As was appropriate for a social media meet-up, the forum was announced via the Ekiti State government's Twitter handle. Some celebrated the state government's recognition of social media and blogging.
I am proud of Governor Kayode Fayemi for showing the world that Bloggers matter! I wish I was there in Ekiti myself
— J.J, Omojuwa (@omojuwa) February 8, 2014
Others took issue with the news that that bloggers who attended the event were paid 50,000 Nigerian Naira (about 307 US dollars).
Given that ‘brown pocket envelope’ syndrome has been the bane of traditional journalism in Nigeria and many of the bloggers are avouched critics of the government and any waste of public funds, conversation online zeroed in on the perceived double standards.
When politicians how press conferences, they give out brown envelopes. Foreign journalists usually refused. What's that tell you?
— bmc! (@ba55ey) February 11, 2014
Public commentator Feyi asked:
Erm, let me try again – Bloggers who attended the Ekiti event with Fayemi, were you paid? Was it for reimbursement? Or per diem?
— F (@DoubleEph) February 10, 2014
Influential Nigerian political Twitter commentator Chike did the arithmetic of double standards:
3. If Ekiti paid out N50,000 to 60 bloggers, that's N3,000,000 which is 3 times Akpabio's [Godswill Akpabio is the Governor of Akwa Ibom State] much derided “Mr. Biggs money” [Mr. Biggs is a fast food outlet in Nigeria] (N1,000,000).
— Mwalimu (@cchukudebelu) February 10, 2014
Mr Ebube D Patriot, a member of the ruling party, posited:
Our bloggers just did the same thing they accuse Maku & Abati for [Labaran Maku is the Minister of Information while Reuben Abati is the Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity]. They criticized media tours. But when Ekiti offer came, story changed
— Mr Ebube D Patriot (@akaebube) February 10, 2014
Sports journalist Temisan said:
You blog about government wastes, get invited to a government Q&A, & collect money? Newsflash: y'all have chopped state funds o! Blog well.
— Temisan Okomi (@temiokomi) February 10, 2014
But some tweets were just sarcastic. For instance, Emeka, a government party tweep, said:
TBH, I don't believe Fayemi would be that mean to give them just 50k…
— Emeka (@iamtenseven) February 10, 2014
Nonetheless, not everyone was partisan in their analysis of the meeting. Mr Mobility (@Mister_Mobility), a mobile content curator, speaker and blogger, wrote the following post:
1. Government is waking up to the power of social media
[…] a government has recognised the power of bloggers and social media and have created an opportunity to engage. This is a good move. We can expect more state governments to follow suit…
2. The question of propaganda
Some people are rightly bothered that such a forum is just another avenue to push government propaganda. Yes; that is likely so. But here is how it works. Invited bloggers are under obligation to report exactly what they see and hear – even if it is propaganda…
3. The question of payment
I have no idea whether or not the invited individuals were paid for the exercise, but I would hope that they were! People expecting bloggers not to be paid are odd. None of them work for their employer or clients for free…
4. The question of objectivity
When someone is hosting you and maybe also paying you, there is the question of how objective you can be. This is where people who understand business have no problems. They can separate issues. As mentioned above, news reporting is different from writing opinion. Separate the two and there are no issues…
5. The question of ethics
Hosting a bloggers’ forum is no more unethical than calling a press conference or having a TV media chat. It is the same thing. Only the platform is different. There is nothing unethical about the Ekiti State Government hosting a social media or bloggers forum.
Others saw the forum as a good thing. On Twitter, Nedu was surprised by the uproar about the meet-up:
Wait wait wait, is anybody here grumbling about Fayemi inviting bloggers to Ekiti to assess his works and report their findings? Really?
— Nedu (@Nedunaija) February 8, 2014
One blogger who attended the event endorsed the governor for re-election:
I am impressed by how prudent and transparent Kayode Fayemi has been in the execution of projects in Ekiti State. Contracts are awarded at very modest and verifiable amounts, an example being the laptop project in which each unit costs about N60,000. […]
Kayode Fayemi has done well over the past three years and I urge the good people of Ekiti to give him a chance to continue the good work he has started by voting him as their governor for a second term. I urge them to be vigilant and hold him accountable at all times. As he goes about his campaign, visiting cities, towns and villages in the state, he will make promises and commitments, and they must hold him to these from day one of his second tenure.
My name is Ogunyemi Bukola (@zebbook), and I endorse John Kayode Fayemi for a second term as governor of Ekiti State.
Another user neither supported the Ekiti bloggers meeting nor the traditional media good governance tour by the Minister of Information Labaru Maku. But he did not begrudge the bloggers who honoured the invitation:
Do I have a problem with Maku and Ekiti tours? YES! Are the media( Bloggers/mainstream) wrong to accept invitation? Hell NO!!!
— Otunba Bamidele (@emma_dele) February 7, 2014
However, other members of Nigerian social media and blogosphere had other problems with #JKFeedback, as the meet-up's hashtag was called. For instance, Twitter user Mr. Kermit argued that bloggers are not needed for the people of Ekiti to assess the government's pace of development. The citizens of the state can see it for themselves:
Are we implying that the people of Ekiti land don't know development when they see it? So the bloggers will know explain development to them
— Mr Kermit #JustBinIt (@ossai007) February 7, 2014
This same line was toed by O'Femi:
Bloggers are now the people Ekiti who are to validates the performance of Fayemi. I'm gerrit you all.
— O'Femi || #JustBinIt (@femiTRIPP) February 7, 2014
Opinion River thought it was mere window-dressing by the Ekiti State government:
Will those bloggers tour the Ghettos in Ekiti??? Will they tour villages too. Or is their scope of Assignment limited to the capital only
— opinion_river (@opinion_river) February 7, 2014
Anther user called it was shameful:
For gov fayemi to invite bloggers to the ekiti state is a show of shame….
— GEJ/2015 (@donwani007) February 9, 2014
Attai predicted newspaper headlines:
Headline in some Nigeria Newspapers 2moro be like>>>>Nigeria Bloggers endorses Ekiti State Governor 2nd Term Ambition.
— Attai (@Dacosta9110) February 9, 2014
Everybody has a price, but only the best will get the prize.
Many of the bloggers have little or no influence, so they need the handouts to makes ends meet.
You’re right, Michael Chima. http://www.tobiakiode.com/politics