OF ‘JEJUNITIES’ AND PEPPERSOUP-ING
Last Thursday evening, I stumbled on a satirical television show called ‘The OtherNews’, hosted by a popular comedian, Okey Bakassi, on Channels Television. One of the segments on the show featured an interview with the Igodomido of Edo politics — Hon. Patrick Obahiagbon; on his vocabulary and the Nigerian political quagmire. In his response, he claimed the people who do not understand his verbagogical retorts and vituperations are majorly (Nigerian youths) who engage constantly in ‘jejunity’ — ‘Facebooking, Snapchatting, Peppersouping’ and do not put in ample time for reading and personal development, as was the norm in the supposed Good Old Days Of Yore. He asks what kind of information, does these fellows get from the internet and of what benefit is it to everyday living?
Well, while I may slightly agree with some portions of his response, other parts of his commentary led me into an epistemological realm of sociological inquiry or rather dialetics (Socrates used a lot this in his days). The part I agree mostly with him on, is the fact that you cannot police or control the way an individual chooses to speak. As long as he/she is not rude, everything seems well and normal. I have written about that in one of my previous musings. Some persons may actually argue that — is he really communicating? That’s for him to answer, but for me, I believe every speaker should understand the audience — literate, semi-literate or illiterate — this should guide any verbal engagement.
By sociological inquiry, here is what I mean;
1. Has there ever been a supposed ‘good old day’ — a time when everything in Nigeria was really GOOD?
2. Do many Nigerians really READ? And, what type of information do people source for — in books or on the internet?
3. Does the use of social media platforms really detract from your knowledge base?
4. Are people more aware politically and socially than they were in the last 2–3 decades? Can this supposed level of awareness be linked to the rise of internet accessibility and affordability as well as social media platforms in the world today?
5. What is really the use of English language — for communication or sophistication?
Let’s do a quick throwback down memory lane to the supposed GOOD OLD DAYS — there was precolonial system of governance, slave trade, the partitioning of Africa by Europeans and colonial administration which led to the creation of an entity called Nigeria (in 1914 — amalgamation); and ultimately culminated in Independence (1960). Thereafter, the first set of post-independence elected leaders took the political stage, but their tenure was marred by lots of ethno-religious sentiments & clashes, inflated census figures, political/electoral violence, nepotism, accusations & counter-accusations of corruption and many other maladies. The first coup of 1966 brought an end to that administration; from then onward Nigeria witnessed counter-coups, civil war, oil boom & windfall, economic and social instability, extra-judicial killings, state-sponsored violence, corruption, foreign debts, labour union and students’ strikes, fuel scarcity, unemployment and a rise in criminal activities — prominently advanced fee fraud (also known as 419), I had to look through historical documentations of Nigeria — pre and post-independence (mostly documented in books and songs)- to arrive at this juncture. The older generation may talk about free education and some other things considered as pecks of good living in their hay days. However, historical documents shows that there were several problems, some of which are still with us even today. So, was there a good old day? — Probably depends on who is answering, for me, it is a NO.
Many Nigerians READ, however our reading interests and style of reading differ from the developed climes. If there exist a global ranking award, where students (citizens) can memorize passages from books and other educational materials in preparation for exams, Nigeria will be ranked in the top three because we are specialists in CRAMMING (Rot learning). Reading ought to increase knowledge and build up critical reasoning in the reader — this is clearly lacking in our system as even many educational institutions have killed the vibe of inquisitive learning in the students. People aren’t necessarily interested in applying the knowledge, but on certification because of the huge expectations society places on them. Recent online surveys show that information about popular culture — majorly consisting of music, entertainment videos, movies, sports, fashion and celebrity gist — are the most commonly searched for, on the internet and are more likely to trend than any other socio-political issue. No need to wonder why Linda Ikeji and several other entertainment gist blogs have more internet traffic than mainstream online news media in Nigeria. A senior public servant, Dr. Joe Abah, in his regular interactions on Twitter (Dr. Joe Abah) once noted that his tweets about governance and public service reforms rarely gain much traction or have viral effect on the social media platform, when compared to his tweets about marriage, rap music, relationships and other aspects of popular culture. And if you are wondering, if this is a Nigeria only problem — Nah,it is not!!!. Ours is just more obvious because we are not as economically and technologically advanced as the other developed nations with similar issues.
