NOTABLE social activists consisting of Debo Adebayo, known by his stage name Mr Macaroni, Aisha Yesufu and Obianuju Udeh, popularly known as DJ Switch, have raised their voices against the Federal Government’s undue shrinking of the media space.
The Nigerian government has taken some actions that have endangered free media in the country.
Some of those actions considered inimical to media and participatory democracy include: pushing for a Press Council Bill, ban on Twitter and a recent directive by the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) to tone down terrorism reporting.
On these growing concerns, the social activists expressed worry that if the trend remained unchecked, several voices kicking against the ills of the government could be shut down, an action they said would be unhealthy for Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.
”We are dealing with a government that has refused to understand the plight of the people. Rather than understand the pains, the government is quick to react, instead of responding to the yearnings of the people. People complain of something, the first action as we see is banning the instrument that people are using to protest,” said Mr Macaroni, in a monitored television programme themed, ‘The Young and Emerging Leaders Symposium.’
“Does the government look at how many social media users it has shut out of the market with a Twitter ban? Millions of young Nigerians are benefitting from social media. Someone like me, I am benefitting from social media, and lots of Nigeria.
“A government that is thinking about the progress of the people won’t shut down their means of livelihood like that, because of feeling insulted. The government is there for us and shouldn’t shut the space of democratic confrontation.”
Nigerians had (prior to the ban) active Twitter users of about 30 million people, with many having their means of livelihood on the micro-blogging outfit and other social media platforms amid a growing ICT-led global economy.
On the back of these concerns, another social activist Rinu Diala decried the plight of most young Nigerians whom she said were mentally tired of government inactions on myriads of problems confronting the country.
“Most young people are mentally tired. For, let’s say 85 per cent of young people, the urge to leave the country is where they have set their mind on. We’re talking about a safe space where young people can participate in economic, social and economic issues devoid of any discrimination.
“Look at our country, youths are being shot at protest ground and social media is being barred. Currently, social media space is where people can hold the government accountable. Let us ask ourselves, what medium do Nigerians have to actually hold the government accountable?
“What medium can we say, this is what we don’t like about what you’re offering us, to tell the government that the path they are going is wrong.No jobs, and you can’t travel on road because of kidnappers. Educational spaces are not safe, because the system has failed the people. So how do we lend our voices when doctors are being owed and our president can get premium healthcare from London,”she asked.
Natasha Akide, a social activist and former Big brother Nigeria star, said young people must be given space to encourage democratic progression. She insisted that social media activism had helped to curb the excesses of the government.
“I believe 100 per cent that protest works. If not, why does the government keep doing a lot to shut down protesting voices? Once there’s a gathering of protesters, we see a large regiment of police constables barricading the protesters.
“We mean to keep making our voices count and keep lending our voices. So far, Nigeria has not delivered dividends of democracy to the people, and we, as young people, keep making demands for better governance. So, protests do work and we must grow our democracy through social media engagement.”
Aisha Yesufu, on her part, urged parents to allow their kids lend their voices on issues at the family level, noting that shutting down such voices was akin to muzzling the media like the present government was doing with shrinking the media space.
Also Obianuju Udeh, popularly known as DJ Switch, expressed worry that Nigeria’s democracy could hit the rocks earlier than expected with an unchecked shrinking media space.
“President Buhari protested before he got into power, why is he shutting down the platform of expression by most young people?”
Harrison Edeh is a journalist with the International Centre for Investigative Reporting, always determined to drive advocacy for good governance through holding public officials and businesses accountable.