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Creating Social Accountability Amidst Uncertainty

Creating Social Accountability Amidst Uncertainty

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Creating Social Accountability Amidst Uncertainty- The Spark

Social Media – A Weapon Of The New Generation

Media mainly consists of traditional and new media. As much as the people like to think of only the negative aspects of new media, there is no denying that in recent years many have found it useful for staying up to date with what is happening around them.

In a media environment where a small group of people easily controlled the narrative and determined what is news or otherwise, new media has thrown the gates open and given a voice to the voiceless. There is no story too insignificant to get traction, and the audience now decides what’s the news and what’s not. 

We must also consider the speed with which news is covered with new media. Social media has broken the bureaucracy. While this is an advantage, it can also be a disadvantage. At a time when literally everything is just a click away, new media can be a dangerous tool as there appears to be no filter structure as obtained in traditional media. Most people do not verify what they have heard before spreading it. And as you must know, nothing spreads faster than false information. 

So with the media, I think the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. It just takes proper education on how to manage this generation’s most useful armament so that it does not become a weapon of mass destruction promoting hate speech, crime, false news and more. 

Then versus Now

In the beginning, the focus on media was on TV, radio, and newspapers. I joined the industry when blogs were just becoming the thing. Then, social media was not as widespread as it is now, but we had platforms like Linda Ikeji, BellaNaija, and YNaija which gave me the opportunity to learn and make my impact in the Nigerian media space. These blogs gave us a new perspective on how the industry worked. Since then, a lot of things have changed particularly with the advent of social media platforms like  Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. 

In this fast-paced world, people are no longer settling to read long text to get the news. People want to be able to open up a platform on the go and brush up on what they have missed very quickly. This became even easier when social media introduced videos, pictures, short captions, and a storytelling approach to sharing information.

So, the growth has been from the traditional media – newspapers, TV and radio, to semi-traditional – blogs, online verticals, etc.; to a more modern method – social media, which even the bloggers, online news publishers, and traditional media houses are also taking advantage of.

The COVID-19 Effect

I would say that the COVID-19 pandemic changed the media landscape in Nigeria. Before the pandemic, traditional media was in a steady decline. However, with the pandemic, it became even worse, especially for the newspaper industry. With most of the world locked in their homes, many Nigerians primarily relied on social media or TV to supply them with information they needed. 

The government houses also used its social media channels as their predominant mode of  communication to disseminate information in a quick and timely manner.

As regards the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in Nigeria, I think the government did a great deal in terms of  sensitization efforts. There were daily updates about the number of cases, deaths  and recoveries, which helped Nigerians understand what was at stake. I would commend them on that. 

However that momentum seems to have been lost in the second wave. Although the Lagos State Government — especially Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Akin Abayomi – has done a lot in this regard, I think that a lot more needs to be done.

Now, this does not in any way take the responsibility away from the citizens. As citizens, we are to comply with the directives of the Government and take precautionary measures to ensure that we do not endanger our lives and the lives of others.

Citizens also have a responsibility to educate themselves on the virus. While we take steps not to fall victim to false news, we should also not be promoters of it. Any information received should be verified before it’s circulated.

Spreading the Right Information

In my opinion, the media has done amazingly well to curb the spread of the virus. They have provided useful information during the course of the pandemic and have excelled in their role as connecting points between health workers, the Government and the everyday Nigerian. Quite a number of media houses have done their part in educating Nigerians. For example, RED | For Africa with support from YNaija launched a vertical called BeatingCorona.NG which provides daily information about the spread, precautionary measures, health guidelines, nearest health centres dealing with people affected by the virus and a complete crisis mapping for everyone to access. Notwithstanding, more can be done in ensuring that we are not complacent in our role as media personalities, especially with the second wave.

Concerning the rumours about placing a ban on social media or the internet generally, I do not think that will be happening in Nigeria anytime soon. What needs to be done is to sensitise the people on the dangers and effects of spreading misinformation. The recent happenings in the U.S where citizens stormed the Capitol on the back of false news and incitement is a pointer to the damage it can cause.

It’s more than just banter on social media, as it affects lives and property. I believe strongly that educating the people and punishing the perpetrators is a better approach and will lead to a more responsible use of the media rather than internet shutdown.

Surviving the Pandemic

I don’t think the Nigerian economy will be able to withstand another general lockdown. Instead of a complete shutdown, there should be massive awareness and sensitisation campaigns on the importance of taking responsibility. 

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Stricter measures should also be put in place and the Government should oversee the enforcement of precautionary measures across the country. Although I understand that Lagos and a few others are taking it relatively more seriously than others, more states need to follow suit. 

If the vaccine does become available in Nigeria, it will make more sense to begin with the most vulnerable groups;  those above 65 years of age, those with preexisting health conditions and health workers before it can go across the country. 

However, what we need to do at the moment is to ensure that the Government gets as many vaccines as possible to cover our huge population — this is the only way we stand a chance in our fight against the effect of the virus. 

Communication & Accountability 

We need to understand that what we express and share  goes beyond social media, it affects the everyday lives of people. Behind every view, comment or like on a post is a human being whose perception of life and situations can be positively or negatively altered by what we share. 

Another way we can hold ourselves accountable is for the Government or other concerned regulatory bodies to penalize those who disseminate false news, promote hate speech or share potentially harmful content. This way, people have it at the back of their minds that they’re responsible for how they express themselves on social media and are aware of the consequences of its abuse.

2021 and the Future Beyond

A lot will be happening in 2021 as we can already sense it. For one, I hope that we all receive a vaccine soonest, and that we get enough to take care of everyone who needs it. That way, we can return to business as usual, where we get to enjoy human relationships without the restrictions imposed as a result of the pandemic. 

As regards CSR, individuals and businesses should be ready to do more and spend more for the common good. I won’t go into further details as my team at Culture Intelligence from RED are in the process of conducting research and findings on what decision-makers in government, companies, and NGOs need to be aware of. If you are interested knowing this, then Culture Intelligence from RED is the place to be. 

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