Zuckerberg’s visit draws spats, flaks

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By Prince Osuagwu, Hi-Tech Editor
THE unannounced visit of Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg to Nigeria, Tuesday has provoked spats, flaks and praises among young tech entrepreneurs and some Information and Communications Technology, ICT professionals.

While Zuckerberg is now in Kenya exploring the technology ecosystem there, his Facebook platform is agog with comments that can best be described as different strokes for different folks.

Diverse interpreta-tions of and possible outcome of his visit was trending in different facebook accounts. The latest was between two ‘friends’ — Femi Fani-Kayode and Reno Omokri, who were in the media department of former President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration.

While Fani-Kayode was director, media and publicity of Jonathan’s campaign team, Omokri was his special assistant on new media.

Fani-Kayode had expressed reservations about Zuckerberg’s description of the Hausa Language as unique, Omokri, who felt the description was in order, confronted him headlong.

This is how it went:face -Zuckerbergface -Zuckerberg

FFK: Kerry comes to the north, and sees the Sultan of Sokoto, Buhari, and northern governors. One week later, Facebook founder comes to Nigeria, and says Hausa is a “unique language”, which he has included on Facebook. Think! Nigerians think!

Omokri:

Olufemi Olu-Kayode I do not understand why Kerry did what he did, but as for Zuckerberg, all he did was state a fact. After Swahili, Hausa is perhaps the most widely spoken language in sub Saharan Africa. That is why BBChausa, Voahausa, Deutschewelle and other world radio services all have broadcasts in Hausa. We must applaud what Zuckerberg has done and not cast suspicion around it. Doing so may encourage him to add other indigenous Nigerian languages as Facebook languages. That said, I appreciate a lot of your writings and suggestions. Well done.

The two after these, exchanged some agreeable notes but when in one of FFK’s comments he used the word ‘naive’, Omokiri felt that was to the extreme. He retorted:

You say I am naive for accepting, as Zuckerberg does, that the Hausa language is unique. Really? Hausa language is the only indigenous African language that is officially spoken in five African nations including Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Cameroun and Sudan. If your argument is true and I am indeed naive then you would have to agree with me that BBC News, Radio France Internationale, Voice of America – VOA, DW Deutsche Welle, China Radio International and Voice of Russia are equally naive, because, like Facebook, they all have a Hausa language service.

You may be right about the British/American conspiracy. I never delved into that and I defer to your superior knowledge of history and statecraft. My point of departure from you was strictly and solely as touching your insinuation against Mark Zuckerberg.

The mistake we in the South often make is to see ordinary Hausa as our enemies. Not true. The Hausa as a people are some of the most decent Nigerians and are to be differentiated from the feudalists who have retarded their progress as an ethnic nationality. What they need from progressive and freedom loving Nigerians is solidarity not hostility. This was the point of view that the late Aminu Kano tried to pass across to us down South.

What Facebook has done deserves commendation and not condemnation. Again, having said this, I must maintain that I have a high regard for your intellect and this intervention should not be interpreted as a confrontation.

Meanwhile, these are not the only two who went to Facebook to express concerns on the visit. President of the Nigeria Internet Registration Association, NiRA, Mr. Sunday Folayan, expressed his concern on his Facebook timeline on what he titled ‘Matters Arising from the Facebook Boy’s visit.’

Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg with Nigerian tech entrepreneursFacebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg with Nigerian tech entrepreneurs
Facebook Founder, Mark Zuckerberg with Nigerian tech entrepreneurs

According to him, the visit may just be another avenue of coming to tap great tech ideas that have remained untapped by successive governments. He gave several instances of how foreigners came into Nigeria and made the country to import resources that the country has in abundance.

He said, “With this visit, soon, we will import Ideas, and I hope the government will not convince us that we need to import a Minister of ICT.”

Folarin itemized why Zuckerberg’s visit may not just be another PR for Nigeria:

  1. They came for our palm nuts, we now import palm oil, but we still have Palm nuts in abundance.
  2. They came for our Cocoa, we now import Chocolate with Cocoa still in abundance.
  3. They came for our crude oil and we still import petroleum, with huge subsidy (now shifted to LNG?) while the crude rots in our wells and government destroys the micro-refineries in the creeks
  4. Then they came for our footballers, European Soccer changed pace, we now celebrate Bronze after Gold, and we still import soccer coaches
  5. They came for our Doctors and Nurses, Arabian healthcare became a marvel, nurtured by UCH trained Doctors and we can no longer boast of any center of medical excellence.
  6. We have exported people so much, that Diaspora remittances can fund all of Nigeria’s Forex needs, but with rent seekers in financial places, those gains go into private pockets and legitimate needs are not met.

“Smell the Coffee. They are coming for our Tech Start-ups and great ideas that have remained untapped by our successive Governments (apart from the Tax), even with the dead mantra of seeking other sources of revenue beyond oil. Soon we will import Ideas, and I hope the Government will not convince us that we need to import a Minister of ICT,” he added!

However, another facebook user, Modupe Debbie Ariyo puts Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria in her own perspective. Hear her: “In terms of PR, Mark Zuckerberg has done one hundred times what Buhari wasted millions of dollars trying to do with no success by travelling the world on a needless merry go round. In just one day he showed the world that:

*Nigeria is not ravaged by Boko Haram;

* Nigerian youth are not drug pushers and fraudsters but successful entrepreneurs

* There are hundreds of Nigerian Business start-ups to invest in, with potential for high returns.

* That photo of him jogging on Ikoyi bridge will promote Lagos a lot more than the (wasteful) venture last week in London.

* Nigeria is a safe place to walk on the streets.

* That Nigerians are a great people.

* We make the best jollof! Thanks Mark. That’s all.”

The tech wizard and seventh richest man in the world who arrived Lagos, Tuesday on a 3-day visit said one of the things he was most excited about his trip to Lagos was going to check out Nollywood, which he said sounds like a national treasure.”From everything I have heard, Nollywood sounds like a national treasure and the ability to produce video content that is moving and emotional transcends boundaries and will help tell stories of the amazing innovation, engineering and culture to the whole world. After being here for a short period of time I do believe that there’s no way Nigeria will not end up shaping what is being built around the world. Once people appreciate that, I think the whole world is going to be better of,”he said.

He met with some of the Nollywood stars including award-winning producer and director, Kunle Afolayan, Basketmouth, Rita Dominic, Chidinma, Yemi Alade, DJ Cuppy, RMD among others.

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