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In Your Face

Nigeria’s future president wants to be your friend.

On Facebook, that is.

Well, it’s complicated. You see, he needs you to join his fan page on Facebook so he can gain popularity by numbers, sell you his spiel, participate in your discussions, convince you and your friends to vote for him. Then he might become Nigeria’s president.

(Then he might forget you.) But let’s not dwell on the future.

Let’s talk about now. How about these inspirational tomes and captions, and the Photoshopped beaming faces on your Facebook page? The adverts started showing up in the right-hand bar of my Facebook page during summer last year. So-and-So cares about you and wants to be your president. Whats-His-Name is cool, in touch with youth, and can lead our country in a new direction. Forget the fact that a significant number of you is unemployed; that you learned to say “NEPA” before you learned to say “Mummy;” that before today, your voice was ignored. Okay, I never saw this latter statement in an advert…or did I?

Don’t get me wrong—I don’t have anything against riding the trends. In truth, I commend our would-be leaders for paying attention to the times and utilizing technology to communicate with their constituents. One CNN article dubs Goodluck Jonathan “The Facebook President,” with his huge fan base (now close to half a million) and regular activity on Facebook. Give the man some props. Others who have joined the bandwagon include former Heads of State Obasanjo and the infamous Babangida, governors of Kaduna and Bauchi states, and randomly, Waziri, Chairperson of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission in Nigeria (Weekly Trust). Hmm.

It’s a legitimate strategy, really. We saw young Americans wield the power of Facebook to participate in the democratic process in 2008. (For an interesting treatise on this subject, see the following article). And in recent months, we have all been soundly assured of the power of web 2.0 and social media to topple regimes. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that youth are the power brokers of today (have always been, though not always recognized), and our social spaces are our virtual Wall Street. Not to mention—Facebook also offers a cheap means of reaching a broad audience, albeit a niche audience.

So, of course the bigwigs want to hang out in your space. Of course they’ll wave their manifestos in your face. Hey, at least, you are not being ignored, right!? You are receiving more attention from our leaders now than you did when you were sick or hungry or deprived of education [insert here what your own unique socioeconomic trial has been].

Like I said, I have nothing against political candidates playing their cards right. It’s just … there’s something … how shall I say this? … brashly in-your-face, yet suspiciously underhand about the whole thing. Quite frankly, I’m feeling patronized. And pandered to. Like I’ve been labelled “target market” on someone’s marketing strategy (a marketing strategy for which that someone probably received a handsome payment, but that’s beside the point). You know what I mean?

I have nothing against smiling faces and fan page requests, but I want to know—do these candidates want our voices, or just our votes?

In case our friends out there were wondering, Nigeria’s youth are not sitting down passively, waiting for the elections to “happen to us.” Enough is Enough, a coalition of young Nigerians and nonprofits, is commandeering a technology-based campaign challenging Nigerians to “Register, Select, Vote, Protect” (R.S.V.P.) In Google Search, or Facebook, or YouTube, type “Youth Nigeria 2011 Election” in the search box and prepare to make a day of it. Nigerian youth are talking, blogging, singing; and it’s making sense.

And back to you, young Nigerians. Whatever your views are on the “in-your-face” on-your-Facebook-page campaign strategy of our 2011 electoral candidates, don’t forget to remember that your voice and your vote cannot be separated. What are your dreams for Nigeria? Have you had enough of corruption, poverty, poor infrastructure, the declining education system?

When you cast your ballot in April, make sure you’ve had your say.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future, which is providing rigorous web 2.0 and new media training for 30 emerging women leaders. We are speaking out for social change from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

Comments

Farona's picture

Whoa sis I can fully

Whoa sis I can fully comprehend what you’re trying to convey!
We as youth should be cautious in assessing our candidates, especially when they attempt to reach out via online.

Someone out there might be a better candidate but he might miss out just because he’s not online!

I hope the youth of Nigeria chooses their leader as they see best represents their concerns ;- )

I’ve really enjoyed reading this, Slaw ! as usual

SLaw's picture

Thank You!

Thank you, Farona :) You are so right . . . visibility and fanfare are not everything. I'm feeling optimistic that Nigeria's youth will think through their choices and vote with change on their minds.

Cheers, my friend!

SLaw

Rebecca Roberts's picture

Way to speak up!

SLaw, this is a fantastic oped! Snarky, on-point message to Nigeria's political elite, and a powerful invocation to young Nigerians to recognize and use their own strength. I visited Nigeria in 2007, just before the last elections. How sad things change so slowly ... but you and this young generation of Nigerians CAN wield substantial power. You're a natural political essayist, SLaw ~ keep fighting the good fight!

In solidarity and friendship,

Becki

SLaw's picture

Thank You

Thank you, Becki! I'm encouraged by your words. Yes, change has been slow . . . but I have a sense that breakthrough is around the bend. Thanks for standing with us in solidarity.

SLaw

Julie Tomlin's picture

Fabulous

Hi there,
I really enjoyed reading this and think you have such a good tone - witty and snarky are good words!
It's very astute, well argued and a great read.

Yours,
Julie

@julietomlin

SLaw's picture

YOU are fabulous :)

Thank you, Julie! Your comments on my draft were very helpful--especially your suggestion to add some facts about political leaders' Facebook use.

One more article to go . . . it's the big one! I'll be sending my draft along in the not-too-distant future.

SLaw

panderson80's picture

Well Said!

Really strong writing and message. This piece is so relevant to the moment. Its really important that young people understand that not only can the web be used as a tool to support social change it can also be used by the powers that be to manipulate and exploit people.

Piper Anderson
Artist. Writer. Educator. Life Coach
www.piperanderson.com

SLaw's picture

Thank you, Piper! The

Thank you, Piper! The evolution of technology is occuring so quickly that it is easy to be swept away in the current. We must continue to remind one another to pause and think every once in a while so that we are harnessing the strength of the current instead of being carried away by it.

mrbeckbeck's picture

Spot on!

Hey, nicely done! Your voice comes through loud and clear here... you have done such a great job at being conversational, informative, and downright opinionated about this important topic!

It's a very interesting trend... it could be an important change in the political world if leaders actually want to listen to the voices, rather than just get the votes. In my country, I somewhat dread every election season because of the advertisements and junk mail. This is the latest evolution of that I guess! Now that corporations can channel unlimited funds to their candidates of choice, we'll see if the people are more manipulated than informed.

Wishing for all the best for youth in Nigeria to select a great leader next month!
Scott

Scott Beck
World Pulse Online Community Volunteer

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