It is in fact a no-brainer that social media has now become an avenue where people slug it out. That is, given the flexibility of social media, people are quick to always post and comments on issues of personal and national concern. On social media, there are no rules. The idea of a free world is best expressed in the concept of the mainstream media. On social media, you can say what you want to say. Report and parade anybody and still enjoy some level of anonymity, and safety. It is no wonder there have been calls to deregulate the media. But what deregulation of the media portends for a country like ours according to many is that it might silence the voice of the people. That is, social media might cease to be the people’s complaints commission as it has come to be over the years.
The social media, which has replaced formal Public Complaints Commissions has been largely instrumental in the profiling of notorious cases. Mind you, the ombudsman which has its origin in Sweden in 1809 was set up to look into cases of social injustice. An online article link the genesis of Ombudsman in Nigeria to the Nigerian civil war. The reports opine that after the civil war, several atrocities were committed:
‘Arbitrary use of administrative powers was commonplace that those in higher authority wielded so much power to the peril of the poor masses… Rules of public service were breached with impunity…Citizens were living in pains of maladministration and misuse of power by public officers. For this reason, therefore, the masses called on the government of the day to address the situation to enable them to enjoy their rights and freedoms.’
Following the complaints, the Gowon-led Federal Military Government set up the Civil Service Reform Panel in 1972 headed by late Chief Jerome Udoji. The panel confirmed the different forms of injustice meted out on the masses and as such recommended that the government establish an Ombudsman to give aggrieved citizens the opportunity to report their grievances to an independent body that will be empowered to investigate such complaints.
The Military Government was indecisive about setting up an Ombudsman. The North-Central states (Kaduna and Kastina State) however took the bold step and established the first Public Complaints Commission in Nigeria on May 20th, 1974 under the name ‘Public Complaints Bureau’.
After the transition to democratic rule in 1999, the Commission was retained through the Public Complaints Commission Act
- The commission was empowered to investigate a complaint brought by members of the public against maladministration by public officers, corporate bodies, or their officials and other matters ancillary thereto.
But since the breakthrough of technology and the emergence of social media people have sought no need in referring to the Public Complaints Commission set up by the FG. This is because the social media is very easy to access and gives any case a higher chance of getting heard in reposts that can go viral reaching as many as a million users within a few days. Unlike the Public Complaints Commission that is befuddled with formalities and bureaucracies, and where cases can be swept under the carpet, the social media makes life extremely easy for people to use and limits the possibility of ‘hiding’ cases.
The efficacy of the media in this regard can be seen in the many cases that have been reported and dealt with accordingly. There was the viral case of a young undergraduate that was raped and hacked to death at a RCCG church in Benin. The case saw retweets and reposts in huge numbers which forcibly called the attention of the general populace as well as prompted relevant authorities to act. In less than a week, investigations were carried out and the culprits were found and brought to book. There are also cases where people take to social media to complain about injustice, hike in electricity tariffs, bad governance, poor infastructures, awful service delivery, amongst other public concerns as it affects individuals.
Notably in the entertainment scene, top personalities continue to take jabs at the FG for their failure to meet up with what they promised during election campaigns. The afrobeat superstar, Wizkid, is particularly notorious for always berating the Buhari-led administration. This has seen a repeated back and forth on social media between the Ojuelegba crooner and Lauretta Enochie, President Buhari media aide. While it is totally wrong and punitive to insult government all in the name of lodging complaints, it also serves as reminder to the government that they are accountable to the people who are the final arbiter in telling where government has progressed or failed.