The social media seems to have caught and brought a new victim to its ‘sacred’ altar in Distinguished Senator James Manager of Delta South senatorial district. A picture of him, kneeling before former governor James Onanefe Ibori has virally circulated. And as usual, before the libation is poured, the victim is charged to court of public opinion, where sentiments and emotions wield the gavel. Thus, his case has been adjudicated upon in the last five days.
Since 2004 when we entered the era of social media boom, nothing is hidden under the sun anymore. No information is immune to divulgence. We sleep and wake up to online publication of secret information as sensitive as a videographic images of a governor, in an enclave, stacking bundles of dollar bills into his largish pockets.
This far-flung odious effect of the new media is not peculiar to Nigeria. In 2015, there was unprecedented information leakage of several “black spider letters” from British heir apparent, Prince Charles to PM Tony Blair urging him to make some policy adjustments that would arrogate him some allowance to expropriate certain influence in government. How it broke out remained a shock to the royal family.
This obnoxious ubiquity of the new media is not domiciled in the secular politics and social milieu only; it touches the religious circle as well. Recall the infamous Vatileaks that revealed alleged ‘corruption’ in the holy Roman catholic and apostolic Church within the Vatican curia. Many pundits believed the scandal remotely persuaded the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI.
To be fair, the new media has also been instrumental in combating bad governance around the world, Nigeria not an exception. In fact, it was so powerful, that mainstream media had to court it. Today, all newspapers, radio and television stations have eloquent Facebook, Twitter and Instagram presence. Last year, in my open letter to Prof. Idachaba, the erstwhile DG of National Broadcasting commission (NBC) in the heat of #EndSARS protest, for sanctioning AIT and Channels TV for relaying the social media live feeds of the Lekki massacre, I highlighted it this way:
“The effort of the current administration to obfuscate social media is a strong indication that our country is run by anachronistic geriatrics who belong to the stone age, and well versed and sophisticatedly educated men like you (Prof. Idachaba) should not be seen endorsing it. The social media has come to stay. It is receiving unreserved welcome across all orbits of human endeavour. In case you are unaware of the reality on ground, the conventional media outlets are configuring themselves to grab spaces within its pavement.
Very few people now sits in front of their TV, many stream news on-the-go from their mobile devices, Newspaper stands around town are becoming empty by the day, while their social media handles are getting crowded increasingly. Hard copies are rapidly being replaced by e-copies.
Man has switched off analogue era to switch on the digital age. It is called evolution, midwifed by innovation. The world is becoming molecularly microcosmic. You guys should wake up and start the plan to catch up! The new media, though uncensored, is helping the world in combating the evil of maladministration.”
November last year saw a scandalous video of Dr. Anthony Agbazuere, the Chief of staff to Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu in his office, spraying money on the Onitsha-based radical pastor, Chukwuemeka Ohanemere more commonly called Prophet Odumeje. The video attracted widespread backlash, considering that Abia was owing backlog of pensions and salaries, while he was caught in such profligacy. Agbazuere then had a frostbite of the unregulated new media. How that video leaked was still a mystery, but it must have been the reason for his silence lately.
And so last week, it was the turn of Senator Manager. Unprinted captions were given to the incident. It was just a mere picture but it spoke volume. Countless interpretations have been alluded to it. It almost diluted his reputation as one of the longest serving senators of the federal republic, in the ranks of Sen. Ike Ekweremadu and Ahmed Lawal.
Some said, the Senator was there kneeling, pliantly begging Ibori, who apparently, is a kingmaker in the state, despite his past criminal records, to anoint him for the race of governor of the state. Others said he was previously not in the good book of the former governor, and it may cost him his future political ambition. So he had to come ‘home’ in the cloak of a prodigal son (LK.15:18-19) to placate the godfather. But some voices rose in his defense. They argued that the Senator was kneeling in line with Urhobo tradition and culture which supports the younger ones to postrate before the elderly ones as an outward show of respect. An unnamed close associate of the Senator who spoke to The Punch supported this claim.
Why this ‘culture’ had remained obscured and gone unnoticed over the years until Manager practiced it few days ago is still a knot to many.
However, one thing common to all descriptions of the picture is that political interest was the origo of the meeting, and Manager is the suppliant. His concern now must be to unravel how it became a public knowledge? Who snapped the picture and who leaked it?
Those are questions for his image makers. We are here to establish that social media have raised the tempo of information super highway much to the dismay of our politicians who in order to achieve their self-serving interests avoid it as rodents avoid light.
Delta state’s politics since Gov Okowa took charge has been calm, thanks to his tranquil personality. The state has been off the limelight of political hubris till last week when Manager’s picture threw a wild hypothetic guess into where the rudder of next governor of the state points. Analysts are ruminating that he is keen on succeeding Okowa in Asaba come 2023. And Ibori maintains a political dynasty that cannot be overridden.
The coming days will unfold more on this, but what is evident is that political godfatherism is far from being eradicated in Nigeria. Since independence, only a few governors have had the courage to break free. Senator Manager’s body language in the leaked picture portrayed the image of a reinforced political surrogacy about to be birthed in Delta. Whether this is the case, only the future will tell. But in the meantime, social media roving ‘journalists’ had their cameras everywhere.
May daylight spare us!
Eze Jude Ogechukwu (B.MLS)
Medical Laboratory Scientist, a Columnist and a public affairs Analyst.