On Friday the 26th of February 2016, I was at the Landmark Centre Victoria Island Lagos to attend Social Media Week Lagos. From what I had learnt from following the first four days of the event online, I knew I had to attend the last day at least to have my first ever feel of any event dedicated to social media use. Walking into the Landmark Centre on Friday, I was slightly apprehensive that the early birds who had been around all week would have enjoyed the good bits of #SMWLagos and would only leave dull, uninteresting remains for late comers like me, but my experience at the social media week on Friday alone on one hand was so mind blowing that I felt I had not even missed anything at all. On the other hand it made me wistful that I had not found time to make an appearance at #SMWLagos earlier.
Saying that Social Media Week Lagos, is like to be the highest gathering of young people moving and shaking the Nigerian, nay African Virtual space would be stating the obvious. Thus it is needless to say that the discussion was of the highest quality. This was not a gathering of stuffy old men making grandstanding and pretentious speeches, it was a gathering of young people sharing real and relatable stories of how they engage their society with social media. There is something inspiring that comes with talking with young people, who are active dreamers like you and who are using the same tools available to you to make a difference in their environments. It is heartwarming to see young people sharing real life successes and challenges they face in social media use for social, political and economic campaigns despite the difficulties of using social media in Nigeria.
#SMWLagos is one of the few times I ever wished I had a time turner like Hermione Granger in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkhaban in order to be able to attend all the panel events. However from the discussions I participated in and from following the ones I missed, I picked a clear line of thought, that Social Media is changing and will continue to change the social, economic and political landscape of Nigeria. It is not a question if, it is already happening. What now remains to be seen is who will ride that wave, and who will be left behind by the changes that are in the offing.
I arrived at the venue of SMWLagos a few minutes before the President of the Senate of the a federal Republic of Nigeria, Dr. Bukola Saraki and thus had the opportunity of listening to him talk on the #SMWGameChangers Panel moderated by Ebuka Obi Uchendu. It was pleasing to see young Nigerians asking Senator Saraki no holds barred salient and critical questions on Nigeria politics and Governance. It was equally pleasing to see the Senate President at ease in the session and the fact that he kept reiterating the fact he recognizes the role social media has to play in Nigeria’s political and economic development ( whatever his motives for doing so are is not the subject of this piece). I think Dr. Saraki got the message clearly enough and he said as much himself, the change has come to Nigerian politics and there is no place to hide for people who seek to abuse political power. I came away from that panel with a renewed confidence in the future of Nigeria, the confidence in knowing that there are aware youths who have interest in seeing a positive change in Nigeria.
I enjoyed the NOIpolls sponsored data appreciation panel and Rele Gallery’s panel on social media and art. There was plenty of insight to be gained Nigeria Health Watch’s Healthy Minds panel, not in the least that mental health is the least discussed aspect of healthcare in Africa, due to a lack of understanding of mental health and Illness. The panel however, that made the greatest impression on me was the the #SMWUntappedAfrica panel organized by Afrotourism. I came away from that discussion with inspiring stories of ordinary people telling the Africa story one city at a time. Strangely enough it was a minor detail that would likely be lost in the discussion that spoke to me, what Pelu Awofeso, award winning journalist and director of TravelNextDoor said about travelling all over Nigeria with only his backpack. What I picked from that was that what you need to tell the African story, is not an abundance of resources but a will to challenge the status quo. And the digital skills swap which I attended was extremely great, notninnthe least that it proves the perception that young people mostly use new media for inane purposes unfounded. The people I talked to are not celebrities or politicians, they are young business people like me using social media to open new frontiers of knowledge and sharing skill sets creating collaborations which will surely consciously change Africa’s physical, social and economic landscape.
With all these, it is difficult to not be impressed about #SMWLagos, perhaps my high regard for the event came from only attending a day out of five. But the decision to go all the way to Lagos to attend #SMWLagos was one of the best ones I have taken this year. In short #SMWLagos 2016 was the bomb, I can’t wait for next year.
What they said
My appearance here is a message from the national assembly agreeing with everyone here that social media has a role to play in Nigeria’s government.
As from 2017 we are going to be having a public panel on the national budget
Bukola Saraki, – President of the 8th Senate of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
As Nigerians we need a cultural appreciation of data, that is what will lead to an organic and proper use
Japheth Omojuwa- Social Media Strategist
Data creates new audiences and reminds Govt policy makers about their responsibilities
Nancy Iloh,- Journalist and TV host at AIT
Social media for me involves Calibration and curation it is not just a storefront where I display what I have done, I interact with people who follow me as well
Victor Ehikamenor- Artist and Writer
“There are so many tools available to use online, you can get creative and adapt as much as you can
Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade – PR at Google Africa
“Mental Health is not a category that is distinct! We are dynamic.There is no stigma in saying you need help
Toks Bakare- Behaviour Analyst and Mental Health Professional
When you travel, go with an open mind. What you find will amaze you
We need to do for tourism what we’ve done for our music. Begin to develop it and investors will come.
Pelu Awofeso- Journalist and Travel Blogger