Gains, worries over ascendancy of social media trial, online shaming

By Tope Templer Olaiya, Metro Editor
In 2012, Dr. Reuben Abati, then spokesman to former president Goodluck Jonathan, in defence of his principal, stirred a raucous controversy with an opinion piece titled: “The Jonathan they don’t know”, when he labeled the growing band of social media critics as “children of anger.”

He had opened the article thus: “‘They’ in this piece refers to all the cynics, the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria, who seem to be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan. The clear danger to public affairs commentary is that we have a lot of unintelligent people repeating silly clichés and too many intelligent persons wasting their talents lending relevance to thoughtless conclusions.”

Reuben Abati

But the derided “children of anger” were not deterred. In the run-up to the 2015 general elections, the cyber-warlords took over the unregulated mass communication platform to run a vigorous, no-holds barred campaign either for change, as represented by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) or continuity of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

When President Buhari settled into his first term administration, the trolling on social media continued. Feeling rattled from the unending social media jibes, spokesman to President Buhari, Femi Adesina, coined his own term, shortening the “children of anger” to “wailers”, while the online influencers dishing out alternative facts were branded “hailers”.

The intense struggle between the wailers and hailers to own the social media space and spin or distort facts to their favour then led to the emergence of the ‘Fake News’ syndrome.

Femi Adesina

But while still trying to live with this reality and decipher between fake news and alternative facts, a new trend has emerged, which is the social media mob action. This new trend is gradually redefining the court of public opinion. Media trial has now been replaced by social media trial. In this space, you are proclaimed guilty until proven innocent.

The history of social media mob mentality dates back to 2013 when one Justine Sacco, a PR/Communication Executive at InterActiveCorp (IAC) in London, was getting ready to visit her family in South Africa, and before she boarded her flight, she made an insensitive joke on Twitter: “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”

By the time her 11-hour flight was over, she had become the world’s leading trending topic, with millions of people berating her for her racism, calling for her firing, and calling her terrible names. She was fired, and the internet cheered.

Since that time, there have been many similar situations. A person (ranging from nobody to celebrity) commits an unacceptable action (ranging from an ill-considered joke to an actual crime), and a mob of angry users rushes together in an attempt to ruin that person’s life.

Justine Sacco

This is also closely related to online shaming, a form of internet vigilantism in which targets are publicly humiliated for actions done privately or without wanting intended public broadcast using technology like social and new media.

Proponents of shaming see it as a form of online participation that allows “hacktivists” and cyber-dissidents to right injustices. Critics see it as a tool that encourages online mobs to destroy the reputation and careers of people or organizations who made perceived slights.

Many have been forced to delete tweets or bring down posts after offering an opinion on matters of public interest that seems to go against the grain. In Nigeria, several persons have been bathed in the baptism of social media mob attack, a few come out of it unscathed; others are drowned in the baptism.

Barely two weeks ago, Dr. Festus Adedayo was shot into national prominence albeit for the wrong reasons. Adedayo had just been appointed spokesperson of Senate President Ahmad Lawan when the APC mob descended on him on social media. He lost his job in hours. He was fired barely 48 hours after he was appointed Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to President of the Senate.

Festus Adedayo

Before his appointment, Adedayo had gained a reputation for aiming darts and firing broadsides at chieftains of the APC in his fiery columns, which were often shared across most online platforms. Soon after his appointment was announced, most members of the APC on social media, mounted pressure on Senate President Lawan to rescind the appointment.

A press conference/protest to denounce the appointment was even staged by members of the APC youth forum, and before long, First Lady Aisha Buhari joined in on the act. Before nightfall on June 20, Adedayo had lost his job. Losing out on the appointment, he, however, vowed to remain critical of the Buhari administration.

Few days later, the online trolls or APC hailers, after achieving their aim, moved on to their next target, Lara Owoeye-Wise, newly appointed Senior Special Assistant on Electronic and New Media to the deputy senate president, Ovie Omo-Agege. She came under fire on social media following her appointment after some social media users alleged that she and Dino Melaye, senator representing Kogi West, have had an intimate relationship.

Lara Owoeye-Wise

In her reaction to the protests against her appointment, she denied the allegation, saying she does not want her principal “to bear any stain by association. The umbrage against my appointment is an unfortunate showcase of sobering reality to well meaning Nigerians that there is so much we need to do on civic engagement as the future of Nigeria rests on the quality of our followership which will produce future leaders.

“I shall resist the urge to join issues on the salacious insinuation of any intimate relationship between Senator Dino Melaye and I. While there is no iota of truth in this, dissipating energy on it equates to according undue attention to sheer indiscretion from a group of people.

