How social media can be used to increase reach and drive engagement during Odenigbo Lectures in Owerri


This year’s 2014 Archdiocesan day celebration has come and gone but the memories and impact it has made on so many participants especially first time participants will linger for a very long time.

Talking of first timers, I am one of them. I have always had the desire to participate but one reason or another have always made me miss attending.

However, this year, I made a personal promise and decision to myself to attend the two days event no matter what happens. I never regretted that decision.

My decision was partly because I had a burning desire to see and also be part of the effort to sustain this my great mother tongue, Igbo language! My dear language!

I also went because I wanted to write about it

Another major reason I decided to participate was because I realize to my annoyance that I don’t naturally speak and flow with Igbo language without adding English! So I desperately needed to be among people who still believed and valued the Igbo language.

The experience? I think it’s an article for another day. But simply put, it was breathless. I couldn’t leave the venue on the first night until the closing prayer was said. I have also never been so happy and proud to be Igbo. An assortment of very creative and wonderful presentations all pleading for sustenance of the Igbo language and also centered on the theme for this year’s lecture: Ochichi Oma: Olileanya ohaneze.

I was especially impressed by the presentation from St Thomas Aquinas Catholic Chaplaincy, FUTO and to think that one of the wonderful songs they presented was composed by a 300 level student of the institution is another source of inspiration and challenge to me. I was overly excited when I watched a group of youths from the Anglican community make their presentation. What a show of brotherliness and maturity of mind from the organizers and His Grace, Most Rev Dr. AJV Obinna. Their presentation was equally insightful and challenging and also pleaded for the Igbo language, culture and traditions to be resurrected and sustained. A saying in Igbo translates that “It is not good for one to become or answer a bad name he is called”. It has been stated sometime that the Igbo language will go extinct 50 years from now. God forbid this ever to happen!

I wish to commend the efforts of Igbos in diaspora who make conscious efforts not to forget their mother tongue. Igbo language will never be extinct! I also wish to commend the initiators of the Ozisa and Igbo Ekulie newspapers that are printed solely in Igbo language.

The second and main day of the program was also wonderful as the lecturer (Odee), Professor Nwajiuba Chinedu did justice to the topic of the lecture series which was largely focused on good leadership. This topic was really needed as the 2015 elections draw near with its associated beehive of activities that are most times, not people oriented and rarely aimed at sustainable community and social development. I pray it will serve as eye opener and source of challenge to all political aspirants who participated.

Saying the event planners did an excellent job is just being subtle. The organization was superb.

All these having been said however, my major concern and area of contention is the reach of the program. I must salute the efforts of the organizers in bringing in a local radio station, Orient FM, which aided the event to reach as far as possible. I followed the lecture with my radio until I got to the venue on the lecture day.

Despite their efforts of the radio station to bring the lecture to those who couldn’t make it as a result of proximity issues, I still have issues with the reach of the program. I want to believe that no Igbo person in other parts of Nigeria will be able to follow this event not to talk of those in other parts of the world. This is regardless of the program being aired on TV later or its DVD brought out. There is nothing like live participation even if it’s just live pictures and extracts from the event venue.

Are there no Igbo men, women and young people who will be overly excited and willing to be part of this event? I strongly believe there are. I currently have a friend in the US who is always asking me to teach her the Igbo language. Always making sentences and asking for corrections. I don’t believe this is an isolated case. There must be thousands of others who are dying to hear someone say even ‘bia’ to them in the midst of the foreign language and cultures they see and hear on a daily basis.

I never studied computer science but I am a great fan and ICT enthusiast. I am also a great fan of social media and its applications to drive social change instead of using it for things that add no value to people. It’s sad what my fellow young people use social media to do these days. People are busy making millions of Naira and Dollars from it every single second while others are busy chatting and updating their new clothes and exposing their emptiness and shallowness.

I was very happy and excited when I saw on the leader newspaper that His Grace now had a twitter handle, I immediately started following him so that I can benefit from his immense wealth of knowledge. I was however not very happy on the discovery that it is not very much active anymore. I would like to use this medium to encourage the managers of that handle to pick it up again. There is an overload of poor and unreliable information flying around everywhere especially the internet. It is therefore invaluable when you can find one that is to be trusted to disseminate accurate information especially on religion.

ICT, internet, social media have all come to stay whether we like it or not. It’s now left for us to make maximum use of it in our different fields of endeavor. In this case, it is evangelism and promotion of Igbo language. The Pope preaches and practices this. His English twitter handle, @pontifex is currently followed by 4.4miilion people! It means that number of people get to benefit from His blessings, proclamations and knowledge each time he sends out a single tweet. They don’t have to wait for his Sunday mass or Angelus to do this. His last tweet read “The Lord is always there waiting to give us his love: it is an amazing thing, one which never ceases to surprise us!”. Imagine reading that on a day you are feeling sad and disappointed.

An interesting thing about these new media tools or digital tools (as they are called by those in that field) is that they are absolutely FREE! Imagine reaching 4.4 million people worldwide absolutely free of charge! Compare that to going to CNN or BBC to do just that. You don’t want to imagine that.

Now let me shock those who don’t know already, do you know that it is possible to broadcast live or at a later date, all the activities of the Odenigbo lecture worldwide at NO SINGLE COST? It will be worthwhile if this is done.

So you can imagine my disappointment when I discovered that all these tools were not exploited to give this great event the wide reach it deserves. A handle I love following on twitter is @alertigbo, they are interested and tweets about anything happening or effects the Igbo people. I don’t know the owner or creator but they were interested in the lecture when I tweeted I was participating and wanted me to tweet about anything I found interesting so they can retweet to their followers too. What could I do? I tweeted as much as I could and as much my battery could allow.

Imagine there was a team of young and vibrant young people who take it upon themselves to ensure every bit of this program reaches every corner of the world using these tools. What a glorious thing it will be! I dream of a day that will happen. Hopefully, from next year’s lecture.

The applications and uses are limitless. For example, the Hashtag (#) that most people use wrongly because they don’t even understand any bit of what it means can be used to drive serious conversations online.

The #bringbackourgirls campaigns that happened in various parts of the country and the world all started online. I am not however, advising that people stay in their rooms and offices to tweet and write about societal problems nor use it to abuse leaders, NO! Very far from that, I am only saying they utilize these media tools to find people of like minds, network, discuss and transform these actions into physical meetings aimed at contributing on meaningful discourse that will drive positive social change.

As the 2015 elections draw near, social media can be effectively used to drive serious conversations on how we want our government to be. If this is done, it will really make the efforts put into organizing this year’s Odenigbo lecture to be worthwhile. After all, it was all centered on GOOD LEADERSHIP.

I therefore plead that the organizers of next year’s lecture to put these into consideration when considering publicity and mass media because there is nothing I would want more than following whatever is happening even if I am not in Imo State.


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