Increasingly, Social Media status is depending on how many friends you have on Facebook or how many followers you have on Twitter and so much investment goes into this because many derive their sense of self worth from these numbers.
Sophisticated users of Social Media have wised up to the fact that followership grows when you diss (excuse my colloquial) authority figures such as government leaders and other leaders in society.
Now, where many on Social Media are faced with a choice of speaking their minds or speaking what is likely to be popular, many cannot resist the pressure to play to the gallery.
This behavior is very contagious and many youths simply conform and lose their personality to the crowd. And it is not just youths. Increasingly, we are seeing elders, even those who might have been elder statesmen, kowtow to much younger Social Media overlords.
What is happening here is very subtle but very real. In the New Testament, satan showed Christ all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and said to Him in Matthew 4:9 “all this I will give you, if you will bow down and worship me.”
Today, many overlords are presenting a large following to Social Media adherents in Nigeria and saying ‘all this I will give to you if your subsume your opinion to mine’!
And what makes a person an overlord? The answer is of course Social Media followership.
Social Media was created to influence the real world, however, it was not meant to be an alternative to the real world. But increasingly we are seeing that what you might call a cabal has formed in the Nigerian Social Media space and I, for one have experienced first-hand where members of this cabal have invested so much on their Social Media personalities that they have detached themselves from the real world.
Not long ago, I paid a condolence visit to Malam Nasir Elrufai after he lost his daughter and I met a renowned Social Media personality at his residence who to my surprise introduced himself to me as his Twitter handle! And this is a regular phenomenon I am told by others who have come across some of these personalities.
And when somebody invests so much time and focus on the virtual world of Social Media how can you convince them that that world is surreal and they have to reflect the real world on Social Media rather than reflect Social Media on the real world?
I am going somewhere with this.
At the beginning of the year, I wrote a piece, Nigeria in 2014: Facts Versus Fiction, chronicling President Jonathan’s achievement in office. A blogger wrote a rejoinder saying in essence that President Jonathan had achieved nothing and that my piece was not based on reality.
I did not take offense but I wanted to know which aspects of what I wrote were in his opinion (and others like him) inaccurate. To cut a long story short, it turned out that he disagreed with the achievements I had listed and that was his basis of calling them inaccurate.
If care is not taken, overlords can have their opinions amplified back to them by their fawning followers which in itself is not such a bad thing, however, where the overlord is not perceptive enough to distinguish an echo from a real voice, he/she may end up mistaking that echo as the voice of the people.
Some people say vox populi vox Dei (the voice of the people is the voice of God). They may be right or they may be wrong, but certainly no one can argue that the voice of an echo is not the voice of God. It may be the voice of a tin god, that I concede, but never the voice of God.
And the behavior I have constantly seen displayed by many an overlord in the Nigerian Social Media space is indicative of a narcissistic dictatorial tendency among many people who criticize the government on Social Media. This behavior is briefly summarized in this phrase, ‘when I need the public’s opinion, I will give it to them’.
They assume that whatever they disagree with is a lie. In other words, their opinions are superior to facts.
So, for instance, when you write with data from the World Bank, The International Monetary Fund, IMF, the United Nations and other tested and recognized world regulatory bodies, they take only those aspects which are negative and amplify them while rejecting those aspects which paint the government and Nigeria in good light.
Some have tried to justify this behavior by saying they are closer to the people. But with all due respects, many of those on Social Media today are some of the most privileged youths in Nigeria. They have iPads, iPhones and the latest Blackberry devices. They frequent the homes of prominent and wealthy Nigerians and some of their parents are among the elite members of the Nigerian political and business royalty.
In fact, from available records, a good number of those with the loudest voices on Social Media do not even live in Nigeria.
These regular Social Media users are a great asset to Nigeria, but many of them are detached from the poorest of the poor and would not know how to represent them. In fact, I wager that the overlords amongst them (not the regular users) may not know how to connect with the average rural dweller.
Very few would argue with me that they are more interested in the political fortunes of their handlers. Yes, you heard me right-handlers.
