In the wake of the pandemic, Nigerians in the diaspora, mostly audio apps influencers open these rooms where they have heated debates with people they call “audio app political analysts” about politics, each announcing solidary with a preferred candidate. Mostly, they are also showcasing their mastery of the English language, which was the subject of a 2021 skit by actress Funke Akindele.
But as Nigerians took steps back from audio platforms as the world began to return to the office, these rooms have been almost empty, with only loyalists of a handful of 20 to 30 people as both audience members and speakers still actively participating in most.
Now, that has been changing. Recently, audio app influencers are marching to the top of the influencer sphere, again. Just that now, the topics are different and closer home.
At the tail end of April, as the primary elections drew closer, an uptick in what they call “politics rooms” on Clubhouse and Twitter Spaces started to spring up. It is standard practice for the most strong opinionated, mouthy audio app influencers that have dominated the audio social media platforms to create these rooms.
Things are changing…
Now they are getting fuller and lasting longer than they were in just January this year. They’ve also become more ubiquitous. Moderators and hosts who use to open shoot your shot rooms and spaces are now pivoting to politics rooms.
A few months ago, these rooms could have anything from trending political news around the IPOB propaganda, the future of the Oduduwa Republic, the Arewa agenda etc. atop them. In the rooms, speakers debate from different angles, with moderators chiming in to reset the rooms, and reminding everyone to follow the moderators and the club. With these open-ended topics, moderators give way to diverse views.
Of late the topics are changing slightly, becoming more assertive, forgoing their open-ended-ness.
What used to be a space for open debates even with outright support for candidates, has become more and more ethnic, with sweeping topics categorising entire regions and ethnic groups of the country as fully responsible for all the actions of the region or linked to the region.
A recent one with more than 1000 audience members and 78 speakers announced as the topic “Tinubu is done” with a laughing emoji. Another one said, “Naija Decides 2023: The North is Playing a Dangerous Game.”
After the massacre at a catholic church in Ondo, last weekend one said “Herdsmen kill 40 in Ondo state during a church service,” even though eye witnesses speaking to Aljazeera and FIJ said they can’t confirm if it were indeed herdsmen that carried out the massacre.
Ethnic divide is it…
These influencers have gone beyond the periphery of the ethnic lines in the country to outrightly draw lines in the sand, with topics demanding solidarity announcements from speakers, debates getting heated and personal and further thickening the ethnic divide in the country.
“It’s a big influence on the Clubhouse community,” RSO Deen a founding member of the YourubaPalava club with almost 28,000 followers, moderates some of these politics rooms told Technext.
However, he rejects the argument that moderators are the ones single-handedly deepening the divide that these rooms sometimes create.
“People can say what they want to say. However, when you are in a room full of people that are not allowed to air their opinion freely, and you are just pushing your narrative on people, and cursing at people, at some point people will get triggered,” he said about how the rooms get heated and sometimes personal.
But he maintains that the fullness of the room is not entirely on him as the moderator or the people who start these rooms.
“Some people that are happy with the violence will ping in people to the room and the room will be full.” Even though his rooms are tilted toward what is called an “Omo Oduduwa Agenda” he doesn’t see any personal interests overlapping with the too. He said that “that can not be called personal interest.”
However, he added that “audio app political analysts are freethinkers, and when some people are analyzing they do this based on their personal views, not on the subject matter.”
A growing trend on social media
Reports from other social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram show that influencers follow these types of topics to grow their following. But RSO Deen refutes the idea that that would even be possible with ClubHouse.
He said that he will tell anybody who says he is opening these rooms for followers to “come to the room and hear what is being said in the room, and also to open a room and see if they can also get that many followers for a room going on for more than 12 hours.”
“You can’t get followers like that on audio apps, especially on ClubHouse,” he said.
On ClubHouse the hosts of these rooms have latched onto a feature that allows only members of the club to join the conversation, essentially forcing people who want to speak on their stage to join their clubs.
Research shows that social media influencers or accounts with huge followings playing to the gallery, latching onto tribal divides to seize momentum have been on the increase with the rise of audio apps and TikTok.
This is in part because the incentive of influencer culture has always been to gain followers at all costs, propagating the gospel of fake it until you make it among Millenials and Gen-Zs.
How did influencers pivot to tribal divides?
As Millenials and Gen-Zers take on the mantle from the boomers as the working middle-class youth across the world, propagating the political divide by espousing contrarian extreme views has become the most famous and lucrative mechanism for growing a following.
Twitter account @Jayythedope has become very popular in men’s rights activist circles on the internet, a spillover from the ClubHouse rooms hosted by the club called Alpha Males Mentality, with over 7000 members.
The pseudo-anonymous account that started tweeting just in October last year has 316.9k followers, the blue check and a digital marketing company, the Alpha Media for tweets like:
In another instance, as the Ukraine war got heated, influencers on some of these platforms converted their account to full coverage of a single view of the war, either anti-Russia or pro-Russia, but not the same at once.
In an interview with Taylor Lorenz, the Washington Post columnist one owner of such accounts said “These posts do so well because Ukraine is a super hot topic right now, and there’s shock value in videos of an airstrike.” The account owner was 17 years old at the time.
For many of these rooms on ClubHouse, the moderators will sometimes take breaks to head to class or host the rooms on days when they are not going to school, as their audience mostly degree holders taking a break from work or driving home from work engage in fierce debates.
The narrative from some of these rooms has bubbled up to the top with supporters arguing about mostly false roadside gossip or propaganda that emanates from other such rooms.
For instance, the idea that Anambra has the best education system in Nigeria because Peter Obi revamped it as the governor has bubbled to the top as gospel truth in these rooms. Even though WeFinder lists Anambra as number 3 on its list of most educated states. The closest to research on the matter.
Also has been the argument that as governor of Anambra Peter Obi fix the bad road networks in the state, as a yardstick for his good leadership. Even though the road is not a top priority for many Nigerians, who would rather a candidate with a clear plan to fix the economy and save the naira.
How effective is this strategy?
Olabode Odiase who hosts regular politics rooms under the club, Knights N Kardinals agrees that social media will affect the decisions that Nigerians will make at the poll next year.
But he doesn’t think that the conversations particularly on ClubHouse will be instrumental on a national level in that decision. “I do not think ClubHouse will be instrumental,” he said to Technext basing his prediction on what he calls “a simple pool of Nigerians active on the app,” who have very little reach in comparison with YouTube and Twitter which he said will be impactful.
This underscores the heightened effectiveness of the strategy.
He said that he doesn’t think their rooms are also deepening the ethnic divide because “there is already a huge ethnic divide in Nigeria. I do believe the current president allowed and fuelled it more than anyone on ClubHouse could have.”
On why he opened these rooms, he said:
“I enjoy having brilliant conversations and this is why we’ve built our own platform on engaging real information and data. We seek to elevate the conversation which we need to make the norm in Nigeria.”
Get the best of Africa’s daily tech to your inbox – first thing every morning.
Join the community now!