I am often amused by the volume of emotional ejaculation that I see regarding our current political experience on social media, websites and blogs.
A friend of mine who reads sabinews.com regularly tells me all the time what a refreshing difference the platform is. She says she is unable to stand most other platforms because they place a lot of emphasis on politics and people get so passionate about politics that they would vituperate as if it will accomplish anything other than raise adrenalin level. What’s worse is that a lot of these comments are borne out of pathetic lack of understanding of the realities of Nigerian politics and politicians.
Things are getting to a more serious head with the completion of party primaries to select candidates. Before the end of last week, Nigeria’s two frontline parties, The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressive Congress (APC) elected their presidential flag bearers. While the PDP ratified the sole candidacy of incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, the (APC), after what I consider to be an exemplary primary elected former Head of State, General Mohammed Buhari, who defeated four other aspirants.
Following the announcement of Buhari’s nomination, his supporters took over the blogosphere taunting the PDP and its supporters about how Buhari’s emergence signifies the end of Jonathan’s administration and the liberation of Nigeria from the seeming plague of mis-governance which it has suffered for years.
Of course the President’s supporters are always ready for such verbiage against their man, defending, counter-accusing and sometimes cursing. At other times, the first salvo would be fired by supporters of the President and then roles are instantly reversed. People on either side have set social media, especially Facebook, on fire in the past couple of days.
But then I asked myself, how much of this social media grandstanding helps the politician? If you look at trends on Facebook, especially, it is easy to conclude that one candidate has already lost the coming general elections to the other. But elections are not won or lost on social media in Nigeria and that will remain so for a while.
Although Nigeria is said to have about 11 million Facebook users, with the most popular age bracket being those under 25, I can bet that a lot of social media warriors do not vote, some are not even registered voters. ! So those who can vote, only form a negligible part of those that will decide who wins and loses an election.
From my experience, elections are won and lost in the rural areas where we have 70 percent of our people. Unfortunately these people are mostly illiterate and resource challenged. They do not have access to one tenth of the information which encourages us to pontificate on social media and even if they did, they do not see the use of such information which adds nothing to them.
Due to the endless deprivation and neglect that Nigerians have suffered in the hands of successive governments, a lot of our people are now content with that immediate gratification brought to them from whoever the candidate may be. Candidates would usually reach out through the neighbourhood political stalwart who has most assuredly also vowed to “deliver” his people’s votes to the party/candidate.
This is the reason why no aspirant who faces a primary election, can truthfully say that money did not exchange hands during the elections, the bulk of Nigerians who vote take their benefit up front.
So rather than dissipate energy on pointless arguments on Facebook, those who are truly interested in the victory of specific people must do more than just talk and brag on the social media.
They must roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty. Those who do not vote must get registered and vote this time around. And more importantly, they need to invest in the sensitization of the Nigerian voter, especially those rural dwellers who operate their franchise without even knowing the implications of what they are doing.
If all we do is stick our faces to some device churning out wishes that we do not even have the will to pursue, let none of us query the decisions that our grandparents, our uneducated uncles and cousins make on our behalf on the strength of the plate of pottage that immediately assuaged their hunger as well as our own choice to waste our time grandstanding on facebook.
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