In the modern Nigerian era where we had the EFCC handle winning fans thanks to the openness and willingness of its erstwhile handler to connect with the public in a no-holds barred, quip-for-quip way – and the heavens did not fall, it is rather baffling now that a spokesperson of a government agency, like the army, is still choosing to hide behind a locked Twitter handle.
The situation becomes even more ridiculous when you consider Brig-Gen. SK Usman, the army spokesperson, is currently engaging his followers in a question and answer section hashtagged #AskTheArmy.
What is Mr. Usman afraid of? The wrath of Nigerians in the face of the continued threat of Boko Haram in the North East? Is he worried the notorious “children of anger” on Twitter would ridicule what is now obviously the Army’s premature celebration of what it assumed was a definite defeat of the terrorist group?
Although seen as a playground for the youth, especially thanks to the popularity of the 2008 American Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama’s campaign among young people and his eventual victory, many political and leading figures and brands have come to embrace social media as a veritable marketing tool. However, in Nigeria, our stodgy public figures were not ready for the itchy fingers inspired by acid tongues, that were taking the opportunity to launch full scale verbal attacks at any slight provocation.
Several times during the Goodluck Jonathan administration, there were calls to censor the social media public and even the Nigerian internet space as a whole. A bill was put forward in the two legislative houses.
The internet provided a safe space and enough anonymity for people once scared of being victimised if they spoke up in public/the real world to unleash their ire without fear of intimidation.
Many public figures soon abandoned Twitter as soon as they embraced it, with some choosing to remain on the less anonymous and more easy to censor Facebook. Others like the now Senator Ben Murray- Bruce, developed a thick skin and chose to ignore most of the vitriol while lamenting the mannerless children of rage.
It was only with the coming of the EFCC Twitter handler – a youth among his peers, it should be noted – were we able to consider the possibility of any Nigerian government agency or person ever successfully reaching the public with their intended message and being loved for it. With his exit from EFCC, some had hoped The Handler’s legacy would be preserved and even taught to other faces and voices of our governmental organisations. Obviously, this has not been the case, if Mr. Usman’s massive faux pas is to be considered.
What is the point of speaking for the Nigerian Army, a public institution, behind a private account? Let us say Mr. Usman is entitled to a private account, why propose what should be an all-inclusive discussion , #AskTheArmy, on that account?
What or who is the army really afraid of and why?
Like our people will say a man with a clear conscience need not fear.