When, in the evening of Tuesday, it emerged that the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of the popular social networking website Facebook, had arrived Lagos, not many in the commercial capital were prepared for the visit. It is true that such global figures as Bill Gates have visited the country in the past without much ceremony, but many felt the coming of one of the world’s youngest millionaires should have been announced several days or weeks before.
“Wait, Mark Zuckerberg quietly came to Nigeria? Wow!” tweeted a popular blogger on Tuesday. Many people, likewise, chattered on about how odd it was that the 32-year-old businessman had visited the country “unannounced” and “unceremoniously”.
“I thought it was a joke…,” posted another writer. “Of course, I thought it was a Photoshop joke. How can Mark Zuckerberg be in Nigeria unannounced?”
After residents had overcome the first flash of shock, they quickly settled down to the all-important task of playing host to the visitor. To them, however, this meant reporting his activities and itinerary, and harping on endlessly about his many achievements.
The Co-creation Hub (CcHUB) at Yaba where he first visited also became something of a pilgrimage centre.
“When I heard that he was at Co-Creation Hub, Yaba, that evening, I rushed to Sabo,” said Uzomdi Ogbe, a student who lives at Akoka. “I know the office; it’s at Herbert Macaulay Way, but I was told he had left, when I got there.”
But it was really Zuckerberg’s dress sense which dominated most discussions. Many of those who shared their thoughts with Saturday Tribune said there were many lessons that members of Nigeria’s Upper Class could learn from Zuckerberg.
“The first thing I noticed about him is that he is down-to-earth,” said Taiye Kolawole, a student who lives at Apapa. “You saw the way he was keen on learning from the people he interacted with; you saw the way he was trying to get familiar with the environment.
“I saw the pictures and I saw him on TV. Everybody is talking about his simple dressing. But that is how he has always been. And that is how many inventors and successful people dress in developed countries. Our people should learn from them.”
Kolawole, however said he was surprised that Zuckerberg chose Nigeria, since (in Kolawole’s words) Nigeria was “probably home to most of the world’s ‘abusers’ of Facebook.”
“Nigerians abuse Facebook a lot,” he said. “Sometimes you find things posted on your wall, and you know you didn’t put them there – things like nude pictures and videos. Sometimes, you find a lot of fake adverts.”
For many others, Zuckerberg‘s appearance and action did not only show he is simple, but also very humble. To situate this properly, Andy Akhigbe, in a Facebook post on Wednesday, asked: “Which Nigerian Pastor is as humble as Mark Zuckerberg? Please name one” – a question which attracted nearly 100 comments and 60 “likes”.
Explaining further, Akhigbe said: “The idea behind this post is to get people to think. We need a huge dose of thinking in this country. I can see a lot of youth salivating over Zuckerberg yesterday…It is to Mr Zuckerberg’s credit that we have a platform that has engaged the world and made communication better… the proceeds of such mindful engagement are still being deployed to the benefit of mankind. I wish some of our men of God are so aligned. The word can be better than it is today.”
Most of Akhigbe’s respondents also called on Nigerian leaders to follow the Zuckerberg example:
“If many Nigerian politicians are finding it as a curse to visit their respective constituencies, not even for the purpose of commissioning a project, I wonder what will happen if God should elevate them to Zuckerberg’s position,” said Seun Morire Philips.
Another Facebook user, Modupe Debbie Ariyo, outlined the benefits of the visit to the country as a whole.
She said” “In just one day, he showed the world that Nigeria is not ravaged by Boko Haram; Nigerian youth are not drug pushers and fraudsters but successful entrepreneurs; there are hundreds of Nigerian start-ups to invest in, with potential for high returns; that photo of him jogging on Ikoyi Bridge will promote Lagos a lot more…; Nigeria is a safe place to walk on the streets; that Nigerians are a great people; we make the best Jollof rice.”
Expectedly, a large number of jokes were circulated throughout the period; they appeared mainly in the form of tweets and display pictures used on social media platforms. One of them read: “Fadalud (Father Lord), please, don’t put us to shame; see as this 54.4 Billion USD is walking up and down. Don’t let him be kidnapped in our country, abeg.”
Another said: “Igbo boys at Yaba no send o. They will see Zuckerberg and still say, “Sssss, oyinbo, you need jeans? I get correct chinos here.”
For most Lagos residents, however, the visit held a lot of significance. In the first place, it was a kind of endorsement. While previous visitors rarely looked beyond Abuja, Zuckerberg came to Lagos; he understood the place of Lagos in the global economic scheme.
Even in Lagos, observers say, it was victory for the masses. Facebook’s Founder did not choose to lounge with the rich and powerful in their homes at Victoria Island; he preferred to interact with young small-scale business owners.