“By the way, Melaye represents my Senatorial district. The few interactions I have had with him were usually at public events, occasions where I muster enough honour to expand frontiers for my principal and engage in robust political cross-fertilization of ideas. Should I have worked for Senator Melaye in his political ambitions or even his party, I would have demonstrated some measure of honour to own up to it and actually turn down this appointment as I do not posses what it takes to be treacherous.”

The online trolls days later got busy when the plane seat controversy broke between Prof. Wole Soyinka and an unnamed Nigerian, as shared by Tonye Cole on his social media page. Many hailed the young man for standing on his right while others berated him for not according the Nobel laureate his due honour irrespective of his right.

Prof. Wole Soyinka

That soon fizzled out when on June 28, Busola Dakolo, wife of the famous musician, Timi Dakolo, set the social media on fire with the revelation during an exclusive interview with Chude Jideonwo of YNaija TV. In the interview, she alleged that Pastor Biodun Fatoyinbo of Commonwealth of Zion Assembly (COZA), otherwise known as ‘Gucci Pastor’, raped her as a teenager in her home.

Spreading like wildfire, the story trended on all social media platforms, broke into the mainstream media and became a crusade gathering hundreds of protesters, who marched on the church’s headquarters in Abuja and its location in Lagos simultaneously on Sunday, June 30. The loud protest forced two things, first a cancellation of an annual ‘Seven Days of Glory’ prayer and fasting programme, which was to begin on Monday, July 1 with pastors from Nigeria and overseas billed to minister; and second, the stepping aside of the embattled pastor, who has now been denied by the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), from the pulpit.

Biodun Fatoyinbo

Just as the COZA story was yet to drop down from the headlines and trending topics, an ancillary to COZA-gate came up, a video about a similar allegation of sexual molestation against the founder of the Synagogue Church Of All Nations (SCOAN), Prophet Temitope Joshua, began trending. Bisola Johnson made the allegation when she joined protesters to march to COZA church service in Lagos. She said she was trapped in SCOAN for 14 years before she regained her freedom.

Not long afterwards, the new story began trending with hashtags like #SayNoToRapeInTheChurch, #IStandWithBusola, #IStandWithBisola and #ChurchToo. But not wanting to be done in by the new media court of public opinion, the church immediately released a six-minute long video to discredit the claims. The video was a compilation of several clips recorded over decades showing an unstable woman described as Bisola making a series of confessions in the church.

TB Joshua

To the relief of SCOAN, this reply was yet to gain traction when it was sidestepped by the trending topic of the moment, Senator’s Elisha Abbo, who was caught on video physically assaulting a nursing mother for merely pleading with him to “take it easy” with a shop owner in Abuja.

On all social media platforms, it is #SenatorStepDown that is the subject of discourse. It has forced an official reaction from the senate, his party and the police. Already, six petitions against the embattled Senator have garnered 38,473 signatures at the last count on Wednesday.

The petitions range from ones calling for the prosecution of Abbo, who was seen in a surveillance camera at an adult toy shop in Abuja assaulting a nursing woman, to ones calling for an end to the abuse of women and girls. Since the video went viral on Tuesday, Nigerians have filed six petitions on popular petition platform, Change.org. The petition with the highest number of signatures was started by one Daniel Adebayo.

On the ground however, armed police officers attached to the National Assembly yesterday frustrated plans by some group of women activists from protesting against Senator Abbo. The group of women activists numbering about 50 and led by Aisha Yesufu, stormed the National Assembly complex at about 11:00a.m., chanting solidarity songs. The female rights activists also demanded the arrest and prosecution of the senator for molesting a mother.

Senator Elisha Abbo

The court of public opinion is apparently on the ascendancy. So far, they have recorded major successes like the #JusticeForKolade which forced the arrest of two officers involved in the extrajudicial killing of Kolade Johnson in Lagos earlier this year and #EndSARS, leading to a slowdown in the brutality of the dreaded Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).

In May this year, Nigerians on social media went into frenzy at the news that Abayomi Shogunle, head of the Complaint Response Unit of the police, had been removed from the position. Shogunle’s removal came two days after making an unguarded comment on the illegal raid and rape of over 100 women by some police officers in Abuja.

Shogunle had taken to Twitter to reply those condemning the police, saying: “Those making noise on the clampdown on prostitutes in Abuja note: That prostitution is a crime under the law, is a sin under the two main religions of FCT residents; is spreading HIV & STDs; is lifeline of violent criminals; prostitutes don’t pay tax and Nigerian culture frowns on it.”

Abayomi Shogunle

Twitter users lambasted the police and Shogunle, branding him a bigot. In a jiffy, Frank Mba, the police spokesperson, confirmed that Shogunle had been redeployed to a town in Ebonyi State, saying: “He has been removed as head of the Complaint Response Unit and redeployed to Ebonyi State as Area Commander of Nkalagu.”

