Can Social Media Control Political Narratives? This was the discourse to kick start the fourth session. Moderated by Broadcaster/Political Enthusiast, Ezugwu Chukwudi, the panel had in attendance Founder, Rise Networks, Toyosi Akerele-Ogunsiji; Lawyer/Politician, Faruq Abbas; Founder, Let’s Make Impact, Ferdy Adimefe. So when I thought it was about time to hit the bar of boredom, is that political issues are filled with long talks with nothing to excite one, it turned out I (as well as many others) was wrong.
The youthful population of Nigeria spends a staggering amount of time on social media. The question is, what do they do online? Chukwudi reeled out the top ten search words on YouTube by Nigerian users in recent times with “Yoruba movies,” “Arsenal,” “Chelsea,” “Movies,” “Wizkid,” amongst others making a list.
Toyosi took the floor first, with her deep voice, dropping punch lines that rang in everyone’s head, causing people to make all sorts of exclamations, because she was speaking the hard truth about the realities of Nigeria. In her first few words, she said: “we live in a society where the future of a yahoo boy is brighter than that of a degree holder.” She held that our youthful population spends a lot of time doing trivial things; “Social media for the Nigerian youth is overrated.” She points out two categories of young people in Nigeria.
On the one hand, are the educated, smart, and exposed ones, which form the inconsequential minority and nonchalant to elections. While on the other hand is the more significant part of our population, they feed one time a day, poorly or not educated, and are at the mercy of our politicians. These are the ones who will stand outside under the rain and sun on election day to vote for politicians who give them food or cash. “As long as our people are poor and uneducated, social media will not drive any political narrative.” In essence, social media cannot shape the political narrative.
For Ferdy, it takes more than social media to change the narrative. Staying online and talking does not change anything; it takes more than a tweet to change a nation. Action must be taken as we must play a big part in the process. Those in the Senate constitute a large part of our problems. They are overpaid and underworked people. We, therefore, must use social media as a weapon to effect a change.
Faruq appeared to be expressing his frustrations with the whole political scene, sharing his experience as a contestant in the Osun State House of Assembly race and strongly condemning the act of people collecting things from politicians in exchange for their votes, because we end up not having the right to speak against them as we have compromised our values. However, he shares the view that social media can change the political narrative, of course. But for him, the truth remains that we are not using it as we should. He, however, tasks users to engage politicians on social media by asking them logical questions that affect us.
My earlier prejudice disappeared into thin air as the session turned out to be the most engaging.
There is a whole lot more that can be done on social media, acquisition of knowledge, jobs, and so on. As the conference was about coming to a close, this was the issue up to discuss signifying the fifth session. ‘Creating Additional Value Using Social Media,’ was the topic, and media personality, Olayemi Ogunwole (Honeypot) was to moderate the session. The panelists include Nollywood Actress, Mercy Johnson-Okojie; Media Personality, Tolu Oniru-Demuren (Toolz); and On-Air Personality, Dotun Kayode (Do2dtun).
Dotun opined that social media is about selling perceptions. So what impression of you do you give on social media? A lot of things can be learned on social media, however, depending on whom one follows.
Does being popular automatically translate into having influence? For Mercy, they cannot be separated. For Toolz, one could be famous and not necessarily influence people. Having an impact is people wanting to do things because you did the same things.
I sought an interview with one of the panelists from the first session, Digital Manager, Ndani TV, Oyinkansola Ewumi, and asked her a few questions.
• One might argue that the social media space is a whole different world on its own, do you see a connection with ourselves as individuals – does social media affect us one way or another?
Ans: “Yes, indeed, social media does affect us all as individuals in one way or another. It affects the way we think, it affects the way we perceive others, and it also has a way of changing our view of the world as a whole.“
•How engaging do you think the online social community is in Nigeria?
Ans:” I think the Nigerian community online is still growing. You have pockets of people spread across platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, e.t.c. And while the number is not as substantial as we may think it is, (Statista.com puts the number of Nigerian internet users at 92.3 million), – Nigeria’s population was 190.9million as at 2017 -, the prospects for Nigerian internet users in the future is excellent.
As it is, the Nigerian online community on platforms like Twitter have been instrumental to affecting actions in real time – governance and social engagements -, and acts like this can only grow more prominent in the nearest future.“
•Where do you see the future of digital media in Africa?
Ans: “Well, I think the future of digital media in Africa is bright, and with time, Africa may emerge as a force to reckon with in the digital sphere. From Kenya to South Africa, and Nigeria, more Africans are taking charge of the digital narrative, creating more content and pushing the boundaries of engagement across various industries.“
The path to growth, if explored, can only get better. More Africans will be looking to develop their skills in digital, and hopefully, this would translate to the growth of other aspects of the economy and would mean a better Africa for Africans.
With all this shared knowledge, one can only confess that Handle It, Africa, being a great initiative, is living up to its expectations and is needed for this present generation that is so engrossed in social media. I look forward to what the conference has in stock for its fourth installment.
Olatunde received his Bachelors Degree in Philosophy from Lagos State University. He has a passion for social media and engagement and makes his debut as an intern for That Green Tea blog.
Follow Olatunde on IG: @olatundeh_ and Twitter: @olatundeh_
All images featured in this post are the original works of Olatunde and property of the blog. Any individuals featured were part of a public event were photography was allowed.