When social media and power collide
Social media has become a contentious space in Nigeria. In a society that is closed up and does not appreciate openness or transparency, Nigerian citizens have employed tools readily available on the Internet to expose corrupt practices of government officials. Beyond that, social media has been credited for playing a huge role in politics as seen during the elections last year. Nigerians feel the need to confront political leaders who steal from public coffers and have found a niche in social media and data journalism.
All this and more were revealed on the panel, “Where Social Media Meets Power” which focused on the intersection of power, politics, data journalism, and social media in Nigeria.
The Nigerian public service is generally inefficient; seeing a gap, citizens such as Temi Adeoye have employed social media in addressing some of the issues that Nigerians face in that sector. Adeoye’s Code for Nigeria has attempted to achieve this through mobile applications that make the public service sector accessible to the everyday Nigerian deployed on social media.
Other initiatives like Sahara Reporters have gained a lot of pushback in their quest to make information available to the public in order to encourage accountability in the government. According to Omoyele Sowore, Sahara Reporters set a precedent when social media was employed in 2015 to share a tape that allegedly revealed an election rigging plot.
For Stanley Achonu of BugIT, one way to express ideals through social media is to stick to the facts and be consistent, all while refusing to allow any outside forces influence the direction your initiative is going. This is especially significant where there are rumors of popular personalities backed by shady figures. In such an environment, funders should have no say in determining content or daily running of an initiative whether online or offline.
Across communities, ethnic groups, and class lines, Nigerians are able to connect on the issue of holding the government accountable. Hamzat Lawal is the manager at Connected Development, a company that traces looted funds; Lawal mentioned the significance of going down to local communities and interacting with non-English speaking people who are unaware of the existence of social media. Everyone needs to know what has been revealed online, and reaching out to disaffected communities in a language they understand will inform them of the massive scale on which some government officials loot.
While social media and the Internet may not be able to change the way people behave, it does ensure that critical issues are addressed and made aware to the public. Social media has also become a significant tool through which citizens of African countries are challenging power structures for the better good.
What are your thoughts on government controlling social media? Is social media an effective tool in dismantling imbalanced power structures? Leave a comment below or reach me on Twitter @rafeeeeta