On the 20th of October, it was reported that Governor Mohammed Abubakar of Bauchi State appointed 12 social media assistants and Nigerians took to social media to kick against the move.
In defence of people that found the appointment excessive and wasteful, the headline actually told of the appointment of 12 social media assistants. But the body of the news story reported that " [the governor] has inaugurated a 12-man committee to supervise and coordinate the state’s activities on social media.
In light of this, it became apparent that most people reacting to the story did not (typically) read the story or take any time to do one extra validatiory Google search.
The above tweet is the logical conclusion anybody would come to from just looking at the headline. Apart from the clarification that the body provided to the misleading headline, the original Facebook post announcing the appointments also made it clear that the appointments were temporary; within a 3-week period and a maximum of 6 weeks.
Apparently from the descriptions given in the Facebook post, this committee's job is tantamount to literally holding the citizens of the State by the hand and guiding them through the virtual journey of engaging with the activities of the government of Bauchi State.
And it should be noted that for a state with 24% internet penetration, ranking among the bottom 5 states in Nigeria, a 12 man team seems grossly insufficient in number to handle a task of such enormity. So the outrage is somewhat misinformed.
A strong social media game
I stumbled upon Governor Mohammed Abubakar's Twitter handle in the heat of the #BuyNaijaToTheGrowNaira sensitization campaign and I was completely impressed by the strategy strength of his social media team.
— M.A. Abubakar (@GovMAA) February 15, 2016
That tweet that served to remind us of the beauty of the Yankari National Reserve was timely. Even without numbers, judging by the number of retweets and engagements by Nigerians and foreigners, it is evident that this tweet won a few tourists to come and see Bauchi States and also automatically boosted the State's tourism income.
This is a worthy example that whoever is behind the State's -- and Governor Mohammed's -- social media accounts has ideas on what they are about.
Social media appointees on the federal level
Somehow, the story was tied into President Muhammadu Buhari's recent social and new media appointments. In February this year, the president appointed Bashir Ahmad as personal assistant on New Media. This was followed in October by Lauretta Onochie's appointment as Personal Assistant on Social Media.
Social media as a tool of public relations is an offshoot of New Media. Any appointment to the office of a social media assistant was expected to be made from the -- already existing -- office of the assistant on New Media. So expectedly an outrage followed this announcement on social media and public debate platforms.
Things are not looking as bad as they are painted
In recent years, the Nigerian government at both federal, state and local levels has been putting in extra work to innovate with e-governance.
E-governance as a tool applies information and technology to delivering governmental services to the citizenry, and apart from ease and efficiency, transparency is one of the most contextually relatable features of e-governance.
The use of new media -- and social media included -- for bringing the process of governance closer to the people has been quick on the uptake recently.
All thanks to their digital media team, the Nigerian senate recently streamed its first Facebook Live plenary session and the advantages are endless; interacting with the lawmaking process on the go.
I used to be bothered to sit in front of the television and watch these proceedings until life happened and the television started slowly fading into obscurity.
In the (nearest) future, new media is going to be the only way we can get to effectively engage the government of the day. I think we should give the government a break in their effort of digitising the process of governance as they are not failing at it yet.