Sunday, May 1, 2011

Irritated Sigh Turned Blogpost on Lagos

I saw poster of “I See Lagos” a few weeks ago when I was visiting family, but, thanks to Emeka Okafor's blog Africa Unchained, I now know what it is.


It's weird how you can always tell when a government is doing something that bears paying attention to, and when they're not. When INEC sent out its BB Pin and Twitter handle, they also put out billboard and radio jingles with SMS numbers to report election irregularities across the country. That's how you know that they were serious. While governors put up websites to showcase the work they've done in the states, they also take out ads on TV in pidgin and the local language. With this kind of forum that I See Lagos has, where's the analog equivalent? There's a reason why, when folks have important things to say in Nigeria, they don't necessarily go on Facebook to say it. And it is that reason that makes things like this look unserious.

There's nothing wrong with a bunch of diaspora folks and their internet-ready friends with strongly-held opinions batting back and forth on how best to help Lagos in and of itself, but this should not be the sum of what we can expect from our government and other people within relatively-easy reach of the resources that can make a difference in people's lives. This has less to do with getting people talking about how to move the most populous state in the most populous countries in Africa, and more to do with Fashola getting “cool points” with upwardly mobile middle-class Nigerians and the Nigerian diaspora. Nothing wrong with that, let's call it what it is, shall we?

I'm probably being harder on this than I absolutely need to be, but this points to a larger trend I see among more-monied, London-for-Summer-hols Nigerians like myself, where we band together in our little bubbles and beat our Proudly Nigeria drums and extol on the virtues of change. We make election monitoring forums by and for us. Our blogsphere is created by people like us and for us. We are both addresser and addressee. Think about it: do you think Nigerian newspapers have to worry about making less money because folks read 234Next/Punch/This Day/Guardian/Daily Independent online and don't buy the physical newspaper? NYT, LA Times and the Washington Post have to worry about stuff like that, because, in the U.S., internet access is ubiquitous. In Nigeria, it's not, so internet cannot be the default for a national or statewide conversation that we actually really need to have. Gov. Fashola and his posse really ought to think about expanding their scope and widening our conversation to those who don't have the same access as we do. That is, Fashola and his posse should really think about expanding the conversation to within the reach of most Lagosians.


  1. I absolutely agree with you. To have people fully participate in governance, we have to go beyond twitter/facebook/blog activism, we have to reach the masses. I wrote about something similar here:

  2. Ah, now I get the campaign too. I like it, and this clip is inspirational but I agree there needs to be a way for it to reach masses on TV, and then those many Lagosians who don't have tv's need to be involved in other ways.

    That said, I think reaching out to educated and privileged Lagosians is an important step too. They (we) need to be reminded to use our privilege for something worthwhile.

    However, I don't even understand the idea of facebook activism etc. these forums may be used to raise awareness but activism, i'm not so sure people should big themselves up like that over social media usage.

    Basically, I completely agree that we should call this what it is, but I wouldn't label it unserious. It has its value.