While cyberbullying may refer to threats to people through the computer messaging, extensions of it are muscling out of other opinions from the public space, false social media accounts, deliberate publication of false information. They are all dangerous. They present threats to public engagements on issues that affect our lives.
Things get worse with media convergences that ensure these messages can cascade from one platform to the other and rapidly spread across various media formats to extend the damage they do.
Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, vice presidential candidate highlighted the growing role of cyberbullying in the 2023 elections when he addressed a youth group in Abuja. Cyberbullying needs to be stopped, he said.
Okowa wants Nigerians to be allowed to use cyberspace to express their choices ahead of the 2023 general election. Knowledge, he said, not emotions, should guide voters’ decision.
“We are beginning to see bullying in the cyberspace of our country, I think that everybody should have space, time, to be able to think, make comments without being bullied.”
It was a timely charge in a week cyberbullying hit new heights. Incredible retorts marked a video the All Progressives Congress, APC, alleged that Labour Party presidential candidate Peter Obi shared on the health of its presidential candidate Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu. APC does not tolerate questions on Tinubu, particularly his health.
The horde of APC cyberspace soldiers went to work. They ran through Obi telling him, among other things, that Tinubu was healthy as had been demonstrated times over unless Obi was too busy to notice. Others called him names that I am not in the business of repeating.
“The real truth is, our youths, particularly youth leaders, must be in position to have a clear understanding of things so that they are able to guide others aright,” Okowa had advised at the Abuja meeting. It should be worrying that the not-too-young are in the business of throwing loads of dissonance into issues around the elections.
Peter Obi is planning his assassination. That came from Festus Keyamo, SAN, Minister of State for Labour, and one of Tinubu’s spokespersons. Labour followers would also burn their offices to gain attention, Keyamo added.
All these are swarming the cyberspace, generating more acidic darts at opponents, and foreclosing issues about the candidacy of Tinubu who has shown remarkable abhorrence for engaging on the multi-layered clouds that veil Tinubu. The intention is clearly to be dismissive of key questions about Tinubu as they stumble to the elections.
Okowa is right with his position that, “If you have a leadership that is not able to provide that true leadership of guiding people aright and people begin to think in the wrong way, then you create further problems rather than finding solutions and we all go the wrong path.”
Cyberbullying is pointing to the wrong path. If it is not controlled, the hate speeches of the 2015 elections that brought APC to power would be child’s play.
Unlike then, thousands of youths have found the powers of using the cyberspace. They are hooked on cyberspace. They are fairly spread across the contending parties. For many of them it is also a source of livelihood.
Differences may be found in the tenor of their renditions of 2023. What is obvious is that none of them is willing to back down in upping the volume of the bullying. Must it be so?
Encouraged by pseudo professionals who have planted themselves in the public space with unbecoming competence at promoting hate speeches, constriction of the public space, spewing befuddlement they expect not to be queried, the youth are emboldened to throw more poisoned words into the fights, for that is how they see the exchanges.
Okowa is pushing for campaigns devoid of the distractions some use to avoid addressing matters as minor as the name of a candidate.
A proxy of a candidate who swore on oath in 1999 that he attended named primary and secondary schools tells us 23 years on that he did home studies like the departed Queen of England. Query this revelation and you get this type of response, “Whether you like it or not, Tinubu will be your President”.
Shouldn’t we applaud the ingenuity this ad hominem entails? Getting words out Tinubu will require a lot of tenacity. His use of proxies to address personal clouds around him is currently ranked as part of his repository of political sagacity.
Let us say what we want to say without abuses and hatred. More voices should join the Okowa campaign of elections stripped of cyberbullying and other forms of verbal violence until the message hits home.
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari seems concerned about his legacies. The President claims to have done so much. To his shock, those he keeps at public expense, don’t tell Nigerians what a President we are privileged to have. In case you think the presidential worry would result in punishment for those sabotaging Buhari then you don’t know the President.
If we can get court orders stopping our opponents from campaigning in our cities, we would have shattered expectations of engaging the politicians on 2023. There could be subterfuge to it too.
A panjandrum can obtain the same orders for a principal who doesn’t want to campaign in certain places – and generate sympathy for a flawed candidate.
ANOTHER Kashim Shettima revelation, Tinubu would rule with the hospitality of late General Sani Abacha. Did he mean hostility? Nobody ever associated Abacha with hospitality.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Isiguzo is a major commentator on minor issues