The new African social media activist movement is a phenomena that is taking on a life form of its own. The bulk of these people are the youth. We are still searching for a means to use our voices to create positive change. We hear our frustrations summarized to 140 characters followed by retweets, favorites and ensuing rebuttals and/or extended thoughts to support the current injustice of the week. The topic goes on for a few hours or days and then we are on to the next topic. Back to twerk vines, funny memes and casual banter until the next uprising. We are almost habitual commentators with no real outlet to harness the energy behind our strong opinions regarding the myriad of socio-political issues that we collectively face. Today, it is Nigeria’s inability to properly tackle Boko Haram or a proper search effort to rescue over 234 young girls abducted from their local towns. Some blame the government, others fault poverty and so on. Then it is back to quiet time and daily shenanigans. A few months ago, I was lamenting the Agbogbloshie technology dump site that has left our people so open to all types of cancerous health risks. The dumping is still going on but our attention span has already gone past it, hung itself on Mimi Faust’s bathpole and descended back to dormancy. We are on about why our nudes-game is on the low, how to DM better… We know more about what Mouhrino/Moyes/Wenger should do to win the EPL than we do about why our next door neighbor still burns trash at midnight or at all. Those of us conveniently tweeting and facebooking about the issues from the comfort of our smart phones can usually go safely home to the normalcy of life. Some of us ask; “how can we channel this activism into real world actions and help bring about change?”
The disconnect between the youth and the people in charge is alarming. What most of us think and feel about our current leaders is far removed from what these leaders feel their obligations to the country is or should be. So, whether it is outrage about President John D. Mahama posing with an escort on instagram or making Tweaa jokes at a time when the economy is suffocating our people or President Goodluck Jonathan being vilified by the youth for his lack of proper response to what the vast majority of the youth consider a disaster regarding Boko Haram or the abducted girls, the fact remains that, most African countries and youth are very ill-equipped to respond to their societal issues in a timely and efficient manner. We normally don’t get any resolution to these issues at all. No one follows up with it and within a few weeks, all our purported sorrows and disgust are gone with the wind. We just don’t care enough or lack the resources and bravery required to take an organized stance against the leadership of our various troubled countries.
What we should understand and proceed to do is, without an organized effort and properly set agenda, we will forever have our activism locked on the various social media platforms servers and in time, when we have gotten older and look back at what we actively did to ensure a better Ghana, Nigeria and Africa, we’ll have absolutely nothing to point to for an accomplishment. Those of us serious enough to spark conversations about organizing are met with the problem of where to start, how to start and who to follow. Our efforts are in disarray for many reasons. The one that is most troubling is what I choose to call; docile cowardice clothed in self-centeredness. In simpler terms, we wish the problem will somehow magically fix itself or go to our favorite cultural mantra; “God save us, help us, leave it to God” or whichever variety suits our cowardice. How do we neglect these issues that are so glaring and destroying the lives of our people? Are we incapable of organizing ourselves? Any social change is going to come from unpleasant sacrifices that most of us may not be willing to contend with. Especially in Africa where most Governments’ go-to response to any organized opposition/protest would most likely be brute force and unjust jail sentences that will leave the rest of the protesters fleeing back to the normalcy of their lives prior to real-world activism.
The only other way is that we engage in the real world and partake in the political process. That means, running for various offices and public positions where we can have more than 140-characters to voice our intellectualized opinions to influence and create policies that will help in changing the dynamics of our countries and general continent. I am not advocating that anyone sacrifice their lives and die for the cause but our issues require sacrifice. We have to get involved politically, culturally and even artistically. Our views and solutions should be concentrated. If you are passionate about education, engage in that sector. If it is road safety you care about, join the power structure of that sector. It is said that, most of these corrupt politicians also started with these same altruistic values and got turned by the realities of the situation. I foolishly remain optimistic that there are Africans, especially the new age social media using types who will do the right thing no matter how challenging by not turning on their convictions that motivated them for public office.
Who is willing to organize? Who is willing to support an organized agenda? I saw a banner on twitter today held by a group of Nigerian young men and woman which reads: #STOLENDREAMS PROTEST. We protest against Insecurity, Corruption, Injustice, Unemployment, Bad Leadership, Hopelessness, Insensitive Leadership and Human Rights Abuse. This could be the genesis of a movement that gains traction and awakens the conscience of both the masses and those in charge if they can refine their goals and come up with a more concise agenda. Kudos to them. Now, I’m waiting for the Ghanaian youth organized movement to take off. My only excuse is I can’t be in Ghana just yet but when I am, I will write less and act more.
Any social change in the history of modern society has started from the people. Africa is unique because of it’s diverse set of problems, language barriers, level of education in the various populations and other intangibles like belief systems that have interfered with our natural evolution towards modernity. However, it is no excuse to sit back and just tweet or rant about it. We probably have the most advanced groups of young educated people in the history of the continent who understand the meaning of what our societies should and can look like. The task for us is to be fully engaged in the actual process of bringing change not just words and chatter. I continuously offer my assistance to anyone who wants to share ideas and brainstorm how we can even mobilize ourselves in the interim so we can influence the minds of those of us who are not as socially and politically curious. Let us not just be resigned to how many retweets or likes we get. I have serious ideas that I’m willing to share with any serious group of Ghanaians wanting to channel their frustrations into action. That is my PSA. Love.
PostScript: Marcus Garvey had his flaws and I don’t ascribe to his black isolationist views but there is a message in this speech of his that I would like to re-interpret: No one will care about our issues as much as we do and it should be so. It is very stupid for us to sit back and decry western media for not focusing attention on our issues when our own existing media does not even care to do their journalistic duties by probing for the truth and shedding light on these issues by querying our government and leaders incessantly. If we can’t take care of ourselves, Garvey is totally right in calling us a race of imbeciles and cowards etc etc.