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……Elvis-Wura Towolawi

The long awaited revolution—of the mind, not of arms has begun; and its force is mobile, borne on the jet of technology; executing swift judgments with far-reaching effect on policies and anti-people attitude. This revolution was mothered by the Social Media: a tool created for social networking and marketing; but yup, the Social Media has metamorphosed into a Court of Opinion, shaping the course of history, mentality and social behavior. Popular among the Social Media platform are: Face Book, Google +, Twitter, Skype, Whatsapp, You Tube etc. If there’s any place the Social Media should be utilized optimally, it is a Society where power oppresses than uplifts; where social goods are unevenly distributed; and peoples’ voices are muffled for parochial political interest. Our thoughts can be buttressed with a few incidents illustrating the viral impact of the Social Media on governance and society.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  It’s safe to begin with the Arab Spring- a revolution that swept through the Arab World from 2011 till date. The revolution can be tagged ‘ a Social Media Revolution’ as protests leading to major events ( even civil wars) were facilitated by the ubiquity and mass strength of Social Media in organizing people and moulding opinion, giving information about moves and decisions. Without sounding vaunting, the Arab World owes its bitter-sweet revolutionary experiences in recent years to the Social Media. From Egypt to Syria, the Social Media fuelled the embers of discontent by giving vent to bottled-up feeling of dissatisfaction. Yes, the Arab Awakening like some other known revolution may have been hijacked and distorted by power-brokers and religious bigots; yet, it does not kill the fact that the people had their opportunity to say no to dictatorship, hard life and oppression. Many  thanks to the Social Media.                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Let’s come home to Nigeria. Foremost is the ‘ Go-and-Die-Widow’ saga that occurred in Benin City, Edo state December 2012. A fruit-vending widow was ordered to ‘go and die’ for flouting anti-street hawking law by the Governor of Edo state, Comrade Adams Oshiomole who was on an implementation tour of the law. Some days later, the Governor came apologizing to the widow, armed with a largesse and an appointment letter. Why the change of attitude? The Social Media verdict! Now, a video of the show down between the widow and the Governor went viral on the social network arousing anger and venom by the people who regarded the act as a show of insensitivity to the dregs of the Earth; thus leading to the Governor’s change of heart and the apology. Even traditional media could hardly bend men in power compared to the weight of the Social Media. There judgment is instant! To be fair, one must commend the humility of the Governor for accepting his wrongful overreaction and for bringing the widow out of the dungeon of poverty and struggle. Imagine what would have happened if there was no Social Media.                                                                                                                                                                      However, one would pause and caution here that the Social Media as strong and useful as it is could become a den of scammers, con-stars and evil propagandists and spin-less apologists; fleecing people and tarnishing peoples’ image considered ‘anti-government’. The unfortunate murder of Cynthia Osogkwu in FESTAC, Lagos in 2012 by her ‘online friends’ and puerile mud-slinging campaign against Victoria Ohaeri, a social activist is worth highlighting in red. We’d advise tact and ‘wisdom’ in using the Social Media; users shouldn’t disclose sensitive personal information online for there are many predators on line seeking to prey on unwary persons. Yet, the odds are tilted towards the Social Media. It can best be described as a drop in an ocean.                                                                                                                                            But a situation where the National Assembly tries to legislate away a people’s right to free expression on the premise of quelling inciting expression against the State on the Social Media is totally unacceptable. The Cyber Crime Bill which proposes to monitor internet and phone interaction is anathema to the building of a civil and democratic state.  People have the right to express support, disagreement and even dissent on the Social Media within bounds of reasonable conduct and civility. Any attempt to gag the peoples’ discourse in a bid to preserve Government is regarded as an internet dictatorship which could eventually lead to an overflow of unexpressed views voiced in other means, legitimate or illegitimate. It’s far better to let the people interact and express themselves without fear in a democracy than throw them back to the ‘ iron-jackboot age’ of police states when to express dissent is to be seen as anti-government and be treated as national traitors. The Social Media is here to stay because it gives voice and expression to the people; take away the peoples’ voice, take away democracy!

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