By Nwachukwu Egbunike
“With the democratization of the media space, an ever increasing number of blogotivists command large constituencies of followers and now see themselves as powerful persons whose voices must not only be heard but also feared. Having drunk from the bowl of power, some have morphed into agenda setters, news framers, experts on all matters, and final social arbiters whose views, judgements and solutions must always prevail. And such solutions are not in short supply but are sadly either time bound, simplistic and/or betray an obsession with the here and now. Therein lays the danger of immediacy – that of thinking that the change we all hope for will come like a flash of lighting. Or even worse, with the same immediacy of the social media.”
The Nigeria blogosphere is increasingly becoming a political springboard for what I term blogotivisim (blogosphere-activism). With the democratization of the media space, an ever increasing number of blogotivists command large constituencies of followers and now see themselves as powerful persons whose voices must not only be heard but also feared. Having drunk from the bowl of power, some have morphed into agenda setters, news framers, experts on all matters, and final social arbiters whose views, judgements and solutions must always prevail. And such solutions are not in short supply but are sadly either time bound, simplistic and/or betray an obsession with the here and now. Therein lays the danger of immediacy – that of thinking that the change we all hope for will come like a flash of lighting. Or even worse, with the same immediacy of the social media. It not as simple as think, touch, post and problem solved!
Are they in touch with the realities of the average Nigerians? These questions are worth asking since many blogotivists presume to speak for most Nigerians. However, the fact remains that in this country, digital natives are still an exclusively elitist public; compared to the majority of other publics who lack internet access. It is pertinent that the Nigerian blogotivist should continually do a reality check by walking more on the streets and interacting with ‘normal’ people. This would yield a rich and humbling perspective that cannot be achieved via virtual communication alone. Unless we do such a reality check, most of us run the risk of developing a Messiah Complex that deifies ignorance and naivety – because most of so called problems we scream ourselves hoarse about are not really the concern of the man/woman of the street.
While it’s easy to parrot about the power of the Nigerian youth – many blogotivists have crowned themselves emperors/empresses of the youths! It might be pertinent to ask if this also includes the majority who are in the country side. It is simplistic to generalise ‘youths’ as those in the city, who may lack uninterrupted power but are nonetheless literate and tech-savvy. What about those who cannot go to school and are doomed to a life in subsistent farming or fishing? Or the numerous almajari’s who roam the streets of Sokoto? The run of the mill Onitsha or Aba guy sees no reason for a formal education while there are millions spilling out of Main Market. And what about the average lady in Bere who from childhood was confined to her mother’s road side buka that specializes in hot amala, gbegiri and ila? These are the people blogotivists must seek to find and connect to if we are to be spared the pains of irrelevance and self-promotional posturing.
The blogotivist sees himself/herself as member of an elect group with a mission to clean up the mess of Nigeria and right all the wrongs of the past in one fell swoop. But can one really address a rot without a proper understanding of its origins and evolution? Let’s take a step back: when did this rot begin? The 1980’s and 1990’s saw the worse of the death knell that assigned us to an inevitable post as a failed state. The institutions that had once guaranteed our survival as a nation were violated and destroyed. The IBB’s and Abacha’s of this world gagged, kicked and sent to the gulag anyone who dared opposed them. Agriculture, education, manufacturing, etc – all these wealth generating industries were totally decimated. Others fled while some remained: either passive or were bribed and/or assigned oily posts that kept their mouths stuffed and turned off perpetually. Until we do a proper assessment of the real damage caused in these years let no one expect a sudden alleluia chorus. SAP, for instance, was one of the worst maladies that were inflicted upon us. Have we assessed its impact up till date? And not a wish-wash exercise but an objective peering into the ills of yester years. Until we have the courage to look back at the past with the fortitude of identifying our pitfalls, we may never arrive at the paradise we all desire.
When the Nazi’s invaded Poland, they decimated the universities, arts, music, etc. The target was to erase the Polish identity and keep Poles submissive. The Polish resistance was a counter force that worked towards the preservation of their identity. The core of the movement was intellectually driven and the backed with realistic but realisable goals. That resistance movement also allowed space for dialogue and conversation among its members. But look at blogotivists in Nigeria!
Are we really having a conversation? I don’t think so. We have loads of noise and sentimental effusions of irrationality. The goal of a conversation – not argument – is that each party listens and take turns. It takes openness to the truth and great deal of maturity to hear out those who have dissenting views. Therein lies the essence of any conversation. Unfortunately, the Nigerian blogosphere – especially some of her Twitterati – are immersed in the dictatorship of arrogance and self deification. Most tweeps suspend their grey matter on their tablets and are in a hurry to prove a point. And when they meet a wall of opposition, they either hurl ad hominem slurs on their opponents or intone a victim chant.
Sadly enough, we do not realise that we are dancing to the tunes of those who wish to keep us in eternal servitude. So long as there is no conversation, there will be no change. Meanwhile the ruining of the public till continues. What this nation needs most are a crop of intellectually critical minds who ask the right questions backed by facts and not those who glory in personalizing insults that are based on hearsay. And we all cannot agree, we should not agree – that’s the core of a conversation. But there must be the ability to accept views that are totally different from ours.
The changes we seek are deep and fundamental. They will not happen immediately. Our minds must become attuned to accepting a gradualist approach to change and more importantly to accepting that a plea for gradualism is not a sellout. As Tayo Fagbule continually insists we must have the humility to accept that the change we crave for may not be achieved in our lifetime. That does not mean we should fold our arms and do nothing. Rather, each should face the domain where he/she is competent and drive a change there. We must also realize that building requires years of industry, and that change does not happen with the snap and swiftness of our tweets and comments on blog posts. When we do this, the blogosphere becomes then best suited to aid our toil as a means to an end and not a model for flash instant social change – such change belongs to the world of superman – and superman exists only in world Disney.