Also, scholars have opined that social media helped Tunisia and Egypt spread their message to the West and overthrow their dictators by organizing protests and rallies during the Arab Spring of 2011. In Libya, the social media also helped begin the revolution. The Arab Spring was a series of pro-democracy uprisings that enveloped several largely Muslim countries, including Tunisia, Morocco, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Bahrain. The events in these nations began in the spring of 2011, which led to the name. However, the political and social impact of the popular uprisings remains significant today, years after many of them ended, though it is easy to forget that the large-scale political and social movements began with a single act of defiance.

On its merit, the people’s court is not inherently evil, and there are scenarios that should be argued in the public rather than cloistered in private arbitration, like complaints of sexual harassment and sexual assault, which forms element of the global #MeToo campaign.

But this court can also be exploited whereby public opinion and the social media becomes a monster. One way is the substitution of opinion for fact. When facts are unknown or complex, but a yes or no answer is required immediately, the public is driven increasingly to go with a gut instinct or opinion.

Last year, Vanguard newspaper had to publicly dissociate itself from a comment its editorial board chairman, Mr. Ocherome Nnanna, made on a social media platform, Facebook. Nnanna made what many said was a disparaging remark about the Yoruba ethnic group by calling them, “sophisticated morons” in a Facebook thread over the award of Nigeria’s highest honour to Moshood Abiola.

Ocherome Nnanna

The statement elicited uproar and widespread condemnation, especially from the South West elements in the social media, which forced the management of Vanguard to respond to the strident calls for the head of its longest-serving member of staff. In a statement, Vanguard pledged its commitment to responsible journalism. The statement signed by Gbenga Adefaye, editor-in-chief of the newspaper, said though Nnanna made the remark in a private conversation, Vanguard had already started probing it.

“While we are carefully interrogating the veracity of the comment, with a decisive response to the author, we wish to acknowledge that the statement was made entirely as part of a private conversation. Vanguard dissociates itself totally from such unwarranted but careless, private outburst. But we also wish to stress that Nnanna’s position must always reflect a circumspect conduct that takes into cognizance the sensitive nature of our responsibility, and in particular, the need to maintain decorum and decency in all conduct and dealings, whether private or public, formal or virtual.”

Nnanna then took to his Facebook page to tender an apology to the Yoruba and Nigerians saying: “I never imagined in my wildest dream that an offhand remark could provoke an anger of volcanic dimension which has threatened my career and Vanguard Newspapers as an institution.” He begged the Yoruba people to please forgive and forget his indiscretion on his Facebook page on June 9, 2018. He has never been the same again since then.

A communication scholar, Anna Joansson, has said social media mobs would be worse for society than the people they shame or whose life is ruined if not checked. “In the vast majority of cases, the people calling for someone’s firing or punishment don’t have the full story. They have seen a single tweet, without any context, or they have seen a video covering the last 30 seconds of an interaction that lasted several minutes or longer.

“We can’t allow any kind of justice system to make a final call based on these limited pieces of information—that’s why we have an actual justice system in place. No matter how flawed that justice system is, it strives to guarantee people the right to a fair and impartial trial. There’s nothing fair or impartial about a swarm of Twitter users cherry-picking the worst in people, and using that as an excuse to launch a full-blown assault against them.

“Also, we can’t expect people to be perfect 100 per cent of the time. Imagine if you were judged for everything you have ever done or said; chances are, even the most nonjudgmental, charitable, and kind of us has a handful of statements that would qualify us for our own internet lynch mob. What if you lose your job over a dumb mistake you made nine years ago? And not a hit-and-run accident or a murder charge, but a tasteless joke you made on the internet. That’s the reality of the impossible standards we set for people,” she said.

A social media enthusiast, Olaoluwa Adeleke, said: “On Twitter, it takes less than a minute to retweet an offensive message with a short message shaming the person who wrote it. If you have access to thousands of followers, you can mobilize a small army of vocal warriors to help bring someone down. In a matter of hours, a tweet that was meant to be seen by a few dozen people can reach millions. This is a dangerous slippery slope for this generation. May we not be on the wrong end of a social media lynch mob.”

 

EXTRA

Few days after this was published, social media trial gained another casualty

COZA saga: PUNCH sacks editors over offensive cartoon

The PUNCH has removed its Daily Editor, Martin Ayankola over an offensive cartoon published in the newspaper last Thursday.

Also asked to resign was the Saturday Editor, Olabisi Deji-Folutile over the same issue.

There has been outrage over a cartoon published on the back page of the PUNCH last Thursday. The opinion on its back page column was written by Abimbola Adelakun, with the title “What Does Mrs. Fatoyinbo Know.” The article was illustrated with a cartoon of a man desecrating the bible with urine.

