It’s crystal clear that Nigerians are in the everyday rants of misgovernance, and that they have been dissapointed by the Buhari’s led adminstration failed promises. The country is stranded with the problem of insecurity supported by challenges of banditry, terrorism, robberies, extrajudicial killings by Fulani herdsmen and some members of the Police Force respectively. Yet again, Nigerians are not satisfied with this kind of pessimistic economy, whether the A-shaped one or the V-shaped one. The 30,000 minimum wage is nothing to write home about when one compares the price at which petrol is bought at the filling station. There’s also the talk of Youth unemployment and regular job loss. Yet, Nigerians are becoming apprehensive that they are loosing to the hard won democracy that their fathers fought and won, as what they enjoy now are relics of comfortability, amid signs of gradual slide into anarchy.
Again, even as the citizens of the country are not comfortable in their deteriorating situation, they are also soaked into the pickle of ‘compulsory indecision’. It’s blatant that the Nigerian government doesn’t want it citizens protesting again. They can not express their fundamental rights like the days of Dele Giwa, Gani Fawehinmi, Femi Falana, Olisa Agbakoba and many more who had reluctantly fought against compelling government. It’s evident that this present government wants her citizens to look like a moron or perhaps talk in the pace of tired snake, accepting every ‘legitimate’ policy they throw out to the public. Sometimes last year, one would remember the #Revolutionnow protest whose vission led by Omoyele Sowore of Sahara reporters, we should remember how the dream of the protest was injected with unnecessary pollution. The #Revolutionnow now protest only however witnessed an anticlimax of all the sabre-rattling. Citizens were not allowed to protest, as the Nigerian Police came out against all odds at every location where the protests was held. Ostentatively, the Nigerian government had earlier launched and unfurled it own propaganda to counter the campaign, labelling it own citizens the ‘enemies of the state’, that the protest itself was an attempt to overthrow the government. They went further in addressing the protest attempt as an act of terrorism and a move at forcing a regime change in the country. Later on, it was heard on the television screen that the leader of the movement, Omoyele Sowore, together with some others were thrown into detention. At that the fufilled the desire of quenching the fire of the protest. Can you just imagine?
Furthermore, we even all aware of the present situation of the country, of the endsars protest. ENDSARS of which was recently disolved and remodeled into SWAT. The End Special Anti-Robbery Squad (End SARS) is a social movement in Nigeria calling for banning of the Special Anti-Robbery Squad, a unit of the Nigerian Police Force. True, It is obviously a call to end police oppression and brutality in Nigeria. We were all largely of how some unarmed protesters were shot at lekki on October 20th, with some getting killed and others getting injured. Amnesty International witnessed that at least 12 people were killed on at both Alausa and Lekki toll gate stage of protest. The Lekki shooting has been condemned by many Nigerians and members of the International Community including the U.S. government. Again, following the killings on 20 October, video evidence showed that more shootings were still being carried out by the Nigerian Army and the Nigerian Police on the unarmed protesters. Some people also attacked and burnt buildings, vehicles, TV stations and raided the Oba of Lagos’ palace. The governor of Lagos had said that there were no casualties from the incident of the previous day but later tweeted that there had been reports of one casualty which negated the report sent in by various Twitter and Instagram users who had live recordings of the killings. While the protesters gathered again at the Lekki toll gate where the shooting took place on Tuesday 20 October, they were forced out by police.
Hence, it’s obviously not new again that the Nigerian government does not her citizens on the streets protesting again. The question now is what now? Is this the end of activism? Is it the end of activism that the Buhari led adminstration had enjoyed themselves? Maybe you are quickly to forget the leader of the 2012 Occupy Nigeria Protest, I will tell you, it was Muhammadu Buhari and his APC cohorts who honorably led the movement against Goodluck Jonathan led adminstration that year. Today they are swift to clampimy down citizens who wants to peacefully express their fundamental right in peacefully protesting. So now should we just give in? The blunt answer is No!
A new set of convenient medium have been in place. It’s a ground for relative activism practice. It has emerged to play in the scene. It is created not in the account of ages, titles or social status. It can be accessible to anyone who is not comfortable with the policies of the government. It’s called the Social media campaign or perhaps better dubbed as the social media movement. If you are a fair user of Twitter, you should be familiar with movement like #PastorStepdown, #Nottooyoungtorun, #Bringbackourgirls, #FreeElzakakzaky and even #RevolutionIsNow and the present #EndSars, #EndPoliceBrutality social movement. All these and many more hastags have all been the medium of activism led by social activist like Aisha Yesufu, Japhet Omojuwa, Folarin Falana, Deji Adeyanju, and many more. According to Patrick Akpu, he said” the new school activists main field of operation is the internet, where megaphones have been replaced with Twitter and street marches converted to hastags movement”.
