I was stepping out of my house, heading to the pub to see the final match of the just concluded FIFA World Cup, when my Blackberry beeped. The message simply said “Ibrahim Babangida is now following you…”
The first thing that came out of my mouth was “Oh my God!” as I looked downstairs to be sure that there was nobody lurking around in the compound. Then I looked at my phone again to be sure that I had not been in a trance. I read the message again, this time around to the end and it read “Ibrahim Babangida is now following you on Twitter.” I heaved a heavy sigh of relief and became intrigued about the guy’s seriousness to contest the 2011 presidential election and engaging Nigerians, especially the youth on the World Wide Web. I was particularly taken in by the fact that his ego is actually not larger than the World Wide Web and he can condescend to the realms of mere mortals and the platform of the talakawa; quite impressive, indeed.
IBB is not the type of leader (and I use the term ‘leader’ loosely in reference to the fact that he has led this nation before not necessarily because he has espoused any democratic or developmental ideology) that we expect to show up on Twitter and Facebook or any other serious social networking site. IBB, has over the years, been presented as a man, in and out of uniform, who is larger than life and can get whatever he wants in Nigeria. So it should come as a surprise that he intends to use the Internet to prosecute his much talked about presidential bid.
It is interesting that quite a number of politicians have imbibed the Barack Obama strategy to solicit support for whatever office they are gunning for in the coming elections. The Obama inspiration on politicians and the political landscape is huge and should be studied by sociologists, political scientists and historians. A certain writer had described Obama as the mythical cipher to all mans aspiration and dreams.
But shall we return to our man IBB. I am not impressed by the fact that IBB has chosen to follow me on Twitter. If anything, I am the one who should be inspired by him for me to follow. If we must follow the Obama example, I am not sure how many people Barack Obama follows on Twitter. People follow Barack Obama. I follow him, too. That is because the first Black American President has become a big inspiration for ethnic minorities, for hard work, for self-belief and for the demise of impossibilities to every man who believes. Those are credentials that you don’t buy in the market place. You earn it. IBB should show me, nay Nigerians, your credentials to command any serious following.
On the first day of Goodluck Jonathan opening his Facebook account, the page registered about 23,000 fans. Now three weeks old, the fan base has increased to about 114,000. Not that I consider Goodluck Jonathan a leader other than he is the President of my country, I think the fact that he became President under divine and extraordinary circumstances make people look up to him. But he himself is about to go the way every privileged Nigerian leader has gone in the last 30 years that I can recall; they get there achieve nothing and want to sit tight.
I hear a lot of people talk about the quality of followers that we have in Nigeria, how they expect government to do everything for them, how they are perennially pecuniary in thinking and how they cannot take initiative or take their destiny in their hands. My answer is let’s go back to the leaders and how they have deliberately made this impossible.
Politics in Nigeria up to the late 60s when I was born, as I read, was vibrant and based on ideologies with an eye for developing the region even though there were a lot of ethnic and regional undertones. I doubt if there is any Nigerian my age or older than me who does not know what Obafemi Awolowo or Nnamdi Azikiwe or Ahmadu Bello stood for. Historians even coined words like Awoism and Zikism. People were eager to listen to and follow these men to the ends of the earth because they were compelling and persuasive. I am sure that we still have a few politicians of the Awoist and Zikist schools of thought. Some of the ideas they espoused may be archaic to present day realities, but can someone show me a contemporary Nigerian leader with fresh thoughts, fresh ideas, persuasive thinking, compelling ideologies and commanding charisma to match.
Rather than following me on Twitter and asking me to be your fan on Facebook, can we please meet in a town hall meeting where we can put your democratic ideals to the test? And this also goes for all politicians seeking elective offices in the coming elections.
Okay, IBB you can follow me, but I am sorry, I will not follow you.