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23 Sep Written by  Japheth Omojuwa

The Age of Factivism

Today’s session at the UN Headquarters in New York offers one a great opportunity to lay the claim for the importance of citizens’ participation in government. Many in Nigeria assume that you can only participate in government when you get a political appointment but with the advent of factivism, the bars of participation are the lowest they have ever been.

Factivism to me is the natural evolution of conventional activism where we let facts, numbers and everyday realities speak for themselves rather than allow unbridled passion to get in the way of logical arguments for change. For instance, I have argued that street protests while being popular in the military days for obvious reasons cannot be the default response to a democratic government except we are saying we do not matter to these governments.

I think that in a democracy, fact-based intellectual debates and engagements must precede street action. In my own experience as an active citizen, all of these have been used. In the run-up to #OccupyNigeria, we made sure to engage the government on all fronts: we discussed on social media, we argued on radio and television, we presented fact-based arguments backed with natural fervour. Of course we hit the streets when we realized the government was pretending to be listening yet acted as though it couldn’t hear us.

The same will happen with the salaries of our legislators. There have been debates over the years about their salaries and allowances but the legislators have more or less acted as though it was not an issue. Now the streets are the next natural course of action and we are not just hitting the streets with noise, but also with the energy of facts and figures.

I am of the opinion that we cannot use old solutions to solve new problems, especially if these new problems are placing a demand on our society like we have never seen before and that is the essence of factivism. While it may be tough to expect a military government to budge in the face of credible facts and figures, a democratic government owes its legitimacy on bowing to superior arguments.

New tools of communication will be increasingly useful in deregulating access to information and the bar of becoming a factivist will be much more lower for an average citizen than that of conventional activism because factivism can be at play everyday! We will always have our tools of anger with us and those who see better than usual know they are powerful tools of change.

More than ever before, everyday citizens who care about how the government runs the state of affairs can actually have their voices heard. Gone are the days when we need to send mails to newspaper editors. Today, all one needs is a fact-based Facebook post or tweet. If we work together, align forces and focus our interest on genuine change, we will make change happen. Never before in the history of the world has information and power been deregulated as they are today.

If we don’t see these opportunities, we cannot use them. Those who saw them earlier are already making their voices count. The era of lone superstar activists should be behind us. If we want change, we must all do our bit to make it happen. Maybe we had excuses not to participate in times past, but those excuses will not survive in the face of today’s tools of change.

(The Millennial Factivism panel holds today at 5:30pm New York time at the United Nations Headquarters, Conference Room 2. It will be broadcast live via one.org/factivism.)

Dog