by Raymond Eyo
“[It is wrong for] presidency officials to use their personal handles [to tweet], instead of institutional outlets.”
– Ibraheem Sanusi
In January this year, I wrote a piece urging the powers that be to “Fix Aso Rock’s Web Domains”.
Though my emphasis in the piece was on the need for the Nigerian presidency’s official website to be brought up to speed with cutting-edge technology which it sorely lacks, till this moment, I also briefly called for the institutionalisation of the presidency’s Twitter account. Here, my engrossment is to elaborate on the expediency of the same.
According to the online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, the term “institutionalisation” “may be used in a political sense to apply to the creation or organization of governmental institutions or particular bodies responsible for overseeing or implementing policy…” I would add: or communicating policy and government action. Again, Wikipedia says: “Institutionalisation is also seen as being an important part of the process of modernisation in developing countries, involving the expansion and improved organisation of government structures.”
With the above in mind, I am persuaded that creating and operating an institutionalised Twitter account will ultimately help to improve the organisation of Nigeria’s presidency, especially as it pertains to how it communicates with the Nigerian people, at least the increasingly IT-literate and social media savvy ones, and the outside world.
In an October 2012 piece, E-Consultancy, a US consultancy offering electronic resources and services in ICTs, in an advice to brands [business or political], said: “Employees should not tweet from personal accounts while “on the job.” E-Consultancy is right. Employees should use their personal accounts for their personal use and accounts that belong to institutions and establishments should be strictly used to tweet institutional content.
More importantly, Nigeria’s presidency will lose plenty of official data on Twitter when its present media officials, Reuben Abati and Reno Omokri, are replaced because, of course, their handles belong to them, and not to the state. Such a scenario undermines the all-important concept of continuity in governance.
Another reason why it is germane to have an official Twitter account for the presidency is that the nation would be spared the embarrassment of having some contemptible tweets and comments that may come from an individual’s personal account. While using his personal handle to tweet for the presidency, Reno Omokri is under no official or moral obligation to not tweet his personal views that many may sometimes find irrational or discourteous. On the other hand, any person who will tweet for the presidency using its official handle will be obliged to tweet only official content.
If President Goodluck Jonathan values social media and cherishes and upholds the concept of institutionalisation, as I would expect any sensible leader to, he would not allow individuals to tweet for the presidency using their personal handles.
Take Kenya for example. As Kenya’s Capital FM reported on April 10, 2013, “The official residence of the President of the Republic of Kenya has made the leap into the digital era by setting up [official] social media accounts.” Indeed, one of the first social media actions that Kenya’s new president, Uhuru Kenyatta, took after his inauguration was to create an institutionalised Twitter account for the presidency – @StateHouseKenya. It is not just Kenya. The official Twitter handle of Ghana’s presidency is @PresidencyGhana; South Africa’s is @PresidencyZA; Egypt’s is @EgyPresidency, whilst Russia, the US and the UK, respectively, have @KremlinRussia_E, @whitehouse and @Number10gov.
Make no mistake about it: Twitter is a big deal and as ICTs proliferate, it will only get bigger. Any institution that seeks to be more relevant nowadays should, sooner than later, create and sustain an institutionalised Twitter presence. An institution of the magnitude of Nigeria’s presidency can surely not afford to miss out on such.
A couple of weeks ago, an American political strategist, Kevin Madden, remarked, and I concur, that “Twitter has become such an essential way to communicate with audiences in today’s digital age. Twitter is now standard operating procedure as a communications tool for public figures [and establishments] interested in staying in touch with public audiences.”
Contrary to his tendency to always create committees on all things governance, President Jonathan does not need to create a committee before institutionalising Aso Villa’s Twitter handle. He doesn’t also need any separate budgetary allocation to do so. All what is required is just the political will and a simple instruction to the likes of Abati and Omokri that is, if they cannot muster the initiative to do it themselves.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @Raymond_Eyo