The Social Media has become the foremost and most prominent media for the spread of information especially news and entertainment. On other hand, it has also become a very strong channel to propagate hate and all sorts of ideologies.
It is very unfortunate and equally appalling that the Online Newspapers or News blogs have degenerated so rapidly to the despicable level of not only aiding the division of Nigeria but also has become a very potent tool to propagate, incite, instigate and generate distaste, bitterness, hatred and disaffection among Nigerians.
Worrisome is the observation of the fact that some Online News Media deliberately set the agenda for Nigerians to go on collision course through the spewing out of information or news which are mainly unnecessary and tribal-laden in slant. This sort of post usually sees Nigerians on the Social Media (depending on the channel) denigrate and abuse one another. Such posts stir division and animosity amongst the people, more so on ethnic lines.
Evidence abound when you read comments and responses of Nigerians on issues in the social media. It is disheartening to observe that a Hausa person hardly agrees with an Igbo person not caring who is right or wrong. Argument or comments are no longer objective and issue based but tribally motivated, thereby helping to amplify the notion by some school of thought that the problem of Nigeria is tribal not religious. This phenomenon heightened with the recent round of campaigns and elections in Nigeria. One could vividly see that the country was completely polarised by ethnic jingoes, no thanks to the activities of the social (news) media operators/bloggers who also intensified campaigns based on this negative trend. They cashed in on the prevalent situation and helped to further widen the divide through their various publications and posts.
Is the Media not supposed to be a unifying factor especially with the country’s struggles to institute ideal democracy? The Social Media as almost all may know is a very powerful instrument for social re-engineering and revolution. There was hardly any social revolution in this 21st century earth which was not largely instigated by the social media. A recent case in hand was the Arab Springs. No wonder South Korea and some other countries have placed censorship on the use of the social media knowing how ridiculous it is or could be to a country when manipulated into the wrong use. To a large extent, it is very applaud able for these countries to have placed embargo on the use of the internet because no responsible nation would realise a potential danger and refuse to be responsive.
While one may not cast a shadow on the positive impact of the social media in the society vis-a-vis its informative, educative and entertaining content, it would rather be insensitive to turn an eye away from the hazard it portends for the society, apart from the fact that it corrupts young minds due to negatives like pornographic content and its use to spread falsehood like wild-fire. Millions of Nigerians now resort to the social media for instant on-the-go news through phones and other mobile gadgets. Not too many Nigerians still do with the conventional newspapers and magazines. This makes the social media to command enormous followership and readership being the fastest media to access news and information. It has also become the fastest media for some to spread hate and falsehoods. Baffling enough, most Nigerian internet users, as gullible as they seem, believe the lies and sedition published by these on-line-news media without verification for authenticity. Then you would find comments from Nigerians as spurious as the posts itself.
It would be very instructive at this stage of our nationhood that we should engage more on those things that unite us instead those that divide us if we must forge ahead as one, while eschewing tribal sentiments which already is at its prime in the country. Hatred is tearing Nigeria apart and this ignoble trend must be uprooted as quickly as possible before it ravages the country. The youths today have taken into this negativity which has become very visible in their actions especially comments on social media.
Daily children are born and they grow to socialize. We can’t afford to let them inherit this spirit of division and animosity. It would be dangerous to bequeath such a malaise to unborn generations. A country premised on tribal abhorrence, no, we would not want to be enmeshed in a vicious circle with no end.
It was hate which was not exterminated that led to racism. Today the western world which hitherto failed to act is seriously battling to contain this monster called racism. “A stitch in time saves nine’’, they say. Therefore, it would be catastrophic to see an explosion of hate in Nigeria because it won’t augur well for our today and future generations. Hate like racism is man’s creation, so it needs the efforts of man to arrest this seeming albatross now before it become indomitable.
While passionately appealing to the On-line-newspapers operators and other social media bloggers to show patriotism through their content and try to use their respective medium as a unifier, it is also very pertinent for the common good that the government looks inwardly with a view to commencing the monitoring of the Social Media (particularly the on-line-newspapers and other sites with indigenous content) in the country.
There is serious need for some level of censorship of the Nigerian content on the social media to help abate an impending national disaster. The government must wake up and begin to curb the excesses of the on-line-newspapers in Nigeria. Don’t mistake this as a measure to cage press freedom because it is not. It would only be a machinery to sieve out bad elements and agents of disunity from the system. It is to help reposition the social media to be more resourceful, objective and well-defined and refined for national development. Government should set guidelines and code of conduct for this category of media practitioners to check their activities just like the conventional news media.
In clearer terms, the federal government should put in place an On-line Media Regulatory Agency of Nigeria (OMRAN) to regulate the activities of practitioners. The absence of such body is apparently responsible for the reckless proliferation of all sorts of on-line-newspapers and other blogs and their reprehensible activities.
Failure to take action now may lead to a break-down of public law and order incited or instigated by the social media. This situation may snowball to the extent of destabilising the country and the government.
This is a wake-up call and the time to act is now otherwise both country and government may pay the price for laxity tomorrow.
Azogor Ideba is Chief Press Secretary to the Speaker, Cross River State House of Assembly. He writes from Calabar.
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