President Goodluck Jonathan has fulfilled the promise he made on May 15th, 2010 at University of Port Harcourt convocation ceremony. He has created a facebook page which he has vowed to manage himself. The President argues that the facebook page will give him the opportunity to interact with Nigerian youths and take in their suggestions on how to make Nigeria a better nation. I wish Nigerian leaders kept to more important promises like the vision 2010; and getting rid of corruption in Nigeria instead of a promise to open a facebook page?
Not that there is anything wrong with the President having a facebook page; however, there are certain elements of a facebook page for the President as means to communicate with Nigerian youths that strikes me as an action that is lacking in good judgment.
But first, what happened to the official site of the Nigerian government?
The government official site will be fully functional on July 25, 2010. Is it right to assume then that this will be the first time a functional website has been opened for the government?
If this assumption is correct, a more serious approach to interacting with Nigerian youths would have been to make sure this official government site is up and running and a serious campaign mounted to encourage Nigerian youths to visit their government’s website. Not just to interact with the President alone but to be aware of other government involvement. Given the current state of internet security, my assumption is that the President does not expect to receive any serious suggestions on facebook on how to move Nigeria forward.
In the week that the President opened his facebook page, there were over 6, 000 comments posted on his page. Since the President has promised to manage his facebook page himself, my initial reaction was to think about the time he has to read and react to these comments.
Is the President’s promise to manage his own facebook page an indication of how little he has to do as President of Nigeria?
The current World Bank indicator peaks Nigeria’s population at 151 million people. If this number stands, and more than 85% live under global poverty level, I think the President has more important jobs than managing his own facebook page.
A facebook page for the President as a means to solicit for ideas on how to make Nigeria a better place confirms the superficial approach which Nigerian leaders give to the many pressing and nagging issues that Nigerians face.
An example of such superficial approach was the rebranding project. A project that was supposed to change the image of Nigerians abroad, even, when Nigerians at home live under some of the worst economic conditions in the world. My argument then was that Nigerians living in Nigeria should enjoy the same level of infrastructures and a leadership that is accountable to its citizens. It is only in doing that Nigerians will gain the respect of the world where ever they go.
Now, the President has a facebook page as a means to understand how to make Nigeria a better place, I make similar argument. To make Nigeria a better place does not need a facebook suggestion box. We know what the problems are. Let us start with the basics – good schools that can compete globally, security so that Nigerians will be able to pursue their dreams, good road network to enable commercial activities, steady and cheap power supply to encourage industries.
I am sure that the President knows these issues better than I do. That brings me to another point that strikes as a reason behind his facebook page.
Is it possible that the President has joined this recent trend when Nigerian politicians are pandering to the Diaspora as opposed dealing with the issues at home?
In my opinion, this is one more thing that the President’s facebook initiative has in common with the rebranding project. The target audience is Nigerians in the Diasporas. In recent times, it has become fashionable for politicians to pander to the Diaspora because of fears that they may be the ones to effect the desired changes that we need in Nigeria.
The danger is that the real problems that exist with Nigerians at home are completely ignored while bogus projects that have nothing to do with the fundamental issues we face as a nation are pursued. For instance, the President in replying to someone on facebook said “I spent time reading your comments and yesterday a youth named Toyin Dawodu indicated that he had an idea for a project that could deliver 4,000 MWs of electricity”.
What will be rationale in pursuing a facebook claim on knowing how to start electricity supply projects that would create thousands of jobs? What happened to the government agency in-charge of power supply in Nigeria?
The role of government is not to sponsor such projects; rather, the role of government is to create a secure and trustworthy business environment for individuals with such ingenuity to thrive on their own. Can you imagine how many of such projects that will rare up in Nigeria if government decides to get in the business of sponsoring projects?
President Goodluck Jonathan knows Nigeria well. He knows what the issues facing Nigerians and Nigerian youths are. The hand writing I see on the wall of the President’s facebook page suggests to me that he is running for re-election, he has started a virtual campaign and his target audience is Nigerians in the Diasporas.