Months after the 2015 elections ended, Nigerian youths are still hung up on those elections. Nowhere is this more obvious than on social media which our youths have turned to a battle ground divided into pro People Democratic Party (PDP) and pro All Progressives Congress (APC) youths. So ingrained is this animosity that each group targets elected officials and party chieftains of the opposing parties and go after them just on the basis of their party affiliation. Things reached a comical stage when a youth attacked me for a tweet on Twitter and hours later was praising a popular youth for his tweet. Unbeknownst to him was the fact that the youth had merely tweeted my exact words but had not credited me with the quote!
These shenanigans makes me concerned for our youth. Where they should be getting closer and breaking down barriers, they are holding a candle for politicians who in reality are not as divided as they lead these youths to believe.
For instance, Senator Bukola Saraki is the Senate President and Chairman of the National Assembly today. He could not have been elevated to that exalted seat were it not for the votes of senators of the PDP. What does that teach us? It teaches us that all politicians are divided by a common interest which united them when the conditions are right and temporarily divides them when they are wrong.
I advise youths not to look at Nigeria from a pro PDP or APC perspective. They should see the country from a pro youth outlook. Their future is greater than a party. Nigerian youths should not believe and act as if the only options available to them are either the PDP or the APC. There is a third alternative.
This third alternative is patriotism.
I am reminded of the wise words of Mark Twain who defined patriotism as “loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it”. Our youths have to imbibe this wisdom from Mark Twain and refrain from saying and tweeting nasty stuff about each other and their religions, regions, tribes and ethnicities.
Those who engage in this do not understand that foreigners follow Twitter trends and when our youths are disrespecting each other’s ethnicities and religions, they must realise that foreigners do not see us as Yoruba, Hausa and Igbo. They just see us as Nigerians. I therefore advise our youths and indeed all Nigerians to speak of Nigeria in a way that shows the world that we value her. If we put a small price on Nigeria, we should be rest assured that the world will not raise that price.
We should not come on social media to abuse one another on partisan grounds. That to me is an abuse of the platform.
I am sure Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass, Biz Stone and Evan Williams, who founded Twitter, did not found it as a platform where we come to outdo each other in raining insults on those on the opposite political divide from us. Speaking for myself, I am on Twitter to release my ideas for scrutiny and receive ideas of other Twitter users for contemplation, because none of us is as smart as all of us.
Our youths need to understand that we are living in an idea age not an insult age. It takes interdependence and interconnection to create the atmosphere that inspires brilliant ideas. Our youths are short circuiting this interconnection when they alienate each other.
And I am aghast as to what to say to those elders who come on Twitter and fan the embers of division amongst our youths by retweeting them when they retweet insults and destructive criticism against their political opponents. Even worse is when they praise them by calling them intelligent for engaging in this behaviour.
We really need to watch it. Nigerian youths are beginning to define intelligence as the ability to come up with the most sophisticated insult and criticism. We urgently need to redefine intelligence in Nigeria. Mudslinging, cynicism and criticism are not acts of intelligence. Ideas and creativity are. If you are truly intelligent, you won’t be on Twitter lobbing insults on political opponents. Instead you will be tweeting ideas that inspire solutions to Nigeria’s challenges!
I want to urge these elders, who I have come to be aware are called Twitter overlords, to remember that true elders plant trees of peace even though they know they may never benefit from the shades of those trees.
President Barack Obama, Senator Hillary Clinton and former President Bill Clinton are some of the most criticised political figures in the world, but they do not use social media to react to the criticism they receive. Instead, conscious of the fact that their role is to set good moral standards for the youths, they constantly tweet uplifting and inspiring tweets which have the capacity to unite people. That is what we should do as elders in Nigeria. If we do not do this, we should consider that a time may come when those attack dogs have savaged all our enemies, and having nothing else to savage they may turn on us.
This is Ben Murray Bruce and I just want to make common sense.
• Senator Murray Bruce is the senator representing Bayelsa East in the Senate