The publication had generated lots of displeasure against the newspaper for publishing such offensive cartoon aimed at casting aspersion on the Christian faith and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Martin Ayankola, sacked Punch editor

PM News gathered that the board held an emergency meeting on Monday where Ayankola, was ordered to appear and forced to resign his appointment.

It was learnt that Ayankola had just completed a one-week suspension before he was fired by the newspaper over the offensive cartoon.

Ayankola has been the longest serving PUNCH Editor, having been appointed to the office in 2013 and during his tenure, the PUNCH towered higher.

A source in The PUNCH told PM News that the editor was forced to resign for bringing the newspaper into disrepute.

The ‘offensive’ illustration

The Saturday Editor, Deji-Folutile was also asked to resign for allegedly playing a role in the publication, while the cartoonist of the newspaper was sacked, with more people still being investigated, while the columnist, Abimbola Adelakun, was asked to rest her column.

The PUNCH had also tendered an apology to the public over the offensive cartoon.

The apology reads: “On the back of the page of the Thursday, July 4, 2019 edition of the PUNCH, we published a cartoon to illustrate an article titled, ‘What does Mrs Fatoyinbo know?’ The cartoon features a character desecrating the Holy Bible.

“We apologise for the offensive cartoon and assure our esteemed readers that we hold the Christian faith in high regard. We have since commenced the process of applying appropriate sanctions to the members of staff responsible, and we shall be reviewing our editorial process to prevent re-occurrence.”

 

Gains, worries over ascendancy of social media trial

 

 

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FROM THE ARCHIVE: A Nation’s Identity Crisis

Reuben Abati’s Interesting Insights On Today’s Youth Culture…

This article dated June 22, 2009 is still very much relevant today

A Nation’s Identity Crisis
By Reuben Abati

You may not have noticed it: Nigeria is suffering from an identity crisis imposed on it in part by an emergent generation of irreverent and creative young Nigerians who are revising old norms and patterns. And for me nothing demonstrates this more frontally than the gradual change of the name of the country. When Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard’s consort came up with the name, Nigeria in 1914, she meant to define the new country by the strategic importance of the Niger River. And indeed, River Niger used to be as important to this country as the Nile was/is to Egypt. We grew up as school children imagining stories about how Lugard in one special romantic moment, asked his mistress to have the honour of naming a new country in Africa. Something like: “Hello, sweetheart, what name would you rather give the new country that I am creating?”

“Let me give it a thought? ….Awright, how about Ni-ge-ria darling?”

“That would do. That would do. How thoughtful, my fair lady? You are forever so dependable”

abatiAnd the name stuck and it has become our history and identity. But these days, the name Nigeria is gradually being replaced by so many variants, that I am afraid a new set of Nigerians may in the immediate future not even know the correct spelling of the name of their country. For these Nigerians whose lives revolve mostly around the internet and the blogosphere, the name Nigeria has been thrown out of the window. Our dear country is now “naija” or “nija”. What happened to the “-eria” that Ms Shaw must have thoughtfully included? The new referents for Nigeria are now creeping into writings, conversations, and internet discourse. I am beaten flat by the increasing re-writing of the country’s name not only as naija or nija, but consider this: “9ja”. Or this other name for Nigeria: “gidi”. There is even a television programme that is titled “Nigerzie”. In addiiton, Etisalat, a telecom company has since adopted a marketing platform that is titled: “0809ja.” Such mainstreaming of these new labels is alarming.

This obviously is the age of abbreviations. The emerging young generation lacks the discipline or the patience to write complete sentences or think through a subject to its logical end. It is a generation in a hurry, it feels the constraints of space so much, it has to reduce everything to manageable, cryptic forms. This is what the e-mail and text message culture has done to the popular consciousness. Older generations of Nigerians brought up on a culture of correctness and compeleteness may never get used to the re-writing of Nigeria as “9ja”. Language is mutatory, but referring to the motherland or the fatherland in slang terms may point to a certain meaninglessness or alienation. What’s in a name? In Africa, names are utilitarian constructs not merely labels. Even among the Ijaw where people bear such unique names as University, Conference, FEDECO, Manager, Heineken, Education, Polo, Boyloaf, Bread, College, Summit, Aeroplane, Bicycle, Internet – there is a much deeper sense to the names. But the name Nigeria means nothing to many young Nigerians. They have no reason to respect the sanctity of the name. They don’t know Flora Shaw or Lord Lugard, and even if they do, they are likely to say as Ogaga Ifowodo does in an unforgettable poem: “God Punish you, Lord Lugard.” Eedris Abdulakarim summarises the concern of young Nigerians in one of his songs when he declared: “Nigeria jagajaga, everything scata, scata”

