•How online platforms can build, destroy youths, others – Experts
By Cosmas Omegoh
Last week, the streets of Lagos were agog. Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg was in Nigeria where he met with a number of software developers and ICT entrepreneurs. He later met with top government officials, including President Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja.
Speaking of his impression after meeting with the young people in Lagos, Zuckerberg noted: “The thing that is striking is the energy, the entrepreneurial energy. Here in Lagos and across the continent, things are changing rather quickly.”
Indeed, social networking has significantly altered the way the world once communicated. Recently, people from all lands and climes have been investing time and energy in social networking, more popularly known as social media. The youths are mostly the very active ones on various social media platforms.
An online platform recently noted: “There is a fundamental need to communicate and the bulk of this communication takes place through various social media platforms.
“Currently, there are 5,357,500 Facebook users in Nigeria, which makes it No. 35 in the ranking of all Facebook statistics by country. The largest age group is currently 18-24, with total of 1, 930 460 users, followed by the users in the age of 25-34. There are 69 per cent male users and 31 per cent female users in Nigeria.
“From Facebook to BBM, from Twitter through 2go to Skype and all other social media platforms, youths are engaging one another, networking and building relationships.
“Indeed, the social media are opening up the Nigeria social space in new ways. It is now the new equaliser that is breaking the information monopoly that was enjoyed by the state and a few media houses. In the process, it is unleashing hidden journalistic talents, as we witness a mushrooming of bloggers, social commentators and critics. The latter are a part of a new generation of social activists, who have now appropriated this new technology and now use it to network, share ideas, criticise and vent their frustrations.”
Some other social networking sites, which are increasingly offering people uninterrupted windows to interact with one another are Skype, LinkedIn and the blogs.
In the meantime, their impact is believed to be inestimable. “The power of the social media is huge; you can reach millions in seconds. With the social media, from your room, you can talk to millions of people and no one can stop you,” noted Dele Momodu, Publisher, Ovation Magazine.
He recalled that the use of the platform during the last national elections showed that it was potent in reaching a wide spectrum of people, describing it as the greatest invention ever made by man.
Similarly, a don, Dr. Ayo Ojebode, affirmed the potency of the social media in influencing people. The Head of Department of Communication and Language Arts, University of Ibadan, said: “Definitely, the social media has changed the way we communicate. Frequency of contact and communication has been increased. We now send and receive instantaneous messages. Twitter, Facebook, etc, now have instant messaging tools. And this is good.”
However, there is the growing worry that the activities of the army of participants always on the social media are increasingly taking the shine off the invention. For instance, it is believed that many young men and women are engaging in social media activities, spending quality man hours that could have been properly channelled into more productive ventures, engaging friends and responding to posts on online platforms. More than that, many, especially the bloggers post uncensored, sensational articles and photographs.
Odunayo Omokejimi, a student of Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State, told Daily Sun that he engaged in the social media because of the amazing opportunities it holds. “I’m involved with the social media for an upward of two hours daily,” he said. “I visit the Facebook for news feeds, Imo for video chat and interaction with friends. I also go to WhatsApp to keep in touch with friends. “These platforms help to add to my knowledge base. They help me keep in touch with the world.”
He, however, acknowledged that they also have their negative influences.
This is the aspect of social media that Tina Anatsui, a lecturer in Mass Communication at Babcock University, Ogun State, detests.
“Nowadays, the social media has been consistently making negative impact on our youths. Some of them spend long hours on various platforms, engaging in online betting; they visit various pornographic sites and enjoy watching them. In doing that, most of them don’t concentrate on their studies. And we see how it is increasingly influencing their culture. We see them imitating what they see online.”
Based on these negative influences, Dr. Ojebode expressed his worries. “We should worry about the quality of communication in the social media. The ways we communicate on social media platforms these days are wide. But are they deep?
“Facebook has become like a beer parlour – anyone can climb up there and say anything. Twitter even makes it impossible for you to be elaborate – you must keep it short. So, we probably have quantity of communication increasing, but not the quality. The one-on-one dynamic, the warmth and bonding that comes with face-to-face interpersonal communication is waning. The sense of longing and fondness with which we await the arrival of written letters through the post office is now being lost to instantaneity. It’s pretty much like the world has got itself into one crazy, frenzy.”
