Many Nigerians started looking for information on the failed coup attempt in Turkey since last week. Some suddenly started supporting the coup plotters describing them and their actions as “heroes” or “heroic” development (praying earnestly for it to happen in Nigeria) while others see it as a failure. The social media was set agog with a video call from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan urging the people to take to the street in defence of his administration. He reportedly launched a social media blitz, sending calls to the population via different platforms, Facebook, WhatsApp, directly to their mobile phones, and through Twitter. This is how powerful the social media can be!
Like many other human inventions, the internet-especially in the advent of the social media-suffer from avoidable challenges. Social media was used to quash a coup in Turkey. It has been responsible for bringing down governments both elected and unelected.
Noticing the extent of damage social media done to its image, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) recently took to its Twitter account to “apologize” to Nigerians of its past role in spreading “toxic comments” among Nigerians. The statement reads (from its verified handle @PDPNigeria):
“We have noticed, with a growing sense of dismay, the level of toxicity that pervades the political space with respect to discussions on national issues,” the PDP said. “We accept responsibility and apologize for whatever role we have played in reaching this level of toxicity.”
The statement continued: “This toxicity, some of which finds expression in discussions across social media platforms, has reached the level where bridges are being burnt, personal relationships are being strained and an unnecessary tension fills what should ordinarily be patriotic and enlightening conversations on how to move the nation forward…”
On reading this first on The Punch, I had to conclude there must have been a mix up somewhere. I was honestly expecting something like a rebuttal from the party with the traditional claim that its account has been hacked. The news of hackers attacking social media accounts of eminent Nigerians has been frequent in recent times. On at least two occasions, the party has suspended its twitter account. The Wife of the President, Mrs Aisha Buhari has also made a public claim dissociating herself from a controversial tweet calling a sitting Governor a “dog” saying her account had been hacked.
Days have gone by, yet PDP has not disclaimed the tweets. Rather, the party’s national caretaker committee chair, Ahmed Makarfi threw his weight behind President Buhari’s fight against corruption.
Many Nigerians recall that former All Progressives Congress (APC) spokesman, Alhaji Lai Muhammed gave the party an unusual advice – “rebrand or go into extinction”. Call it coincidence or whatever you chose, the PDP set up what was known as “Rebranding Committee” headed by a media mogul, High Chief Raymond Dokpesi. The second – to go into extinction – is not even an option at all. The question will then be whether the party has ever had a brand. The advice did not just come because the APC is diametrically opposed (in terms of ideas) to the PDP. The advice became necessary because of the fact that the party has a well-known brand which will take the gathering of the world most brilliant brand strategists to rebrand!
In the heat of the 2015 election, there was no low some of the party supporters will not go on social media. At some point, it was #ISISBuhari. They want us to believe that Buhari sponsors the deadly Islamic State (ISIS) just to score political points. Having served as a volunteer for the Buhari Support Organisations (BSO) myself during the election, I can say that the attitudes of some APC supporters, especially on Twitter, too are condemnable but that is a topic for another day!
It looks nice for that the PDP wants us to forget so soon that it once boasted that it would “rule” the country for 60 or more years. They want Nigerians to forget how they treated as “family affair” several monumental corruptions involving their members. The party wants us to forget how 16 became greater than 19 in the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) leadership election. They still want us to forget how they did their very best to prove to us that STEALING is not CORRUPTION. They will like us to forget how they told us that it is not the fault of the yam-eating goats but the presence of the tubers of yams in the same room with the goats. There is no problem with forgiving, but forgetting is another matter altogether.
The new part slogan, Change The Change (CTC) it intends to adopt as its war cry looks to me like the Trump/Pence (TP) slogan which is now synonymous with tissue paper (TP) in the ongoing US presidential election. The fact that the word change appeared twice in the slogan shows looks more like it has given up the battle to the Change side already. Like I wrote when the party selected ex-Borno state Governor, Ali Modu Sherriff as acting national chairman that the party is doing the APC a great favour and making the work of the ruling party easier by giving out too much. The Change The Change slogan may be another way of telling APC strategists that they have very little work to do come 2019.
An unsolicited advice is that the PDP should look for more emotionally mature youths to manage its social media platforms. There is not much that is wrong with its current handlers, but continuing with them can only add to the damage already done it the party’s poor public image. I observed some people doing their best to launch a hash tag on twitter, #PDPOnlineDirectorate as a way of encouraging youths in decision making in the party. I wasn’t too surprised to get tweets like: “Oh wait….I missed something. There is now a Directorate for SM in the PDP. Director, please reveal yourself” “Politics is local! Fight to be relevant in your Ward, Local government, state and not one useless #PDPOnlineDirectorate you are fighting for”. Things can only work better when we all stay and live positively. Making “toxic” comments about other people helps no one in particular.
If the party is serious about its apologies and can urge its supporters to turn a new leave; if the APC too can appeal to its “online” members to stop “attacking” those with divergent views; if the rest of us can at least be more neutral in our commenting on issues on social media, then we can safely conclude that democracy is really developing in this country.
***Olalekan Waheed Adigun, a political risk analyst and independent political strategist for wide range of individuals, organisations and campaigns.
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