By Idowu Bankole
Executive Director at Vokal Digital Agency and Former special adviser to the immediate past governor of IMO state on social media, AIC Akwarandu, says Ndi Igbo need to harness the power of social media in creative ways to ensure the human capital development of its people.
AIC Akwarandu made the submission at the 8th professor celestine Onyemobi Elihe Onwuliri memorial lecture titled the role of social media in human capacity development and in the development of Igbo land, the former media aide showered encomiums on late professor Celestine Onwuliri saying the late professor was always mindful of humanity at everything he does.
AIC Akwarandu described professor Onwuliri as a steadfast man whose legacy transcends religious and ethnic differences.
Delivering his speech at the memorial lecture, Akwarandu stated that, “Professor Onuwliri was a great man who passed on 8 years ago in the service of this great nation, Nigeria. Eight years have gone, the memory of the outstanding impact which Prof made both in the academia and in the development of the Igbo and Nigerian society remains fresh in our memory.”
“I had the privilege of knowing Professor Celestine Onyemobi Elihe Onwuliri, and I can confidently say that in all dealings, he was mindful to serve humanity till the end. I miss his brilliance and modest way of life.”
The Executive Director at Vokal Digital Agency, Akwarandu duly acknowledged the presence of some Political bigwigs present, including the former President Goodluck Jonathan, Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Governor of Enugu State), Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah, Brig. Gen. Dr George Ikioumoton, Former Governor Peter Obi, Dr Paschal Dozie, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe and most recently, H.E. Rt. Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, amongst others.
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He said, “I am honoured and humbled for the opportunity to lend my voice at this Memorial lecture which has witnessed the presence and presentations from the high and mighty in society.”
Akwarandu noted that the memorial lecture has been driving force for positive change in our society, he thanked the organisers for putting together a brilliant initiative to commemorate the life of the late professor.
On the social media revolution and how it can be harnessed for the positive development of in the Nigerian society, Akwarandu stated that the “topic of discussion is very apt at a time when digital technology has caused major disruptions in every facet of life. A time when the big world has become a small village. A time where the invisible internet connects the visible world. A digital world; a world without boundaries; a social media world.”
Akwarandu stated that “Gone were the days when people must travel from here to other parts of the world for business transactions. In today’s world, once you are certain that you are dealing with the right plugs, you can stay in the comfort of your office to do business transactions worth billions of Naira.”
“For us as a people, the Igbo community must not leave her development to chance. We need to take advantage of social media to build a stronger and more developed community.”
Akwarandu believes that Human Capital Development is a process where individuals, organizations and societies build on the existing skills and knowledge of its members to drive a dynamic and flexible process of change. He noted that “To us, it is strengthening the skills and knowledge of the Igbo people and communities in order to achieve social and behavioural change as well as infrastructural development leading to a stronger and more progressive Igbo society.”
According to Akwarandu “Igbo land is physically located in the Eastern part of Nigeria but has a broad-based community located in various parts of the world. There is a saying that anywhere in the world you go to without seeing an Igbo Man, you should run back immediately. While this assertion may be funny in its context, but the facts in it are sacred.”
“As Ndi Igbo, we are known for our industriousness, resilience, hard work, intellectual prowess and rich cultural heritage. We are no doubt the commercial hub of Nigeria. The life of the Nation, and despite the challenges we have faced as a people, from the Civil war to date, Ndi Igbo have remained strong and unbroken.”
For Social Media, Investopedia defines it as a computer-based technology that facilitates the sharing of ideas, thoughts and information through building virtual networks and communities. It can take many different forms including social networks (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram), internet forums, weblogs, social blogs/vlogs, podcasts, etc.
Let me say at this point that the historical background of social media activities in the South East is one that is rarely recorded. Nigeria, as a whole, was until 1996 unable to afford the internet. It was at the close of the year 2000, that operations of the internet become more visible in Nigeria. However, the South East has conveniently been categorized as a unified Nigeria that has used this tool for its benefit. A study found that a larger percentage of users of the social media in Nigeria especially Facebook are the Igbos.
Speaking on the role of social media in human capital development and in the development of Ala Igbo, Akwarandu said “Social media has become a vital tool for societal development in the world and even Nigeria because of its tripartite role of informing, persuading and entertaining. Social media has the capacity to engineer social change and reform. The immense power of social media was visible in just recently in Nigeria during the End SARS campaign, fight against Rape and sexual harassment, amongst others.”
“The Igbo community, therefore, needs to harness this power of social media in creative ways to ensure the human capital development of its people. There is no doubt that social media has its negatives; however, it is our duty to harness the positive aspects of social media and utilize it to engineer positive change in Ala Igbo.”
“The question, therefore, is what role does social media play in human capital development? Put differently, how can the Igbo community utilize social media to ensure human capital development of its indigenes and consequently the development of Igbo land?”
“To answer this question, we need to cast our minds to the definition of Human Capital development which is ‘building on existing skills and knowledge. What are these existing skills and knowledge and how can we use social media to build on them?”
On Commerce, Akwarandu noted that “The Igbo economy is one of the most vibrant economies in Nigeria built firmly on the pillars of trade and commerce. We are known for our skills in trading and building sustainable markets. We have numerous successful businessmen and women all over the world engaging in import and export as well as a thriving Imuahia/ Igba odibo system which builds successive generations of business-savvy people. As a people, we can utilize social media to expand our markets far beyond its traditional vicinity while gaining access to markets all around the world.”
