Tuesday, 15 March 2016

Nation of Cannibals and Savages

So my wife has been complaining for sometime about how she's not very impressed with our bloggers these days. A large chunk of the 'news' they blog about is negative. Down right gory. Today it's about the rape of an underage girl, tomorrow it's about the beheading of a young man with a promising future. Police shooting innocent civilians now and soldiers brutalising cadets the next moment. Kilode? She asked me. It's an overload of negative news. Is that really all that's going on?

As I said, she had been saying this for a while and every time I tried to dismiss it. I would tell her that she was exaggerating and on more than one occasion, I had asked her to go on Linda Ikeji's blog and prove her point to me. Sure we did see some gory stories, but they weren't in the majority. Then she would argue that she wasn't talking about just the gory stories but also the negative ones. Then we would see that the number of stories she was complaining about greatly increased. 

She returned home from work today and the same topic came up and this time I paid a bit more attention. I listened quietly to her as she talked about there being so much depressing news on all the blogs even on her favourite blog at the moment @Instablog9ja. Then it struck me.....

I remember that there was a time when we complained in Nigeria/Africa that the major news networks of the West weren't portraying Nigeria/Africa in a positive light. This was a long time ago. Before there was the internet in Nigeria. Cable television held sway and we watched the BBC, CNN and other major news stations of the West tell us about ourselves.  And we often complained that they never saw the good side of us. We used to say that if anything good was going on here, they didn't want to know about it. If it was bad though, that was another thing. They would swarm around it like maggots on a week old carcass. Hence all we saw about Nigeria/Africa were stories of war, famine, strife, coups and underdevelopment. 

Like I said, this was well before the days of the proliferation of the internet in Nigeria.  Recently however, there was a documentary by the BBC on Makoko and Ajegunle which drove our then Minister for Information, Late Dr. Dora Akunyili absolutely livid. The documentary delivered life in these places in their raw form. The producers were even quite generous mostly portraying people who were "suffering and smiling" such that it made them and by extension Nigerians look like a pretty determined lot who would not let their situation weigh them down. 

But then I have digressed. What was it that struck me? Nigeria has developed immeasurably in the area of telecommunications and so there are many blogs now such as the two which I have named above. What this presents is an opportunity for us to change the narrative. I dare to say even that with the aggressiveness with which Nigerians have embraced the internet, it provides an opportunity for us to rival all the biggest news networks and control our narrative. For instance, there was a rave-making Fine artist being celebrated by Nigerians last week for his brand of art called hyper realism. His story was covered by CNN within the same week. I think the same was the case for the story of Olajumoke's fairy tale story. WE CAN DECIDE WHAT IS REPORTED ABOUT US BY WESTERN NETWORKS. 

But what do we find being celebrated all over the various blogs, print and electronic media? These negative stories about us as a people. Over and over again the headlines always say graphic or give you some other warning about the images which will be plastered all over your screen should you choose to click on the link.

I know someone is going to say "well, are they not reporting the truth?" "should they hide the truth?" Well, I'm not asking for the bloggers to hide the truth. I'm just asking for a new thinking among our journalists and bloggers. Think about the image of Nigeria. Image (or packaging as we call it here) is everything. Yes the bad news may drive traffic to your blog but as we have seen in the case of the Fine artist and Olajumoke, the positive news will drive even more traffic and create even more conversation. And the country will be the better for it in terms of its image. 

I can proffer some solutions or make some suggestions but if I did, many holes may be picked in them by naysayers so I will much rather leave my point pristine as a theory. I can only urge the journalists and blogger to use their 'church' minds when putting up these posts. We are much better as a people telling the positive and progressive stories of ourselves. 

I think of it in the same way I think of an Instagram or Facebook page. The stuff you see on people's pages are the moderated versions of their lives and not necessarily the real thing. Many people see all the flossing and lavish lifestyle portrayed on social media by the people they follow but don't realise that they might not know the half of it.  The West through their media moderate their stories. Our bloggers and journalists should do the same. Don't portray us as a nation of cannibals and savages when we are so much more than that. Even if we have cannibals and savages, tell the stories of the intellectuals and the beautiful among us until we seem like a nation of intellectuals and beautiful people. Outsiders will believe our portrayal of ourselves more than that of others who they will see as haters trying hard to pull us down. 

We are not a nation of cannibals and savages.