Twitter Nigeria: Seven years on


Just as Twitter celebrated its seventh year last week by reeling out amazing numbers of subscribers, Twitter Nigeria marked the week with a show of robustness evident in the world-wide trending of the hilarious tweet fight between us and Kenya. Twitter might be 7 years old (established March 21, 2006), and Nigeria a somewhat late adopter but its popularity and influence is on the rise with each passing day that it is foolhardy for anybody to ignore it. In the Nigerian social media sphere, Facebook certainly still has the numbers but Twitter is now the pulse of the nation.

Twitter was set up 7 years ago by Jack Dorsey and his pals at Odeo. It did not have the classic start-up tradition of an Ivy League university campus or dad’s garage; instead it stole in under the limelight – just an SMS service to communicate to a closed group of people. Slowly but surely, the numbers kept rising until Twitter became the bane of governments, inspiring revolutions across the middle east, redefining social engagements, changing the face of PR and marketing, spawning the era of self-promotion, affecting diplomatic entente, empowering the middle class, agitating the ruling class and re-energizing social media all in 140 characters.

Like I said earlier, Twitter was slow in gaining popularity in Nigeria. A combination of low internet penetration in the mid to late 2000s, the supremacy of Facebook and the initial difficulty of mastering Twitter by first timers were the probable causes. But times have changed. The ubiquity of smart phones and Blackberrys, cheaper internet access and the fad culture has turned Nigeria into a “Twittering” giant. But most importantly, the Arab Spring, fueled by Twitter and Facebook, inspired Nigerians to stage a Twitter propelled Fuel Subsidy removal revolt and bring Twitter to the big party.

Before the Fuel Subsidy demonstrations of January, 2012, Twitter was gaining followers across the nation as an alternative to Facebook. But the subsidy demonstrations was like a shot in the arm as citizens, especially young people, sought to follow proceedings even after the nation had been shut down by labour strikes. The flexibility and immediacy of dissent in 140 characters was both refreshing and unique and the platform saw a surge in numbers. Since then the Nigerian Twitter space has become emboldened with arm chair critics, keyboard pundits, self-appointed ombudsmen, political “twitternauts,” government propagandists, customer care handles, egotistic celebrities, comedians, opinionated bloggers (read me), “wannabee” teenagers, the good folks who beat Kenya in that Tweet fight and an ever ranting Odemwingie.

The Nigerian Twitter space has moved from the margins to centre spread. It now dictates the agenda, has become a certain kind of “gallup poll” or vox populi if you like, and is now the number one destination for news. No wonder a couple of weeks ago, Google shut down its RSS services. When Goodluck Jonathan won the presidential elections in 2011, his Facebook page was the centre of his social media campaign; today Twitter is, as his media specialists battle opinions, ideas and opponents with active Twitter handles. The preeminence of Twitter was established last week when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs had to summon the US envoy to explain certain Tweets which the government found inappropriate. The meanness of Twitter was exposed a fortnight ago when the careless gaffe of the Lagos Commandant of the civil defence corps led to him being unashamedly pilloried.

On Twitter there is a saying that while Facebook is like a little town where everyone knows each other, Twitter is like New York, the big, crowded city, where to make it, ‘you gotta work hard.’ Twitter Nigeria is a cerebral sphere. The conversation is intelligent and meaningful. Yes, divisions are still evident. But the pulse is of a young, proud demographic, frustrated with the pace of progress, yet fiercely protective of the motherland. Ask the Kenyans.

Archimedes once said, “Give me a point to stand on and I’ll move the earth.” I say, just 140 characters, sir.




My Oga At The Top ……Bane of Nigeria?



The Lagos Commandant of the NSCDC (Nigerian Security Civil Defence Corps) has just been suspended after sparking off the most famous (infamous if you like) internet meme in the history of social media in Nigeria. His one minute of utter hilarity and unimaginable show of lack of knowledge of his organisation’s web address has elevated the #MyOgaAtTheTop meme to legendary status. While HR specialists and self styled opinion leaders debate if the gaffe deserves a sanction or not, advert gurus, marketing execs and social media experts marvel at how well funded social media campaigns fail to fly, while a comedic, obviously out of his depth, near prehistoric guy manages to start a sub-culture, replete with music videos, t-shirts and comic skits. And, most importantly, garner over a million YouTube views in less than a week. For the uninitiated, YouTube views is the new Gallup poll.

