New media has changed the face of every facet of life, including politics and governance in the last few years.
By Ahmed Rufai Isah
Governance in Nigeria remains a challenge, 58 years after the country gained independence from Britain, and despite the return to a democratic system of governance in 1999, public service delivery to the citizenry continues to be a nightmare due to a myriad of factors. Chief among these factors as the late Chinua Achebe puts it, is the “Failure of leadership.” The lack of will and vision among the country’s countries leadership, as well as the docile nature of the citizens, has ensured that critical societal needs are not met. Public infrastructure, like healthcare facilities, is still lacking even in urban centers where one would expect they bear rife. Access roads, jobs, justice, and security are very much dreams for the larger population of Nigeria. This is even worse in the most remote parts of Nigeria’s subnational units . People in such far-removed communities are worse off because government presence in the communities is next to nothing and they lack the voice to demand better governance.
However, in the last few years however, social media platforms are beginning to helping to bridge such existing gaps in governance, and are serving as a voice for many to demand accountability from their representatives in government positions. There are three major ways I think social media has contributed to governance in the last few years: and would focus on positives because our society duels very much of those.
The Democratization of the Citizen’s Voice Leading to Increase in Demand for Accountability in Governance
The last few years have seen a rise in mobile phones usage due to more mobile and internet penetration, thanks to the effort of the government and telecommunication communications. This rise in mobile phone usage has given more people access to usage and so social media platforms. What this means is more and more people signing up to the different social media platforms on a daily basis leading them to join conversations on issues affecting the societies they belong to, as well as the country in general.
As people join the different social media platforms and realize their voices can reach more people in the country, they slowly begin to demand better governance in their states. A good example of how social media has increased the demand for accountability in governance can be found in platforms like Tracka.ng who have taken to tracking projects in communities across the country and publishing the details on social media for citizens in those areas to push for their delivery. Udeme.ng is also a platform for holding government accountable on how funds released for developmental projects are spent. These platforms have recorded success in activating citizens to demand better governance.
Aided the Escalation of Service Delivery Advocacy
The work of organized civil society needs no introduction to many; thus, I would not spend time on that. Social media has only added a new more impetus to the work of advocating for better governance that they do. More civil society organizations now use social media platforms to educate citizens on the different advocacy they have going. A very good example here is Connected Development (CODE) which uses social media to drive its #FollowTheMoney campaign to track funds meant for projects in different local communities. In Jigawa state, a civil society organization called Strengthening Participatory Governance is using social media as evidence tools to track delivery of free healthcare services to rural women.
Heightened the Demand for Justice and Increased Knowledge of Rights
The administration of justice has remained precarious in Nigeria. Examples abound where individuals, security personnel and politicians have treated people poorly and even killed many innocent Nigerians. The Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (F-SARS) for example has on many occasions maltreated individuals and robbed them of their money. Everyday Nigeria is in fact used to police officers extorting money from them. Taxi drivers would produce a book full of stories of their experiences with the Nigeria police officers. Social media has heightened the demand of justice from agencies empowered to administer justice and helped in the education of more citizens about their rights. In a recent example, citizens across the country joined a campaign to call for a disbandment of the F-SARS on social media using the hashtag #ENDSARS which led the government to consider reforming the security body. Another example is The Gavel, a civic tech platform that connects indigents/people to free legal aid lawyers using social media platforms.
In all, governance in Nigeria is challenging and social media is empowering citizens to push more for bridging the gaps in understanding these challenges, thereby paving the way for better governance and leading to effective public service delivery.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.
Ahmed Rufai Isah - is a Researcher and Journalist. Rufai has honed his media and digital communications expertise working in both the private and public sectors. At the ICT consulting firm InfoStrategy Technology, Rufai managed online news distribution for Africa Independent Television (AIT), increasing the organization’s viewership while negotiating challenges related to trust and political involvement. He is a graduate of Bayero University, Kano with a degree in Mass Communication. In his spare time, he volunteers as a monitoring and evaluation officer for Water for Sustainable Living Initiative, an NGO started by friends to address water challenges in rural communities in Nigeria. (Twitter: @Sir_AhmedRufai)