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THE END OF TYRANNY

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For every intending tyrant; be it political, religious or economic, there is one potent instrument that must be owned - instrument of mass communications. It is with this instrument that the tyrant is made and sustained.

It is the media that announces the arrival of the would-be tyrant, painting him in the colour of a perfect being. He is robed in Messianic garment and made to look like the saviour of the people.

Upon arrival of the tyrant, the media will also be the one to sustain him, helping him to feed the public with falsehood while also covering up his attrocities.

In the world of a tyrant, the people's mind must be continuously manipulated. Only his own side of information must be heard, and even that side of his must be presented in such a way that his interests are not injured in anyway.

For this reason, a tyrant must have substantial interest in the media wherever he intends to operate, and this is usually done by investing heavily in media ownership and keeping top media practitioners on his payroll. He also sees to the welfare of their family members, including sending birthday gifts to their wives, husbands and children.

Whenever the tyrant commits horrendous crimes or civil wrongs against the people, the media simply look the other way. When he is to be made to answer for his crimes, the media take up the gauntlets, giving his case whatever colouration that suits their purpose.

It is therefore not surprising that a single individual in Nigeria owns the largest network of media organisations in the country. Apart from the federal government, which controls Nigeria Television Authority (NTA) and Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria (FRCN) with stations across the country, this individual alone owns more print and broadcast media than any other person and organisation, including State Governments in Nigeria put together.

With that conglomerate of media networks, the man has been able to assume the position of the Lord of Lagos and later extended his political and economic territories to other States in the Southwest.

To the media, this individual can do no wrong. In the world his foot soldiers in the media, he is a king that must be worshipped, even if he rapes their wives. His paternity, academic and identity controversies are nothing to the media, simply because the tyrant knows early enough that to be a successful tyrant, he must sit on top of the media and make the judiciary his footstool.

However, recent developments are proving this tyrant wrong.

Last Saturday, residents of Lekki/Ajah/Epe areas of Lagos trouped out in their thousands to protest the Lagos State Government's decision to start the collection of tolls on Lekki/Epe Expressway. The residents walked from Lekki Peninsula Phase 1 round about to toll plaza, carrying placards and chanting solidarity songs.

Some of the placards read; “Where is the real Governor of Lagos State?” “Why not toll on Bourdillon Road,” “No to LCC/ High Tech” and “No to toll on Lekki axis”

Others were; “No payment for unfinished road,” “Three tolls in one Local Government? Madness,” and “We will not pay tolls to live or return to our homes.”

The peaceful protest later turned violent when thugs suspected to have been hired by the Lagos State government attacked the protesters and men of the Nigeria Police Force started shooting teargas to disperse protesters. Several people were injured while one person was reported dead.

Interestingly, for obvious reasons, majority of the media organisations in the Lagos/Ibadan axis either kept silent on the protest or toned down its report in their news bulletins and newspapers.

A particular Television Station even devoted airtime to protest in Kogi State over the outcome of the December 4, 2011 governorship election, instead of a protest that took place a few kilometres away from its head office, in which several journalists were injured. To this particular television station, a protest against the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Lokoja, over 400 kilometres to Lagos was of more importance than the one that took place right under its nose!

But could the reportage of the protest have been different from how it was done? Absolutely no!

Reason is that the tyrant of Lagos was the one whose interest was protested against and his media network must once again do the needful – blank out or distort the reports.

However, if I were this tyrant, I would by now be asking myself whether or not my hold on the media is still working? This is because, even more than the media would have done, the social media made sure that every bit of what happened during the protest was adequately reported.

For instance, right inside my bedroom and on my bed too, I monitored the protest while it lasted. Thanks to social media like Facebook and Twitter.

At a point, a friend even called me to say may be the following day; the tyrant of Lagos would compromise Facebook, Twitter and other social media the way he purchased the soul of the conventional media.

We simply laughed over it.
The simple fact is that the rise of social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook is bringing an end to the Lagos tyranny as it did those of other societies, especially in the Arab world.

Sometimes in March, this year, Yuli Edelstein, an Israeli minister of diplomacy affairs, sent a letter to Facebook owner, Mark Zuckerberg, imploring him to remove the Facebook page “Third Palestinian Intifada,” which called for an uprising in occupied Palestinian territory. The page, created on March 6, had over 240,000 members.

Could anyone have guessed when Facebook was first launched for university students to share party pictures that seven years later, country officials would be writing to Zuckerberg, begging him to intervene in order to avoid a mass revolt?

Could residents of Lekki/Ajah/Epe areas of Lagos have thought that social media would be their only saviour against a tyrant, who has bought over the soul of the conventional media? No wonder, President Goodluck Jonathan choose his facebook page as the medium to write Nigerians to explain his position on the oil subsidy removal.

Isn't it therefore becoming a reality now that those who have laboured to buy media organisations and top media practitioners must have laboured in vain after all? This is because with the emergence of social media, manipulation of people's opinion by any individual or group is fast becoming a mirage.

Isn't it also becoming a reality that the “Jagaban Tyranny” arrived rather too late, and therefore will be short-lived? Perhaps, if it had happened in the 60s, when the conventional media and their owners decided what the public should know, the tyranny would not have died this early.

For all I care therefore, anyone can buy over all the media organisations in Nigeria. Let Editors of all newspapers in Nigeria be bought, in as much as Facebook, Twitter and other social media cannot be bought, no tyrant can control the minds of the people any longer.

Social media is simply bringing an end to tyranny!
Painfully though, it is not only the Lagos tyranny that social media is bringing an end to, its media allies will also die with it. And by the time the end finally comes, only the few media that are on the side of the people will remain.

Olayinka, a journalist writes in from Okemesi-Ekiti

Disclaimer: "The views/contents expressed in this article are the sole responsibility of Lere Olayinka and do not necessarily reflect those of The Nigerian Voice. The Nigerian Voice will not be responsible or liable for any inaccurate or incorrect statements contained in this article."

Articles by Lere Olayinka