Three unrelated events sum up the topic of this Column today.One was the statement made by the Governor of Akwa Ibom, Deacon Udom Emmanuel concerning the use of social media by youths to insult their elders.The Governor attributed this sorry state of our society to the abdication of parenting responsibilities.
The second issue concerned the wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs Aisha Buhari where she was recorded on video in a moment of madness by a tenant in her Aso Rock quarters , Fatima Daura.
Hear the girl, Fatima, perhaps young enough to be Mrs Buhari’s daughter” she was hurling insults and shouting that she had never seen anything like it…I went back and took my phone…she was making a lot of noise, saying she was being oppressed. I filmed the encounter to show our parents…from the way she was screaming, I even thought she would pick up something to hit us.”
That was a much younger lady ridiculing the wife of the President of Nigeria, inside Aso Rock, her official living quarters! She was armed only with a smart phone. Confirming the episode, Mrs Buhari said, “I was the one in the video, …she was laughing at me because my husband (The President) said they should vacate the place for my son to occupy.The incidence forced the wife of the President to apologise to her children, her immediate family and Nigerians for the embarrassment the video had caused.”
A quarter of a century ago, I wrote an article ” The Age of Videots” to reflect on the rampaging video and pop culture which was on a march to conquer the minds of our youths. In that age, our youths picked up and adopted as a way of life what they watched, wholesale, from video and television sets – the good, the bad and the ugly. It affected their manners, their dressing and habits.This transformation has turned full circle with the prevalence of digital technology with how it impacts on the way we now live. Armed with these devices as weapons of mass destruction, many youths and some elders, jealous of competition in the workplace, have thrown caution to the winds and assumed roles for which they lack the requisite training to handle.
This brings one to the third issue. In a lecture organised by The NEXT EDITION Centre for Investigative Journalism and Gender Advocacy in collaboration with Policy Alert and the Akwa Ibom State Council of the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ), Ray Ekpu, the well decorated Journalism icon noted “apart from unprofessional news platforms, we also have the bloggers who seem to constitute a problem for truth.They speculate, exaggerate, distort, mislead, quote dishonest, misleading, unverified sources or no sources at all, they are the smear campaigners, the lynch mobs , the rumour merchants , the cyber bullies, the anonymous tipsters, the trial judges by commentary, the purveyors of propaganda…they use breaking news as a pivot for falsehood, adopting a publish first and verify later approach.They do not correct their mistakes, they only post updates.They don’t apologise for their errors.They just keep a bold face and move on.Those are the dirty job artists, the one person riot squads…The 1986 International Editor of the year added for emphasis that “it is a misnomer to call such a practice journalism.”
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And then the insults poured, like torrential rainfall, in the direction of one of the living legends of Journalism, a highly well respected professional outside his home state – a display that showed nobody heard or respected the timely admonition of Governor Udom Emmanuel against the use of social media platforms by youths to insult elders.
In that lecture, Mr Ekpu’s only sin was that he pointed out the differences between professional journalism practice and other forms of public information dissemination and the harmful tendencies of the latter.
In saner societies, those who are not trained would have taken the explanation of the journalism guru to embrace opportunities to polish their rough edges and improve their trade. Definitely, their resort to insults is completely not in the character of Akwa Ibom people.
It has been argued that “the advent of the cyberspace and its enabling tools and technologies has advanced humanity more than it has hurt it. The unfettered access to the cyberspace by all and sundry portend more good than bad for mankind.”
According to that school of thought, “the sheer number of participants and its global reach engender its massive followership and constitute the key drivers for its potency, economic virility and viability.”
These proponents believe that “the responsible participation and engagements in the cyberspace particularly via social media activities ought to be guided by self-discipline, conscionable disposition, and humility. All of these traits are influenced by EDUCATION – at home, school, faith-based institutions like church, social associations, and personal self- development programmes and activities (critically important).” They add that the “outcomes of the activities in the cyberspace have more to do with the input suppliers being a person or an individual and not necessarily a function of age groups, gender, ethnicity and social status.”
Nevertheless, a drawback of the use of digital technology devices among youths, and elders in several instances, is a regression into digidiotism as pointed out elaborately by the sagely Ray Ekpu. The digital age has created a “yahoo population and culture” promoted by post millenials, generation Z or I- generation who are bolder, more outspoken and have a facility with the gadgets.This population gives nobody no places to hide because with the posession of smart phones and other digital gadgets, they can record one’s unguarded moments as shown succinctly by Fatima Daura in no less a location than Aso Rock, Nigeria’s seat of power. Digital technology can turn Mount Everest to a molehill, a woman into a cock and a man into a hen.
This era which I prefer to christen as the “Age of Digidiots ” demands more self awareness and personal discipline, more circumspection from people especially politically exposed persons, top business executives, academics, pastors etc..indeed, everyone in the public glare.This is because, a peeping youth, or an envious elder, armed with a digital device could be watching and recording you while peeing, pooing, breaking the wind, spitting out sputum, adjusting a stubborn bra strap, a shirt, zip or wrapper as the case maybe and the following day, the recording would go viral in the global village.
In this age of digidiots, there is no place to hide; your small brother or little sister is monitoring and watching your every move.
Ask the wife of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, Mrs Aisha Buhari.