By Nwachukwu Egbunike
The streets of Nigeria’s Twitter are hot and harsh these days. The clash of the politico-twitterati on each side of the divide – opposition and the establishment – has been characterized with vile tweet-blood. Politico-Twitterati means those influential tweeps or overlords who are active partisan politicians. They differ from “political tweeps” (or political activists) who though they tweet on politics, owe no allegiance to any political party.
The narrative as expounded by each side of the divide can be grouped into two: disruptive narration (by the opposition) and confutative narration (by the establishment).
The Disruptive Narrative of the Opposition Politico-Twitterati
A casual observation of the handles of some opposition overlords shows that they thrive on rumours. It looks as though they patiently wait for any gaffe from government officials and then precipitate a twitterstorm. For instance take the “news” on the 53 gold plated iPhones that were ordered for Nigeria’s independence celebrations or that of the president dropping the title of “Commander-in-Chief” for non-military functions. In both cases the opposition overlords ranted and cursed. Sadly they neither substantiated the rumours (for the 53 gold plated iPhones) nor read beyond the headlines.
And when they get it right: like the reprehensible acquisition of two armoured BMW cars for the personal use of the Minister of Aviation by a cash-strapped aviation agency, their focus is usually from an “all or none” angle. Rather than decry the scandalous corrupt act and propose an action plan, our opposition overlords went atop with rage. But this anger was basically narcissist and mired with denigrating tweets. And any tweep that dared to think outside the boundaries as defined by them was either a “closet” PDP voltron or a “confirmed” government apologist.
Twitter Nigeria is a cult. Its either you belong and agree with them or you’re an apologist/loyalist.
— ジェニー ピー (@JenniePete) October 17, 2013
Generally, the Nigerian opposition politico-twitterati are afflicted with the same malaise as the opposition parties. It seems that their exclusive mantra is to get the PDP out of government and this has coloured their narrative. What is nauseating is the lack of originality and the delusion that freedom of speech equates to freedom to spite. Unfortunately, their “courage” to dispense copious bile is not and must not be mistaken for either true courage or patriotism. It is also not a virtue. It is something else. To persist in seeing it as a virtue is self-deceit.
The Confutative Narrative of the Establishment Politico-Twitterati
The establishment overlords suffer a malignant refutation narrative. Many of them are only on twitter to debunk the actions – imagined and real – of the opposition. Or how else can one explain that the official establishment tweep – the adviser on #twitterthings – spends his time tweeting parables. And when he is not preaching, he perpetually engages the numero uno accidental public servant in a tweet-fight. Although the president is active on Facebook but it’s inexcusable that his twitter handle @JGoodluckTweets has been dormant since May 2011.
The establishment media team on twitter is a complete disaster. For instance: in the alleged iPhones ruse, there was no factual rebuttal from the establishment overlords. What we got were sentimental tweets that blamed the opposition. It took an independent political tweep to investigate and refute the allegation. Same goes for quoting the aviation minister out of context. It also took a neutral party get these facts on table.
Another sad case was the un-bulking and privatization of PHCN. An event of such magnitude, in which the government handed over electricity distribution to 14 private companies, was no news on twitter. Perhaps some of the establishment overlords were taking a siesta – save for two establishment fellows. And as is the norm, many tweeps got wind of this land-mark event via a non-partisan tweep who could not stand the unjustified silence. And I’ll save my ink for the awkward attempt at defending the purchase of armoured BMW cars for the aviation minister.
GEJ is not the worst president in Nigerian history. He might, however, be the one with the worst media team in history.
— ST (@seyitaylor) October 18, 2013
The principal aim of marketing is not disprove your rival but to sell the merits of your product. Rumours thrive in the absence of factual information. Besides, effective public relation is a deliberate, planned and sustained effort to create goodwill with your public. It’s about time the government tweeps wake up, do their job and stop blaming the opposition. It is time they moved away from reactive responding to proactive engagement.