Full Text of Cynthia Anaele's Lecture on The Role of Social Media on Good Governance in Nigeria At Nigerian Youth Parliament Press Dinner in Abuja

All protocols observed

Social media has been evolving since the invention of the Internet. From the first email in 1971 to allowing everyone to set up their own personal homepage in 1995.

If you ask me, I will say Social media has become one of the most important global forces in recent human history. It has proven to serve as a formidable tool and resource to communicate and has the capacity to make transformational changes that has impacted and influenced on public policy and engagement; it can unite or divide, create synergy or anarchy, or it can inspire and channel the passion of both young and old, as well as galvanize public interest towards achieving a common goal or cause. How, when, and why it is used makes the difference.

It provides a platform for self-expression, mutual understanding, and has enabled rapid formation of networks and demonstrated our common humanity across cultural differences. The influence of social media is critical for the dissemination of information about pro and anti - governmental activities while raising awareness to ongoing events.

From mobilizing young voters here in Nigeria in the 2015 elections, to the roots of the Arab Spring in the Middle East, social media have played not just an important role, but also an invaluable one in shaping public discourse. For example, the #NotTooYoungToRun bill, a bill which is sponsored and currently being debated by the current NASS, if passed will give young people, the right to be active participants in civic and public life and ensures they no longer face barriers to run for public office – whether at the local, state or national level, have become a global and common agenda.

Social media has an important role to play to shape and influence good governance in terms of access, fairness and equity, social responsibility, quality of service delivery, and competitiveness. For a better understanding of our topic, permit me to define the following key terms that form our discourse.

First, Social media, social media has been defined as web-based communication tools that enable people to interact with each other by both sharing and consuming information. They include such tools and platforms as Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram, among others.

Governance –Wikipedia explains it as the way rules, norms and actions are structured, sustained, regulated, and held accountable. For instance, in a government that operates as a democracy, it is a situation where citizens vote on who should govern them in a responsible and accountable manner where the public good becomes the goal.

What then is Good Governance and has Nigeria experienced it? Let us first outline the characteristics of good governance.
Good governance is the processes and structures that guide political and socio-economic relationships. The characteristics of good governance include;

-     Participation – This allows for the provision that All men and women should have a voice in decision-making, either directly or through legitimate intermediate institutions that represent their interests. Such participation is built on freedom of association and speech, as well as capacities to participate constructively.

-     Rule of law – This ensures that Legal frameworks should be fair and enforced impartially.

-    Transparency - Transparency is built on the free flow of information. It suggests that processes, institutions, and information are directly accessible to those concerned with them, and enough information is provided to understand and monitor them.

-     Responsiveness – This is where Institutions and processes try to serve all stakeholders.

-     Consensus orientation – Here Good governance involves mediating differing interests to reach a broad consensus on what is in the best interests of the group and, where possible, on policies and procedures.

-    Equity – This provides that All men and women have opportunities to improve or maintain their well-being.

-    Effectiveness and efficiency – This invokes that processes and institutions should produce results that meet needs while making the best use of resources.

-    Accountability – This is where Decision-makers in government, the private sector and civil society organizations are accountable to the public, as well as to institutional stakeholders.

-    Finally, Strategic vision – Where Leaders and the public have a broad and long-term perspective on good governance and human development, along with a sense of what is needed for such development. There is also an understanding here of the historical, cultural and social complexities in which that perspective is grounded.

The following presents what is required for attaining governance that is good as defined. It should be participatory, consensus oriented, accountable, transparent, responsive, effective and efficient, equitable and inclusive, and follows the rule of law. A good governing system thinks of building tomorrow, today rather than building today, tomorrow. A good governing system that thinks about the feelings and plights of the citizens rather than the constituted authority.

Nigeria since it gained independence has found it difficult to attain democratic stability despite efforts by past administrations to achieve this feat.

Nigeria, despite its huge human and material resources, has merely existed on paper as the ‘Giant of Africa’. There are no visible developmental indicators, anywhere, to justify its consistent aspirations for global recognition. The truth is that Nigeria’s population which is increasing rapidly, with over 170 million people is constrained by other problems that has slowed down her advancement over the years. 

Successive governments in Nigeria have since 1999, pursued the goal of structural changes without much success. The growth dynamics have been propelled by the existence of insecurity, lack of basic infrastructure, high rate of youth unemployment and corruption which has currently led us into recession.

However, in all fairness to ourselves, all the successive governments have been trying their best in these areas including the present administration.
If the Nigerian youth want to contribute to making change in Nigeria, the use of social media cannot be overemphasized such that using social media to shape government policies, hear popular views and opinions.  Social media can make our leaders listen to us. As a matter of fact it is one of the best tools for participatory governance.

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has revealed that the number of mobile phone users in Nigeria rose to 216 million between January and March of 2016. That is a 6-million increase from 210 million the previous year.
NCC also stated that the Internet users on Nigeria’s telecommunications networks rose to 92,446,687 (which is 52.0% internet penetration) as at November 2016 with over 16 million Facebook users.
The percentage from the above statistics shows that more than half of our population are on social media.

These statistics scared some people so much that Ethiopia ban of Facebook was almost repeated with the frivolous petitions bill of 2015 otherwise known as “anti-social media bill” in Nigeria. This in itself should tell us the effect and impact social media could have on governance in Nigeria.

The question then is, if there is a strong presence of social media especially demonstrated by youths, how best do we harness and manage it optimally as a transformational weapon to advance good governance and practice.

Let’s take a few examples that has played out in the media recently. One case is the BBOG Movement spearheaded and driven by erstwhile Minister of Education Oby Ezekwesili. The BBOG movement which stands for Bring Back Our Girls was a direct response to the continued detention of young school girls by the terrorist group, Boko Haram, and the group’s activism to raise awareness and push government to act responsibly in ensuring their swift and safe return to their parents. 

The movement has seen most of its activism played out on social media especially via Twitter, where the group has been calling for and advocating education, security, freedom from forced religion or marriage, among others. The group has succeeded in a major way to steer the Federal Government of Nigeria towards taking more responsibility and action to ensure the girls are brought back safe.

Another case which played out some years ago was the Fuel Subsidy Removal Movement. When the former administration of Goodluck Jonathan deemed it fit to abruptly remove fuel subsidy at the beginning of the year, there was a high public outcry at the level of insensitivity and lack of consultation of the decision makers and the governed. Huge rally points from social media using twitter, Facebook, and online publications served as a huge influencer in reversing the decision and presenting alternative measures and provisions that were more amenable to the public. 

This is responsive governance in action. This movement could not have succeeded without the veritable platform social media presented to engage, galvanize, and influence public opinion towards responsible action.
Hence, for social media to be adequately and appropriately used to influence and impact good governance, the points I elucidated earlier must be paramount and to make it even more effective the platform that is being used and how it is being used is very important.

For social media to work, both the governed and the governor (or government) must understand their roles and responsibilities, commit to engaging constructively and strategically, and be responsive to changing information and find ways to communicate them in a way that reaches their target audience while inspiring and encouraging them to participate and contribute in influencing positive change.

I truly believe that if we will have the best in terms of democracy and good governance, if the leadership of our great nation will be accountable to the citizens, if the plight of the common man will receive the attention of the ruling class, then social media is the chance. Social media is the best choice for a lasting real change.

Let us embrace it.

Thank you very much.