“For instance, in today’s world, the Igbo man selling electronics at Nkwo Nnewi can market his products and get immediate buyers through social media platforms. He can as well stay at a place, using social media platforms, order and receive goods worth billions without having to move an inch. Social media has become an avenue to promote, market and sell goods and services.”
“As Ndi Igbo, one of our greatest brands in Aba. Aba has over the years turned to an industrial hub where almost “everything” can be fixed. I make bold to say that Made in Aba products today have gained more prominence through Social Media. It is glad to note that Aba is currently holding a fashion week and this is amplified to the world through social media. Let us also understand that it is not yet Uhuru.”
“The Government must do more to fortify Aba to be a strong exporter of commodities. It is a fact to note that the best footwears, clothes, most of which are being used outside the region are all proud products of Aba.”
“Social media if properly harnessed can be used to attract foreign investment to Igbo land. This brings us to the need strongly to invest more in training our young people in courses like Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Coding, Search Engine Optimization, Photography, cinematography, etc. Some of these very neglected areas have turned to the new oil blocks in other climes.”
On education and culture, Akwarandu stated that “Ndi Igbo are known for producing intellectuals who go on to impact greatly on our society; taking, for instance, our Prof. Celestine Onwuliri was a renowned university professor of Parasitology who made landmark contributions to science. Prof did not only impact academically, He became a positive role model for many young people.
“Today, most young people of Igbo origin do not speak or hear the Igbo language. Sadly, most of them don’t have Igbo names. In some cases, it becomes difficult to trace the person’s origin in the case of any eventuality. While the Yoruba’s take pride in answering Adebisi, Adelola, the Hausa’s take pride in their Balarabe, Mohammed, etc, the Igbo’s in most cases are found wanting in “Name recognition”.
“Our culture seems to be getting lost as time progresses. Social media can be used to educate our people about our rich cultural heritage. In fact, I believe it is high time we engaged our young people, many of whom are tech-savvy to build a social media platform like Facebook for the Igbo community. We can have websites, podcasts, groups, etc. to train our young people on how to speak the Igbo language, as well as to educate them about our Igbo culture and history as a people. The truth is that a person cannot exist without their history and there can be no true Human Capital Development without true knowledge of one’s root.”
Indigenous knowledge is important to the social, economic and human development of the Igbo culture. We must know that this knowledge is in danger of disappearing if proper steps are not taken to document, preserve, and make it accessible to current and future generations. Social media is the tool we can utilize to achieve this. At this point, let me commend the likes of Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo, Osita Chidoka, Dr Chris Asoluka, Prof. Edward Oparaoji, among other Igbo intellectuals who have continually used Social Media to give key insights into our existence as Igbo people
Akwarandu bemoaned the low usage of social media among the Igbo politicians. According to Akwarandu, “It is quite unfortunate to realize that in the entire South East, I stand to be corrected, 98 per cent of South East members in the House of Representatives do not have a verified social media handle (even on Instagram where people easily get verified upon request).”
“As we speak today, no Igbo Governor has a verified Twitter account. The only person that broke the record of having a verified Twitter account in recent time was the former Imo State Governor, Emeka Emeka Ihedioha.”
“Asides Senator Orji Kalu, Okorocha, Sen. Uche Ekwunife, and a very little percentage (less than 5%),most South East members of the National Assembly do not have efficient social media pages. This ugly situation has not helped the region in human capacity building and has not helped in facilitating development to Ala Igbo. One, they have deprived the people of quality engagement and feedbacks, they have also deprived a good number of media-savvy young people employment. For me, this is a disservice to Igboland. Social media has presented itself as a tool to drive political participation, engagement, feedback, and gainful employment.”
“The failure to run effective Social Media platforms can be likened to the reason we see that barely six months after leaving office as a Governor, House of Representatives or Senator, most of them fade into oblivion. We do not hear them; not because they are not speaking but because they are not on the right platforms to be heard.”
“We must encourage our leaders to be actively present on social media not just for their political gains, but in other to drive a brand and a voice which can be helpful to Ala Igbo.”
Akwarandu listed what he calls the “ugly side” of social media which include:
•Social media can be a tool for dissemination of fake information as we have seen in recent times when Covid -19 started. There were false health statistics; false cures for Covid 19, etc. Even in the recent End SARS campaign, both the Government and the People used Social Media to incite themselves, thereby derailing from the purport of the very successful protest. This particular action led to hoodlums hijacking the protest.
•Social Media can lead to poor time management, laziness, mental health issues; thus reducing work place and academic productivity.
•Social Media has created a new level of insecurity. For example, fraudsters have made billions of naira through duping innocent people on the platform. These are done through creating of fake accounts and other dubious means.
•Social Media can pressure our people, especially the youths to adopt lifestyles choices that are detrimental to their moral and cultural upbringing. This is especially so when they find role models in the wrong places.
However, despite all these, social media is here to stay. Our duty is to utilize the positive aspects of social media and guard against the negatives. If not properly utilized, Social media can hamper human development and we must not allow this to happen under our watch. Our people say ‘Ọ bụ otú azụ ahụ nwere ọkpụkpụ nwekwara uru, ọ dị zi gị ị wepụ ọkpụkpụ rie uru dị n’ ya.’ (It is the same fish that has a bone that also has flesh. It is left for you to take out the bone and eat the flesh in it)
Akwarandu enjoins NdiIgbo to forces to encourage the people especially the youths to explore positive opportunities which social media has provided.
“We must encourage them not only to show capacity but also to build capacity. There is a saying attributed to Jonas Salk; ‘Good parents give their children both roots and wings’. Social media when properly channelled is the wing that can allow us to fly boldly into the digital future as individuals and as a society.” He said.