From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa
Prof Kingsley Moghalu, Ms Kadaria Ahmed and Dr Joe Abah have all stressed the role of social media in shaping national reforms, if properly harnessed.
The trio spoke at the 3rd Edition of the Wole Soyinka Digital Town Hall, on the topic: “Social Media, Digital Journalism and the Quest for National Reforms”, organised by the National Association of Seadogs (Pyrates Confraternity).
They identified social media as a veritable tool for the mobilisation of Nigerians for national reforms, but that that citizens would need to overcome hurdles for effective results.
Kicking against attempts to gag social media, they noted that Nigerians need massive enlightenment cum critical thinking and high literacy to maximise the benefits of social media for national reforms.
Ahmed, a journalist and media entrepreneur, argued in her paper that social media contributes to the democratisation of governance and helps in policy making.
She listed some of the shortcoming of digital journalism to include lack of fact checking, highly subjective, deliberate politicisation and manipulation, adding that these can be overcome through mass education to avoid misinformation.
Ahmed, who advocated for participatory journalism as witnessed during the #EndSARS protests, urged the government to include media literacy as part of the curriculum from primary schools onward, which would, over time, train and help individuals discern between genuine and fake news.
In his presentation, Country Director, Development Alternatives Incorporated (DAI), Dr Joe Abah, stated that, despite its shortcomings, social media can aid public accountability and advocacy for justice.
According to him, through social media, Nigerians now know more about the national budget and can track same through information presented by groups such as BudgIT.
He implored the government to focus on using the social media to inform Nigerians about its programmes and policies to get feedbacks rather than use it to hurls insults on critics of the government.
The former presidential candidate of the Young Progressive Party (YPP), Prof Kingsley Moghalu, in his presentation, expressed regrets that poverty which is high in Nigeria and literacy level which is low limits access to social media.
Moghalu declared that the population in Nigeria is yet to access social media platforms to the extent that it can make the needed impact on society.
The former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria advised the government to use social media as a listening tool and not as a weapon for state propaganda.
Moghalu added that Nigerians need to organise at the community level to make the desired impact with social media as a potential enabling force.
The host of the webinar, Mr Iheanyi Konkwo, Capoon, Panama Deck, said the topic was chosen because the organisation has identified the growing influence and role of the digital space in the global social re-engineering process as one that provides huge opportunities for mass mobilisation for social-political reforms, while also presenting enormous challenges due to mass disinformation.