The post-modernist, deconstructive temper of emergent youth culture is even more manifest in the cynical stripping to the bones character of today’s Nigerian hip-hop. It is marked by a Grunge character that shouts: non-meaning and alienation. On my way to Rutam House the other day, I listened at mid-day to a continuous stream of old musical numbers from 93.7 Radio FM. Soulful, meaningful tunes of Felix Lebarty, Chris Okotie (as he then was), Mandy Ojugbana, Christy Essien-Igbokwe, Onyeka Onwenu, Sony Okosun, Alex O, Ras Kimono, Majek Fashek, Evi Edna-Ogoli, Bongos Ikwue, Veno Marioghae, Uche Ibeto, Dora Ifudu, Mike Okri, Dizzy K. Falola, and Tina Onwudiwe. Onyeka Onwenu sang; “One love, keep us together”. Veno Marioghae sang: “Nigeria Go Survive”. Even in the romantic offerings like Chris Okotie’s “I need someone, give me your love”, or Felix Lebarty’s “Ifeoma, Ifeoma, I want to marry you, give me your love” and Stella Monye’s “Oko mi ye, duro ti mi o”, or Tina Onwudiwe’s award-winning “Asiko lo laye”. there was so much meaning and polish.

This was in the 80s. That generation which sang music under its real names, not abbreviations or slangs, was continuing, after the fashion of T.S. Eliot’s description of “Tradition and the Individual Talent”, a pattern of meaning that dates back to traditional African musicians and all the musicians that succeeded them: S. B. Bakare, Victor Olaiya, Fela Anikulapo-Kuti, Sunny Ade, Ebenezer Obey, Dan Maraya of Jos, Osita Osadebey, Ayinla Omowura, Victor Uwaifo, Geraldo Pino, Rex Lawson, I. K. Dairo, Haruna Ishola, Yusuf Olatunji, Inyang Henshaw, Tunji Oyelana, Bobby Benson, Tunde Nightingale, and even the later ones: Shina Peters, Dele Abiodun, Y.K. Ajao, Ayinde Barrister, Kollington Ayinla, Batile Alake, Sir Warrior, Moroccco Nwa Maduko, Orlando Owoh, Salawa Abeni, KWAM I (Arabambi 1 and please include his disciples- Wasiu Alabi Pasuma et al), Oliver de Coque (Importer and Exporter…), Ayefele, Atorise …. But there has been a terrible crisis in the construction of music. The children, grandchildren and great grandchildren of these ancestors have changed the face and identity of Nigerian music. As a rule, gospel musicians, given the nature of their form, sing meaningful lyrics, but the airwaves these days have been taken over by the children of “gidi”,”naija”, “nija”, “nigerzie” and “9ja”. I listen to them too, but everyday, I struggle to make meaning out of their lyrics.

Music is about sense, sound, shape and skills. But there is an on-going deficit in all other aspects except sound. So much sound is being produced in Nigeria, but there is very little sense, shape and skills. They call it hip-hop. They try to imitate Western hip pop stars. They even dress like them. The boys don’t wear trousers on their waists: the new thing is called “sagging”, somewhere below the waist it looks as if the trouser is about to fall off. The women are struggling to expose strategic flesh as Janet Jackson once did. The boys and the girls are cloaked in outlandish jewellery and their prime heroes are Ja-Rule, Lil’Wayne, Fat Joe, P. Diddy, 50 Cents, Ronz Brown, Chris Brown, Sean Kingston, Nas, Juelz Santana, Akon, Young Jeezy, Mike Jones, T-Pain, F.L.O-RIDA, Will.I.am, Beyonce, Rihanna, Ciara, Keri Hilson, Jay-Z, Ace hood, Rick Ross, Birdman, Busta Rhymes, Cassidy, Chamillionaire, Soulja Boy, Young Joc, Kanye West, R. Kelly, Kevin Rudolph, T.I.P-king of the South, Ludacris, Plies-The real goon, The Game, Young Rox, Flow killa, Osmosis (2 sick), Flow-ssik, Raprince, Bionic, Fabulous, Jadakiss, Nas, Swiss Beatz, Dj Khaled, Maze, Yung Buck, Maino, MoBB Deep, Lloyd Banks, Olivia, Lady Gaga… Well, God Almighty, we are in your hands.

