New Media, dominated predominantly by Social Media, may not determine who wins elections but it will determine who influences perceptions.
Ask yourself when was the last time you heard a breaking news on TV that had not already broken on New Media?
The fact is that New Media influences perception but as Ekiti has shown us, perception itself is not reality no matter what spin doctors say.
Now, perception may not be reality but if you do not take care of your perception, it will interfere with your reality.
However, perception is not the same as propaganda. I got a lesson in the difference between perception and propaganda when I went to school in England.
The brochure of the school had a picture of this amazing hall and when I arrived on campus I asked for the whereabouts of that hall and received a rude shock when I was told I was in the hall.
I looked around and it was indeed the hall, but it did not look as grand as it did in the brochure. They had taken the picture of the hall from an angle that emphasized its grandeur. That was an example of perception influencing reality which influenced choice.
Elsewhere in England, a fellow Nigerian student had gone to his university only to find that the halls in the brochure of his schools existed, only not in that school. The school had used pictures of stately buildings. They did not expressly say those buildings were in their campus, but they knew it would be assumed. That was an act of propaganda influencing choice.
But while I remained at my school, the other Nigerian did not. The moral here is that perception can be tolerated by reality but propaganda will be rejected by it.
The President, as one having the largest Facebook following of any political leader in Africa (almost 1.6 million followers) could engage in propaganda if he were so inclined, but that is not the Jonathan way.
His way is to deliver results while his detractors deliver activity and then let those results speak for themselves.
And the results are speaking for themselves with his Facebook page being the most visited FB profile in Africa, with one single post commanding over 110,000 likes and over 36,000 comments.
For now though, let us consider the word ‘clueless’. It is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘having no knowledge, understanding, or ability’.
Now, this tag is a major arsenal in the propaganda unit of the opposition. The higher echelon have given their foot soldiers the order to tar the President with this adjective.
Now let us touch on reality for a bit.
In Nigeria, the two states with the highest population density are Kano and Lagos. Incidentally, these two states are right now being governed by the opposition.
Anybody who knows these two states will attest to the fact that the major issue facing Kano is the sheer number of school age children that are out of the formal education system. It is estimated that there are at least 2 million itinerant scholars known as Almajiri in Kano who do not have access to formal education.
In Lagos, the major issue has been how to deal with the traffic situation that keeps Lagosians trapped in ‘go slow’ thereby depriving the economy off the man hours lost to this unproductive drudgery.
State and local officials have for almost half a decade been ‘clueless’ as to how to resolve these two debilitating municipal issues. The problems have grown in scale each passing year and appeared to be insurmountable.
But there has been a revolution of late which has addressed these two malaise and which is providing a solution in the present while turning adversity to opportunity.
In Kano, multiple schools have been purpose built for almajiris. They are called Almajiri Model Schools. They have Quranic recitation halls, Malams Quarters, libraries, hostels and science laboratories.
These schools are now in operation. They do not follow the traditional curriculum. They have a special curriculum which is built around Islamic education and science. The direction of the schools are determined by the Malam in charge and the only external influence is supervision from the ministry of education.
As a result, they are being utilized and kids are now leaving the streets of Kano to the comfort of the Almajiri Model Schools. Thus, a decades old problem is being solved. Of course it will take many more Almajiri Model Schools to absorb the over 2 million kids outside the formal education system, but now, we have a template that works.
In Lagos, when Lagosians first heard of the air conditioned trains, they thought it was a rumour, a ruse. Those kinds of things do not happen in Nigeria, they thought.
And then people started boarding the air conditioned trains that take you from one end of Lagos to another. They began taking selfies of themselves in these trains and tweeting or facebooking it.
Soon the news spread like wild fire! You can now escape Lagos traffic by taking the new air conditioned trains. It will stop in Oshodi, it will stop in Agege. It is meant for the masses. It is used by the masses!
And just like that, the number of people who travel by train in Nigeria has increased from 1 million per annum in 2009 to 5 million per annum and growing today.
But the koko of the matter is that these initiatives were the personal initiative of President Goodluck Jonathan in the case of Almajiri Model Schools, and the joint initiative of the President and his minister in the case of the Lagos Air Conditioned Trains or ‘Jonathan trains’ as some call it.
So this man, Jonathan, has in a space of a few years brought about a solution to two of the most pressing and recurring municipal issues facing the most populated areas of Nigeria.
It takes knowledge to come up with these ideas. It takes understanding to implement them. It takes ability to focus on them in the midst of distraction from terrorists and their sponsors. It takes humility to do it in the sphere of influence of the opposition.
The facts above cannot be dismissed.
If these are the acts of a ‘clueless’ person, then we need more cluelessness in Nigeria.
When the Jonathan administration launched the new National Automotive Policy in 2013, the opposition called it a pipe dream. But they were not dreaming when President Goodluck Jonathan became the first Nigerian to publicly drive the new Made in Nigeria Nissan on the 29th of May 2014.
To cover their embarrassment at this feat, they said the cars were not made in Nigeria because not all the components were manufactured in Nigeria. In that case, no country manufactures a car because in this modern age, no single country makes all the parts that make up a car.
Mercedes Benz for instance makes parts in different continents including Africa. The nationality of the car is determined by the location where the final product is put together.
But for the sake of arguments, let us say that these cars are not even made in Nigeria. Is it not a fact that they are in Nigeria, they are inexpensive because of the National Automotive Policy, they are providing jobs for Nigerians and they are designed for our weather and environment?
My people, things are changing in Nigeria and at such breath taking pace that the propaganda of ‘clueless’ cannot sell any more.
Before Jonathan, Nigeria as a nation was importing cement today we are producing enough to meet our domestic demand and have enough left over to export to other African nations.
As the cement is being manufactured, they are put on trains and hauled directly from the factory to Lagos port because the president had the foresight to extend the rail lines to the site of production.
On Monday the 14th of July 2014 the President commissioned the largest rice mill in Nigeria in Nasarawa, the Olam Rice Mill. At that event the President said “our commitment is to continue to reduce our food importation bill to the barest minimum. To demonstrate our commitment, I am glad to report to Nigerians that from a total food import bill of One trillion, one hundred billion naira (N1.1tr) ($6.9billion dollars) as at 2009, we have reduced our food import bill to Six hundred and eighty four billion, seven million naira (N684.7billion) ($4.35billion dollars) as at December 2013?.
That Nigeria is changing for the better under Jonathan is a reality. That he is solving decades long problems is a reality. That ordinary Nigerians have seen through the propaganda of the opposition is also a reality.
It is also a reality that they can no longer sell the propaganda of a clueless Jonathan.
In fact, the President’s abilities has begun to shrink the ranks of the opposition as we now read about defections from their ranks to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP on a weekly basis.
They confuse the President’s meekness for weakness, forgetting that meekness is power under control ready to be unleashed if and when the situation demands it.
They confuse the President’s thoughtfulness for foolishness forgetting that it is better to think then act than to act then think.
They confuse his tolerance for timidity forgetting that as the leader of the nation he must think of the good of both those who love him and those who don’t while their only thought is for those who love them.
So, let them continue with their propaganda. The best answer to them is one crafted by MKO Abiola of blessed memory who said ‘if you change the name of honey, it will still be sweet’.
Reno Omokri is Special Assistant on New Media to President Goodluck Jonathan.
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