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Tony Iribor: Beyond hashtags

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Tony Iribor: Beyond hashtags

by Tony Iribor

1st of May, 2014. The date fixed for one of the #BringBackOurGirls protests in Lagos. This was to hold at CMS and then, you know, protesters will move as they are led to of their own will to wherever they see fit. I decided to join in the protest and I was impressed with the turn out considering the fact that protests that have not been against fuel price increase hardly ever pulls much crowd, this had an appreciable number of protesters.

While we were protesting and hoping to get the attention of the Governor of Lagos state, I noticed that the May day rally was going on. Members of NURTW occupied the Onikan stadium and around to celebrate their day while we were protesting for the missing girls. We chanted and sang and did all protesters would normally do to have their opinions heard. As we did all we did, one thing I noticed was the fact that the average dude was unaware of the reason for our protest or was aware and wasn’t really concerned. In fact, I remember hearing one of the NURTW guys ask in Yoruba “who are they and what do they want?” The reply his friend gave was “Do not mind them. They are just a bunch of unserious people” Really? Unserious people?

There is this huge disconnect among Nigerians which makes you wonder sometimes. We don’t know or just do not care as long as it doesn’t affect us directly. I mean, for some and even most of us, Boko Haram can bomb all they want, as long as it doesn’t affect any of us in anyway, we are fine. Once, we are safe and cool and our friends and family members are not harmed, we do not give a damn. Why is this so? Were we always like this? At what point did we become like this? Is it bad leadership? Or is it the fact that for years, we have been failed endlessly by those who should be called leaders? Why are we not vocal? Is it because we have seen those who have been vocal using the collective voices of the majority to achieve their personal aims? So we have gotten to the point where every man takes care of himself. “All man for himself and God for us all”.  Sometimes, it feels like, it is we (citizens) against the world (those in government). Is it possible to change this? Make us concerned about the various things that happen around the country. How do I achieve this? Maybe I should start a hash tag to get awareness and make people see why they should be concerned about things that happen in their own country. What can a hash tag possibly do? How far can it go with achieving that? Well, it can create awareness online and get people talking on Twitter, but how far can that really go?

I once mentioned in an article that Nigeria is not Lagos, Abuja, your state of Origin or Twitter. I still maintain my belief. Yes, we can start a hash tag, create awareness, get all the media attention needed and that may in turn force the hand of government to take the necessary actions but it doesn’t solve all our issues. How many Nigerians are on twitter? How many are active? How many share your ideologies? Even if they all do, how many are they compared to the guys on the street who hear of a bomb blast and just continue their daily business like nothing happened? How many have the time to rant and rave against government as we do routinely when decisions taken don’t favour us? About the Chibok girls, how many of you have had conversations with some people offline about the incident? We easily shout down people who do not believe it happened, but you’d be shocked to hear what some Nigerians out there think of the whole incident. It doesn’t end there; it also happens with every other incident that takes place here.

Beyond creating awareness and all for whatever cause we want, we should not forget that there are people offline. These are the people who will play a major role in terms of deciding who will occupy offices in government and take decisions that affect us. These are the guys who will vote based on religion and ethnicity. Does it not amaze some of us on Twitter that despite the reports from Ekiti state and Governor Kayode Fayemi, there are still some who have been alleged to say that he is too intellectual and they’d vote Fayose? While we create our hash tags on Twitter, we should remember that if we truly desire change and good governance, a hash tag is not enough. We should carry people along. We should also think beyond the hash tags.

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