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Chasing clout: A dangerous new addiction

For some time now, I have been interested in how spaces, in their various iterations and nature, influence behaviour. It is this curiosity that inspired…

For some time now, I have been interested in how spaces, in their various iterations and nature, influence behaviour. It is this curiosity that inspired my third book, Dreams and Assorted Nightmares, a series of interconnected short stories in which all the characters exist in a town called Zango, which takes ownership of these characters as much as they take ownership of it.

From my experience, people occupying different spaces are influenced by these spaces and modify their behaviour accordingly in the way for instance, where a man lionized in Maitama is docile in Karu. 

One of these spaces that significantly transforms a person’s character is perhaps social media.

This week, for instance, we have seen the culmination of people occupying social media spaces behaving rather badly, in ways that have been contrary to their nature in the other spaces that they occupy. Social media is that space in which chickens sometimes come out as lions, men as women and vice versa and the most mundane boring characters hold the attention of an entire country with carefully curated content. It is all light and shadow on those digital streets, I tell you.

Take the case of Ameerah Sufyan, for instance. Before last week, not many people knew who she was and the few who did thought she was, as one of them said, “the smartest person,” he or she knows. 

When she tweeted that she alongside over a dozen others have been abducted from her home in Abuja by the police and are being transported to a location in either Ibadan or Ikeja, the nation was incensed and hopefully. And because Ameerah, who claimed she had managed to keep her phone hidden from her abductors, was tweeting live updates about her location there was a lot of interest in her case.

The whole thing played out like a mini soap opera, and trust me, Nigerians love their drama so we all lapped it up. Most people anyway. I was suffering from what I think was compassion fatigue—you know that debilitating state of helplessness that comes with a recurring  series of events that you can’t really change, that leaves you frustrated, hopeless and just tired. I didn’t follow her kidnap drama because I didn’t want to witness another Nigerian disappearing into the wilderness of kidnapping.

But Nigerians got really invested in the Ameerah story, perhaps also because she described the abductors as policemen, down to their ethnicity—four Yoruba men and two Fulani.

The much-maligned police, everybody’s usual suspect and as the Hausa people say, the short fence everyone loves scaling—not forgetting they have failed to solve the assassinations of prominent Nigerians like Bola Ige, Dele Giwa, Chuba Okadigbo, Harry Marshall, not to talk of ordinary Nigerians—well these guys stepped up and tracked down Ameerah and lo and behold, she had in fact reported a self-kidnap, not at gunpoint but at the point of a phallus, if the rumours are to be believed. Whether she had gone off to a rump with her boyfriend, as is being claimed, and had faked the kidnap story to throw her father, reputed to be a decent, revered cleric, she had ended up casting herself in a light that is far from complimentary.

She has returned to Twitter to tender an apology to Nigerians, saying that she had taken herself to those places, starved and dehydrated herself for four days for reasons no one is sure of.

As if that scandal was not enough, the shenanigans of one Zahra Mansur, who happens to be one Musa L. Maje, created a lot of drama on Facebook. There are reports that this Zahra Mansur, or the social media doppelganger operating or cloning her social media profile has been scamming people, some wanting sexual gratifications, others with legitimate businesses or social concerns. Reports were made to the police and Mr. Maje was arrested posing as Ms Mansur on Facebook, soliciting nude pictures from men and then blackmailing them, among other things.

The list of victims, those whose compromising photos were said to have been found in possession of the scammer is said to make for impressive reading.

While the real Ms Mansur, who the police said had filed a report of impersonation, is still busy posting videos online and Mr Maje is cooling his heels in a police cell, there are questions being asked about the antics of the real Ms Mansur, who has also been accused of soliciting and collecting money on fraudulent grounds.

It all looks like a good and proper mess out there, one that requires some serious entanglement by the police who are investigating the issue.

But if anything demonstrates how spaces transform people, it is this catfishing scandal where people take on a different persona.

There was also the case of a certain Toyosi, who alleged that she had been raped, listed the phone numbers of her alleged rapist and then after a social media mob had been unleashed on this man, she recanted, saying she was chasing social media clout as if it were some kind of new drug people got high on. 

The same thing happened when a proper boob, whose name I can’t readily recall, went on Facebook to tell a story of how he is entrusted with a minor by his neighbours who had to travel and how he had designs to rape the child. Why a grown man would think of something like that is beyond me, why he would go ahead and type this on Facebook and laugh about it, is a proper headscratch. Yet, when angry Nigerians on social media confronted him and after threats, he offhandedly claimed it was a joke meant to “chase clout” or “catch cruise.”

If clout chasing is the new rave, there has to be creative ways to deal with these problems. Some jokes are too expensive to pull on the people of a country already living on frayed nerves.

For such asinine creative rascality, the law needs to find creative ways like the judges in Osun who sentenced internet fraudsters to eight months of community service. Their specific roles would be to wash the toilets of designated schools in the state for the duration of their sentence.

Knowing the state of public schools in the country and especially the state of the toilets of public schools, my God, I almost feel sorry for those convicts.

It is a commensurate punishment for their crimes and I think it is fair that those who take advantage of social media to get high or chase clout, as they call it should be made to understand the consequences of their actions and that having a phone and data and a right to post whatever one wishes does not preclude a sense of responsibility.


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