Blackberry: Is the fruit rotting?

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I took a blogging ‘summer holiday.’ But hopefully I am back at just the right time. As I type these words, gunmen are still holed up in a Nairobi Mall in Kenya exchanging fire with the Kenyan Defence Force and confirmed and unconfirmed reports filter in from the North-East of Nigeria as Boko Haram militants continue their, now attritious war, with the Nigerian Army.

But for many young people across these climes, especially the social media savvy type, the biggest news of the week is how to download the iOS 7 and the BBM for Android and iOS. Blackberry, taking a huge hit in the Smartphone market and suffering a slow death, has made its flagship chatting application ‘cross platform.’  Cross platform here does not include Nokia’s Window’s Mobile, meaning that Blackberry thinks Nokia should go back to making bicycles for Finns.

Though the stats continuously indicate that Blackberry is no more a ‘cool’ device to have in the rest of the world, the Canadian firm, formerly known as Research in Motion (RIM), has still got plenty of momentum in Africa, especially Nigeria, where BB, as they are affectionately termed, still sells bucket loads. New ones and huge amount of used ones too as all the abandoned Blackberries from Europe make their way here. A combination of cheap internet via the Blackberry Internet Service (BIS) and its use a a fashionable accessory has driven this, obviously ‘against the market trend,’ and at the height of the ‘Blackberry madness,’ lynching of Blackberry thieves and a Nollywood film titled Blackberry Babes were the hallmarks.

Still popular and entrenched in Nigerian Pop Culture, social scientists, media watchers and tech geeks are all watching to see, if, and when, the Blackberry will change from uber-cool to unwanted now that the mother company is adrift and the BBM (ubiquitous, must-have, social media tool) is available on Android and iOS. The Blackberry has driven the social media interaction in Nigeria helping tens of millions of young people become active on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc and communicate with each other, affect the outcome of a presidential election, sound the death knell for print media in the country, lead a successful ‘occupy’ protest against fuel subsidies and of course spread innumerable rumours and misinformation.

Blackberry activists are geared up again, ready to use the platform to mobilize and engage citizens for protests against the national assembly this September. In the wake of celebrations marking fifty years of the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights brass of the day, it is a remarkable indicator of progress in technological development that, while King and his people wrote letters and trudged from door-to-door, today letters are typed on keypads and thousands respond.

So while my heart goes out to the carnage in Kenya and Borno and of man’s inhumanity to man worldwide, and while you search for a link to download BBM for Google’s Android, cast a thought for Google’s motto: Do no Evil.

@sirwebs.

Martin Luther King Jr.’s Dream for Nigeria

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This is an adaptation of MLK II famous speech ‘I have a dream’ to fit the Nigerian situation.

I am not happy as I pen these words on the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr’s historic speech for freedom, as our nation Nigeria struggles to reach its potentials.

Five score years ago, a British colonist, in a symbolic show of political sagacity amalgamated the Northern and Southern Protectorates creating the largest black nation in the world, Nigeria. This momentous decree was seen as a great beacon of light and hope to millions of Nigerians who had hitherto been a scattering of ethnicities.

But one hundred years later, the Nigerian is still not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Nigerian is still crippled by the manacles of nepotism and the chains of economic discrimination. One hundred years later, the Nigerian lives on a crowded island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity brought by the flow of black gold. One hundred years later, the common man is still languishing in the corners of the Nigerian society and finds himself a beggar in his own land. So I have come today to dramatize a shameful condition.

When the architects of our republic wrote the words of the constitution and Fani-Kayode moved for independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every Nigerian was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, Igbo, Hausa, Yoruba as well as others, would be guaranteed the inalienable rights of life, prosperity, and the pursuit of happiness.

It is obvious today that Nigeria has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as the common man is concerned. Instead of honouring the sacred obligation, Nigeria has given the common man a bad cheque, a cheque which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this cheque – a cheque that will give us upon demand the riches of prosperity and the security of justice. We have to remind Nigeria of the fierce urgency of the now. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of poverty to the sunlit path of social justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the sand of nepotism to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

But there is something I must say to my people who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence.

As we walk, we must make the pledge that we will always march ahead. We cannot turn back. There are those asking, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Nigerian is a victim of insecurity. We cannot be satisfied as long as the Nigerian’s basic mobility is from the village to the ‘face me I face you.’ We can never be satisfied as long as our graduates are left floundering in the unemployment market for years. We cannot be satisfied as long as our votes are stolen in rigged elections. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

Go back to Makurdi, go back to Aba, go back to Sapele, go back to Gusau, go back to Lokoja, go back to the savannas of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed. Let us not wallow in the valley of despair.

I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the Nigerian spirit.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “One nation bound in freedom, peace and unity.”

I have a dream that one day on the Islands of Lagos, the sons of indigenes and the sons of non-indigenes will be able to sit down together on the table of true brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Borno, a state sweltering with the heat of insurgency, sweltering with the heat of terrorism, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by their tribe but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, up in Abuja, with its many politicians, with its myriad politicking and manipulation; one day right there in Abuja the Igbos, Yorubas, Hausas, Efiks and others will join hands with Igalis, Ijaws, Urhobos, Tivs, Idomas and others as brothers and sisters.

I have a dream today.

 Twitter: @sirwebs

Twitter Nigeria: Seven years on

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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.

@sirwebs

 

My Oga At The Top ……Bane of Nigeria?

 

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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.

