When it comes to social media, Nigeria’s president, Goodluck Jonathan has good reason to be proud. He has more followers on Facebook than nearly all the world’s leading heads of state. As of today (March 15) he has gotten thumbs up from 505,705 people visiting his official Facebook page. That’s more ‘like it’s’ than those of British Prime Minister David Cameron, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Canada PM Stephen Harper, Italy’s President Silvio Berlusconi and South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma combined. He even has more fans than the entire British monarchy.
According to Internet World Stats, Nigeria had 1,718,000 Facebook users as of August 31, 2010 and 43,982,200 internet users, (28.9% of the population) as of June 19, 2010.
Jonathan comes second to US President Barack Obama who has received thumbs up from 18,616,909 visitors to his page. Next in line is French President Nicolas Sarcozy (405,563) followed by Silvio Berlusconi (242,691) and David Cameron (108,925).
Jonathan, Obama, Sarcozy, Cameron and Stephen Harper have one thing in common. Their Facebook pages are updated regularly with posts written in their names and spiced up with videos and lots of photos. There’s an obvious effort to make them interesting and keep readers engaged – for what it’s worth. In contrast, the pages of many other heads of state are largely static and dull with fewer posts and little or no public interaction.
For Goodluck Jonathan and the other leaders at the top of the pecking order, Facebook is proving to be a useful tool for propagating their socioeconomic ideas and policies and mobilizing their supporters. Jonathan has taken it a step further.
In December last year he launched a book entitled My Friends and I: Conversations on policy and governance via Facebook. The 357-page publication is a compilation of his Facebook postings and responses by his numerous readers and supporters. He is reported to have been inspired by Barack Obama and his campaign team’s deft use of Facebook and other forms of social media to whip up local and international support during Obama’s bid for the US presidency.
One of President Jonathan’s key messages in the book, and indeed his Facebook postings, is that he believes every Nigerian citizen has a right to express his or her views about how the country should be governed. He is also signalling that he sincerely wants to listen to the people and work with them.
The book’s release coincided with the official launch of a government-backed national reading campaign in Lagos dubbed ‘Bring Back The Book Campaign.’ The event attracted several of Nigeria’s literary giants and publishers, including Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka, Odia Ofeimun, Fatima Akilu, Reuben Abati, Dapo Adeniyi and others. 400 secondary school students attended the event. The president said he invited them to come together to start a “serious discussion in order to bring back the book.”
I decided to publish because I want to promote a reading culture and accountable governance,” he explained, adding, “The campaign on [developing a] reading culture supported by Professor Wole Soyinka and other well-meaning citizens is a battle to restore our educational standard to its glorious past and to lift it further to the heights where it would lead to resurgence of our march towards economic prosperity, environmental sustainability and social advancement.”
Since then he has continued to use Facebook to drum up public support for the reading campaign, telling his people, “We have no choice but to read and encourage ourselves to read and read and read again.” A number of writers, publishers, booksellers and librarians have presented him with a wish list of what needs to be done to kick start Nigeria’s ailing publishing sector, and they’re patiently waiting for him and his government to deliver.
Goodluck Jonathan has already secured his place in the annals of Nigeria’s history as the nation’s first president to embrace the internet and social media as a way of interacting with Nigerians at home and abroad and getting their feedback on national issues and his performance and that of his government. Facebook is also proving to be a handy tool for his political campaign as he gears up to seek his own mandate at the next general elections.
The increasing adoption of Facebook by heads of state and other powerful, high-profile personalities as a PR tool can only help to increase the popularity and pedigree of the site. Ultimately this will cause its value to skyrocket and further enhance investor perception of it as a prime piece of real estate. Mark Zuckerberg and his Facebook team will certainly have no problem with that.