There is no doubt that social media played a pivotal role in the 2015 Nigeria’s presidential election. From the Photoshop images of President Jonathan (GEJ) carrying his luggage from Abuja across a river to Otuoke village to General Buhari’s (GMB) Dictator-turned-democrat ludicrous photos, Nigerian youths burlesquely captioned and captured the presidential candidates in whatever light they wanted the world to see.
I am tempted to say that no Nigerian president in recent times felt the power of social media like GEJ. The now former first lady, Patience Jonathan had her pitiable share of what Nigerians can do on social media. The amount of comical videos and audios of Patience Jonathan’s endless faux-pas became social media sensation and pastime for Nigerians.
Sometimes I wish my high school government class teacher was alive to see the platforms that social media have created for voiceless Nigerians. My high school government class teacher was a very knowledgeable man who would educate us about the rights of the government and the governed; objurgated about the injustice perpetuated by then Nigeria’s Military Governments but would end up saying “please don’t say I said that ooo because I don’t want them to kill me”. It was the era when the Military Junta boys paraded the streets of Nigeria chasing those who were bold enough to speak truth to power.
Imagine for one minute it was 1993. In the hullabaloo following the June 12th election annulment by General Ibrahim Babangida (IBB), a Nigerian (living in Nigeria) wrote or said “IBB is clueless”. What do you think would have happened to that Nigerian? We all know all too well how things were done by the military boys!
The beauty about social media is that it can be faceless and nameless but the message can be thunderous with far-reaching effect. A teenager in a little village in Benin City can post a comment on Facebook or Twitter that can lead to a revolution on the other side of the world.
Presidents, kings and queens can be caricatured anytime. It is a free and open platform. Nigerian youths have overly maximized the opportunities that social media have provided. If you cannot say it to their face on the street of Nigeria, it is ok. Just login to Facebook or Twitter and say it.
Obviously, in the 1980’s, print media was the main source of information dissemination. Most Nigerian Journalists and writers were intimated and jailed for daring to voice their opinions through print media commentaries and articles.
The Buhari’s government (1983 – 1985) had a bad rap sheet for purportedly using military decree (the popular Decree 4) to incarcerate two Guardian Newspaper writers, Ndukar Irabor and Tunde Thompson. Although it appears Nigerians have “forgiven” the General for some of those undemocratic measures of the past, the question now is: can “President Buhari” take the same “social media inferno” that President Jonathan was baked in throughout his presidency? Can President Buhari come to terms with the new social media world?
One thing is certain; Nigerians will use social media to caricature him, probe his government and hold him accountable for those he surrounds himself with. Social media will buzz with different shades of First Lady Aisha Buhari; maybe, just maybe not to the same level of former First Lady Patience Jonathan’s popular “diaris God oooo”.
How would Buhari react when Nigerians call him names, criticize his government and policies and make mockery of Aisha on social media? If Buhari’s response to AIT covering his inauguration ceremony is anything to go by, it appears that the president-elect is not ready for the new world of media criticism.
My advice to the Buhari’s team is that they start to sensitize him and prepare him for the social media storm that awaits him because he will not be getting a “free pass”; not anytime soon. I wish the new president a successful presidency. Do not forget that Nigerians are counting on you to fulfill the promises for their electing you. If President Buhari betrays the trust of the Nigerian people, APC as a party will pay dearly for it in four years!