I put it to Nigerians that this administration cannot be vulnerable to the antics of these mercenaries for the simple reason that the Jonathan administration has connected with the masses who form the bulk of the electorate that gave it its mandate in the first instance.
When this administration revived the railways, many critics said these trains were not the most modern trains. You can see from this type of thinking a validation of my arguments that these Social Media mercenaries are disconnected from the masses of Nigerians.
If they are not, why would they criticize a man who has given food to starving people because the food was not prepared by a gourmet chef?
If you had no trains for decades and somebody brought you trains, your only thought is that you now have a cheaper alternative to get you from point A to B. When the consumer keeps patronizing the rail services, naturally the law of process will kick in and these trains will eventually be modernized as turnover increases.
But here is the thing. Every time a passenger travels from the Lagos Terminus at Iddo to Kano at a cost of 1500 Naira, the President is putting back 10,500 Naira into his pocket which is the saving on the 12,000 Naira he would have spent on a bus ticket to Kano.
In the same vein, whenever a Nigerian flies out of Nigeria directly from or to the Akanu Ibiam International Airport, Enugu, the President is putting back sixty thousand Naira that he/she would have spent on connecting flights to either Lagos, Port Harcourt, Abuja or Kano Airports back into his pocket.
It doesn’t end there. When an itinerant scholar known as Almajiri goes to school in the newAlmajiri Model schools built by the Jonathan administration in EVERY state of the North, he no longer has to stay under the heavy rays of the sun during the hottest periods of the day. He can then learn and assimilate what he has learnt and with the combination of Eastern and Western education that such schools provide, he is better able to add value to himself, his family, his community and Nigeria.
This is the impact of President Jonathan on Nigeria. The essence of that impact is to build up the abilities of the vast majority of the Nigerian masses to the level where they can join those privileged youth on Social Media and speak for themselves rather than have an overlord hand them their opinion.
And it is happening right before our very own eyes.
Unbeknownst to the overlords, there is a miracle taking place in rural Nigeria called the Conditional Cash Transfer. The Jonathan administration is giving cash to women who go to Federal Government provided health centers for pre and post natal care. If they choose to have their babies in these centers, they get another cash transfer.
Many of these rural women are thus enjoying for the first time the better life they have been hearing about since the 1980s.
Another miracle occurring right before our eyes is Dry Season farming.
For the first time in Nigeria, farmers in arid and semi arid areas are being assisted by the Federal Ministry of Agriculture to engage in dry season farming where they had hitherto only farmed during the rainy season.
Many people in Nigerian cities are buying roasted and boiled corn as I speak. This is a new phenomenon. It used to be that corn was only available during the corn season. That you are able to buy fresh corn by the road side in March is one of the miracles of Dry Season Farming.
Ask yourself how it is possible that Nigeria did not face a food crisis after the 2012 flood disaster that wreaked havoc on much of Nigeria?
It was because of the miracle of dry season farming!
After the flood, in just one week, the Federal Ministry of Agriculture distributed free of charge, 20,000 metric tonnes of rice seeds. In addition to these, farmers also received another batch of flood resistant rice seeds sourced from the Rice Research Center in the Philippines, a country that has learnt to cultivate rice in spite of their regular annual floods.
The end result is that Nigeria’s annual food import bill has reduced from 2.3 trillion Naira per annum before 2011 to 1.8 trillion Naira today. This is 500 billion Naira that has remained in Nigeria instead of finding its way to Far East Asia from where we import a lot of our dry staple foods.
And I encourage every reader to verify these reports. They are publicly available and you can Google them.
Farmers, Almajiri, and rural women may not all presently have access to the Internet and Social Media, but they all have access to and have been touched by the Transformation Agenda and are the major reason why Nigeria’s Per Capita Income which was at $1091 in 2009 is $1721 today. (Please see tinyurl.com/y5tfwwd)
They are the reason why Average Life Expectancy in Nigeria which was 47 years in 2007 is today 52 years (please see tinyurl.com/yyl5xy2)
And they are the reason why I remain unapologetically a supporter of President Goodluck Jonathan and his Transformation Agenda irrespective of what an overlord may say.
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant on New Media to President Jonathan.