Governments have been warned to approach with “utmost caution,” suggestions that the use of social media should be restricted or banned.
The consensus at the recently held 8th Professor Celestine Onwuliri Memorial Lecture was that concerning the use of social media, “the positives far outweigh the negatives.”
The Memorial Lecture, delivered by United States of America-based Human Rights Activist, International Scholar and Pharmaceutical Executive, Professor Eddie Oparaoji, was on “The Role of Social Media in Human Capacity Development and the Development of Igboland.”
Another speaker at the event, hosted by the Professor Celestine Onwuliri Foundation (PROFOUND), a Nigeria based Non-profit, Non-governmental Organization, was Akwarandu I. C. Akwarandu, Executive Director, Vokal Digital, Youth Ambassador and Social Media Influencer.
The program, which held virtually for the first time, was chaired by Professor Epiphany Azinge, SAN (Elected Judge, Commonwealth Arbitral Tribunal London) and had in attendance dignitaries from across the world, including His Royal Majesty, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe (The Obi of Onitsha and the Royal Father of the Day), His Lordiship, Bishop (Prof) G. Onah (Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese and the Father of the Day), Iyom Josephine Anenih (Mother of the Day), Professor Ginikanwa Agulanna (Professor of Education, Imo State University, Owerri), Tim Elombah (Founder, Elombah Online news) and Professor Viola A. Onwuliri (Convener).
Dr. Chinemerem Daniel Onwuliri was the Moderator of the event while Dr. Jude Iheoma (Mbaise Policy Roundtable, Chief Program Director) and Dr Victor Chilaka, (President, International Liaison of Mbaise Indigenes-ILMI) played active roles.
Full text of the Communiqué from the Lecture is here reproduced:
THE 8TH PROFESSOR CELESTINE ONWULIRI MEMORIAL LECTURE
December 12, 2020: The Professor Celestine Onwuliri Foundation (PROFOUND) – a Nigeria based Non-profit, Non-governmental, organization, recently held her 8 TH PROFESSOR CELESTINE ONWULIRI MEMORIAL LECTURE, titled “The Role of Social Media in Human Capacity Development and the Development of Igboland”. The Guest Speaker at this epoch event, was Professor Eddie Oparaoji, a US-based Pharmaceutical Executive, International Scholar and Human Rights Activist. Another speaker was Akwarandu I. C. Akwarandu, Executive Director, Vokal Digital, Youth Ambassador and Social Media Influencer.
Others who contributed to the discourse were Professor Epiphany Azinge, SAN (Elected Judge, Commonwealth Arbitral Tribunal London) (Chairman of the Occasion), His Royal Majesty, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe (The Obi of Onitsha and the Royal Father of the Day), His Lordiship, Bishop (Prof) G. Onah (Catholic Bishop of Nsukka Diocese and the Father of the Day), Iyom Josephine Anenih (Mother of the Day), Professor Ginikanwa Agulanna (Professor of Education, Imo State University, Owerri), Tim Elombah (Founder, Elombah Online news), Professor Viola A. Onwuliri (Convener), Dr. Chinemerem Daniel Onwuliri (Moderator), Dr. Jude Iheoma (Mbaise Policy Roundtable, Chief Program Director), Dr Victor Chilaka, (President, International Liaison of Mbaise Indigenes-ILMI):
The lecture attracted a global audience, including media professionals, students, parents, teachers, political scientists, clergy, traditional rulers, legal and medical practitioners, engineers, IT specialists, human and women’s rights activists, community development experts, members of civil society among others.
In his opening remarks, The Chairman of the occasion Professor Epiphany Azinge, SAN discussed the life of late Professor Celestine Onwuliri, FAS, KSJI who he described as “A Nigerian genius whose work made huge impact on the community and country at large”. He welcomed all dignitaries, speakers and guests. He also appreciated the convener- Professor Viola Onwuliri for her steadfastness in continuing the legacy of her loving husband and touching lives through the activities of PROFOUND (Professor Celestine Onwuliri Foundation).
