Rotimi Amaechi sure talks a lot about social media for a man who barely uses social media.
On Tuesday, a news organization hosted a lecture about “The Role of Social Media in Socio-Economic and Political Development Of Nigeria” and quite ironically had Rotimi Amaechi as the keynote speaker.
Amaechi who is presently the Federal Minister of Transportation is, quite frankly, one of the least visible and engaged politicians on social media.
A search for his name on Twitter and Facebook returns a myriad of accounts, all of which appear to be a parody. Well, all except one Twitter account which has an 80% possibility of being real.
This Twitter account was created in 2009, two years after Amaechi became governor of Rivers state, and has over 260,000 followers including verified accounts like the official Govt of Nigeria account, APC Nigeria, and prominent figures like Ag. President Yemi Osinbajo and Lagos state gov., Akinwunmi Ambode. Hence, its safe to say this account is legit.
However, the last [re]tweet from this handle was in February — an article by Vanguard about an exchange of words between his aides and those of ex-president Goodluck Jonathan.
Amaechi has tweeted only 10 times this year, nine of which pointed accusing fingers at present Rivers state governor, Nyesom Wike for supposedly preventing the state from acquiring two controversial helicopters in January.
This is rather odd coming from someone who is ‘advocating’ the importance of social media in “fostering political engagement.”
He said during his lecture that social media makes elected officials “more accessible to voters,” but in reality, it is difficult to see how Amaechi — who doesn’t have a Facebook presence and hasn’t tweeted in over four months — has been ‘accessible’ to voters.
He also said that “so many politicians engage social media to tarnish the image of their counterparts.” A quick scan through all of Amaechi’s tweets this year will leave you with one impression — that he has it out for Wike. Whether that really is the case or not is debatable, but the fact remains that what he said during the lecture is not in total agreement with what is written on his timeline.
But, Amaechi did make some solid points about the role social media has to play in moving Nigeria forward.
If Amaechi was right about anything during his lecture, it’s that social media will definitely play a big role in determining the outcome of 2019 polls.
We saw how social media influenced the victory of President Buhari in the 2015 elections. And that was only the tip of the iceberg because the usage of social media — both for good and bad — by Nigerian youths has grown exponentially since then. Yes, we have the problem of fake news and defamation but politicians also have an opportunity to make their dealings more transparent and engage with directly with the voters.
As Amaechi has clearly shown us, simply having head knowledge of these things is not sufficient. Social media’s influence in elections has come to stay and only those who proactively tap into it will stand a chance come 2019.