by Uche Briggs
Tola Sarumi’s article, Honour and Honorariums, reads like an excerpt from the famed Sorry Tales. It is rife with generalisations and reflects a blinding disconnect from the realities on ground. From the first paragraph, Tola betrays an unforgivable bias that sticks fastidiously to the rest of the narrative.
In a bid to get feedback from the online community, the governor of Ekiti state invited bloggers and prominent social media engagers to a no holds barred supervision of the projects of his state and interaction. Now there are some salient points here:
- A number of the attendees of this symposium directly or indirectly eke out a living from the most important of assets: a cult following on digital media. In other words, the Twitter accounts and blogs that they run are the sources of their livelihood.
- Blogging is NOT a non-profit venture. Ask Linda Ikeji.
- The attendees were contacted and not the other way round. It was NOT a voluntary assignment.
- The attendees were not delegates sent by an organisation where the cost of their travel and the per diem were covered. They dug into their pockets to make the trip.
I work in the private sector and I know for certain that many of these people are paid as social media influencers to help build brand equity and drive brand awareness. What happened in Ekiti is the political equivalent of the widespread practice in digital media marketing in Nigeria – and across the world. Ask Omojuwa, Chinedu Ekekee and Bar Baric, they will elucidate. Perhaps Tola needs to engage some digital marketing firms in Nigeria to understand the terrain. This is NOT ‘sporadic generosity’, and doesn’t even begin to describe it.
As such, I struggle with Tola’s phrasing: “he handed out cash gifts to them on Sunday.” The good governor decided to leverage their influence and engage their intellect and it is thus interesting that a token of 50,000 can be termed as cash gifts. So we are saying that an OloriSupergal, whose mainstay is the blog she runs would abandon everything, travel for hours through the treacherous road network Nigeria is famed to have, sequester herself in an Ikogosi with notoriously poor network and not get paid? Fear God please.
Like I have largely argued, we can decide to have a conversation about how much is too much. We can discuss what constitutes reimbursement and when it enters into the realms of buying the conscience of men. But for the very good life of me, we are talking about 50,000. Will this also be said to buy the conscience of Linda Ikeji who reportedly sent a rep? If anyone refuses to be reimbursed for his time and the inconvenience of the travel, I wish him the very best but I don’t see Atom Lim patterning his life after Gandhi.
And then Tola remarks that the germane question is where the money came from. I sincerely fail to see anything germane about it. In truth, it is NOT the business of the attendees. These altruistic yet asinine talks need to stop. How many people ask their employers where s(he) got the money to set up? If I offer a service, I will get paid! And I will NOT bother where the money came from. That isn’t my business. The noble thing would be for the funds to come out of the campaign funds of the governor. Regardless, I don’t want to know. If you will leverage my social media following, if you will ride on the platform of my blog that I have spent years to build through miraculous tenacity, you will PAY! Best believe that.
Apropos to the above point, governments all over the world spend abominable sums on PR initiatives to build the elusive goodwill that propaganda demands. So when Tola says “he embarrassed himself and his party by trying to curry favour,” it seems that she is painfully ignorant of the requirements of governance. To assert that because of his good works, he will surely get re-elected is almost too hilarious to stomach.
In summation, the government is a corporate entity as well, and to expect that they should be treated differently by bloggers because of patriotism is the stuff Basketmouth is paid for. If I decide to offer pro bono service (which I do a lot), it is my prerogative. But I will demand to get paid by a government that does not pay my internet bills, does not fuel my generator and didn’t send me to school, and to insinuate that it is a breach of integrity is at once condescending and sanctimonious.
Asides from the arrogant double standards displayed by many of the attendees, the only thing that irks me is the unprofessional way the monies were disbursed. My advice: standardize this shit! Many more will call you for these trips. When the Turaki sends you a mail next time to see the greatness he wields, in your response, attach an excel sheet that reads thus:
Cost of Transportation: 100,000 (Return ticket Business Class)
Inconveniences Per Diem: 50,000 *3 = 150,000
Cost of Auditing State Projects: 100,000
VAT (5%): 17500
Grand Total: 367,500.
When everyone sends this, every government official will take dressing from the right.
– Follow this writer on Twitter: @UcheBriggs