Barack Obama, once famously said that, “Africa doesn’t need strongmen, it needs strong institutions,” and that is how I see the #MyOgaAtTheTop episode. Do the ‘Ogas,’ the leaders, the bosses allow their subordinates freedom to work? Do they delegate authority and responsibility? Do they stifle creativity and flexibility? These are underlying issues which may have been playing just below the surface as “Di Commandant” as this blogger has tagged him grappled with ‘to say or not to say.’ I know many people have gone into an office only to be told, “Oga is not in and nothing can be done.” This culture of strong and powerful leaders whose persona weakens the system is a major problem in our society. As we watch thevideo and share it, let us give a second to this thought.

Internet memes are usually short lived. However the comical nature of the #MyOgaAtTheTop is obviously driving this one on. Laughter is good medicine and the #MyOgaAtTheTop has provided real undiluted humour, sparked a merchandising campaign, but most importantly showed that the Nigerian social media space has become  powerful in agenda-setting. It is now fertile ground for social media campaigners, marketers, advertisers, governments and politicians.

I think i want one of those T-shirts.





Ok, the Cardinal electors took me by surprise. I thought they will still be voting until Thursday or thereabouts being that Benedict’s abdication took everyone by surprise. But being smart people, the potential deadlock was mitigated by recourse to the very candidate that came second to Benedict XVI.  Vatican reporter John Allen Jr. famously reported that the Conclave that elected Benedict XVI was a tight ‘horse-race’ before Jorge Bergoglio, weeping, removed himself from the last round.

Pope Francis (not Francis I until there is a Francis II), an Argentine, Jesuit and reportedly humble person is the first non-European Pontiff since Gregory III, who was born in Syria (can’t figure out his race though), is a Chemist who joined the priesthood at the age of 33  because the Society of Jesus demands that members have secular education as well as spiritual instruction. The Jesuits are known as intellectuals and Pope Francis has spoken fluently and clearly on church doctrine in Argentina, famously ruffling the feathers of the Argentine President, Cristina Fernandez, when he said that adoption by same-sex couples is discrimination against children.

The new Pontiff is committed to the poor, outspoken against immorality especially homosexuality and same sex marriage, humble – he declined to live in the Archbishop’s palace in Buenos Aires but rather lived alone in a small house and cooked his meals, and rode in public transport even as Cardinal. But most importantly he lived like St. Francis and once washed the feet of AIDS patients in a hospital. These traits will make him hugely popular in Africa where the Continent still holds on to traditional Catholic views and poverty is the major challenge for adherents.  But also as Africa rues missing out on the first black Pope, at least the Continent will be assured that the successor to St. Peter comes from a region of the world with nearly half of all Catholics at just over 500 million South American faithful.

Already his Papacy is off to a bright start when at his maiden appearance on the Balcony he prayed for his predecessor and then asked the crowd to pray for him the Pope. With his election to the Pontificate, the Roman Catholic Church has hit all the bases as the Church seeks a new direction and firm stance on the moral issues threatening to undermine it. The story is told that once when St. Francis of Assisi was praying in a broken down church, a voice called out to him to “build my church.” Maybe this Pope Francis, son of Italian immigrants, has come back to the land of his ancestors, as Bishop of Rome, to rebuild the Church.

I like him already. Habemus Papam Fransiscum.


Dear Cardinals……as you vote.


Dear Cardinals,

I am not a Roman Catholic but I am a Christian and all Christians are interested in what happens in your Conclave. Yes, the Pope assumes the throne of St. Peter, the rock on which Christ Himself built His Church and as such what happens in your Conclave is our business.

