Govt cannot continue to ignore digital media …. PUNCH

’Sola Fagorusi

Last week, Nigeria was on the spotlight, following the visit of the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon. The visit received overwhelming media coverage within and outside the country.

Also, two different groups in Nigeria’s cyberspace were divided over President Muhammadu Buhari’s recent appointments. The first group alleged that the President made the appointments based on ethnic sentiment, while the second group argued that merit rather than ethnicity was the driving factor.

In both events, the digital community played an important role by showing that an alternative voice exists, and it is willing to engage the government at all levels.

Young members of the civil society also got the attention of the UN Secretary-General during his visit. They did it in style by incorporating social media users into the conversation. Using #Action2015NG and #SDGsNG other young people were able to follow through the conversation.

The Agreement on Climate Transformation 2015 and the Sustainable Development Goals formed the basis of the conversation. The moderators filtered questions coming in through the hashtags and were able to direct them to Ki-Moon.

According to him, issues affecting the youth issues remain top priority. He described the new SDGs, which some countries are expected to adopt in September, as climate-friendly and a greater vision for a better world in 2030.

This conversation was followed by a strategic meeting on Nigeria’s role in the development of the SDGs by the Nigerian Youth Act 2015 Alliance.

Taking off from Ki-Moon’s tweet chat session, the group understands that by December 2015, the Millennium Development Goals, a global development framework created in 2000, will come to an end and it will be replaced with SDGs.

Tweets from the chat credited to the Secretary General noted that the #SDGs – 17 goals in all – will make us live harmoniously with nature.

Ki-Moon also noted that more than half of the world’s population is made up of people below 30 years. For the promoters of #Act2015 in Nigeria, there is a need to uphold Nigeria’s progressive policies by preventing Nigerian representatives from stopping the youth from participating in the 69th General Assembly scheduled to hold on Tuesday, September 1, 2015.

The quality of contributions witnessed during both meetings would not have been possible, considering the size of the country, if social media were not used to make the conversation liberal and democratic. Everyone can now share their thoughts on national issues online.

One of the messages posted on Twitter at the weekend, which profiled the appointment by Buhari, reads, “Buhari Administration: 35 appointments made, one woman, 34 men, no appointee is under 35 years.”

There will be more of this conversation on social media in the coming months as the President prepares to fulfill his promise to appoint ministers in September. Buhari’s advisers need to make him listen. The issues are still the same: Nigerians want change and that will continue until success is achieved.

However, the expected change will become sustainable if government decides to make the voice of the people count. It will be an error on the part of the President if we do not have a desk that aggregates and responds to thoughts on the new media space. The voice of government should be loud and clear in this space.

Nigeria is no longer that dark space where a president can be all-knowing. Young people, especially bloggers, will shape the destiny of this government. Failure to listen to them will be a grave error.

“We the people” initiative in the United States is a model that Nigeria can copy. The quality of governance will be enhanced if public institutions are accessible. It will be so desirable that an ordinary citizen can send an email to the presidency to share ideas that can push the nation forward.

Government needs to find a way around filtering and using comments from the people. Blogs, status updates, comments loaded through Disqus are putting the information necessary for action on the public space. Government, especially at the federal and state level, needs to find a way to organise these comments in a way that will yield positive results.