The Presenters and discussants examined the issue of social media, its ubiquity, growth, accessibility, pros and cons, and its viability as among a veritable tool for human capacity development and the development of Igbo land. After due deliberation, some critical observations were made as follows:
WHEREAS, In 2020, over 3.6 billion people were using social media worldwide, and projected to increase to almost 4.41 billion in 2025.
WHEREAS, the rapid evolution and revolution of the social media space, the rapid advances in, accessibility and affordability of digital technology, and the compelling need of man to communicate in a more efficient and effective way in real time, has skyrocketed affinity for use of this channel of communication.
WHEREAS, According to 2019 NOI Social Media Poll Report, of the over 53% (and growing) of South Easterners who have internet access, 90% use it for social networking, with 63% preferring the Facebook
WHEREAS, social media can be of great value in developing education, help in creating an integrated virtual Igbo community around the world, recalibrate our political and social mobilization processes, help in economic growth, access to healthcare services and even driving transfer of technology
WHEREAS. Increasingly many South East (SE) traders use social media platforms to communicate with their trading partners in other climes as well as use the platform to market their goods and services to the world
WHEREAS, the bulk of users are teens/youths, social media has made a new generation of skills, such as Coding, Digital Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Social Media Marketing, Cinematography, Photography, and Video Editing highly valuable and marketable. These skills are revolutionizing the old educational and earning models and young persons in Igbo land are not left out.
WHEREAS, social media has provided a platform to the pathway to achieving the famed Igbo ethos “Aku ruo Ulo” (meaning, investing more in the Igbo homeland).
WHEREAS, there is lack of avenues to teach and learn Igbo, such as Igbo language websites, podcasts, on social media to enrich our cultural heritage through the innovations of new media
WHEREAS, the poor official use and near absence of southeastern/Igbo politicians on social media as most governors, senators, house of representatives members and house of assembly members do not have verified handles for their social media accounts. Therefore, engagement with their constituents had remained very poor.
WHEREAS Social media provides multiple platforms to rebrand individuals, communities and the Igbo nation at large in ways that will be profitable in the future.
WHEREAS, social media is unregulated, subject to abuse, misinformation, irreparable defamation and prone to undesirable effects of social isolation, negative peer pressure and cyber bullying that may lead to depression, low self-esteem, suicidal ideation and anxiety amongst many users.
It was thereby resolved;
1. That the application of Social media tools remain a viable approach to facilitating the development of the southeast, economically, politically, culturally and educationally and therefore its benefits must be rigorously explored by government and the private sector
2. That the “aku ruo ulo” paradigm should be the subject for #hashtag activism online to raise the consciousness of Igbos all over the world on the need to think and look homewards for investments, development and expansion of their current businesses and economic concerns
3. To Establish a Professor Celestine Onwuliri Institute, for Translating developmental concepts to Actions. This will be a think tank of sorts where scholars, experts, practitioners can come together and think up the next best actions, based on conversations or outcomes of the memorial lectures and other scholarly activities. The institute or center will also be a place of pilgrimage that will bring innovators to Mbaise.
4. That the government should pragmatically approach suggestions by some actors who believe social media use should be banned or restricted, with utmost caution, as the platform’s positives far outweighs the negatives
5. That governments at all levels should create and expand avenues to increase teaching and learning about the beneficial and technical aspects of social media use and its application to local economic growth by increasing awareness of the beneficial use of new media tools by the populace
6. That politicians and leaders of southeast extraction should embrace social media platforms as a means of engaging with constituents and Nigerians as well, so as to secure their voices as relevant to the issues concerning the people during their time in office and beyond.
7. To Explore, facilitate and/or sponsor long distance learning opportunities for knowledge and/or skills acquisition through social media platform
8. To Explore and implement a youths/schools targeted awareness campaign on how to get the best out of social media
Signed: Dr. Chinemerem Dan Onwuliri
Program Committee Chair and Moderator
Dr Jude Iheoma Program Coordinator