Today the 1st of April 2015, I took my time before I left the house. Usually, I would have been out of the door for 5.30am but having kept vigil until very late to hear Jega pronounce the winner of the elections, I felt the need to take some extra time to rest.
As I drove down to the office, my mind went back to the beginning of this change experiment, far away from the climax we are currently basking in. I thought about the rumours, the intrigues, the realities, the confrontations, the lies, the propaganda, the multiple engagements I had on various platforms selling change, the articles (published and unpublished), the highs and lows, and now, VICTORY! Mission accomplished! There was so much to occupy my mind. I had listened to the General’s address before I left the house and found myself reflecting over the words he said, words like: “You have asked for change, now change has come”.
At some point, Timi Dakolo’s song “Great Nation” started to play on radio, I knew that song by heart because it was my caller tune and the work of a great friend and Nigerian I speak with regularly. Before I knew it, I was in tears. I tried to hold back the tears but it just flowed. For a moment, I was happy that my driver wasn’t in the car. I was emotional and I was happy. The joy I felt knew no bounds. It had been a deeply emotional journey, one that I consciously walked since January of 2014. Every step was calculated. Every action deliberate.
What made it more emotional for me was that I was convinced on Sunday that the agents of evil had indeed succeeded in thwarting the wishes of the people and I had to prepare myself emotionally to accept that – a decidedly hard and difficult proposition. I knew I had to put up a brave face for many who follow me not to get discouraged, but inside I was struggling. I sent a BBM message to my wife with the damning verdict: “I’m officially DEPRESSED”.
However, to go from an extreme of utter dismay to another of euphoric ecstasy within 24 hours was perhaps a bit too much for my body to take. So, in the solitude of my car on my commute to work, listening to the calm soothing patriotism of Timi Dakolo over the radio, I finally broke down and let it all go.
And was I glad I did.
Now, change has come. We have finally got what we have been clamouring for. The difficult task starts now and I have committed myself to come out of my shell and be part of the agents invested in changing this nation. This means a commitment to go back to the trenches, if need be; but more importantly, a commitment to play my own role to be a change agent within my sphere of influence. To be honest, it has little to do with me. It has more to do with the future I wish to bequeath to my children.
As I drove calmly in the silent comfort of my car, I reflected on the heroes of this victory, and they are many. But my mind was centred specifically on the heroes from Nigeria’s social media space, and I quickly identified a few names who now makes up my top ten list.
These are men and women who made the difference on social media, especially Twitter. Many of them were not paid for their political advocacy in favor of change, even more had no official titles in the campaign. They were rightly partisan but also effective in reaching across our country’s seemingly intractable political, tribal and religious divides.
These people, in my opinion, are the heroes of the Change campaign and they need to be recognised and celebrated.
In no particular order:
Dele Momodu: @DeleMomodu on Twitter
With a Twitter following of over 350,000, he was extremely influential in driving support for President-elect Muhammadu Buhari across every age group. Uncle Dee, as he is fondly called, used his Twitter platform and his Thisday Pendulum columns on Saturday to drive home the intellectual arguments of why Buhari was the right man for the job. And boy, did he do a good job.
Japheth Omojuwa: @omojuwa on Twitter
Japh has shown himself to be perhaps the most influential voice in shaping social change in Nigeria today. His ability to frame the narrative is profound. For him, this journey started long ago from the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ protest to recent times. I always imagine that for every Omojuwa tweet, some PDP agent is skipping a heart beat. There can only be one Omojuwa and thankfully he was on the side of change.
Ayobami Oyalowo @Ayourb on Twitter
Normally, I wouldn’t have put Ayo on this list seeing that he held an official position in the GMB campaign organisation. However, before this, he had always being a voice for change even beyond the social media. I remember him leading several protests demanding for one thing or the other in his own unique and boisterous style. He certainly struck me as someone you didn’t want to be caught alone in a dark alley with. He is a true hero and champion of change.
Lola Shoneyin: @lolashoneyin on Twitter
Lola’s story is moving. Her dad was imprisoned under the military regime of GMB but she supported him passionately. Listening to her story and seeing her passionate support for the General, I believe, drove many to support GMB. The logic was clear – if Lola could support him despite her unpalatable experience, why not me? Maybe she didn’t know her impact, but her mere presence in the team was extremely symbolic.
Kayode Ogundamisi: @ogundamisi on Twitter
Kayode is what I would consider the FFK of the GMB campaign. There were times I struggled to retweet some of his tweets because, quite frankly, there were always outlandishly close to the edge. But in every team, you need someone like that. Someone not afraid to take the hits and the bullets; one who wasn’t afraid of dishing them out either. The smart thing was, he wasn’t in any official capacity in the campaign so his attack dog style of engagement was useful in certain circles. He too was a hero of change.
Kola Oyeneyin / Funke Tega Phillips on Facebook
Kola drove the Facebook space/audience. He curated and coordinated the ‘IHaveDecided’ campaign. What’s more intriguing about Kola is that he stepped down as a board member of Enough Is Enough Nigeria for him to drive the political campaign, especially to ensure EiE maintains its being apolitical.
Funke on the other hand was one of those that drove conversations on Facebook. Like her or not, you will always find your way to her page; more out of curiosity to find out “what crazy thing has Funke written about today”? She, perhaps, was the only one I know confident enough to take her campaign for GMB right into the Alaba market in Lagos.
The APC For Change Twitter Handle – @APCforChange
I don’t know the fellows behind this twitter handle but whoever they are, they were very effective. They basically made their platform available for anyone to come tell their stories of why they support GMB. Thus, change agents from all works of life – tribe and religion, came and told compelling stories that moved people. Those guys are heroes. Much respect to them.
Chinedu Ekeke: @Nedunaija
Nedu, as he fondly called, also played a unique role. Here was someone from the South East who, from the very beginning, supported GMB even when he knew he would be going against the wishes of majority of people from his region. I privately call him the ‘Rochas of the Nigeria’s social media space’ in the light that he took a stand for change when 97% of people in his region (as we now know from election results) felt differently. He truly is a courageous man and earns the right to be called a hero of change.
Gbenga Sesan: @gbengasesan
Gbenga introduced a new dimension to our electioneering that we were not used to – the aspect of fact checking. Leveraging on his skills as an IT expert, he was not only effective in calling out poll riggers like the Africa Independent Television, he was also able to use his skills to create platforms that helped drive the message. He is a true hero of change.
The tenth position, in my opinion, will go to the many change agents who, because of the constraints of numbers, I can’t fit into the first nine names. These guys are brutally effective. I’m sure if you scan their twitter analytics and consolidate the figures, it would be reading in the billions of impressions across several countries, age, gender and interest groups. It takes a certain level of commitment to micro-blog and churn out 200-500 tweets a day. But these guys did it, and to them, I dedicate the position as the tenth man hero of change. They include:
@aminugamawa – Aminu Gamawa
@DoubleEph – who blew the lid on Reno Omokri
@eggheader – ‘Egghead’ Odewale
@Karo_Orovboni – Karo Orovboni
@OgbeniDipo – Dipo Awojide
@aligthebaptist – Ali George
@rosanwo – Babatunde Rosanwo, as well as every Buhari supporter who tweeted, retweeted, posted on Facebook, and shared on Instagram; you are all heroes of Change.
This election has signaled a change in the perception of the relevance of social media. With the stats on internet penetration, the growing number of active social media users and expected increase in broadband capacity and penetration in the next five years, it is safe to predict that social media and the voices in it will play an even stronger role in coming elections.
Our challenge will be to channel that potential and capability into vehicles to effect social change. God willing, we will.