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Conflict in Nigeria: drowning tension with an abundance of sms

October 6, 2010

Can a revolution be tweeted? There’s an ongoing debate about how social networks can spur revolutions: here, here and here, from The Economist.

Here in Nigeria conflicts are chronic. Provocative text messages caused havoc in Jos. Mobile phones as a tool can cause harm. And good, if the information is easily available and reacted to. The October 1st bomb blast in Abuja showed the power of tweet. Twitter allows users to send messages from their mobile phones. As elections draw near, more nasty things will unfold. Eternal vigilance, the price of freedom, is necessary.

A coalition of NGO’s monitored the 2007 elections via text messages. Something similar was done during the gubernatorial elections in Anambra State early this year. Much more needs to be done. Urgently.  There’s need for a huge scale up. A central hub that collates and maps text messages and pictures from the entire country. The news media and NGOs can collaborate with support from local and international donors.

Otherwise words of massive destruction will play on the politics of the past: divide and rule. Enough of that. Nasir El-Rufai’s contention is music to my ears:

“Simplistic analysis of the reasons for Nigeria’s problems of governance – that Christians are at odds with Muslims, the north with the south – has distracted the world’s attention from what many Nigerians believe is the principal threat facing our country: the disenfranchised youth, a government that lacks competency and credibility and a sense of hopelessness and despair about the future”.

“Nigeria needs a government accountable to its people that would invest billions of dollars of oil monies in power generation, roads, healthcare and the like; a government that would give Nigerian youth a channel for their genius – high-caliber universities and meaningful jobs.”

Nigeria’s 76 million mobile phone subscribers, and counting, must not be tools of haters, enthocrats, kleptocrats and militicians. Unity, Faith, Peace and Progress, that’s Naija’s  motto.

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