And so the most impactful musicians in Nigeria today, the ones who rule the party include the following: D’Banj, MI, Mode Nine, Sauce kid, Naeto C, Sasha, Ikechukwu, 9ice, Bouqui, Mo’cheddah, Teeto, P-square, Don-jazzy, Wande Coal, 2-face, Faze, Black Face, Dr. Sid, D’prince, K-Switch, Timaya, Dj-Zeez, Dj Neptune, Banky w., Big bamo, Art quake, Bigiano, Durella, Eldee, Kelly Hansome, Lord of Ajasa, M.P., Terry tha rapman, Weird MC, Y.Q., Da grin, kel, Roof-top Mcs, Pype, Niga Raw, Ghetto p., Kaka, Kaha, Terry G, Ill Bliss, Zulezoo, Pipe, Dj Jimmy jatt, X-project, Konga, Gino, Morachi… Well, the Lord is God. These are Nigerian children who were given proper names by their parents. Ikechukwu bears his real name. But who are these other ones who have since abandoned their proper names? For example, 9ice’s real name is Abolore Akande, (what a fine name!), Tu face (Innocent Idibia), Sauce Kid (Babalola Falemi), D’Banj (Dapo Oyebanjo), Banky w. (Bankole Willington), P-Square (Peter and Paul), MI (Jude Abaga), Timaya (Enetimi Alfred Odom), Sasha (Yetunde Alabi), Weird MC (Adesola Idowu). But why such strange names? They don’t sing. They rap. Most of them don’t play instruments, they use synthetic piano.

At public functions, they mime. They are not artists, they perform. They are not necessarily composers, they dance. The more terrible ones can’t even sing a correct musical note. They talk. And they are all businessmen and women. They are more interested in commerce and self-advertisement, name recognition, brand extension and memory recall! They want a name that sells, not some culturally conditioned name that is tied down to culture and geography. But the strange thing is that they are so successful. Nollywood has projected Nigeria, the next big revelations are in hip hop.

Despite the identity crisis and the moral turpitude that we find in Nigeria’s contemporary hip-hop, the truth is that it is a brand of music that sells. Nigeria’s hip hop is bringing the country so much international recognition. All those strange names are household names across the African continent, so real is this that the phrase “collabo” is now part of the vocabulary of the new art. It speaks to an extension of frontiers. In Nigeria, it is now possible to hold a party without playing a single foreign musical track, the great grand children of Nigerian music are belting out purely danceable sounds which excites the young at heart. But the output belongs majorly to the age of meaningless and prurience. The lyrics says it all.

Rooftop MC sings for example: “Ori mi wu o, e lagi mo”. This is a very popular song. But all it says is: “my head is swollen, please hit it with a log of wood.” X-Project sings: “Lori le o di gonbe (2x), e so fun sisi ologe ko ya faya gbe, ko ya faya gbe, file, gbabe, se be, bobo o ti e le, wo bo nse fe sa hale hale niwaju omoge, ha, lori le odi gonbe, …..sisi ologe ki lo di saya o, so fun mi ki lofe, o wa on fire o….” Now, what does this mean in real terms? But let’s go to Naeto C: “kini big deal, kini big deal, sebi sebi we’re on fire”, or D’Banj: ” my sweet potato, I wanna make you wife, I wanna make you my wife o, see I no understand o, cause I dey see well well, but dey say love is blind, see I never thought I will find someone like you that will capture my heart and there will be nothing I can do….”. Yes, we are in the age of sweet potato. And so Art quake sings: “E be like fire dey burn my body, e je ki n fera, oru lo n mu mi. Open your hand like say you wan fly away. Ju pa, ju se, ka jo ma sere, alanta, alanta.”

And here is Zulezoo, another popular Nigerian musical team: “Daddy o, daddy, daddy wen you go for journey, somebody enter for mummy’s house, person sit down for mummy bed, person push mummy, mummy push person, mummy fall for bed yakata, daddy, o daddy, the man jus dey do kerewa kerewa…kerewa ke” And Dj-Zeez: “ori e o 4 ka sibe, ori e o 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe”. And MI: “Anoti, anoti, anoti ti, anoti titi.” And Konga: “Baby konga so konga, di konga, ileke konga, ju pa pa, ju pa, konga, ju pa pa, ju pa, sibe”.. And 9ice: “gongo a so, kutupu a wu, eni a de ee, aji se bi oyo laari; oyo o se bi baba enikan, kan, i be double now, aye n lo, a mi to o, gongo a so, oti so o, e wo le e wo enu oko…” Or Tony Tetuila: “U don hit my car, oyinbo repete, u don hit my car o”. Or Weird MC: “Sola lo ni jo, lyrics lori gangan, awa lo ni jo”. Sheer drivel. So much sound, little sense. Is this the future? Maybe not.

Most of the music being produced now will not be listenable in another five years and this perhaps is the certain fate of commercial art that is driven by branding, show and cash. But we should be grateful all the same for the music, coming out of Nigeria also at this time in the soul, gospel, hip, hop genre: the music that is of Femi Anikulapo-Kuti, Lagbaja, Asa (there is fire on the mountain/and no one seems to be on the run/ there is fire on the mountain now…”), Ara, Sam Okposo, Dare, Sunny Neji, Infinity (now a broken up team), African China, Alariwo of Afrika…. We suffer nonetheless in music as in the national nomenclature, an identity crisis. A country’s character is indexed into its arts and culture, eternal purveyors of tones and modes. Nigerian youths now sing of broken heads, raw sex, uselessness and raw, aspirational emotionalism. A sign of the times? Yes, I guess.

