Social Media has become an indispensable platform for influencing and shaping ongoing conversations in the Nigeria of today. This has become more visible in the buildup of political campaigns ahead of the next general elections with the flurry of unending conversations from supporters of various candidates. The majority of the sentiments both positive and negative; have been on the leading presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressives Congress. As expected in politics, budgets have been set aside for the inevitable propaganda, non-issues and issues based campaigns on both traditional and new media. Notably in the new media, there are existing and new social media account handlers for sitting politicians and expectants, respectively. Furthermore, short term employment opportunities have arose for e-sweat shop operators with job descriptions that range from tweet-for-pay personnel, derail-comment-threads trolls and several other imaginable abstractions.
I recently had a conversation with an individual that represents President Goodluck Jonathan in an official capacity as regards his online perception. He was quite optimistic that the five weeks extension of the polls date will yield positive results in swinging the online narrative in favor of his principal. He however shocked me with his line of reasoning that even though he represents the president, that it is unprofessional for him to lend to the ongoing online conversation about his boss using his personal social media accounts. That got me thinking and I am yet to wrap my head around the practicability of such a notion. President Jonathan is generally seen as a good man surrounded by several individuals that are not genuinely committed to his re-election. It is not enough to be a good man when it comes to politics. Having the right network of committed individuals is important especially when there is a struggle to connect with the masses who are visibly dissatisfied with achievements of his administration especially in fighting corruption and power challenges. On the other hand, his major contender, General Muhammadu Buhari has a large network of individuals that are connected by a common bond which is to topple the present administration. These individuals will not mind blurring the lines that this particular social media aide seems to have drawn on the guise of professionalism.
In related news, the recent media bumble in communication by APC’s publicists as regards Buhari’s trip to London point to the fact that a strategy chain is only as strong as the weakest link. The majority of the weak links are present and participating on social media, consistently combining facts and half-truths to mislead and misinform. Self-appointed spokespersons of APC went to town to release misleading photos in a bid to cover for the lack of information about their candidate’s whereabouts. What about the Jonathan supporters? Most have consistently stayed on the path of hurling insults at the person of Muhammadu Buhari. Decorum seems to have been thrown out of the door and decency has become a scarce commodity.
These two scenarios above seem to point to one unassailable fact; the ‘rest of us’ seems to be more committed to the cause of our various candidates, notwithstanding that propaganda seems to be the desirable weapon of warfare. I will at this point make it known that even though my preferred candidate is President Goodluck Jonathan; it does not confer on me, the privilege to insult Buhari. It says more about your personality to allow yourself to be immersed in the world of politics without taking a moment to think through your actions. Labels have been embraced with relish by the ‘rest of us’ and folks are proudly answering to the names, Jonathanians and Buharists. Neither Jonathan’s children nor Buhari’s children will refer to themselves as either Jonathanians or Buharists. Why do the ‘rest of us’ accept these labels? I sincerely think that it is a depressing trend but then, we are all entitled to our varying opinion about life.
Not to stand at a risk of pontificating, I will close with this food for thought by a respected clergy friend of mine, Pastor Sunday Ogidigbo. His thought aptly summarizes this entire article:
“Nigeria is bigger than the political party you support. Your party is, because Nigeria is. Forget what you read in the papers, politicians across party lines are friends. Do not fight anyone on social media because of any politician. When you are asleep, they meet to close ranks. The presidential flag bearer of your party today can become a board of trustee member of the party you hate tomorrow. Relax.”