@sirwebs

 

90 minutes in Jo’burg, 99 years of Nigeria

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For a country perennially beset with mistrust, mutual hatred and blatant ethnicity and nepotism, the pure glee and national unity displayed anytime the Super Eagles play is indescribable, indiscernible, miraculous and mind-boggling.

For 99 years the people called Nigeria have distrusted each other, developed negative stereotypes to frame each other and at unfortunate times fought and killed each other. But from since the days of the Red Devils (the former name of the national team), when the famous Dan Anyiam, the national team captain, and his team were fabled to have played against the English national team barefooted in London, the entity called Nigeria has always stood united when it comes to football; prayed together, cried together and celebrated together.

On Sunday in Johannesburg, we all go to the temple of the ‘god of soccer’ and like the holy books advocate, we cast away our differences, hold hearts and hands together and support our team. And even though the team is 80% Igbo nobody cares or notices and all prejudices are swept aside as we all chase the golden trophy in Egoli, the legendary place of gold.

Next year marks 100 years that Lord Fredrick Lugard amalgamated the North and Southern protectorates to create the largest black nation in the world. After 100 years people still wonder if Lord Lugard was a genius or a jester. But come Sunday in Jozi, when the national anthem is played, when the referee tosses the coin to decide which side kicks off between the Eagles and the Stallions, the North and South will fuse into one; one team, one people, and one nation. And for 90 minutes at least, Lord Lugard’s dream will be perfected.

It is nearly two decades since 1994, when the Eagles last soared above the crags. I wish the ‘Big Boss’ and his boys all the best of luck.

Come on you Eagles!

Follow me on Twitter @sirwebs

From Fuel Subsidy to a Missing iPad: The Year of Twitter

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“What do they even do on Twitter? When I tell my friends that I don’t see them on BBM or Facebook, they say they’re on Twitter.” – Anonymous

2011 year was the year of instant messaging services with the BBM the unrivalled leader. The year before it not being on Facebook was basically uncool. 2012 is undisputedly the year of Twitter. The microblogging service that allows only 140 characters was slow to take off in Nigeria for a social network site founded as far back as 2006. But in that inexplicable way in which fashions and fads rise and wane, Twitter has finally conquered the virtual social space of Nigeria, unleashing the unique attributes of the brash, bold and belligerent people of Naija – in 140 characters only. From organizing protests, crowd-funding and political mobilization, to ethnic and religious mudslinging, and getting an airline to replace a missing iPad, #Nigeria has continued to trend in the “Twitterverse.”

The utility of Twitter is such that it has become the number one aggregator of news – international and local, general and specialized and made citizen journalists of all of us; it has become the number one customer care portal with @MTN180 notoriously apologizing to someone every minute; political rallying point with the untiring @dino_melaye commanding his ‘loyal’ band of professional dissenters and the conscience of the nation with the unparalleled outcry over the #Aluu4 prompting the Police to fish out the barbarians in CSI fashion. Beautifully, Twitter has been deployed in crowdfunding to aid cancer patients and other terribly sick Nigerians in a manner unprecedented in a country with a torrid history of distrust and unrepentant internet scammers.

But for me most importantly, I see Twitter as an intellectually stimulating social media, where the conversation is always on-going and the youth of the nation – the future leaders – are getting a novel education and driving social-reengineering. This conversation is rich because of the diversity of participants which only social media can aggregate. Unlike Facebook which a has been described as a little town where everybody knows everybody, Twitter is the big city – the ‘Big Apple’ of the Social Media universe – with its dangers and delights, its @MrsGiroud’s and @Gidi_Traffic, its @ekekeee’s and @jesseoguns among a plethora of colourful, disparate and unique handles. That’s what they do on Twitter. Join the evolution.

@sirwebs

AZONTO: THE WAY WE WALK, THE WAY WE DANCE

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The local dance of the little known Gaa people of Ghana has in a very short time taken over  West Africa and become a dancing sensation internationally, especially in Britain, buoyed by the popular “Afrobeats” scene which has brought West African dance-hall and hip-pop to the attention of music aficionados in the Queen’s country. Azonto is a freestyle music, where the dancer makes simple shuffling movements with his feet while using his hands to simulate actions like praying, driving, cleaning, boxing, washing etc. In Nigeria, which regularly sees a constant stream of dancing styles rise and wane (read yahoozee etc), the Azonto is infused with a certain swagger and ‘walk,’ which is the trademark of citizens of the most populated black nation of the world, and which has fuelled its popularity and acceptance.

‘Historians’ point to the celebration of a goal with impromptu Azonto steps by Ghanaian footballer, Asamoah Gyan, during the 2010 World cup, as the turning point in the prominence of the dance. But the social media, especially YouTube, has helped stoke the wildfire spread of the dance. YouTube has changed the face of the music video industry, providing a platform for the streaming of videos ‘on demand.’ Videos from established acts and wannabee musicians have equal opportunity of going viral. And so the YouTube video of a white boy doing Azonto on the streets of London earned him a cameo appearance in the official music video of D’banj’s Oliver Twist.

Today, the Azonto has reached saturation point, becoming the dance step of note in clubs, weddings, and parties….and in the church. The cheekily termed “chrizanto” is danced during church services with some pastors being enthusiastic exponents. As the Azonto enjoys its time in the sun, the dancing spirit of the Nigerian is still working overtime and somewhere in the horizon is a Niger-Delta dance step threatening to explode: Over to you, Etighi.

@sirwebs