He is Japheth Omojuwa!
Omojuwa is a blunt critic of the Nigerian governance structure, practices and policies on Twitter. He can’t be blamed though, he is simply enjoying the dividends of democracy – free speech, or is he?
As part of my research, I track Africans who engage in political discourse online, and Omojuwa made my pioneer batch; understandably so too. For a self-described ‘ordinary citizen’ (that is, he has no celebrity status whatsoever) he has an impressive Twitter followership of 5, 408.
Omojuwa vents about the woes of the people with such nationalistic passion one could almost misconstrue for aggression (at least I once did). I decided to have a chat with him in order to understand amongst other things, why he has chosen this “strong and highly critical approach” in contributing his quota for a better Nigeria.
Diary of a Media Junkie, Flight D-M-J takes off in 2 seconds- Fasten your seat belts…
Hi Japheth, can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Joshua Japheth. I’m African, I love meeting people, I love to solve problems and I live life like i’m going to die.
“I live life like i’m going to die”, that is something a Political Activist would say…
I am NOT a Political Activist
Japheth, that’s what you come across as on Twitter…
I talk GOVERNANCE not politics. Politics as a word in Nigeria has assumed a new meaning that I do not want to be associated with in anyway. I don’t want to called a Political Activist because once people define you by a word, it becomes problematic when you want to do something outside that word. For instance, when as an activist you decide to run for office, people may begin to act like you have betrayed them.
I do not want to defined by any role – I am just me, Japheth Omojuwa.
If at all you need to define me, call me a Good Governance Advocate (GGA) *smiles*
Before I take you on on ‘Good Governance‘, you are perceived as an opinion leader of sorts on Twitter, trusted and respected too. How did you make this happen?
I am not aware of that perception. If it is true that I am respected and trusted, then I didn’t make it happen, it just happened. I would say it follows from the principle of value; value attracts customers. However, I do not see myself as a leader. I am just another Nigerian, albeit one who cannot be silenced. If am trusted that’s a burden I will not joke with, and if I am respected that’s a gesture I’d love to reciprocate. I just want to be me, Omojuwa.
What do you call Good Governance?
There are certain key elements that make governance good. Accountability (to itself and the people), transparency and responsiveness to the people, those are just to mention a few. A good government feels the pulse of the people. It is bad governance to say that “no matter what happens, this policy we must do it”. The act of good governance also has to be inclusive, there should be no cabals. It has to follow the rule of law and it must be participatory. Good governance is democratic on paper and most importantly in practice.
Nigeria and good governance are opposite ends of the magnet. Nigeria lacks those elements and that is what I am advocating for.
Omojuwa, let’s backtrack a little. Would you say Democracy is the best system of governance for Nigeria?
Abraham Lincoln’s democracy, that of government of the people, by the people and for the people, is the best system of governance for Nigeria. However, what we have now is democracy led by zombies and cultured by hawks. We need a people-democracy where the people’s voices and needs matter and count. That’s not the case with Nigeria today, and this is why I am so critical of the government. There is no real government in Nigeria, it is a cult-esque set-up of looters and killers.
What would you say the Internet has done for Democracy in Nigeria?
The Internet has not done anything for Nigeria’s democracy because there is no democracy in the first place. However, the Internet keeps the Nigerian people close enough to the world. Nigerians now read articles everyday that they’d ordinarily not read had there been no Internet. I see a future where the Internet would do more. Social media networks like Facebook and Twitter have been very useful to Nigerians recently, including government officials. Folks on twitter are more informed than folks who are not on it. You read an article every hour. That counts for something.
Reaction to my tweets everyday tells me that there is a big information gap, so when the people are empowered with knowledge, they are agitated. Thus, when an election comes up, they take informed decisions. You cannot change a people without information and that’s where the Internet has started from. There is more…there is always more.
Only a fraction of Africans, Nigerians, are on the Internet – how do you manage this gap?
Twitter is only a part of what I do. I speak at events, I get into cabs…bikes (commercial motorcycles) I speak to the people. Twitter is crucial to the cause I am advocating for because one is developing disciples that would go into their towns, homes and schools to spread the word. I’ve also been a guest on television shows to discuss issues like the ones i’ve raised here.
Is there anything you’d like to add at this juncture?
I just want to re-emphasize what i’ve always said. Change will happen NOT through conventional action, but active participation. I mean ‘conventional action’ in terms of what we’ve been doing- making noise and saying “we don’t want you guys “. Let us stop being passive spectators and decide to be a part of the political process directly.
Young people that have been able to prove themselves over time, that have proven their honesty and integrity, should come out and say who they are backing and why. They should also actively get on board to be voted for too.
In that case, do you have any plans to run for office?
I am currently running for the office of a female friend’s heart. It involves no rigging which is cool 😀
You can imagine the interview ended with hearty laughter.