My aspiration is to be one of the builders of a world of equality, a world where diversity is respected and value for people's lives is paramount. A world where religion and culture are not used as weapons of dispute and destruction, where leaders serve and not steal, where everyone does not pretend to love each other but does so straight from the heart.
Early in November 2015 Etisalat Prize for Literature released its approved
2015 Flash Fiction Short Story entries. It enabled the public through the
social media to vote their preferred story after which the judges will select
winners from the top voted stories.
The idea is to promote upcoming writers in Africa whose stories
are unpublished. Three winners will receive the following prizes:
e-book promoted online and via SMS.
Runners Up (2)
cash prize (each)
Sounds very promising?There begins the exciting journey of friends rallying round ZebraCrossing, one of the entries on the Etisalat Flash Fiction. The author of this satiric piece
that focused on poor service delivery, bad governance and people’s
lackadaisical attitudes is Ajisafe Michael Oluwafemi.He is
a promising writer who maintains Flexing Essential Random Thoughts (FERT), an
online page where his works are posted for his teeming readership. Ajisafe’s
friends in Nigeria and Overseas rallied round his story creating an active
support group. More than 10 friends reached over 500 online friends each to
vote for Zebra Crossing. In 10 days, his story got over 3000 votes!
is when the problem started. Etisalat prize displayed “bytes exhausted” message
on his story link and the story was gone!We contacted Etisalat to report this sudden “technical glitch”. No reply
was received and neither was the story restored for another two days! When the
story was finally back, we continued voting and sharing on social media
resulting or over 1,900 shares on groups and individual pages (this was
displayed on his link) not to mention the personal messages sent to friends.
But the celebration was short lived when the story suddenly disappeared again on
the same day. Then voting closed shortly
after on the 25th of November 2015. On the 28th of
November, it was discovered that Zebra Crossing is totally gone from Etisalat’s
webapage, replaced with “error 404” and“this article not found” messages.
had personally taken interest in all the 156 approved entries
and voted some captivating stories alongside my friend’s entry. I know for a
fact that we had the highest votes as at the time the story disappeared and I
had taken screenshots of the voting details. The smartest move of the century!
Ajisafe's friends decided to contact Etisalat upon realising this new development. But our email
was of course never replied. Then we decided to go on their Facebook page and
on Twitter to expose this date rape experience of Zebra Crossing tagging their
judges and patrons. Etisalat has initially shortlisted 50 top stories from
entries that received over 2000 and less than 300 votes but the highest voted
story at our last inventory was not among this list! Finally, after
some 48 hours of unrelenting public outcry of many of us demanding to know what
happened to Zebra Crossing on their 2015 Flash Fiction Category, Etisalat
finally gave into our pressure. Etisalat replied and promised to look at the
issue and give feedback. This is promising but I am not deterred to follow up.
Thus, the issue did not rest there.
thereby restored Zebra Crossing and one other story - that now made the first spot - making the list 52 instead
of 50 and Zebra Crossing at number two. I looked through the updated list and I noticed another glitch. Zebra Crossing vote history was gone and share
history on Facebook and Twitter displayed zero! What? I quickly checked other
stories and their votes and share history were intact! There ensued another
circle of tweeting to ask why. Finally, Etisalat released a separate list
showcasing the top 52 stories with voting details, authors names and stories
titles. Informing the public @etisalatread that this is the list the judges are
reviewing. While on their Etisalat Prize for Literature webpage, the votes and
share history of all the shortlisted entries are removed.
am a still baffled at these inconsistencies and Etisalat’s lack of transparency
to tell us why in the first place we have to be having this conversation. A
large telecommunication company like Etisalat cannot be having bytes issues at
3000+ votes. It sounds ridiculous and to take out a story that did well on its
Flash Fiction category is suspicious to say the least.
am therefore asking again for Etisalat to tell us the reason behind this
unpleasant situation. Nobody has forced the company to give back to the society
through African Literature promotion. It is a corporate responsibility that
Etisalat has chosen and carrying on with this duty without hidden agenda or
bias will be the way to go. If we had not had evidence to back up our claim
that Etisalat is bias or has sabotaged a story, it would have gone noticed.
put this matter to bed, it is desirable that Etisalat tells the Internet
community what happened in the first place. What happened?
is a peace and conflict doctoral fellow and assistant lecturer at the
University of Pretoria, South Africa. She is also an alumna of the African
Leadership Centre, Nairobi, Kenya, King's College London, London, UK and
Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. Her research interests include human
security, conflict transformation, citizen journalism, feminism, gender, and sexual