Social Media Week Lagos: Day One

Social Media Week Lagos kicked off today, 27th February, at the Landmark Centre in Oniru, Victoria Island for the fifth time in five years to much fanfare. A variety of accents, both adopted and real, fluttered in the air like butterflies, betraying speakers’ origins. As expected, most were Nigerian, but Kenyans, Rwandans, Ghanaians, Brits, Americans and others were also represented.

But though accents may have given the event a slight international vibe, the impressive outfits and imaginative hairstyles rendered it an unmistakably Nigerian experience. Sky-scrapping stilettos, man purses, bright red hair, suits and ties, shiny ‘fros of competing length, and the wingiest cat eye liners were on full display. The mood seemed more befitting of a fashion show than a tech conference. But that’s the way Nigerians roll: Better to out-dress than be out-dressed goes the thinking.

Another instance where the Nigerian factor crept was in the timing of some events. To be sure, three of the four talks I attended ended on time, but none started as advertised. The fourth one—a fully booked event, was a no-show. What’s more, attendees were kept in the dark as to what was (or wasn’t) going on. Few minutes to the start of the event was to commence, the buffet table was still in place and ushers and attendees were still helping themselves to snacks. Five minutes into the designated time slot, the few of us present for the talk were asked by an usher to leave so they could arrange the seats. Meanwhile, there was no sign of the host or panel.

We would return to the room and watch the projector and laptop set up without any explanation for the delay. Occasionally, people popped in to ask if the event had started.

2.30 pm. Still no word from anyone. The two A/Cs, blowing at 17 degrees Celsius, were giving no quarter as was the unpadded wooden bench I sat on. I asked the guy adjusting the projector for the umpteenth time if something could be done about the arctic temperature. He nodded his head, turning off one of the A/Cs on his way out. One of the women expressed gratitude before returning to the seat (directly under the A/C) she’d fled.

Shortly after, a lady in a dashiki entered the room, asking if we were there for the event. We responded in the affirmative. Finally, I thought. She crossed to the opposite corner of the room and began working her phone until one of the ushers interrupted her with a question. I heard her say something like she doesn’t know, that she’s just here to help. Help with what? I’d never know as she never addressed us again.

The whole affair was reminiscent of Nigerian airlines and their penchant for keeping passengers waiting endlessly with neither apologies nor explanations. To fill the void and kill time, just as in the airport, everyone occupied themselves with a mobile device. Talk about giving social media week a whole new meaning. One lady was playing solitaire on her tablet, another busied herself on Instagram, with a third watching videos on her phone.

For my part, I wondered if we were in some sort of observation room, where subjects were monitored to see how long they could remain idle before reaching for their electronics. If we were, it wasn’t long.

3.30 pm. I’d accepted the fact that host and panel were a no-show. And with 30 minutes to go, attending another event in the same time slot was pointless. To get through the remaining time, I decided to catch up on the news and, more importantly, the Oscars best picture snafu on Twitter, thinking how amazing it was to capture a thousand reactions on a particular event from across the world, and in real time too. Brilliant.    

4.00 pm. Time was up. The dashiki lady was still occupied with her phone. I rose and left. There was no explanation. No apology. Not that I expected any. This was Nigeria after all, a country that teaches you very quickly what to make a song and dance about and what to ignore. This was just one of those instances where the latter applied.  

Lead photo: Adedeji Hamed

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