[BLOG] Social media crucial during Nigerian protest
As another day of protests started in Nigeria and people started marching on the streets of Lagos, Kano, Ibadan, Sokoto and elsewhere, one could see the virtual world awake as well. "Now, Nigeria controls its own media and Nigerians control their own anger... Nigerians are united."
Follow #fuelsubsidy for just a couple of minutes and you'll see tweets coming in so fast at times, its impossible to keep up with the conversation. For days now #occupynigeria is trending on Twitter in Nigeria. Bloggers like Sahara Reporters, Gbenga Sesan, El-Rufai and many more have provided extensive coverage, commentaries and documents regarding the ongoing #OccupyNigeria protest on their websites.
Social media, just as it was for people in Tunisia, Egypt or Syria are very important to the protesters in Nigeria. Protesters use it to organize, inspire and inform each other. Here are some examples of events evolving.
‘Trigger happy police shot dead fellow Nigerian and made away with his body at Ibafo, SouthWest Nigeria’ is the headline of a post by blogger Alashock. He shared some very disturbing photo showing policemen carrying away a corpse in an attempt to hide the fact (according to Channels TV), that they killed the 14-year-old boy by a random bullet.
Blogger El-rufai (309,000 followers on twitter) released details of 2012 budget for Nigeria contained in over 50 documents to the general public and blogger Omojuwa (11,000 followers on twitter) shared a document called What every protester must know and what to say to the press.
On Wednesday morning @EiENigeria tweeted: ‘FLASH: #OccupyNigeria. Please call people in #Minna for calm. Anger turned towards IBB and Governor owned properties. We don't need this.’
Another tweet (by @ESSDonli): ‘If you see a fellow protester going astray, it is your duty, your obligation to let him know. Peace is our foundation. #occupyNigeria’
Other tweets are less serious: (by@occupynigeria): ‘It is d official day to UNLIKE him on Facebook. Let's change d 685,015 number of Nigerians dat LIKE to 000000 within 2 days. (Pls RT). This tweet was about unliking President Jonathan on Facebook.
Hackers, united under @NaijaCyberHack brought down the ministry of agriculture website on Monday, leaving a message on the homepage behind: (…)“Nigerians are stirring and with it, revolution is brewing. Perhaps you see yourselves at the eye of the storm, luxuriating in peace and tranquility while all around is ripped apart and made anew. The recent cutting of the fuel subsidies by you is the last straw. Your horrendous actions have crossed the lines. Your crimes have united this great melting pot into a white hot alloy of rage.”(…). The website is still not up and running after the attack.
The international occupy movement is a motivator for many protesters. In Nigeria the occupy movement seems to be a loosely coalition of activists, union workers, students and artists who unite many protesters. Naijablog’s Jeremy Weate takes it a step further though: ‘What we are witnessing with Occupy Nigeria is a generational transfer, as young, social-media enabled activists gradually take over the baton from unionist stalwarts. Nigeria’s young population is increasingly letting go of the deferential attitude of their parent’s generation. In the south at least, young Nigerians are beginning to ask questions of the religious leadership that has been complicit with the status quo. At long last, there is accountability pressure building up in the system.’
And it must be a sign of the times: CNN’s Nigeria Correspondent Christian Purefoy has left CNN this December to start the Lagos based website Battabox, a citizen journalism website were people can upload their own content. A livestream – with quite some hick-ups - during the protest was even possible. Live streams created by CNN, BBC or AlJazeera were nowhere to be found.
The word is out, so it seems. The protest is not entirely about the removal of fuel subsidy, it is about the need for good governance. People are frustrated to the bone about the corruption and the greed by the elite. Nigeria, with a population of 158.3 million in 2010 is home to the most Internet users in Africa, at 53.4 million in 2010. The country has a dynamic telecom market, but low disposable incomes mean that there were only 1.4 million PCs in use in 2010. Instead, Nigerians flock to Internet cafes or use web-enabled mobile phones for access (Source: Euromonitor International). Nigeria currently has the largest mobile phone user base in Africa with over 93 million subscribers as at September 2011. According to statistics from Statcounter, mobile browsing has overtaken desktop browsing in Nigeria, making it the first in Africa to experience this. There are 4,3 million Facebook users in Nigeria and thousands of people use Twitter, blogs, YouTube or Flickr to record and post images and opinions. In The Stream, an Al Jazeera TV show aired in the USA, Omoyele Sowore of Sahara Reporters says: "Now, Nigeria controls its own media and Nigerians control their own anger... Nigerians are united."
Peter Vlam is journalist and founder of Africa Interactive. In his work he specializes on Africa, culture and social media.
Some people on Twitter covering, commenting and organizing the Nigeria protests:
@saharareporters (302,000 followers)
@EiENigeria (90000 followers)
@elrufai (309,000 followers)
@gbengasesan (90000 followers)
@omojuwa (11,000 followers)
@NaijaCyberHack (50000 followers)
@OccupyNigeria (80600 followers)
@ogundamisi (10,000 followers)
@purefoyAMEBO (11,500 followers)