.. As Cyber Politics launch sparks off another round of discussion on social media regulation
By Chimezie Godfrey
Former Minister of Communications, Frank Nweke, and other stakeholders have stressed need for a responsible regulation of the social media in the country.
Nweke who made the assertion at a book launch in Abuja, noted that the social media regulation, was gradually creeping into discussion again.
This time, the launch of “Cyber Politics: Social Media, Social Demography and Voting Behaviour in Nigeria” , a book written by the Head of Media Relations at the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC Dr Omoniyi Ibietan, sparked it off.
The book launch brought together captains of industry and policy makers in one roof; and where you have such egg-heads gathered, discussions on how to move the country forward is a sure thing to happen.
The event was chaired by the former Minister, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Tajudeen Abbas and the Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof Umar Danbatta were among the top personalities at the book launch, and they took turns to praise the author, appreciate the book, review its impact and relate it to how it can guide a responsible regulation of the social media space.
In his address as the Chairman of the occassion, Nweke Jr, praised Dr. Ibietan for elevating public discuss on cyber politics and the impact of social media in election processes.
Nweke, who was governorship candidate of APGA, Enugu State, in 2023 general election, said the book dwells on better understanding of social media and the conclusion overall is that in the coming years, the impact of social media will increase with usage.
‘‘Having come out of election myself, I recognise the opportunity provided by social media. But I also worry about its adverse impact. The issues about fake news and their potential, not just to undermine, libel and slander people but to precipitate conflict.
‘‘So, it is something that government must continue to work on, professional association need to work on to ensure that society is protected from such hazards. Even though, people suggest that most people are poor, they do not have android phone, live in urban areas, they cannot afford data, the truth is that when you look at internet penetration today, it is high. So, I do not agree that social media has little impact as the author may suggest,” he said.
On whether there is need for government to regulate the social media, he said, ‘‘it is a very delicate balance between trying to protect the freedom of expression and protect public space and protect citizens from the potential adverse impact of fake news which has the potential to precipitate conflict.
‘‘All these things are real, people lose their lives, for someone to make one negative comment and it spreads like wide fire. In every democracy, people reserve the right to express themselves freely, but that has to be done in a manner it does not infringe on the right of others. So it should be regulated in order not to undermine the right of people on the social space.”
Nweke, described Ibietan as a very bright and quality personality.
‘‘Niyi worked with me as SA media and I met him in a very strange way. He attended a programme I was addressing, then, as minister for Youth and Development. The reason why I took interest in him was the quality of contributions he made. In fact, right at that event, I appointed him Senior Special Assistant on Media.
‘‘I love bright people, I like bright minds, people who are disciplined and know what they want, and all that are what Niyi represents. Over the last 15 years we have remained very close. I therefore, commend him for his loyalty and friendship,” Nweke said.
The House of Reps Speaker, represented by the House Leader, Prof. Julius Ihonvbere, who took the first shot at the discussion described the book as a masterpiece and praised Dr. Ibietan for his sagacity and astute delivery of the book for politicians and academic scholars.
Abbas said the book should awaken the youth and the general public to go back to the reading culture, saying that the author has demonstrated that he not left the field of struggle.
He thanked him for provoking a new line of thought in the journey to enduring democracy and recommended the book for the general public.
‘‘Though, I am yet to read the book, but with what I have heard many people say about it, it’s a masterpiece. So, I will like to thank the author for writing such a masterpiece.
“Aside from social media, there are dynamic platforms for communication and engagement.
‘‘The book should awaken the youth and the general public to go back to the reading culture. I commend the author, he has not left the field of struggle. The efforts of Mr Ibietan to put into publishing, the work is commendable.’’
Also, presenting the book, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said the book has exposed the intellectual capacity of DR. Ibietan.
He said, ‘‘The social media has come to stay but it is the duty of the people to use social media responsibly. Network enormity has become a source of concern and the way and manner we resort to inflammatory and defamatory content to denigrate our political opponents do not add value to the political process.’’
He stressed the need to ensure a responsible way of using the social media to do politics, saying that, ‘‘You cannot kill the social media, we have to learn to live with it, we have to find a responsible way to use the social media.’’
He appreciated the efforts of Ibietan in putting together, such a wonderful book for publication, saying that the author and himself share same interests in love for literary work.
On his part, the author of the book, Dr. Ibietan said what he tried to do in the book was to look at the social behaviours of Nigerians, how they used social media to interact and how social media, which of course was considered very phenomenon shaped the 2015 general elections, in terms of the use of social technology in that election.
He said,”We have found that indeed, yes, social media may have shaped the way people voted, but technology did so in context of other mediating factors and influences; one of which is the context in which elections are contested.
‘‘What we found new is the fact that this is in contest that there is a sense in which humanity is connected but there are also variations. What we are trying to do in this book is to say, years activities in the cyber space, which of course has enabled by the internet and It is a global thing.
‘‘However, in Nigeria we are not just consumers of technology, but we are applying them in context that gives meaning, not just to our lives as individuals and people who operate businesses. As a nation, communication is primordial with man, shaping our lives and businesses and so, it is the most central aspect of politics. There is a sense in which we relay using social technology that may be injurious to the beautiful society we are trying to create.
‘‘One other thing we looked at is the role of historical media, the fact that we have social media, does not mean the historical media is dead. Because what we found is that people also fed in the historical media and took those things back onto the social media space.’’