I find further justification in the national anthem, many versions of which now exist. I grew up in this same country knowing only one way of singing the national anthem: from “Nigeria we hail thee” to “Arise o Compatriots”. The singing of the national anthem is supposed to be a solemn moment. Arms clasped by the side, a straight posture, and the mind strictly focussed on the ideals of patriotism and nationalism. Stillness. Nobody moves. And the national song is rendered in an unchanging format. But not so any longer. There are so many versions of the Nigerian national anthem these days. Same lyrics but different musical rhythms. I have heard the national anthem sung in juju, in fuji, in hip hop, in Ishan’s igbagbolemini, in acapella mode, even reggae. I attended an ocassion once, the rendition of the national music was so enthralling, people started dancing. Even the photographers and cameramen danced with their cameras. For me that was the ultimate expression of the people’s cynicism. The prevalent mood is as expressed by Dj-Zeez: “ori e 4 ka sibe, 4 ka sibe”: an epigrammatic, onomatopoeic, market-driven diminution of language as vehicle and sign. What kind of people are we? A dancing nation? Dancing and writing away our frustrations and caring little about sense, in this country that is now known as “naija”, “nija”, “9ja”, “nigerzie,” “gidi”?

Ascendancy of social media in build up to elections

• Remembering Orevba, the hero of 2011
By Tope Templer Olaiya
Few weeks before the general elections, the virtual social media space has been saturated by canvassers and cyber-warlords who have taken over the unregulated mass communication platform to run a vigorous, no-holds barred campaign either for change, as represented by General Muhammadu Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) or continuity as proclaimed by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Long before these blood-dripping and nail-biting crusades from both divides interrupted sanity and polluted the social media space, President Goodluck Jonathan’s Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Dr. Reuben Abati, had in 2012 dismissed the pool of online critics as collective children of anger.

War 4In defense of his principal in a piece titled ‘The Jonathan they don’t know,’ Abati, feeling rattled from unending social media jibes hurled at Jonathan had branded the new media adherents as “the pestle-wielding critics, the unrelenting, self-appointed activists, the idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger, the distracted crowd of Facebook addicts, and the BBM-pinging soap opera gossips of Nigeria, who seem to be in competition among themselves to pull down President Goodluck Jonathan.”

But can these ‘children of anger’ be blamed for exploiting the channel the president himself elevated to state art when in 2010, he made a public ceremony of his signing up on Facebook and went ahead to publish a 360-page book titled ‘Goodluck Jonathan: My friends and I,’ which documented his conversations with Nigerians via the social media platform.

Explaining why he decided to open a Facebook account, considering the fact that a president should be too preoccupied with state matters to have less time for inanities like chatting, he responded that he was motivated by President Barack Obama of the United States of America and his novel use of social media network during his presidential campaign to stimulate new thinking on participatory governance across the world.

War 1Facebook is one tool of social media that allows for interaction between government and the governed. Opinions on issues, policy and governance can be expressed in an unedited, uncensored way by the citizens. While you used to wonder if your letter would ever get to the president, such doubts are eliminated through Facebook. The multiplicity of opinion, variety of thoughts and the engaging, argumentative nature of the posts are very essential to breeding understanding and building consensus in the democratic process. I love Facebook also because it allows me to get some information that may normally not get to me, having been ‘edited’ along the line,” he had said.

From the thousands of feedback and raw comments the president got from Nigerians, the one which stood out for particular mention after the president got elected in 2011 was the post from one Babajide Orevba, whose father, Emmanuel Bamidele Orevba, slumped and died jubilating Jonathan’s poll victory. It took the entire country by surprise, when for the first time in the history of inaugural speeches, the president on May 29, 2011, at the Eagles Square, Abuja, acknowledged the death of a 65-year-old Orevba, who collapsed out of enthusiasm and joy immediately he was declared winner, and died three days after.

Jonathan, in his address to the nation, had said: “Only a couple of days ago, I received an entry on my Facebook page. It was sent by Mr. Babajide Izegaegbe Orevba. He wrote to inform me that I had lost a great fan. That fan was his father, Mr. Emmanuel Bamidele Orevba. The deceased, the son told me, was no politician, but had campaigned enthusiastically for my ticket. Tragically, overwhelmed by the joy of our victory, he collapsed, and passed on three days later. I pray God Almighty to grant his soul eternal rest.”