The role of social media in protests and revolutions has garnered considerable media attention in recent years. Current conventional wisdom has it that social networks have made regime change easier to organize and execute. Social media are tools that allow revolutionary groups to lower the costs of participation, organization, recruitment and training. But like any tool, social media have inherent weaknesses and strengths, and their effectiveness depends on how effectively leaders use them and how accessible they are to people who know how to use them. According to worldview.strafor.com, the key for any protest movement is to inspire and motivate individuals to go from the comfort of their homes to the chaos of the streets and face off against the government. Social media allow organizers to involve like-minded people in a movement at a very low cost, but they do not necessarily make these people move. Instead of attending meetings, workshops and rallies, un-committed individuals can join a Facebook group or follow a Twitter feed, hastags at home, which gives them some measure of anonymity (though authorities can easily track IP addresses) but does not necessarily motivate them to physically hit the streets and provide fuel for a revolution. At the end of the day, for a social media-driven protest movement to be successful, it has to translate social media membership into street action.
The social media also allows a revolutionary core to widely spread not just its ideological message but also its training program and operational plan. This can be done by e-mail, but social media broaden the exposure and increase its speed, with networks of friends and associates sharing the information instantly. YouTube videos explaining a movement’s core principles and tactics allow cadres to transmit important information to dispersed followers without having to travel. (This is safer and more cost effective for a movement struggling to find funding and stay under the radar, but the level of training it can provide is limited.
Evidently, according to Ukessasys, social media is like community places in past: a place where aggravated people can get together to discuss and raise protests. Facebook has played a large role in this revolution since it has taught users a new way to create groups, spread information all over the globe and voice their opinion unanimously. Social media has had a profound effect on society, commoners now has a chance of having their voice heard, there is a sense of hope, as every issue has the ability to be widespread, empowering citizens of all nations with the power of being heard. Albeit, according to onlinelibrary.wiley.com, social media is actually web based media and it refers to accessible online technologies where people share, publish, comment, and communicate etc across the global village.
Starting from the local communities, we see a great internet empowerment around “Social media has the capacity to alter traditional power dynamics. Consumers can influence the buying decisions of others by sharing their experiences of purchasing products or services online. Major industries find themselves disrupted by file sharing and citizen journalism, while governments have been challenged by citizens mobilized with the help of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The international Young Foundation wanted to test whether social media could empower local, geographical communities. So they set to work with several community groups in Huddersfield, King’s Lynn and north Kensington. Across these areas they supported residents who wanted to use social media to develop relationships between neighbors, increase awareness of local news and events, and ultimately encourage more people to get involved in community action” says Mandeep Hothi in a community action blog.
Researches by Scholars has made it clear that It has been claimed repeatedly, often in the absence of solid data, that Twitter, Facebook, and other social media resources are profoundly shaping both disruptive and nondisruptive forms of political participation. Yet as a research community we are still learning just how it is that the use of social media systematically affects political participation in areas such as voting or demonstrating for or against a given cause or regime. Isolating direct and specific causes and consequences of social media use remains tremendously challenging, and acute theoretical and methodological problems have yet to be solved. Even the most trenchant empirical contributions have been saddled thus far with limitations, such as the unrealistic assumption that “users joined the movement the moment they started sending Tweets about it”.
Nevertheless, Onlinelibrary studies opens the use of social media has been linked to the spread of political protest in many cities around the world, including Moscow, Kiev, Istanbul, Ankara, Cairo, Tripoli, Athens, Madrid, New York, Los Angeles, Hong Kong, Ferguson, Missouri, and Lagos. Obviously, political protest itself is far from new, but the fact that it is possible to access real‐time accounts of protest behavior documented and archived through microblogging (e.g., Twitter) and social media (e.g., Facebook) websites is a novel phenomenon. Indeed, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find a protest that does not have its own distinctive hashtag on Twitter (e.g., #OWS = Occupy Wall Street; #Jan25 = protests in Egypt; #direngeziparkı = protests in Turkey; and #Euromaidan = protests in Ukraine), #Endsars in Nigeria and it is easy to connect these hashtags to message content, user metadata, and social networks. User metadata associated with these accounts allows researchers to access critical information about location, time, position in and structure of the user’s social network, all of which creates unparalleled opportunities for social scientific research.
Today, Nigerians themselves are not new to the scene of social media campaign and movement. Remember the Occupy Nigeria, according to Omojomoloju of National Mirror, our history says that the Nigerian social media, notably Twitter and Facebook, became rallying points for Nigerians at home and in Diaspora to give the #OccupyNigeria protest wide exposure. Student’s website and bloggers provide real time coverage to the protest posting live pictures of the protest on the internet. The negative post on Facebook forced the president to close his own Facebook page. Social media became a hub for connecting protesters on one hand and between them and other Nigerians at home and abroad. It is no surprise when activist of the Occupy Nigeria took to the internet to connect with Nigerians on the fuel subsidy protest. Having been marginalized by the mainstream media, organizers and activist involved in the protest turned to social media.
