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With more than 92 million Internet users, 15 million Facebook users, 1.8 million Twitter users and 3.6 million Instagram users, according to the Internet World Statistics, Nigerians are undoubtedly mastering the use of the social media day after day.
Apart from sharing their lifestyle pictures and writing personal posts, these social media platforms have also served as converging points for Nigerians from all walks of life to contribute to public discourse, including social, religious, and political issues.
Meanwhile, during the year, there were various events that reverberated around the country. From outbreaks of diseases to the President’s health, celebrity weddings and the capturing of a billionaire kidnapper, among others, the following — in no particular order — were some of the moments that set the country’s social media space on fire in 2017:
The year began on a rather interesting and entertaining note, with the commencement of Big Brother Naija 2017. From children to teenagers, adults and even grandparents, when the Big Brother Nigeria hit the screen on January 22, it quickly became the most talked about reality TV show at that time.
On Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, the drama and suspense-filled show trended throughout the period it was aired and several days and weeks after the winner, Efe Ejemba, was announced on Sunday, April 9, 2017.
Taking worship from the church to the social media for the 30 days in June, gospel singer and trumpeter, Nathaniel Bassey, started a one hour per day halleluyah challenge, asking Christians to congregate via streaming platforms like Facebook Live and Instagram Live and worshipping along as he (Bassey) and his band prayed, sang and shared testimonies.
The singer had initiated the idea with a simple post on his Instagram page on May 31, saying he wanted to start a 30-day midnight praise challenge throughout the month of June.
An estimated three million people joined the worship session across the globe via the hashtag: #HalleluyahChallenge, according to social media analytics firm, Evolve Press.
When Nigerians woke up on June 10 and heard of the arrest of a notorious Anambra State kidnapper, Chukwudimeme Onwuamadike, aka Evans, it soon became a topic of discussion.
The kidnapper was arrested by operatives of the Inspector General of Police’s Intelligence Response Team in a luxurious mansion in Magodo, Lagos.
From newspapers’ cover pages to the various social media platforms, it was revealed how the kidnap kingpin had made billions of naira through his activities.
He was said to have collected billions of naira and millions of dollars as ransoms from his victims, including expatriates, business moguls and public office holders.
Evans was charged with murder and pleaded guilty to the charges of conspiracy and kidnapping on August 30, but later made a U-turn, denying the allegations upon re-arraignment in October.
In November, he filed an application seeking to be released on bail and for his case to be given an accelerated hearing. In the course of the year, Evans became a household name on and off the social media.
The news went viral in February when Bankole Wellington, popularly known as Banky W, proposed to an actress, Adesua Etomi. The announcement came to public knowledge early May when Banky W himself took to Instagram to announce the engagement. Later in the month, the lovebirds held their introduction. The Internet went busy with the news. It was then a star-studded lineup when they had their traditional wedding in Lagos on November 19 and the white wedding in Cape Town, South Africa, a week after. The wedding had come a few days after Banky W successfully had a third skin cancer control surgery.
Several celebrities, politicians and businessmen too numerous to start counting had graced the occasion, which was tagged as the real ‘Wedding Party.’ The duo had featured as lovebirds in the eponymous romantic comedy-drama film, which was produced by Kemi Adetiba in 2016.
Twitter and Instagram felt the heat during the duo’s wedding, which saw the creation of the hashtag, #BAAD2017. On Twitter alone, #BAAD2017 had more than 11.5 million impressions, according to hashagtracking.com.
On-Air Personality, Ifedayo Olarinde, popularly known as Daddy Freeze, has surely offended lots of pastors in the country by the creation of the movement, Free The Sheepie, several months back.
The popular radio presenter had castigated churches and pastors who collect tithes, saying it was wrong for the clerics to collect such while accusing them of using the money to live ostentatious lifestyles rather than taking care of the poor.
Even though many pastors have come out to condemn Daddy Freeze and defend tithe collection, the social media movement has continued to stir controversies in the country.
On September 22, 2017, the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control received a report of a suspected Monkeypox virus disease from the Niger Delta University Teaching Hospital, Okolobiri, Bayelsa State.
A few weeks later, the disease had affected 74 people and spread to 11 states, including Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Ekiti, Lagos, Enugu, Nasarawa, Rivers, and the Federal Capital Territory.
Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the Monkeypox virus which belongs to the same family of viruses that cause smallpox. African rodent species are believed to be the natural reservoirs and play a role in transmission.
Naturally, the disease outbreak trended on the social media for weeks, as Nigerians started sharing tips on how to prevent the disease, just as they did during the outbreak of Ebola in 2014.
According to Google, Monkeypox was among the top 10 most searched keywords in the country in 2017.
Nigerians might not be able to confront the Special Anti-Robbery Squad of the Nigeria Police physically, but they did via the social media in December.
After many years of being subjected to intimidation, dehumanisation, abuse and oppression, the citizens launched a campaign to end the menace using the hashtag, #EndSARS.
The campaign had been launched and gone viral after the emergence of a video of SARS operatives shooting a young man in the Yaba area of Lagos.
With the hashtag, several Nigerians had shared the various inhuman treatments they suffered at the hands of the SARS men and asked the Federal Government and the Nigeria Police Force to disband the unit.
The campaign, which has attracted global attention, has also drawn responses from the National Assembly, the Presidency and the United Nations. The Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris, has also issued a statement, promising to reform the unit.
When President Muhammadu Buhari returned from a medical vacation in London, United Kingdom, in March after being away for 49 days, and left again on May 7, Nigerians literally lost their patience.
Though during his absence at both times, Buhari followed the constitution and temporarily passed his executive power to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, the citizens said it was time for him to make a decision — either to get back to work or step down.
Street protests organised by the OurMumuDonDo movement, created by a popular artiste, Chukwuemeka Oputa, aka Charly Boy, were held in Abuja, with participants carrying banners with the inscriptions, “Resume or Resign.” There were also street demonstrations in Lagos and at the Nigeria House in London, where Buhari was said to be receiving medical care.
Though the campaign became hot on the social media for the President to resign or return got stronger, he finally returned home on August 19.
Experts speak on social media usage among Nigerians
According to Information Technology expert and Communications and Public Affairs Manager, Google West Africa, Mr. Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, social media has helped opened topical issues for public discourse among Nigerians.
“It is power in the hands of the people. Social media has opened up space for citizens to contribute to public discourse and share information, thereby contributing to national development,” he said.
He, however, cautioned the government against monitoring the citizens on social media.
“You have to leave the web space for the people. Monitoring the activities of people on social media is anti-web; it is not good for public discourse,” he noted.
Also speaking on how Nigerians have embraced the use of social media, an IT expert and Communication Lead, Microsoft Nigeria, Mr. Yemi Orimolade, said many Nigerians had embraced the platform more than it was envisaged.
He said, “Prior to now, social media was used as a tool by millennials/young people to share content and connect with other young people across the globe based on their personal activities and common interests.
“[But] in today’s world, we see a situation where the older generation has not only explored these platforms on social media, they are also beginning to take ownership with regards to the discourse on some of these platforms.”
Orimolade noted that the fast adoption of smartphones by the citizens had also contributed to the social media usage in the country, adding that so many conversations taking place on the platform had shaped governance.
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