By Okoh Aihe
The title of this piece shouldn’t be insulting. It’s obviously not an invective because the fellow I am taking a ride in his Uber car has no reason to be rude to me. Quite a jolly good fellow, he was only trying to explain things to me, taking it that I am ignorant about his trade. In a very exciting voice he tried to educate me in the best way possible for me to understand.
You see, only three parties are aware of this trip – the rider, the driver and Uber itself. Everything is carefully monitored and managed to ensure that the process is foolproof. There is no opportunity for little tricks. The guys know we are here together. That is technology. If you don’t manage it well, it will punish you.
I am listening and looking at this fellow with some kind of respect toned with a little splash of amusement. He has no idea how much I have read up on Uber, the founders, the technology, the problems Uber has faced across the world where it operates and, in fact, the very peculiar problems it had to face in Nigeria just to have a foothold in arguably the largest market in Africa.
Yet the voice is ringing hauntingly, technology will punish you.
This fellow has very little idea about the profundity of his statement, which is to the effect that if you do not put your house in order and do things well in the way of the modern world, technology will not give you a hiding. Instead, it will spank you. Has this not happened in Nigeria in recent weeks when things literally keeled over, with heads down and heels up and there is so much confusion and untruth across the land?
As the giant of Africa which we love to call ourselves although we very much hate the other part, the poverty capital of the world, Nigeria only started to have her fair share of telephony from early 2000, and it has been a sweet song.
As I write this I am witness to the fact that most of the phones are in the hands of the young people, the very future of our country with little say in the management of their future, the generations that have graduated without jobs and those at school cannot make progress because ASUU is permanently on strike with government unable to have coordinated negotiations.
They can see their future up in smokes and nothingness yet the government does not understand the pain, hopelessness and desperation that follow the conversation with an empty stomach or what a future without meaning can instigate somebody to do.
For us to truly miss the signs that have been there all along means the wrong generation is in power and that generation which is characteristically antediluvian was working too far away from reality. We underestimated the anger in their body and the technology in their hands.
While the relics of a generation of power snored, #EndSARS was born overnight and the gathering of the people was instantaneous, like fuel and matches, romancing each other. Of course that is what we have done over the years by exposing our youths to the uncertainties of life. Oh, like fuel and matches.
Technology will punish you. Very painfully we reaped the hurricane of youth meltdown and the pain will live with us for a very long time to come.
It therefore sounded very hollow and ludicrous when, in the midst of all that fire and brimstone, say a near Armageddon, we still held on to the straws of Fake News and Social Media, blaming them for the trouble in the land instead of blaming the irresponsibility of governance foisted on our nation over the years.
It is Fake News that the young people out of school have no jobs or that even the few government jobs available are given to those who know somebody or sold outright to the highest bidder; It is Fake News that students have been out of school and that COVID-19 only intruded as an unfortunate intervening alibi; It is Fake News that our business environment is so stultifying that it drives away even the most stubborn optimist; and its obviously pure poison when you mix Fake News with Social Media. The result is alchemy of disaster.
Technology will punish you.
In March 1894, Frederick Burr Opper was already using his political cartoons to satirize a newspaper mogul who was raking in profit by deceiving the reading public. In one of those cartoons he was said to have used the term Fake News. The term comes with so many definitions depending upon your side of the divide.
At this time there were no computers, no mobile phones, and no tablets; none of these gizmos which define our modern life was on the prowl at the time. Above all, there was no Donald Trump, the president of the United States of America who seems to have recreated the definition of Fake News.
So while Opper would look at a publisher smile to the bank by practicing sensational journalism or just deliberately mislead for selfish wealth creation, the meaning today is totally different, some kind of psychedelic ventriloquy by some politicians who are afraid of even their own shadows. Whatever is not in their interest is Fake News. Unfortunately, the world does not rest on anybody’s head nor is erudition only for the politically exposed or the office holder whose reign is as transient as a mirage.
Technology will punish you.
Mobile telephony is enjoying a robust traction with Social Media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp and a slew of other channels just popping up every day. With a phone in the hand, the Nigerian youth has become a citizen journalist; he can speak for himself and for others like him who suffer the shame of not being born by the thieving few. R
ecently they spoke for themselves through #EndSARS and the tremor is still being felt across the land. The Nigerian government really finds it very difficult to believe or does not want to believe that the phone in your hands is a powerful broadcast media, taking you live into the world from your living room. Some of such broadcasts could be reality, others could be plain mischief. But it is the responsibility of government to eradicate those conditions that breed mischief.
Technology will punish you.
The Nigeria Broadcasting Code defines Fake News as “A deliberate misinformation of hoaxes spread via traditional broadcast media or social media.”
The foregoing ingeniously captures the meaning of Fake News from the beginning of time. The little problem is who is qualified to be the author of truth? Is it the government who operates from the platform of a political party and sees every dissenting voice as an opposition voice, the voice of an enemy or simply a wailing wailer, whatever that means?
My little take here is that technology is like a genie, the more you try to take it down the more resilient it becomes. Without jobs, the Nigerian youths have already been empowered with smart phones in their pockets, a development the government rues today. With bad governance and restricted access to the good things of life, those phones will be used to make life unbearable for government or for plain mischief.
But I think the easier route is for the government to be seen as doing something with the potentials of enhancing life in the country, those phones will be turned to instruments of praise, singing about a government that has come to do the country well.
Technology will punish you.
I hope our regulators are watching? As the American elections simmered to a crescendo, the President, Donald Trump, told his own story about a process that was being corrupted in order to deny him victory. Recall that when Trump spoke all the networks would be knocking each other over to take it live and boost their ratings.
But on this very day, without warning and without prior discussions with each other, some of the networks simply unplugged him on the grounds that the President was spreading baseless information without any iota of proof. Twitter had already started to tag some of his twits, warning about the veracity of the content.
No regulator in America has mumbled anything about government being embarrassed. That is democracy in action. They are simply saying that the President is not God but man that can fall into fallacy. These are some of the little examples we should imbibe so that we don’t have to always fight fire with petrol as we did in Lekki Tollgate recently.