One Tweet: The Power of a Single Story

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The possibilities are endless with Social Media, even with just a tweet. Here’s proof.

– By Chidi Okereke

The former Vice President had a horde of overzealous security personnel surrounding him, trying to ensure no one came too close. He waved and smiled at the crowd that were at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua centre, hailing him as he made his entrance into the hall where he was going to declare for presidency. As he approached the entrance, he paused, looked me straight in the eye and said, “Chidi, how are you?”

I was stunned as he beckoned, arms outstretched. The barricade that had previously stopped me from going in – because I had somehow forgotten my access tag – parted like the red sea. The overzealous guards let me through as I shook his hands and we exchanged pleasantries. He asked me why I was behind the barricade, and I told him I forgot my tag. Like magic, I had an All-Access tag around my neck in less than 10 seconds. As we made our way into the hall, I could see people staring at me, like “who’s this boy?” Well, to be honest, I was wondering who I was too, and how I was getting this kind of treatment from a presidential candidate. Because barely four months before that, I was just another Corper, dreading the uncertainty that was the Labour Market.

But let’s go back in time.

I struggled a lot, growing up. We were poor (no, this is not an inspiring grass to grace story; I want to establish something) and things were so tough that I had to change schools multiple times. I went whole terms without attending any classes because I hadn’t paid fees, and this left me deficient in certain subjects – especially Physics and Further Mathematics. Plot twist, because of how ‘smart’ I was, I still topped my classes, so nobody really cared that I wasn’t doing well in those other subjects. When it was time for JAMB, I was naturally pushed to do Engineering, so I’d one day work in Shell or Mobil or Chevron, you know, the Oil Companies that will ensure I left poverty behind. Alas, the JAMB UTME exposed me. I did it four times, before I finally managed to pass, and got admitted to study Mechanical Engineering at the University of Port Harcourt.

That is where the second phase of the problems began.

You see I went into the University with high-hopes of maintaining the top-of-class status I enjoyed in Secondary School. My first few results were distinctions, and I was already picturing myself graduating with a First Class and being my class Valedictorian when the next few results humbled me. The deficiency I had in Further Mathematics and Physics – the very foundations of Mechanical Engineering – had come home to roost, and as much as I tried, I just couldn’t do well. It was like I had dyslexia for Differentiation, Integration, Mechanics, Materials, etc. In summary, after my second year in school, I knew Engineering wasn’t for me. And by the time I was in my 4th year, all my prayers were that I do not have an extra year.

Thankfully, I did not have an extra year. I left in 5 years, grateful I overcame, but sad I would never be a staff of Oil and Gas companies like NLNG – where I did my Industrial Training – because I did not have a 2:1; and because I generally sucked at actual Engineering. I was sad that I had ‘wasted’ 9 years trying to acquire a degree that wouldn’t land me a good job, and it was on that ‘note’ that I went to Kogi State for NYSC.

Eighty Three.

That is the number of emails I sent during my service year; emails with my CV, asking employers and HR folks to help my condition. I cannot count the number of jobs I applied for via Jobberman, Naijahotjobs, and other platforms either. But only 3 responded. One was to send me their newsletter, the other two sent links for online assessment tests. I had phone interviews with both, the journey with one ended after that, but the other asked me to come for a physical interview. Unfortunately, the interview was in faraway Port Harcourt, the pay was rather small, opportunities to grow almost non-existent, and so I didn’t go. I wasn’t even guaranteed the job, so I didn’t feel bad about it. I just kept wondering what direction my life would take after the looming Passing Out Parade when everything changed.

“Would you rather blog for N50k per month, or fly private jets?”

That is the question that changed everything. Or maybe it was the tweet that inspired the question. But let me explain.

While my travails with Engineering, potential unemployment, etc., were ongoing, I had maintained an active presence on Social Media. I had written something that caught the attention of Editi Effiong, CEO of Anakle, and he had gotten my number, called and asked me that question.

Of course, I chose Private Jets, (who 50k help?) and my journey to becoming a Communications Professional began. Three months later, I was in a room with a Presidential Candidate, telling him how we were going to amplify his strengths and downplay his weaknesses (who doesn’t have those, anyways?). Four(4) months later, I was being singled out of a crowd and given VIP treatment by this same man, because despite the fact that he met lots of people every day, and we had met only once, I must have created such an impression that he remembered my name. I have consulted for Bank CEOs, Governors, Industry Leaders, Small and Medium businesses, Mama and Papa stores, etc., and it all started with one tweet. The tweet that gave me the opportunity to do all I have done.

One tweet.

You see, the Twitter Application is a lot of things to a lot of people. But while all some people go there to do is laugh (which is perfectly okay), insult other people (which is not so okay), and more, the platform is connecting people to their employers, helpers, spouses, etc. The platform is helping to effect behavioural change in the society, raising the consciousness of people to certain socio-political issues, pushing the government to action, and so on and so forth. It is via the power of a tweet that we exposed the Military men who beat up a physically challenged man for wearing Camouflage. The Army compensated him, and demoted the soldiers who assaulted him. It is also by that incidence that it became clear that wearing Camouflage is only punishable if there is proof that the wearer is impersonating personnel(Don’t try it though; I’m not even here).

It is by the power of one tweet that we were able to raise funds to buy Jamila a wheelchair. It is by the power of a tweet that we collectively rewarded a girl who made all A’s in her WASSCE. It was the power of one tweet that birthed the Sanitary Aid Movement that has seen the distribution of over 6000 pads to 4000 girls in 9 states across Nigeria. One tweet started #BringBackOurGirls, #EndSARS, #MeToo, and on a very recent and positive note – #WeAreNigerianCreatives.

One Tweet. One story. Many possibilities.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in the Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.

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The Spark is a youth empowerment platform in Nigeria that projects the average Nigerian youth doing something, anything positive. Our mission is to reach out to as many youths, “EMPOWER and ENGAGE!!!