By Dotun Olutoke
Interestingly, the inspiration for this piece floated in my mind after reading Bayo Olupohunda’s expressive piece titled “Buharists, Wailing Wailers and a Divided Nation.” The article which appeared on Naij.com in the early hours of Wednesday, 6th January, 2016 points in an instructive manner to the dangers of unhealthy partisanship and the “cold war” being waged by political gladiators on the social media. Arguably, there is no time other than now that the truism embedded in our national anthem – one nation bound in freedom, peace and unity – resounds true.
In our ‘one-nation’, a lot of questions remain unanswered while other problems flowered unattended to, all constituting a worrisome malaise to the Nigerian state. As our motherland is bedevilled by numerous ills – corruption, dwindling currency, insecurity, unemployment and many more too obvious to be mentioned – the task for all concerted and concerned citizens is to avoid unguided political bickering and forge a way-forward discourse tool to jointly combat those challenges dragging our nation into the abyss of irrelevance in the comity of nations.
Without doubt, the social media is a virtual platform that has given the opportunity to many Nigerians to air their views on different issues of political, religious, economic, social and even personal interest. While the online media has unshackled the chains of communication, it is no doubt characterised by naked bias, and unguided positions on delicate issues capable of overheating the polity. The questions that this phenomenon throws up are many. Are we taking advantage of the social media for productive engagement? How do we disagree without division? Is it possible to resolve our differences without being dissident?
The ongoing anti-corruption war declared by the Buhari’s administration is a citeable case in which the social media has been deployed for partisan and somewhat biased purposes. As a fall-out to this, there has been a lot of dust raised on Twitter particularly and other online platforms by the supporters of the two leading parties in Nigeria. While the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) claims to be on a just cause in the anti-corruption crusade, the opposition grumbles that it is a case of witch-hunting claiming that only members of the PDP or their affiliates are being arrested and interrogated over fraud allegations.
Nigerians surely have a lot to contribute. Elections are over; now is the time to push back the frontiers of sentiments and begin to ask critical questions from the government on policies that affect us all. For instance, the dwindling value of the naira against the dollar is an issue apt for public discourse. Now is the time to challenge all corrupt bodies or personalities – whether in the government, in the opposition, in the public or private sector. Even accomplices in the religious circles should not be spared! However, we cannot attain victory on the demon of corruption when we allow ourselves to be divided along political, ethnic, religious and economic lines.
Reflecting over the revolutionary role of the social media in nation-building, I became bothered about the level of distraction and detraction in the polity which is reflected in the content of comments, opinions and views circulating online. The war against insurgency that is being waged with a two-edged sword – by armies in troubled Northeastern state and by “armies” on the social media – has seemingly turned one-sided as it appears the armies on the social media have retired. I can’t remember the last time I saw a continuum of (re)tweets about the missing Chibok girls. It seems the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls no longer trends as it used to be when it gained the attention of the international community. Being overtly concerned alone on the fight against corruption keeps us distracted about other challenges begging for attention in our country. Without fear or intimidation, we need to keep engaging critical issues that border on the development of our nation while taking corresponding pragmatic actions about other issues that affect the health and wealth of Nigerians. Issues such as the speedy diversification of our economy, entrepreneurship development, boosting power generation and supply, engaging the youths in governance, reducing poverty and unemployment, improving educational standards, infrastructural upgrade etc. needs to occupy the front burner on the social media.
Being a patriotic Nigeria is not only by singing the national anthem or reciting the pledge. The quality of constructive and insightful debates that we trigger, sustain and objectify on the social media goes a long way not only in putting the government on her toes but also sends signals to our friends and foes alike that this is a nation whose citizens are committed to defend her unity and uphold her honour and glory! When we like on Facebook, rebroadcast on Whatsapp, post on Instagram, the prosperity and progress of Nigeria should be our goal. It is never too late to be a patriotic Nigerian online as “a stitch in time saves nine”; a tweet in time can save all.