• Saturday, May 25, 2024
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Social Media and Nigeria’s Nascent Democracy

Number of Nigerians on social media hits 36.7 million — Report

Information just like knowledge is power in politics and business. If we mismanage it, it has potential to destroy a nation as the experience in Rwanda and many other climes shows.

In 1994 we didn t have the type of social media platform, presence and structure as we do today but the havoc wrecked on Rwanda and Rwandans was monumental. Wondering if same happens today the devastation would be unthinkable.

The history of the radio

In modern society, radios are common technology in the car and in the home. In fact, in today’s world one would be hard pressed to find anyone who has not heard of, seen, or used a radio within his or her life. This was not always the case, however. Before the 19th century, wireless radio communication was a thing of fantasy. Even after the development of the radio in the late 1800s, it took many years before radios went mainstream and became a household fixture. The history of the radio is a fascinating one that changed how the world connected and communicated from distances both far and near.

The question of who invented the radio comes with a certain amount of controversy. In 1893 the inventor Nikolai Tesla demonstrated a wireless radio in St. Louis, Missouri. Despite this demonstration, it was Guglielmo Marconi who is often credited as the father and inventor of the radio. One of these reasons was that he was given the very first wireless telegraphy patent in England in the year 1896. A year later, however, Tesla filed for patents for his basic radio in the U.S., and they were granted in 1900. On December 12, 1901, Marconi’s place in history was forever sealed when he became the first person to transmit signals across the Atlantic Ocean.

Read also: How social media changed the face of politics in Nigeria

In Rwanda those same signals were bounced off the mountainous country to devastating effect of 800,000 citizens going to their graves ahead of time. Propaganda and misinformation was hyped and the country was thorn into pieces.

Radio and the Rwandan Genocide

During the genocide, the RTLM radio station acted as a source for propaganda by inciting hatred and violence against Tutsis, against Hutus who were for the peace accord, against Hutus who married Tutsis, and by advocating the annihilation of all Tutsis in Rwanda. The result of this propaganda was the extermination of over 800,000 citizens. That’s more than the population of many countries in the world today. Misuse of any mass media channel tool could be equivalent to the nuclear codes access to ordinary citizens and that is what could happen if we do not use our access to social media platforms responsibly and properly.

Let’s bring this home and into proper focus , if we do not discipline our use and spread of information on social media we would heat up the polity and end up damaging ourselves.

According to the Guardian Newspaper out of a population of about 214 million (as of early 2022), as many as 109 million people use the internet, with an even higher number of mobile phone connections: just over 176 million. The most popular social media in Nigeria, surprisingly enough, is YouTube, with almost 33 million active users at the beginning of 2022.

Second place goes to Facebook, with 26 million users, while on the bottom step of the podium, but far behind the other two, is Instagram, with only 9 million users. These figures say a lot about the tastes of the Nigerian population, but also about the multimedia content preferred by an extremely young nation, where the average age is just over 18. In the country, at least for the time being, the power of video seems to have outweighed the visual impact of the image, a trend that is also lucidly witnessed by the data on Instagram usage.

Social media and post election analysts

The general election have been won and lost but it seems every one of the over 109 million Nigerians that use the internet either have an opinion they want to share or would like to amplify the views of their camp. Most of the times they are not able to separate facts from fake news and propaganda.

This irresponsible use of the internet would encourage the government to revisit abandoned anti social media bill designed to gag the people and the press.

The Yoruba and Igbo nation face off in Lagos is frustrating because we have enjoyed harmony between both nations. The type of toxic and divisive propaganda coming through social media platforms is not good for the country and must be condemned by all well meaning citizens. Many users are just forwarding and sharing anything that would help in furthering their cause without thinking through the consequences of same. Let’s avoid the mistakes of Rwanda. Let’s use social media platforms for development and not for propaganda and societal regression.

While freedom of speech is welcome, leadership must step in when it becomes a threat to the national unity and security of the country

We must learn from the chaos and mistakes of Rwanda and the January 6 imbroglio in the United States of America. Social media is a double edged sword that must be handled with care.