Bemdoo Hulugh: Ekiti and the limited power of social media

By IAfrica
In Nigeria
Jun 27th, 2014

A very strange thing happened in Nigeria this weekend in Ekiti. Strange because Governor Kayode Fayemi,who many believed was head and shoulder above Ayo Fayose lost. And then more strange is that many agreed he performed well but lost in a free and fair election(INEC did a good job but the military took sides) in all sixteen local governments because he didn’t communicate with the masses in their preferred language.

Governor Fayemi, was more on radio,television,newspapers,twitter and facebook. While according to those that should know,Ayo Fayose, was doing more of visiting voters in the villages,sharing their food,dancing with them and then give them some gifts. We were busy on social media drumming our support for Governor Fayemi because of his record but the real voters didn’t think so. Our messages on social media urging them not to vote for the rice but the right candidate most likely didn’t reach them or failed to convince them.

The message is simple. Our posts and tweets can only shame and embarrass incompetent government or show the world the great works of a good government. Most of us on social media can’t convince one person in our villages to vote a particular candidate. In our society today where people want to know how much you have before they can listen to you then even with our wonderful ideas we can’t gather our peers in our various communities for anything.

I remember a PDP chieftain telling us during the 2011 elections that PDP will always lose in Makurdi, the Benue state capital because the people are more enlightened but they can always manipulate the villagers. It is clear that our inspiring messages on social media don’t reach the people who really need the message. Those in the villages are even more eager to vote than the enlightened people in towns. All our advocacy on social media reach those who may not even go near a polling unit. #Ekitidecides has reminded us the limited power of social media and even all other forms of mass media in electioneering and the struggle for the Nigeria of our dreams.

Social media has made people more informed and active in our politics today. In the 2012 fuel subsidy protest, social media played an important role in mobilising people and challenging government lies with facts. It has lately embarrassed the Federal Government in the case of the abducted #chibokgirls but failed to mobilise the people to carry out a protest that will pressurise the government. This is evident in the handful of people that come to unity fountain everyday. We used social media to embarrass President Jonathan on his insensitivity towards the victims of the Nyanya bomb blast when he went partying and campaigning hours after the incident. We embarrassed Governor Adams Aliyu Oshiomhole,for telling that widow to “go and die” and Senator Ahmed Yerima,for marrying a 13yr old Egyptian girl but we haven’t gone beyond that.

We can use social media to effectively make public demands only if we stop existing just on social media. It is because most of us exist only on social media that turn up for #BringBackOurGirls protest is low.The people of Philippine in 2001 were able to converge in millions on Epifanio de los Santos Avenue,in Manila by forwarding text messages. The crowd was overwhelming that the Legislators reversed course and allowed evidence to be presented against President Joseph Estrada. Estrada’s fate was sealed and many scholars say that event marked the first time a national leader was forced out with the help of social media. If we in Nigeria continue to ignore calls for protests,the best we can do is embarrass the government. A Governor aspirant in my state once said campaigning on social media is not a priority because he feels we are just young men having fun. That will continue to be the impression of many till we stop existing only on social media. How did the activists of old mobilise multitude without social media? No medium can totally replace physical contact.

We also have to learn from Ekiti. I am not surprised, Ayo Fayose,is so popular. If the Present Senate minority leader,Senator George Akume,who in 2003, as the then Governor of Benue state,faced strong opposition from the masses in his re-election but come 2011, he became the darling of the masses in his state because of his legendary generosity then it is understandable Ayo Fayose is popular in Ekiti. Politicians that are generous always have crowd around them and how can you continue to be unbelievably generous to maintain your followers if you don’t loot? It is not only the people of Ekiti that prefer stomach infrastructure. Most of us support a candidate for mostly selfish reasons and not for the general good. We support a candidate that knows us or know someone we know and so on,hoping to directly benefit if the person wins.

Come next year and most Nigerians will not vote who promise to better their lives. They will vote based on religion and regional sentiment. There are also those who will vote for whoever their generous leader direct them to and those who will vote who they are familiar with. There is little we on social media can do. True democracy can only be possible in a society with an educated electorate and that is why almost all countries that were forced to practice democracy by their colonial masters have ended up with coups,revolutions,civil wars and sectarian crises. My fear is we are heading this direction again.

Bemdoo Hulugh is an active citizen from Makurdi

You can also interact with me on twitter @bumy04

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