A few years ago, I attended a conference where popular blogger and social media influencer Japhet Omojuwa was invited to speak about how social media can benefit Nigerian youths and how they can use it to voice out their opinions about governance. Somehow the discussion got to the Occupy Nigeria protests of 2012 and a delegate asked him (Omojuwa) while He decided to be a “keyboard warrior” only protesting on social media instead of joining the “warriors” in the streets carrying placards while staring down gun totting men of the Nigerian army. I remember Omojuwa telling the delegate that contrary to what people believed he actually did join the street demonstrations at different times, but apart from that he saw himself not just as a keyboard warrior, but as a communications officer, sharing updates from different fronts and coordinating the online resistance, so that people who couldn’t be in the streets or who weren’t even in the country could get full details of what was going on.
What brought back this story is a really amusing train of thought that I have found among critics of the Buhari led government both on the internet and off it, ever since the minister of State for Petroleum, Ibe Kachikwu announced that the Federal Government of Nigeria was removing the fuel subsidy and deregulating the oil sector. The thought is that given the fact it was the same thing the Goodluck Jonathan led government did in 2012 that sparked nationwide protests that came to be known as #OccupyNigeria, the reason why the Muhammadu Buhari led government is not getting the same amount of outcry is that some individuals e.g Senator Bola Tinubu, former Governor of Lagos State, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, current minister of Information, and other politicians who have tremendous political influence, as well as the likes of the above mentioned J.J. Omojuwa and internet influencers or to use the name they are called “E-rats” like him who have tremendous influence on social media used the influence to stir up dissatisfaction against the Jonathan government back then are refusing to use said influence now because they have been bribed by the APC government to shut up.
The reason why this thought pattern never fails to make me laugh is that the people who peddle it perhaps still reeling from how political influencers like Tinubu (who from now on will be used to represent all the APC politicians you don’t like) and social media influencers like Omojuwa (who from now on will be used to represent all the “APC Social Media overlords” you don’t like) dethroned their hero and their party. They seem to believe that influencers have the power to stop and start revolutions and protests on their own. In Influences of Media on Social Movements: Problematizing hyperbolic inferences about impacts, a 2012 article he coauthored,with Brandie L Martin, Anthony Olorunisola Professor of Communication at Penn State University, points out that there is a tendency for people to exaggerate the importance of social media in protests, which often means giving social media influencers more credit for movements than they deserve, or this case directing so much anger at social media influencers because they have not used their “social media influence” to “start” #OccupyNigeria 2016 the way they started #OccupyNigeria 2012.
The truth is that even though it may look like it sometimes, influencers whether social media or political do not use mind control on their followers, what they do is to say what the followers already have in mind. You can’t fight a real war with propaganda alone, You need foot soldiers to do the legwork. “But did #BringBackOurGirls not start on social media, trended by these same APC overlords to kick Goodluck Jonathan out?” You argue. Yes the movement started on social media, but it would be the height of facetiousness to suggest that is the only place where it is going on. In essence whether there is a Tinubu or Omojuwa to rouse them or not, the streets will rise when it sees the need to, as it happened with #OccupyNigeria 2012. People who lay the blame for lack of #OccupyNigeria 2016 at the door of influencers have forgotten that #OccupyNigeria 2012 was spontaneous and there were even protests in regions where the aforementioned Goodluck Jonathan, won massively when he stood for reelection three years later, or was it also Omojuwa and Tinubu and the “APC e-rats” that instigated the protests in Kano, when Mohammed Lamido Sanusi, who was at the time next in line to the Emir’s throne was the Governor of the Central Bank in said Goodluck Jonathan’s government as well?
One of the things that drives me up the wall is when says things like ” see this issue X going on, how come nobody is talking about it?” Like the tweet above, most times I am tempted to reply the person “are you sir or madam not a human being? because you are already talking about said issue X.” Frankly speaking I think coming on social media to complain that Tinubu and Omojuwa have not yet called Muhammadu Buhari the son of a goat and Ibe Kachikwu a descendant of Baboons is a waste of time that can be used to write a placard(s) and to hit the streets. After all there is no country in the world where every single citizen joined a protest, (even the so called #OccupyNigeria 2012 did not gain wide acceptance in places like the South South, being the then president’s region and all). So instead of complaining about “APC e-rats” assemble your own party’s influencers and start your own protests. If your concerns are legitimate as you think they are, and the streets are really boiling as you think, then you sir, are in luck because you have fame to milk. “Do Nigerians know the value of protests?” You argue. But e-sir, #OccupyNigeria 2012, was it Ghanaians or Americans that protested it?
The tweet(s) above it says it all really, when you complain about some political or social media influencer who is a fraud, it only justifies what you believe, it does not provide any solution to the problem at hand. Complaining about how Omojuwa has been silent because his mouth has been blocked by rice, will not remove one naira from the price of fuel. Starting #OccupyNigeria 2016 street demonstrations, however, might achieve something no matter how small ( even if it is the fame to milk). Get on the streets, there are so many discontented people waiting for someone to rally them to action. If however, you can’t find any, it is perhaps a sign that you are flogging a dead horse and you should probably be doing something better with your life. We are really tired of reading and hearing your passive aggressive drivel about corrupt “activists.” You think you can do better? Then get on the streets damnit! . Enough said.