War 3

Late Orevba

Orevba’s commitment and love to President Jonathan started shortly after he became the acting president. A native of Sabongida Ora, Owan Local Government of Edo State, Orevba fell in love with Jonathan’s style of government and his determination to put an end to the epileptic power situation. He was said to be particularly impressed by the patience and maturity demonstrated by Jonathan when the controversies started over whether as Vice President, he should be allowed to act in the absence of his former boss, late Shehu Yar’Adua, who was hospitalized for over 90 days in Saudi Arabia.

Today, Babajide, a graduate of Psychology from the University of Ado Ekiti, who now lives and works in Abuja, has taken up the gauntlet from where his father left it to unabashedly campaign for the president’s reelection, using the same medium that brought him access to the president in 2011- Facebook.

Narrating how his father died, Babajide had in 2011 told The Guardian that, “three days to the presidential election in 2011, my father reminded us to ensure we all voted for Jonathan. We all assured him that we won’t do otherwise. On the day of election, before I went to cast my vote in my ward, which was a few distance away from his, I assisted him to check his name. On Sunday, he sat glued to the television monitoring as the results trickled in from the states.

War 5

Babajide Orevba

“By Monday evening, when it was obvious that the president was in a clear lead, my father’s spirit became high. At that point, if you demand anything from him, he would gladly do it. He always told us he never supported Jonathan because of getting an appointment in return. ‘Of course, I do not know him neither does he know me, but I believe in him.’”

“On Monday night, the situation changed. The family members were all in the living room when chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega, declared Jonathan as the winner of the election. Out of enthusiasm, my father shouted but he collapsed. I quickly grabbed him but he could not hold himself so we rushed him to the General Hospital, Ikeja. At that time it was already Tuesday. He remained on admission till Saturday and was not able to talk before he finally gave up.”

Explaining how he posted the death of his father on Facebook, Jide said, “I have been a fan of the president on Facebook six months before the election and anytime I have any issue to comment on, I sent it to him through Facebook. So, when my father died, I published it on the president’s Facebook page just as I used to do without attaching any importance to it, but to my surprise, when he mentioned my father’s name in his inaugural speech, friends and neighbours started calling me to say the president just mentioned your name.”

“Until his death, his belief was that Jonathan’s presidency will fix the power problem in the country. I hope my father’s sacrifice would not go in vain. If it is only the power problem Jonathan can fix in the next four years, then he would have succeeded in making Orevba happy inside his grave.”

War 2For failing to make Pa Orevba happy in the grave, and many other promises not yet fully met, the president in the run-up to his reelection has courted the wrath of many ‘all-knowing crowd of Facebook and Twitter addicts.’ Surprisingly, the bandwagon effect of the social media population is queuing behind Buhari, who has now been renamed FeBuhari, as a riposte of the February 14 presidential election day, which across the world is lovers’ day and St. Valentine’s Day.

It must, however, be noted that the FeBuhari brigade are not having a field day on the turf. As the epic day draws near and Nigerians count down in trepidation, it is a harsh tag battle between the #IHaveDecided, #ThingsMustChange Buhari camp and the #OurGEJ, #ForwardNigeria, #NoGoingBack group rooting for President Jonathan.

With his more than 1,700,000 Facebook followers, Jonathan is the first Nigerian President to use social media to communicate with the citizens. Apart from using the online platform to tell Nigerians some of his achievements while in office, the President has been using the medium to seek the electorate’s support.

Every Facebook post of the president attracts thousands of likes and comments from his supporters and the opposition.

His party, the PDP, has just a little above 60,000 followers on Facebook and about 28,000 Twitter followers.

War 6Likewise, a few days after Buhari was elected to run against Jonathan in next month’s presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress, he too took the campaign for voters’ support to the social media. In just few days after signing up on Twitter, the former head of state has gained over 70,000 followers and also commands about 100,000 followers on Facebook.

His party, the APC, with over 75,000 Twitter followers, has tweeted more than 8,000 times – seeking for the electorate’s votes, while some of them are also geared towards “attacking” the PDP. The APC seems to be using the service more frequently than the PDP, which has less than 2,000 tweets.

Meanwhile, Buhari has said he would create time to read through the comments and observations of his fans via his Facebook page as he contests against President Jonathan. “I take note of every comment, suggestion and feedback you give me. Please keep them coming. Thank you for your support,” he wrote on Facebook.

With the hue and cry over difficulty getting the Permanent Voter’s Card (PVC), it remains to be seen how this online battle will translate to victory for both feuding sides on Saturday, February 14. Whoever carries the day will be hugely indebted to the passion of the teeming mass of both virtual and physical combatants who sacrificed sweat and blood to make it happen. Who will be the next hero after Orevba?