OPINION LEADERS AND THE SOCIAL MEDIA REVOLUTION: THE NIGERIAN CONTEXT


OPINION LEADERS AND THE SOCIAL MEDIA REVOLUTION: THE NIGERIAN CONTEXT

By Steven Atogi

May 23, 2017


My idea is not to be an opinion leader with a task of merely entertaining or at best, raising periodic awareness on one or two unfortunate case(s) of social concern on the social media platform. There is a greater task. I see many opinion leaders, from social to entertain areas of concern. Their influence is an advantage, however, the task they are enmeshed in is minuscule in respect to the social malaise in the Nigerian society. This is not that they are totally unaware, in fact, on the contrary. They see the same glaring obstacles in the country as everyone else. Serious impediments that have defied many good efforts, it is structural and systematic, the dynamics of the society works only for the elite class of leaders and not the majority of the led. To this end, many of these opinion leaders have unconsciously embrace complacency, partly as psychological self-defense mechanism absorbing themselves from the reality of confrontational demand for positive change. As a matter of fact, it has taken a new shift to the political, that most of the social media opinion leaders who engage in political discourse every now and then are actually doing so to redirect the perception of complacency aside, and secondly, they talk politics merely to get wide social appeal, fame and whatever opportunity that may come with it. They resign to pessimism at the end of the day. Thirdly, to satisfy what Maslow termed “social needs” and ranked third in his famous hierarchy of human needs. This is simply the need for belongness and social acceptance. 


However, the Social Media Revolution is real, for instance, look at what Turkey achieved in 2016 with Facetime (a social media platform) - the citizens actually participated in averting a coup and protecting their democracy. Within a short period of time, Nigerians have demonstrated that social media is one platform that offer them limitless freedom to express their true feelings towards the structural and systematic frustrations in the State. This was the case that principally triggered the successful online campaign for the withdrawal of the notorious anti-Social Media Bill in the Red Chambers, guised as “Frivolous Petitions Bill” as sponsored in December 2015, by Bala Na'Allah of APC, Kebbi South. Of course, as I wrote then and still maintain now, it was yet another failed attempt to shut-up the oppressed masses by the leaders and beneficiaries of the skewed structure of the State - the beastly hydra elite class rubbing the people to death of what is truly theirs, since Adam.


Ironically, the opinion leaders in Nigeria are yet to fully take advantage of this technological gift of scientific ingenuity to mankind - the ICT revolutionary innovation's birth of internet and social media. Overtime, it has been more like a stranded soldier who got hold of a potent weapon, finally, but rather paying much attention to the looks of his uniform than realizing the danger at the front which he had prior to now known to be extremely vicious. This is a tragedy of unnecessary self-distraction. Worse still, it is not from the dangerous opponent who seek to structurally eliminate him, but from his own psyche. A fortunate soldier with unfortunate priorities. 


The opinion leaders in Nigerian on social media and offline must take advantage of the social media revolution with radical shift to the political and consolidate efforts in that sense to make a meaningful impact in the polity. Opinion leaders should prioritize the political as a matter of urgency and channel energies towards the sensitization of their teeming followers online to move from parochials to participants in the political process. A brief view of the world would show that nations with good structural foundations and progressive systems are making advancement in science and technology, some are already racing to space. This is only possible because of innovations in energy generation, health, education, rapid industrialization, sustainable economic growth and development, etcetera. When you take a critical look at the place of Nigeria in all these and realizing you have a potent weapon in social media, there is nothing stopping you from aiming rightly and taking the best shot. The shot is not best until the target is hit and neutralized, till there is a positive change, structurally and systematically. It won't happen except the opinion leaders (especially the youths) are prioritizing right to take the political serious and face the impediments squarely, dealing a blow worth tagging a “revolution” as never before in the eyes of history. Singapore transformed from a third world country to first world in just three decades. It is left for the Nigerian opinion leaders to make the best of what Providence has given them and prove that the black African is equal to his/her counterparts in other progressive parts of the world.

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