The spirit of the Summit was that the social media has the potentials to contribute to transforming society, just as it can be used to undermine it. In Nigeria, as in the rest of the world, we have seen elements of both. While its use is increasing, few have approached this from a strategic point such that they can benefit positively from this.


This week, the Centre for Information Technology and Development (CITAD) organised a social media influencers summit in Kano to serve as a symposium of ideas and trends analysis on the way in which social media platforms have taken over the communications super highway and determine what we see and get to know but also inundate us with half-truths, outright falsehood and propaganda. It was an opportunity to reflect on our own agency as active actors in this complex and vast space that has been provided. Our central concern was to improve our understanding of the possibilities and limits of using modern advocacy tools and strategies to improve good governance in our society. It was above all a great opportunity to assess the harm often done to society through social media applications and what can be done to address it.

According to Professor Dambata of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), who gave the keynote address, there are 124 million of us in Nigeria who subscribe to internet services. Nigeria has been transformed immensely since Decree 75 of 1992 allowed for the privatisation and vast expansion of telecommunication services. The numbers are huge and most of us use this access to surf through the social media. We live in a world in which we think the social media has given us all great platforms to express ourselves and show our images. This is true but the reality is that the world in which we live is a surveillance society in which maybe three companies have files on all of us, what we like and what we hate, our passions, our political views and a list of what and those we hate. One of them called Facebook gets 65 million of us to provide them free intelligence daily – 40 million on WhatsApp and 25 million directly on Facebook itself. On twitter, we are only seven million providing them the free intelligence. I am guilty as charged being one who uses these platforms daily.

We had a presentation by Adaora Ikenze, Facebook’s head of public policy for West and Central Africa, who told us that two out of the seven billion people on earth are on their platform and Nigerians are their largest pool of players in Africa. She told us that their interest is in building communities and respecting the rights of those who patronise them. And, she claimed that they combat fake news, hate speech, cyber bullying, violence and so on. But I guess that’s what she is paid to say. When questioned about the prevalence of fake news on the platform, she explained that when fact checkers prove that a story is fake, they degrade its standing on the newsfeed. Yet, its quite revealing that the company’s policy is that fake news is never removed from the platform but its simply given less prominence or so they claim.

There is need to hear about these successes in the use of social media. People need to learn what it is that they can do with the social media to improve good governance, combat hate and dangerous speech and improve inter-community relations. We all need to know that beyond connecting to friends and associates, there is a treasure to be unearthed in the social media…


We do not have to search far for the reason: Facebook makes enormous amounts of money from information that creates anger, sadness, passion and generates great emotions and many of such narratives are fake, hence their business model cannot survive without mischief, divisive and fake news. For the social media, emotions are more valuable than truth and it’s no wonder that they have played a huge role in providing opportunities for charlatans, the world over, to come to power, especially those who tell a lot of lies. Social media provides us opportunities to produce content but who gets to see the content is determined by algorithms that promote sensational content and downgrade sober content. That is the real challenge we face as advocates using these platforms; our content is often too sedate to merit wide circulation in the post-truth society they have helped create.

The spirit of the Summit was that the social media has the potentials to contribute to transforming society, just as it can be used to undermine it. In Nigeria, as in the rest of the world, we have seen elements of both. While its use is increasing, few have approached this from a strategic point such that they can benefit positively from this. The Summit provided an opportunity to bring out successful stories of using the social media for good, so that such uses could be amplified and replicated. I was particularly impressed by social media influencers from Borno such as Abdulhamid Al-Gazali of Yerwa Express News in Maiduguri and Ummi Bukar of the PAGED Initiative, who are creating alternative and positive local narratives of life in Borno, challenging the “blood and gloom” of Boko Haram and its atrocities being the only narrative about Borno State. They are offering opportunities for ordinary people in the zone to tell their own stories and express their concerns in their own words, replicating and spreading these through the social media.

There is need to hear about these successes in the use of social media. People need to learn what it is that they can do with the social media to improve good governance, combat hate and dangerous speech and improve inter-community relations. We all need to know that beyond connecting to friends and associates, there is a treasure to be unearthed in the social media, despite the distribution patterns dictated by their algorithms. Better understanding of the social media terrain, its do’s and don’ts can open great opportunities and know how on how to leverage them.

Our prudish and moralistic society is today confronted by a new reality of the introduction of the camera into the intimacy of the bedroom. Many former and even current husbands and partners have taken the license of circulating intimate images when relations go sour, creating great harm to many women who cannot take the stares and reprobation of society.


One of the panels addressed the rising incidents of gender-based violence in the social media. Faiza Shehu, publisher of Telescope magazine, Maryam Gwadabe of Blue Sapphire and Maryam Ado Haruna of CITAD took us through the ramifications of such violence. Women suffer much more than men from cyber bullying. Even more worrying is the illegal and malicious use of images of women on the social media. Our prudish and moralistic society is today confronted by a new reality of the introduction of the camera into the intimacy of the bedroom. Many former and even current husbands and partners have taken the license of circulating intimate images when relations go sour, creating great harm to many women who cannot take the stares and reprobation of society.

It would be recalled that this trend started way back in 2007, when Maryam Usman (Hiyana), the famous Kannywood actress, lost her career. Maryam, the star of the movie Hiyana, after which she was nicknamed, was engulfed in controversy in early August 2007 after she and her boyfriend appeared in a sex clip recorded with a cell phone and distributed illegally with the intent to harm. She had to go into hiding as millions of people in Kano at the time, when the bluetooth technology had just arrived, shared the intimate scenes from phone to phone – an irreligious act in itself – but went after her, accusing Usman of immorality. She was immediately expelled from the industry. Sadly, more men have learnt this dastardly tactic of destroying the reputation of their partners or spouses.

A professor of Political Science and development consultant/expert, Jibrin Ibrahim is a Senior Fellow of the Centre for Democracy and Development, and Chair of the Editorial Board of PREMIUM TIMES.