By Ephraim Sheyin
The social media has been heavily criticised with some of its platforms banned in many countries, but Prof. Eghosa Osaghae, Director-General, Nigerian Institute for International Affairs (NIIA), says it is a powerful tool for societal growth.
“The social media presents platforms for robust discussions on issues, views and ideas with opposing views flowing side by side. It is healthy to have debates with fierce disagreements.
“Ultimately, a cross fertilisation of these ideas, the sublime and ridiculous alike, will fashion out a path to greater togetherness, growth and progress,” Osaghae told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos on Sunday.
He emphasised the need for Nigerians to prioritise national interest above other considerations while using the social media, and cautioned against the tendency to exaggerate perceived flaws to ridicule or divide the nation.
Osaghae regretted the influx of fake news, misinformation and negative perceptions into social media platforms, urging Nigerians to be more circumspect when handling issues bordering on insurgency, terrorism, ethnic relations and the “so-called national question debate”.
“It is good to have unbridled access to information, but a lot of it is exaggerated. Sometimes, you think the country is at war. We should always argue toward arriving at a middle ground.
“Freedom behoves on the user the responsibility to be ethical, reasonable and responsible. So, we must always pander to national interest and defend our country.
“It is important for Nigerians to realise that citizens of other countries read what we put into the internet. We must strive to be positive so that others can have positive impressions about us.
“Patriotism should always be the guiding spirit. It should always be ‘country first’; your mother is your mother, no matter how ugly.
“No matter how beautiful other mothers are, they cannot replace your mother. So, you must promote your mother and make her lovable instead of loving other people’s mothers.
“We shall help our country more if the social media is used as a tool for sober reflection. For the leaders, it can be used as a feedback mechanism with everyone defending and extending frontiers of national interests.
“No Nigerian should agree to be used as a surrogate for other countries’ national interests,” he said.
Osaghae also spoke on ongoing efforts to reposition the 61-year-old NIIA to achieve its mandate as the epicentre for constant interface between local and international affairs.
“We are trying to rebuild, reposition and reinvent the institute to surpass what had been achieved in the past.
“We have had our golden years but had to slow down owing to scarce resources, but part of leadership challenge is to diversify so as to broaden our resource base.
“We are building smart partnerships with the media, government, the business cycle, international development groups and institutions with similar mandates to broaden our horizon.
“Aside pooling in more resources, we shall be focused on research and knowledge sharing to sharpen our capacity to influence and shape developments,” he said.
He said the institute was also reinventing citizen diplomacy with a focus on making Nigerians feel more positive about themselves and their country.
“We want Nigerians to feel proud of their country because it has produced some of the best leaders in all sectors of human endeavour.
“Nigeria has produced the finest scholars, technocrats, administrators and diplomats in the likes of Emeka Anyaoku, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Prince Ajibola and Prof. Adesina.
“The world has also recognised our literary prowess with great writers like Prof Wole Soyinka, Chinua Achebe and others winning global honours.
“Nigeria is also famed to have led the struggle that conquered apartheid and effectively chaired the UN anti-apartheid committee to great success.
“In the John Biden administration in U.S., there are up to five Nigerians holding key positions. They got that far on merit. There is generally a vast potential waiting to be tapped in this country.
“There are Nigerians whose attitude is uncomplimentary, but that is just a distraction. We are a great people and should deploy our ethnic and religious diversities to maximum advantage,” he said.
He advised Nigerians to feel proud of their nationality and avoid being too critical of their nation as it was the only space they could call their own.
“Time has come for everyone to redirect the world to see our positive sides. If we do not project Nigeria positively to the world, it will be relegation unending,” he said. (NAN)