On the question of whether social media really detracts from your knowledge base — well that’s a little dicey and here is why. Social media is a platform like every other creation of man that can be subjected to abuse and also play an instrumental role in personal and societal development. While some see it as a platform to express their acts of ‘philitinism’ (apologies to Onye Nkuzi — @cchukudebelu), some others are there for various purposes ranging from digital marketing, socio-political activism, sourcing for news and information, customer service, advertising their crafts and wares and so many other profitable reasons. I opened my first twitter account in 2010 or 2011 thereabout. To be candid, I didn’t really understand and get the concept of 140 characters, followers/following and I eventually abandoned it at that time because of two reasons — firstly, Facebook was more popular and secondly, most persons following me were Americans (their discussions didn’t interest me at that time). During the six months ASUU strike of 2013 (it is a sad thing that the FG has still not implemented the demands that made us waste six months of our lives), I was convinced by some friends to try opening a fresh handle and they suggested handles to follow for information about education, politics, technology and many other things. I was immediately captivated by the level of intellectual discourse happening on the platform was really amazing and this caused a drastic decline in my Facebook usage. So, social media platforms have various uses and depending on your interests there are different information sets awaiting your attention. I do hope I will eventually download the Snapchat app for personal use in my lifetime.
Due to easy access to the internet and social media, people have become more involved in the activities of government in recent times. During the military rule, there was advocacy and activism by different groups and individuals. But now, even public office holders/civil servants try to weld a considerable influence and follower-ship online, with many of them employing several social media aides and qwerty-warriors. In recent years, citizens have found ways to directly critique and question government actions & decisions. Examples of such scenarios include: Occupy Nigeria/Fuel Subsidy Removal protests, UNILAG-MAULAG name change saga, Stella-gate, Farouk Lawan bribe saga, Tambuwal-House of Representative saga, One-Nigeria protests and more recent cases like budget padding & PMB’s Health status. Often times, online polls are carried out to help drive certain policies and certain decisions have been reversed as a result of public outcry on social media. Although, the social media is often polluted by ethnic jingoists, religious bigots and partisan alternative facts, which is a resultant effect of the 2015 general elections that almost divided the nation. This doesn’t detract from its efficacy as a source of public enlightenment and awareness. So, answering the question — Yes, people are more politically aware, but it hasn’t translated to massive political inclusion or participation in governance. This is as a result of the failure of leadership and underdevelopment that have besieged us, over the years and have made people develop bad faith in the machinery of state.
Now, to the final question of my sociological ramblings (or if you prefer, dialectics) — is English language a tool of communication or sophistication? As an aside, I remember a teaching of Mr Kunle Soriyan (a public speaker and`life) about English language that I happened to have attended in 2013 at Joshuaville. In his message, he spoke about English being a lingua franca — tool of communication. I agree with him, however, in recent times I have come to understand that society has shifted base from communication to sophistication purposes. Many individuals have chosen inanities like equipping themselves with phony accents, using grand words to bamboozle their underwhelming audience and even creating jargons in the name of American English. It is not unlikely for you to hear an OAP or watch a TV presenter in about three minutes of their program, use accents that are not only worrisome, but cannot be traced to the UK or US (perhaps of Scandinavian or South American origin) — in the name of phonetics and accents. In my undergraduate class at the University of Lagos, we had a fellow who loved to use big words that rhyme, whenever he wanted to answer simple questions. You would hear things like — I want to expatiate, interrogate, dispute and re-evealuate the subject matter — just because he wants some fellows at the back of the class to be ‘hey-ing and ha-ing’ at his Oyinbo. He met his waterloo in Dr. Kunnuji’s class and it was not funny for him on that day. People need to understand their audience and focus more on improving their vocabulary, use of English and audible pronunciation, as opposed to phony accents etal.
In conclusion, I hope someone would further carry out empirical research and studies on the several phenomena explained in this piece of writing. I also hope that people will understand that no generation is perfect and that in every era, there will be challenges as well as exploits — as seen in the rise of Tech startup companies and exploits in the entertainment industry of Nigeria. We need to understand this and stop blaming millenials or seeing the youths as being docile, because for every docile youth, there is one who is working towards making the society better economically and socially. Let’s reform the system, instead of the constant claim of a seemingly non-existent good old day.