But more than that, he was worried that people were using the social media to set agenda, asserting that such agenda might not be influencing anyone quite significantly any longer.
“There are political, ethnic and religious agenda, but you see, because everyone has access to the platforms, there are also counter-agenda. So, on social media, in the comments that follow news reports and on any platform where there should be dialogues, there is only a shouting match. Each one is screaming at the top of their voices and trying to outdo the other. And that’s where the problem is.
“Those robbing the country, those cheating everyone hardly quarrel with one another. They are united across religious, political and ethnic divides. But the poor, the robbed stay put at their ethnic and religious and political frontiers calling for the head of one another. So, there is an agenda – the agenda of the rich to keep the poor talking and shouting at one another while the rich unite to get richer. And the social media is the perfect platform for the rich to do this — to keep us busy.”
But if the social media is to serve the bidding of the rich, many would wonder why the Senate a couple of months ago moved to enact a legal instrument, the Frivolous Petitions Prohibition Bill, aka Social Media bill.
The bill, which was sponsored by Bala Ibn Na’allah, a member of the All Progressives Congress (APC) from Kebbi State, reads: “Where any person through text message, tweets, WhatsApp or through any social media post, issues any abusive statement seen to be false with intent to set the public against any person and groups of persons, an institution of government or such other bodies established by law shall be guilty of an offence and upon conviction, shall be liable to an imprisonment for two years or a fine of N2,000,000 or both fine and imprisonment.”
So far, the bill has been rested with some members of the public and civil society organisations, saying that continued action on it by the legislature would further reinforce the trend of repressive legislation in the online space in Nigeria.
And now, the question some people are asking in the face of rising complaints bordering on the negative impact of the social media is: “Would some form of regulation in the country be proper?”
Dr. Ojebode said: “I am for free speech but then one has to say that these days, speeches that fuel terrorism, ethnic animus, religious hatred or political violence are on the rise in quantity globally and they’re achieving some level of brainwashing of the gullible. So, while the precise details may have to be worked out, I’d reluctantly say some regulation is necessary.”
But since the social media is exceedingly useful to students in the high institutions, Anatsui noted that it was improper to regulate it. The social media is a very useful tool in the hands of students who use it mostly in learning. As youths, they have greater need to socialise and most of them are using it for that purpose. It helps them to share information; it broadens their horizon.
“And we shouldn’t forget that they are lucky to be growing up now when there are a lot of innovations that help them to do so. This is where the social media comes handy – helping them to navigate, answer questions, assess information and solve life problems. It is on this note that I sincerely believe that parents, who are helping their children and wards to assess the social media platforms are investing wisely.”
Women journalists draw battle line against domestic violence
By Tessy Igomu
Nigeria, according to global statistics has one of the highest rates of domestic violence in Africa, with about two thirds of women believed to daily experience physical, sexual and psychological abuse at the hands of their husbands.
With reports of fatalities from domestic violence said to be consistently on the increase, the Nigerian Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), Lagos Chapter, decided to tackle the menace headlong by creating public awareness and sensitisation. This, the association set out to achieve by anchoring all activities lined up to mark the just concluded ‘NAWOJ Week’ on ending domestic violence.
The week-long event had the theme, ‘Ending domestic violence: A task for all’, and it started with a thanksgiving service at the ArchBishop Vining Memorial Church, Ikeja-Lagos, followed by a five-kilometre Fitness-Sensitisation Walk from Ikeja Local Government to the Lagos State House of Assembly, Alausa, Ikeja. A seminar that had stakeholders deliberating on ways to curb the menace was later held at the Combo Hall, LTV 8, and it culminated with a Jumat Prayer.
In his keynote address during the seminar, Dr. Muiz Banire (SAN) condemned the alarming rise in cases of domestic violence in Nigeria. He averred that perpetrators of domestic violence should be demonised by have them profiled.
Banire, who spoke on the topic, ‘Making the Needed Positive Changes in our Legal System in Relation to Ending Domestic Violence’, said aside from having data of perpetrators collated and put in the system, they should also be sent for psychiatric evaluation.
He lamented: “Our culture also indulges domestic violence by allowing men to boldly dwell on the slogan, ‘he is the man of the house’, and so allowed to mete out discipline in whatever form.”