Dear Cardinals, as you go in and enforce a total ban on eavesdropping, installing anti-electronic devices, shutting out the internet and with it the pesky social network crowd, know that the all Seeing Eye is watching. Not the single, silly eye illustrated in the logo of the Illuminati, but the eye of God Almighty. And, certainly not Dan Brown’s eyes. Remember that God is watching and, please, please, eschew racist, regional politics.

The media is full of talk of the Brazilian Cardinal, the African Cardinal, the Italian Cardinal; but the media is always looking for leads and when they can’t find any they fabricate: A poor example of their agenda-setting function. Or is the media right? Do you really have factions? Like in the PDP? Like in the GOP? Don’t tell me you do? You all look holy and papal in your long flowing robes.

Let me be serious now. The Roman Catholic church needs a Pope: the younger and more vibrant, the better. A man who will take the bull by the horns, like St. Peter himself. A man willing to fight for the Master and ‘cut off the ear’ of any impediment. The cases of sexual abuse and of sweeping issues under the carpet are really damaging. Christ himself famously threw out the traders selling in the temple. I know St. Peter would have thrown them all out in half the time it took Christ. Think about this as you ‘elect’ someone to sit on the throne of Peter. Will he throw errant Men out of the church?

Dear Cardinals, the churches are empty. Yes, Africa and South America are overflowing with members, but your European cathedrals have become tourist sites. Not a good image for Christianity. So give us a Pope with a good image, with panache and the Spirit. A ‘missionary’ to evangelize the Old Continent and America. Yes, the good old USA. Do you still have adherents there? Not many I guess. Let the Cardinal from New York find a wash basin and soap to wash his socks. Then fold his sleeves. For the work is much and the labourers few. Conclave is serious business and he can endure a few indignities . The Son of Man had nowhere to lay his head and St. Peter was but a poor fisherman.

So dear Cardinals, take your time. This is not the Middle-ages, where they cut the food rations to speed up the election. Or once removed the roof because the Cardinals took over two years to elect a Pope. We are all here watching, with bated anticipation, at the colour of the smoke.

Dear Cardinals, accept the assurances of my highest regards. And oh, my money is on the Italian.

 Follow me @sirwebs




The Harlem Shake sits atop the Billboard 100 since the end of February instead of at say, No. 15, because of the effect of YouTube. The video sharing social media platform has changed the way we experience music, thus indicating a strong influence of social on music.

When students from a Colorado College took the Harlem Shake phenom to a ‘higher altitude,’ the American Federal Aviation Authorities became concerned and commentators started questioning how far people were willing to go to have their very own version of the skit. The Harlem Shake by Baauer has gone viral and become a pop sensation that groups from Australia to Zanzibar (not sure of Zanzibar for sure), companies from Pepsi to the local Mom and Pops, have all made videos dancing to the passionate, amazing, electro-hall beats.

Unlike Gangnam Style, which became the first YouTube video to hit one billion views, Harlem Shake inspires people to make their own videos in their shops, offices, homes, libraries and on an airplane. The combined viewership is hard to get at but while Baauer was able to retain a certain level of copyright and in some cases get revenue from ‘copy cats’, “Gangnam style” was famously danced by celebrities including the UN Secretary-General, Ban ki Moon.

Recently in Lagos, at its first Social Media Week, the impact of social in music was discussed. Artistes now deploy Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and most importantly YouTube to ‘drop’ singles, promote albums, burnish images and release videos. YouTube is threatening to ‘kill’ MTV and the talented singer can bypass the bureaucracies of the music label and achieve instant fame. YouTube has gone on to spin hits and inspire new cultural sensations a la Gagnam Style, Harlem Shakes, Azonto etc.

Here in Africa, the once obscure dance of a fishing community in Ghana became an international sensation after YouTube videos of Sarkodie’s Azonto song and members of the Ghanaian national team dancing Azonto after scoring a goal at the 2010 World Cup went viral.

Starting this February, has changed its ratings to include YouTube views in determining song chart positions; a very pivotal move but one which acknowledges that music has gone social.

Of the three dance steps, Gangnam style with its asiatic roots, Harlem Shakes from downtown New York and Azonto from the Old Gold Coast which do you prefer? Methinks Azonto has got élan: by the way Africa is known for the dance.