Keep Talking, They Can Hear Us!

The NASS delegation at Chatham House, London. 27th February 2013

During the course of an interactive session with members of the Nigerian National Assembly (NASS) ad-hoc Constitution Review committee, at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the NASS delegation alluded severally to the power of Facebook and Twitter in engagement on national issues. The Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, RT Hon. Emeka Ihedioha encouraged Nigerians to continue using Facebook and Twitter to deliberate on national issues rather than “abusing each other”, at least with reference to the Constitution review. And this got me thinking: so they can hear the voices on social media, they can hear the “children of anger“.

Apparently, the tweeting, Facebook posts and groups, blogs, online news and other social media tools through which many of us are able to articulate our views and general feelings towards national issues, policies, corruption, national disasters and so on is not in futility as some would like to think. Not only does this admission by the NASS delegation reinforce this, but recall, President Jonathan last year, said he was the “most criticised President” in the world, implicitly referring to the critical social media voices of Nigeria. Jonathan’s spokesperson Dr. Reuben Abati also acknowledged, albeit derisively, the increasingly loud and critical voices of young Nigerians referring to us as the “…idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger“.

Yes, we are angry, as any sane person remotely interested in the progress of Nigeria should be, and we are pouring our hearts out in many ways via social and new media tools. Even better, our voices are no longer chattering meaningless noises to those whom it is aimed for, the voices are audible and real. Our leaders can hear us, make no mistake about that. Whether they use their own social media accounts, or deploy their army of Special Assistants to trawl through cyberspace, they can hear us, even though hearing does not necessarily equate to listening. The latter connotes a two-way communication and an implicit obligation on the part of the listener to respond or act on the information they are receiving.

The onus thus is on us, to move to the next phase, to ensure our voices are not only heard, but that our leaders listen, and that the voices translate into effective demands for transparency and accountability at the national level but importantly, at the sub-national level. We need to use our 45million strong internet population according to the World Internet Statistics (2011 figures) to focus less on unfounded, hateful, unsubstantiated, malicious and mindless chatter and focus more on productive engagement with one another. Sharing gory pictures of unverified crime scenes, unconfirmed rumours of religious or ethnic violence, distasteful jokes stereotyping other faiths or ethnic groups and being reflexively antagonistic and needlessly suspicious of anything-government-related with little logic or few facts, is unproductive.

Social and new media tools provide a unique opportunity — they have widened the democratic space, no voice or opinion can be marginalised anymore within this sphere of discourse. Let’s use this opportunity well, let’s keep engaging in productive talk because they can hear us!

11 thoughts on “Keep Talking, They Can Hear Us!

  1. Zainab, dont you find it curious that a NASS committee conviniently chose to applaud social media debates and discourse in faraway London?

    They are fully conscious that supporting the profuse outpouring of despondency and righteous indignation by Nigerians over the abysmally degraded capacity of the state to provide critical welfare & security dividends to citizens will sound pleasant to the audience of an advanced democracy like UK, and more importantly sustain/perpetuate the myth that our own charade and miserable excuse also qualifies as a democracy.

    They were only grandstanding. Therein lies the regret.

    1. Zainab, I like your narrative that was well articulated. Besides, it’s inspiring to hear our leaders are not tone-deaf! However, what’s so frustrating is the perception that those SAs or the inner core of people around them are either not telling them the chatter on social media, or the leaders themselves have refused to do what’s right for purely selfish reasons. Whether they are hearing or listening to us, one thing is clear, completely bombarding and inundating these tone-deaf leaders with twittering and blogging by ‘angry children’ will eventually pay off. These angry children have come too far in the search for solutions to turn back now. Keep on twittering, blogging, chatting on FB and other media. Our leaders cannot overwhelm this new weapon of technology.

  2. Abati called Nigerian youths “…idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger“?
    I say he pseudo-intellectual serving time as a socio-political parvenu and a moron to boot!

  3. Very interesting piece Zainab! Yes, it is true to a certain extent that these people are not in anyway happy, I mean Nigerian looters with the constructive criticisms being post on these social media……
    It therefore makes bold to say that nothing and nothing whatsoever can stop us from constructively critising these looters till they do the right thing Malama Zainab. Cheers!

  4. Never had any doubt in my mind that they do listen, but had always known that a will; is what they do lack. Our leaders do not lack the interlect to hear and do the right thing, infact they can compete favourably wit the best in this wold but in the Willing dept, a local mech is miles ahead. God help us

  5. @Zainab to hear is one thing, to care enough and clean up the mess is another. But yes, I believe they do hear!

    @ FemSun Abati was the Chief “Child” of anger, until he joined the glutons at the table. Now we are “…idle and idling, twittering, collective children of anger“

  6. Keep it up,Zainab and other ‘children of anger.’ There is plenty to be angry about, and one day there will be change. Your generation can do it!

  7. Yes, any sane person will be angry, I remember the late Malcolm X of the Afro AMERICAN civil right movement of the 60s in the U.S. He was introduced to an audience and was asked to confirm that he said all Negroes are angry and he was the angriest of all negroes, he said that quote was correct, he then fired with the statement I quote ” Show me a negro who is not angry and I will show u one who need psychiatric attention”. we have reasons to be angry. Keep it up ZEE

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