Each of the traditional messages addressed by the Head of State to Cameroonians usually includes take home points that even the most acerbic of critics would not deny. As President of the Republic, Mr Biya not only has access to key development indicators and national evolutions that touch on the lives of citizens, he equally has the challenge to understand the real stakes of the moment and ensure that he is moving on the same wave length with major segments of the population.
The case of the Youth Day message on 10 February, 2018 was not different. By zooming in on the social media and youth involvement in communication through such platforms, he created several vital links to focus their attention on the entire nation and how useful such online communication could be both to the youth and Cameroon.
Thus, by demonstrating that he masters what Cameroonian youth are up to and their areas of interest as they seek to articulate their feelings on a daily basis, the President Paul Biya noted that; “From my position as Head of State, I perceive signs of your growing interest in public affairs.” Consequently, the importance of youth contribution to various spheres like economic, political, cultural and social life, cannot be a matter of conjecture to go by the rating of Mr Biya.
What should actually attract attention henceforth is the manner in which the youth make use of the unlimited opportunities online to ensure that they participate in a more meaningful way in the development needs of the country.
Given the general apathy that is often perceived among the young through timid participation in voting and frontline roles in other public activities, the presence of the social media should serve as an occasion not only for them to be felt, but equally to significantly influence how the future of the country can be fashioned out. One of such ways to create impact could also by refusing to serve as conduit pipes for messages conceived by others, especially those that does not help to influence society in a positive way.
In this regard, the presidential caution cannot be overlooked. The Head of State therefore told the youth in his message that; “Whenever at a click, you access these communication highways that give you global visibility, you must bear in mind that you are not exempted from fulfilling civic and moral obligations, such as respect for others and your country’s institutions.
Be patriotic Internet users working for Cameroon’s development and influence, and not passive followers or naive relays for staunch critics of the Republic.” To say the least, the alarming level of wild speculations, falsehood, wishful thinking and even outright cynicism, just to name a few, which have inundated the social media of late only proves the President right. Those who indulge in such vile commentaries and postings may actually create some illusory ecstasies, but the reality on the ground is generally different.
Looking at the issues of civic responsibility and moral obligation which the Head of State referred to in his message, the idea of wishing someone dead and even going ahead to kill the person online, is not only vicious, but it does not in any way build a good image of the harmonious society that Cameroonians cherishes. Those who indulge in practices that paint a negative image of themselves and their country may be playing to the gallery while the intrinsic values of the country remain intact.
However, because the Head of State had to insist on the dangers of denigrating people and institutions via the social media, the message conveyed to the youth through his address to the nation is also that those who go online should not always remember that they are not being taken seriously.
The various interactions undertaken through the social media definitely have an impact on the life of the nation and if such endeavours are tailored toward concrete goals, the results could be attractive to both the users and their followers. As such, the time to ensure responsible citizenship even in the social media is now, and that could produce palpable results both for the youth and the entire nation.