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Nigeria Minister of Mnformation and Culture, Lai Mohammed

By Isaac Asabor

There is no denying the fact that the inspiration that led to the coinage of the headline of this piece you are about to read was drawn from the quote that says, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison. It is simply defined as what should be good for someone, may be bad for another person. Not two faces in this world are exactly similar, no two minds think exactly alike. ‘Minds differ as rivers differ’, as the elders often say during the impartation of wisdom to the young ones. In constitution, in temperament, in physical powers of endurance and assimilation men differ from one another.  Without any scintilla of hyperbole, the English proverb, which is no doubt a magnum opus, has in this context created two characters; one a social media user, and the other a politician, that they to a large extent define the trajectory of human thinking and actions.

To the first character, who is a social media user, he has recognize the importance of harnessing social media as part of his communication and PR efforts. Gone are the days of press kits and faxing press releases. Social Media has become a game changer. Don’t believe me? Facebook alone has over 1.2 billion monthly active users, Twitter over one billion registered users and Instagram over 300 million.

According to Backlinko, a blog that engages in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) training and link building strategies, “As of 2021, the number of people using social media is over 3.96 billion worldwide, with the average user having 8.6 accounts on different networking sites. Popular platforms like Facebook have over 66.09% of their monthly users logging in to use social media daily.

Against the foregoing backdrop, a typical Social Media user understands the crucial role the platforms collectively plays in connecting people and developing relationships, not only with key influencers and journalists covering different beats, but also provides a great opportunity to establish customer service by gathering input, answering questions and listening to their feedback.

The insight that is been gained from social media by each passing day no doubt provide organizations with better understanding of what is working and what is not, and that goes a long way in helping their different public images. Without mincing words, it is important for anyone that has serious business to be aware real-time of what people are saying about him and the organization he represents as well as his competitors.

As often said by both erudite and emerging experts on issues that concern social media, companies can start to reap the benefits by integrating an effective social media strategy with a traditional PR campaign.

They opined that for starters, social media allows them to get their messages out to their respective target audience faster, even as they can create content and share information immediately, whether it is about news announcement or video, to catch the eye of a Reporter or Blogger who is browsing Twitter or Facebook looking for story ideas.

Not only are social media platforms in their peculiarities offer the opportunities for business growth, they equally offer opportunities of sharing information to friends; known or unknown. In fact,   folks are constantly sharing and engaging information across social media, so channels like LinkedIn and Pinterest are useful tools to get the word out to more people and engage with target audience.

Seen from the foregoing perspective, there is no denying the fact that social media platforms are cost-effective. Social media offers a cost effective approach that can help dramatically increase both visibility and brand awareness, and given the benefits, millions of social media users see the platforms; collectively or individually as the proverbial meat.

Despite the fact that Social media would have been a game changer for politicians in governments as the public interacts with them more on online platforms, particularly Twitter,  a huge population of them  proverbially see the social media as poison.

The reason for the foregoing cannot be farfetched as people on social media can engage in direct dialogue with politicians, civic officials, and even entire government agencies. It also gives them a chance to engage back.

Unfortunately, the graphic picture of an effective means of interactive communication painted in the foregoing though social media platforms cannot be achieved in Nigeria as the politicians in this part of the world have morbid fear for Facebook, Twitter, LinkDen, Instagram and what have you. Without sounding exaggerative, they see it as poison. You may have asked, “Why do they see it as poison?” The answer to the foregoing question cannot be farfetched as the following views suffice after perusing over them.

First and foremost, politicians, for always attracting laughable shortcomings to themselves, would not want such misdemeanour or unscrupulousness to be commented upon on social media platforms, thus have resorted to increasingly relying on internet blackouts to silence young people who use social media to mobilise against their weaknesses and peccadilloes while in leadership position.

Imagine the minister of information and culture, Lai Mohammed, interpretatively politicizing every comment made on social to the extent that access to Twitter at the moment is under suspension.  This is just one of the challenges that millions of young Nigerians are facing. To him, anything bad or tragic that happened in Nigeria was triggered and exacerbated by social media users even when there is obvious poverty of idea to move the country forward.

At the moment, opposition is by each passing day becoming strong against the proposed amendment of the Nigerian Press Council Act by the National Assembly. As gathered, the measures contained in the amendment Bill seek to make the Government the arbiter of truth while subjecting the entire media sector in Nigeria to the control of the Minister of Information and Culture in violation of internationally accepted norms and standards.

Kicking against the legislative move recently, Mr. Lanre Arogundade, International Press Centre’s (IPC) Executive Director, in a Press Statement concerning the issue said, “Although regulation is necessary in “this age of fake news and hate speech”,  such regulation should not erode media independence or freedom and should not be unduly punitive, adding that the “regulator must also be free of the stranglehold of the powers that be, political or other interests, so that it can judiciously adjudicate in matters bothering on the infringement of the code of ethics of the profession of journalism.”

“Has it got to the point of rewriting the Nigerian Press Council Act to their own collective advantage”, a colleague said the other day in the office”. The question, no doubt, cannot be faulted as it is salient, and as it appears that  those who see the social media platforms as  poison have realised it is not enough to blacken TV screens, Off-The-Microphone,  or hand in headlines to the press anymore. Therefore, they also need to shut down social media, where young people engage with the world and express anti-establishment views.

To this end, it is expedient to say that not only should the government eschew from seeing social media platforms collectively as poison, they should not forget that resorting to shutdowns in a democratic dispensation under the guise of ensuring public safety or curbing the spread of misinformation is dictatorial.  Members of the legislative and executive arms of the ongoing government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari should always have it at the back of their minds that such sweeping measures are more like collective punishment than a tactical response.  This is because when the internet is off, people’s ability to express themselves freely is limited, the economy suffers, journalists struggle to upload photos and videos documenting government overreach and abuse, students are cut off from their lessons, taxes cannot be paid on time, and those needing health care cannot get consistent access.

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