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Nigerian President Attacked For Insensitive Hashtag Campaign

No Luck For Would-Be Viral Campaigners

Making the occasional misstep in the world of social media is usually forgivable; to err is human, as is to tweet. But there’s a difference between accidentally putting your crush’s name as your Facebook status when you meant to search for them and conducting an entire political campaign based around parodying the plight of hundreds of kidnapped girls and women.

Goodluck Jonathan has been president of Nigeria since 2010, when he succeeded the deceased President Umaru Yar’Adua – elections held the next year saw Jonathan declared the victor with 59% of the votes. In April of this year over 300 girls were abducted from a school in Nigeria by militant terrorist group Boko Haram, who planned to sell the girls into sex slavery for approximately $12 each.

In response to the latter the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls began trending across social media, with everyone from Michelle Obama to Amy Poehler getting involved in the campaign. While the actual success of the campaign is debatable – no girls have actually been brought back as of yet – in terms of pushing the issue to the forefront of the public consciousness it has been unparalleled.

While it is thus far unconfirmed whether or not President Jonathan will be running for re-election next year, a group of his supporters have apparently taken it upon themselves to push the issue. Posters calling for him to run have been put up across the country, bearing the slogan #BringBackGoodluck2015 with concurrent activity on social media.

The campaign has, of course, been denigrated across the internet for its crassness and insensitivity. Twitter users have described it as ‘stupid,’ ‘ridiculous,’ and ‘an unpardonable blasphemy.’ President Jonathan quickly ordered all offending posters to be taken down but it seems safe to say that the damage has been done. The President claims that the campaign was not affiliated with his own office, but the fact that presidential spokesman Doyin Okupe tweeted the hashtag in August suggests otherwise. President Jonathan’s own response to Boko Haram has come under some criticism as he initially offered amnesty for members of the group before retracting the policy, then suggested an exchange of prisoners for the girls before reneging on the deal at the eleventh hour. The furore around this campaign has thus also acted as a reminder of the Nigerian government’s more general failures.

It does seem unlikely that the idea came directly from the top, however, which makes clear one of the many ways in which social media has changed the public nature of politics. While previously a politician would only have to watch what they would say, now a slip-up by anyone associated with them or their party can be disastrous thanks to the ease with which gaffes can be spread across the world.


Douglas is an English Literature graduate who has written about everything from music to food to theatre, now a content creator for Social Media Frontiers. No topic too large or too small. Follow him @DouglasAtSMF.

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Nigerian President Attacked For Insensitive Hashtag Campaign Reviewed by Douglas Clarke-Williams on Tuesday, September 16, 2014 Rating: 5
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