Disclaimer: I was not in Ekiti, have never been to Ikogosi and am not interested in going to Ekiti soon. But I might love to see the Osun grove.
The first thing you learn in Communication school is that “brown envelop” is a no go area. It is unethical, unprofessional and gives the media a bad image drone the lecturers. The first thing you learn in the real world is that Communication 101 is balderdash and that the “brown envelop syndrome” is deeply rooted in the system and the psyche of media practitioners in Nigeria; that it is seen as per diem, logistics, allowances, “PR”…… anything but what it is, which is plain old bribery.
The advent of social media with the rise of the citizen journalist shook up mass media systems. The blogger, Facebook celebrity, Twitter overload etc became a source of news even trumping some traditional news sources in believability, speed and audience traffic. But the “brown envelop” system seems to have arrived web 2.0 as evidenced by the debacle in Ekiti State.
Who pays the blogger, the twitter activist, the ardent YouTube auteur? Where does the loyalty of the social media personnel lie? and can it be bought? The questions are many. Back to Communication school, and the course on advocacy and development communication. For change to usually happen, change agents routinely collaborate with opinion leaders (read bloggers, Twitter overloads, Facebook celebs etc) using the two-step flow model, to persuade their followers. Neglect opinion leaders like traditional rulers, village heads, respected elders, women leaders, youth leaders, clergy, respected government workers etc and attitudinal and behavior change will be near impossible.
It is obvious that governments, political leaders and the powers that be are uncomfortable with the political conversation on-going on social media. Both the ruling party and the opposition have struggled to gain a bit of traction with users, especially on the more cerebral platform of Twitter, with its lightening speed, 140 character ease and power to make a picture, article, statement etc go viral in no time.
Social media is an enigma. As a still evolving platform, rules, etiquette and principles are still in a flux. Yet, as a spin-off of a profession which has been in existence since Gutenberg invented movable type, the old rules and ethics still suffice and apply. In fact it is obvious that nothing is new on the earth and actually the more things change, the more they remain the same.
Back to Ekiti, the state rumoured to have the highest number of professors (rumoured, yes, Anambra thinks otherwise), and we are in an ethical morass. Like a man caught in a pit of quick sand, the more you struggle the more you’re in trouble. Selected bloggers were taken on a tour of the state, hosted to a forum with the State Governor and before being sent on their way allegedly paid fifty thousand naira each (I wasn’t there. That is the gist on social media). The opprobium is that they were paid before they wrote a single word
Wikipedia describes Ekiti thus “The State is mainly an upland zone, rising over 250 meters above sea level. It lies on an area underlain by metamorphic rock. It is generally undulating country with a characteristic landscape that consists of old plains broken by step-sided out-crops that may occur singularly or in groups or ridges.”
The name Ekiti is derived from Obiti referring to hills which the original settlers encountered when they arrived the area. However, a cursory read of the Ekiti State Wikipedia page gives one the idea of a politically feisty zone. Barely anything is written on culture and tradition, there are no pictures and justice is only done in the history portion that details the migration of Olofin, Oduduwa’s son and the father of the Ekiti. I think the Ekiti State government should start their social media crusade from the Wikipedia page where the second paragraph starts thus: “Following a prolonged political crisis, President Olusegun Obasanjo imposed a military administrator (General Tunji Olurin) on Ekiti State in October 2006.”
I think the uproar generated by the fifty thousand is unfortunate. Even though some experts says no publicity is bad publicity, public relations is reputation building and infamous is a polite insult. Maybe next time the Governor would rather host social media journos via a Google + hangout and post pictures of infrastructural development on Instagram. That way he saves on the spend on “logistics” and “perdiem” and save all of us the expending of “hot air.”