 2019 was once thought to be apocalyptic. The year of the molten lava; of the raging volcano. Eurasia, the now 21-year-old intelligence (advisory and consulting) agency in 2018 foretold of some high risks of 2019. It placed US-China relations; Brexit; cyber-criminality; Nigeria’s presidential election; the whittling of European populism; the impeachment of Donald Trump; the resistance of US super ego by a coalition of unwilling nations (China, Russia, North Korea etc), Ukraine with Russia bearing down on her shadow; among others as some of the high-risk events that would shape 2019.
Today, looking back, Eurasia was more right than wrong. US-China relation got frostier. Brexit which has clambered for three years put Britain on a cliffhanger and left her needing no more actors on the stage: fatigued. A growing coalition of the unwilling nations against United States grew more teeth (up till this day, North Korea is still threatening to gift the world a special Christmas present in the form of another nuke blast to the anger of Trump); Trump was impeached by Congress; cyber bulls got smarter in their evil inventions; European populism grew colder with France significantly losing her vice grip on Francophone African nations.
Nigeria’s election was held and expectedly left the nation bloodied, puckered with violence and vitriol and much more fraught with fraud by all the major parties. We still mourn the dead. Sad!
In Nigeria, minimum wage assumed a curious personality. It became the most discussed issue on the national talk menu. Then out of the blues came RevolutionNow. Its promoters, Omoyele Sowore and Olawale Bakare, were viciously hauled into the gulag. Don’t forget the case of a sitting Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN). Justice Walter Onnoghen was suspended, then removed from office by the Executive against the grain of due process, the rule of law and sacrosanctity of separation of power. Oddities barb the soul of a nation.
More thrillers in 2019. The macabre dance of Aso Rock cabal. The cabal’s angst against Vice President Yemi Osinbajo culminating in the mass firing of his aides. The crude acts of self-styled Department of State Services (DSS) including its invasion of a courtroom to effect arrest of Sowore; the flip-flops and denials by the Presidency on the matter of Sowore and Col. Sambo Dasuki (Retired). The spirited but vain efforts by Buhari handlers to garb the President in democratic cassock in the case of the crude continued incarceration of Dasuki and Sowore against all court rulings granting them bail and their recent release. And how can I forget the strident and well-scripted Editorial of The Punch newspapers in which it censured Buhari and prefixed him with his last military rank of Major-General to symbolically demonstrate his continued recession into the darkling abyss of dictatorship. Oh yes, the diplomatic bust-up between South Africa and Nigeria (a response to the xenophobic killings of Nigerians in South Africa by black South Africans and vicariously endorsed by the South Africa government) and the concomitant reprisal by Nigerians which forced multi-billion South African businesses in Nigeria to close shop for days. Great events, they were.
For me, any of these events could have earned Man of the Year award. But none has had the potency and influence wielded by Social Media on the nation. Please take a bow for Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumbir, Reddit…The Social Media family is by far the largest community on the face of the earth. Latest statistics placed the social media community at 3.484 billion users with Facebook in the commanding position with 2.32 billion active users.
The social media is a community we can no longer ignore. And we owe this evolutionary and revolutionary technology to its godfathers: Tom Truscot and Jim Ellis. The duo in 1979 invented the very first Usernet system, a technology that enables users read and post (share) messages across newsgroups. It was their little effort that birthed the social media platforms starting with Six Degrees in 1997 to the rest of the lot including Facebook, the most widely used. Like all inventions, they have outstripped the original vision of their creators as social networking tools. They are currently deployed in digital marketing, political campaigns and influencing, information management. Indeed, social media has become humanity’s watering hole, a hotbed of ideas, gossip, slur, the good, the bad, the downright whimsical, the vain and the noble. A mix-bag, hodgepodge, a real jumble. But put on a scale, the good always outweighs the bad.
Social media is the voice of the hitherto voiceless, a ventilation pout for the oppressed and repressed; an amplifier for the muffled cries of the rabble against the swamping snarls of the whipping ruling class. It is the bulwark against the once impregnable barricades of the tyrants and the feudal fascists. Social media is the opium of the oppressed. In it and through it, they exhale, they belch their dissent at the hurting lashes of the oligarchs. Social media is a leveler. It is where the lettered and unlettered co-exist; where the rich and poor meet, where questions are asked of public office holders by an angry mob of the misgoverned.
The fear of social media is the beginning of wisdom for all governments across the globe, especially tyrannical governments masquerading as democracies. It is a borderless media which influence extends far beyond national boundaries into the far-flung communes and isles around the world.
Nigerians can testify to the power of social media. Nigerian governments at all times since social media gained traction here can attest to its verity as a threshing instrument in the hands of the people to unearth and expose the lies and lucre that sludge the wheel of governance. Whereas past governments had barely tolerated social media, the Buhari government wants it dead and buried. Lai Mohammed, the petulant spokesman for the Federal Government can’t stand it. The cabal with shadowy support from Buhari has lifted a banner against social media. They enjoy support and prop from some self-serving legislators in the National Assembly. Together, they are allied on an invidious and unpopular mission to ‘kill’ social media. But they will fail. You cannot unmake what you lack the capacity to make. Social media has come to stay. It cannot be washed and wished away by agents and apostles of fascism.
Social media has become the oil of democracy, the rotor that drives its slow but steady engine. Nigerians including Lai Mohammed and major actors in the Buhari government have deployed social media to win elections for their parties, past and present. They cannot now turn round to knock down the ladder with which they climbed to the summit of power. To do so is to dare the people; to take their breath away. For that’s what social media has become. It’s the air we breathe. It’s the people’s life support. The contradictions in Nigeria, the pains inflicted on the people by long years of misrule finds cure, albeit ephemeral, on social media. Buhari and his converts should stop their orgasmic jerking on their imaginary grave of social media. Truth is, there is no killing the social media, especially among a people poorly governed. It’s my Man of the Year for 2019 and it’s the opium of the repressed.