The Senior Advocate stressed that there was need to engage our traditional custodians on practices trends that had become archaic. The Nigeria Police, he also said, needed to be properly orientated on domestic violence. They should learn not to make jest of or turn back complainant, he said.
On appropriate sanctions for domestic violence perpetrators, Banire stressed that the sanctions should not be such that would further turn the perpetrator into an unrepentant one, adding that enforcement must be there to tame the menace and protect whoever is violated.
His words: “Any wife beater should not hold any political or responsible office. Education, enlightenment must be done always at all levels to raise awareness on the dangers of domestic violence. Members of the society and relevant agencies must stop the stigmatisation of rape victims, because this, to a great extent, makes victims to embrace the culture of silence in the face of violent violation of their rights and dignity.
“Profiling is very essential and we cannot profile without capacity. Domestic violence does not involve a woman alone; some men are also being beaten on daily basis by their wives.
“Domestic violence is broad and the conception viewed by most people is that it is only when physical violence is perpetrated that it becomes domestic violence. But that is not true. Harassment, abuses, either verbal or otherwise, also constitute domestic violence. The most rampant is economic abuse. Most women have become the breadwinners now, and if a woman deprives her husband of sex based on that, such a woman would also be said to be committing domestic violence. The good news is that the law in Lagos covers both sexes. The scourge can also be dealt with through mediation, except the offender is a regular offender and everything humanly possible done does not work.”
The legal luminary, however, noted that domestic violence is not restricted only to Nigeria. He lamented that there have been global outcry about decline in moral values, adding that the fabric of family morals have been torn, thus giving rise to domestic violence.
While raising concerns over increasing cases of rape and other domestic violence issues in the country, Deputy Governor of Lagos State, Dr. Oluranti Adebule, stressed that there was need to subject perpetrators of such crime to psychiatric tests.
The deputy governor, represented by Mrs. Yetunde Odejayi, Permanent Secretary, Deputy Governor’s Office, argued that despite government’s effort at reducing the scourge across the country, perpetrators had failed to desist from defiling girls as well as raping and sexually assaulting women. She disclosed that cases on rape and other domestic violence dominated the magistrate courts across the state and called for more action to be taken to stem the tide.
“It is quite unfortunate that despite government’s effort to end the act through constant sensitisation and advocacy campaign, the perpetrators have failed to desist from the act. It is disheartening to note that cases of domestic violence are perpetrated daily. It is an intentional and persistent maltreatment of anyone in the home in a way that causes stress or injury on one person or another. Available statistics show that women and girls are often abused in the state. The issues of domestic violence were among the cases that dominated the magistrate court. The continued trend calls for a collaborative effort of all in the society,” she said.
Mrs. Lola Akande from Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation Ministry, (WAPA), stressed that domestic violence was one act that affected all in the society. She said it was unfortunate that many, especially perpetrators in the society claimed to be ignorant of the domestic violence law 2007 and other relevant laws provided by the government to protect women and girls in the state. She, however, urged victims of domestic violence and neighbours to always speak out.
“It is our belief that ending domestic violence requires holistic and multi-dimensional approach from proper home training, prompt and just judicial system to right societal values and proper orientation of all stakeholders that include victims, parents, police, nurses, doctors, lawyers, judges and others.
“We believe the onus falls on us to set the agenda in getting it right in this direction and other areas too as media professionals. We are working seriously towards achieving that in line with the objectives of our parent body, the Nigerian Union of Journalists, (NUJ),” Hajia Lawal said.
Another speaker, Dennis Onoise, noted that men were socially programmed to exert power and violence, as an integral part of their masculinity and to constantly prove to others that they were men. He explained that situations like male unemployment, alcohol and other drug abuses, displaced populations on account of war or famine could give rise to exhibition of masculinity.
“Hegemonic masculinity is destructive and dehumanising and has negative effects for both women and men. It is important for men to recognise and focus on what we can gain, and not only on what we must yield.”
Speaking on the dangers of domestic violence, the Chairperson of NAWOJ, Lagos Chapter, Mrs. Sekinah Lawal, said the purpose of the seminar was to enlighten Nigerians, empower and protect all, especially the girl-child.