Again in sometimes 2014 and 2015, through the use of a Twitter hashtag, Nigerian activists were able to garner media attention while drawing the attention of various known celebrities to support their cause and fight against Boko Haram, hence #BringBackOurGirls. The #BringBackOurGirls movement was a campaign that started in Nigeria in response to the unfortunate abduction of 267 female students by an Islamic terrorist group known as Boko Haram. These girls are referred to as Chibok girls as they were taken in the town of Chibok in Borno State, Nigeria on April 14, 2014. The hashtag #BringBackOurGirls was initially live-tweeted by a Nigerian lawyer, Ibrahim Abdullahi during a televised speech by the former minister of education, Oby Ezekwesili whereby he said, “bring back our daughters”. This then garnered a lot of global attention by influential and notable people in the world. This was how the protest began in Nigeria, mothers whose children were taken used this hashtag to protest around the streets of Abuja, where the president resides. The hashtag was shared close to a million times on social media which really put this terrorist group on the mark and also brought attention to the group.
Another most familiar social media protest is the #ChurchToo and #PastorStepDown protest, where Busola Dakolo, celebrity photographer and wife of singer, Timi Dakolo, accused Fatoyinbo of raping her at 16 in viral video interview. Dakolo detailed the events that led to the alleged rape, which she revealed happened twice in one week. The allegations caused an uproar on social media with some Nigerians calling on Fatoyinbo to respond. NAN reports that although Fatoyinbo denied the allegations in an official response, protesters still urged him to step down as pastor of the church until the investigations are concluded. Hence, it brought about the protests tagged #ChurchToo and #PastorStepDown. Again, the #Revolution now protest also had it root on social media, On 5 August, the #RevolutionNow campaign was unfurled with protests in 14 cities and towns across the country. Most of these involved just a handful of people, with the largest having barely a hundred protesters. But this was because the state rolled out its full arsenal of coercion. Armed to the teeth, men (and a few women) of the secret police, elite squads of the police, the army and air force took over the venues designated for demonstrations across 23 states of the federation. Since the campaign have been coming and going.
Therein now, for two weeks, thousands of young people across Nigeria and abroad this month took to the streets and social media to call for the dissolution of Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS), an infamous police unit accused of extortion, extrajudicial killings, rape and torture. According to Aljazeera, this was far from the first time Nigerians had made such a demand. It was, however, by far, the first time their calls garnered such widespread support and international media coverage, thanks, largely, to the prominent role of social media in spreading the word. Hence, the #EndSARS hashtag swiftly started trending, boosted in part by Nigerian celebrities and high-profile personalities with large followings. As the hashtag also spread beyond the country’s borders, a number of Nigerian Twitter users announced they would help cover the phone bills of others so they could afford to keep tweeting and maintain momentum.
Today, scholars have noticed that the many Nigerian protest movement have brought to the fore the underlying potential of social media platforms to drive sociopolitical engagement with a view fostering positive social change. If recent trends are to be relied upon, it is reasonable to be guardedly optimistic about the prospects of social media to promote political participation and active citizenship.
The power of the social media network in shaping modern day discourses in Nigeria cannot be under-estimated. Yet it is important that we take into cognizance some of the challenges and limitations faced in the use of this new media in the context in which it is are utilized. Hence, some believes that Social Media does have its drawbacks, with the low cost of communication, there is also the cost of low operational security, and messages on Facebook are accessible by almost everyone. Social media is being used as an intelligence collecting tool, and users have become more cautious in giving out more personal information. Therefore, the reliability of the information and the information disseminator is questionable, increasing the risks of getting involved into something which is illegal and falling into the wrong hands.
According to Starford studies, In using social media, the trade-off for protest leaders is that they must expose themselves to disseminate their message to the masses (although there are ways to mask IP addresses and avoid government monitoring, such as by using proxy servers). Keeping track of every individual who visits a protest organization’s website page may be beyond the capabilities of many security services, depending on a site’s popularity, but a medium designed to reach the masses is open to everyone. For instance, In Egypt, almost 40 leaders of the April 6 Movement were arrested early on in the protests, and this may have been possible by identifying and locating them through their Internet activities, particularly through their various Facebook pages. Indeed, one of the first organizers of the April 6 Movement became known in Egypt as “Facebook Girl” following her arrest in Cairo on April 6, 2008. The movement was originally organized to support a labor protest that day in Mahalla, and organizer Esraa Abdel Fattah Ahmed Rashid found Facebook a convenient way to organize demonstrations from the safety of her home. Her release from prison was an emotional event broadcast on Egyptian TV, which depicted her and her mother crying and hugging. Rashid was then expelled from the group and no longer knows the password for accessing the April 6 Facebook page.
Who says that Nigerian government can not do the same if it feels so constraint. During just concluded #Endsars protests, it was rumored that the government raise the idea of blocking Facebook, Twitter, so as to clamp down people’s power or protest. Another challenge to the social media political activism such as the protest was the inability to exploit and sustain the initial momentum to translate itself into a movement.
Finally, social media has held the idea of social media bridging the distances between the users, so regardless of what country or city a protest or movement originates from, people from all over the world are able to participate in that same movement through these social networks, thereby showing their support.
Social media platforms particularly twitter acts as a “public space where public opinion struggles social and political justice can be expressed, filtered, sorted, and amplified with ease; it is a place where access is not a concern. In conclusion, social media helped with the popularization of the our different movement and allowed more people to also participate in the movement regardless of their nationality. This is the new normal we have come to accept