I was in a conversation with my 'second mum', who relocated to the United States three years ago, about the lifestyle of the Americans and how it’s so different from her experience in Nigeria.
She was bewildered by the non-existence of communal living in her new country of residence.
“Dami, you won’t believe it,” she told me. She then went ahead to narrate how a thief tried to steal a purse from a couple at the bus station and people watched on, offering no help to the couple.
“The guy snatched the purse from the girlfriend,” she narrated to me “but fell down as he tried to get off the bus. The boyfriend caught up with him and collected the purse from him. He stood up and got the purse back, then the two men, including the lady, began to drag.” As the couples tried to get their purse from the thief, passersby did nothing, “everyone was just minding their business” she said before adding, “this cannot happen in Nigeria”.
Of course, that would not happen in Nigeria. The thief if not mobbed, would receive the beating of his life, never again would he try to steal in broad daylight. The moment he fell would have been the minute nemesis caught up with him. If he got up, it would be to beg, not to reclaim his theft booty. I should say that this is not an approval of jungle justice— which is a terrible act and must be discouraged— but rather an idea that Nigerians are indeed their brother’s keepers.
My mum told me different stories of individualist lifestyle of Americans. “If someone falls and you rushed to help. She could say it was when you tried to help her up that her waist snapped. She will sue you... everything is ‘sue and sue’ in this country. If she wants to fall, better let her fall and get up by herself.”
As she told me these stories, I thought to myself “Donald Trump’s country is the real shit hole place”. How can one not help when another human being is in danger or be fearful of helping others because you can be slammed with a lawsuit? I was going to do an opinion, extolling our communal living over American ‘mind-your-business-I-mind-mine’ kind of lifestyle, but in a twist of the plan, IGP transmission video happened, which forced me to reassess my earlier position.
The cyberspace is becoming a theater of monsters, where people sit behind keyboards to bully, demonize, harass and humiliate others— with no thought of their feelings. Social media— as much as it can be a positive space— is also taking from us the human face. We let ‘likes and retweets’ take over our humanity and the instinct to defend one another— to be our brother’s keepers. Twitter is the headquarters of this savage world. I tell you if you want to be depressed for the rest of your life, be unfortunate to make a tweet that attracts bullies and trolls on twitter. Oh, my!
So, it was not surprising that the transmission video was uploaded on Twitter by “Voice of Liberty”. I still wonder what the handler of the account considered liberating in a video intended to mock and ridicule. The most worrisome, however, is how Nigerians jumped on the video— which was doctored to exaggerate the errors. No questions asked, tweeps launched at the video, viciously sharing and making demeaning comments.
The video won’t be the first time Ibrahim Idris would be making a speech— with or without a script. He might not be a great public speaker, but he had in the past given speeches effortlessly. That should tell a discerning mind that there is a mischief maker somewhere. Let’s even assume that the intention of uploading the video was noble, what’s the big deal? People make mistakes and that’s because they are human. If the case were that Idris was famous for making incoherent speeches, it would have been different.
When I saw the video, about 11:47 pm on Thursday, I went online to search for more videos of the IGP because I needed to be sure if it was a one-time error or a regular occurrence. Although, I observed the IGP is more relaxed when he addressed without a prepared script, but I never saw where he could not read his speech as seen in the viral video.
A lot of things could have been responsible for the reading difficulties we saw in the video. Maybe he was tired, or distracted— has a lot on his mind that would not allow him to focus. These are possibilities but casting aspersions on his ability to read or write because of a one-time error tells more of what we are as a people— under the protection of Twitter handles— than reveal deficiency of a man. I also do not believe the impromptu medical doctors suggesting that the IGP might be suffering from dyslexia, a kind of reading disorder. Dyslexia is not stomachache that can be prompted by a bad food. It is mostly found in children and if found in adults, it would have been caused by traumatic brain injury, stroke or dementia— unlikely that the IGP suffered any of these before the speech incident. People don’t sleep and just wake up with dyslexia. The uneventful speech incident was a harmless error, embarrassing enough for the IGP.
While I am all for witty tweets and jokes on social media, the rate at which the internet is eroding us of empathy is disturbing. Before you launch a tweet, can you just question it, maybe you would not need to join the bandwagon.