This Epidemic Of Fake News, By Babafemi Ojudu


Tonight some contacts on WhatsApp have forwarded to me a video of a Channels news broadcast of some 400 Boko Haram members arrested in Abia State by the army.

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More than 20 folks have forwarded this to me under two hours. This clip was grim and it is capable of driving fear into anyone. From the clip one could wrongly conclude terrorists are about overrunning the country. Snippets of accompanying pieces, mostly fake,  are circulating as well.

One even claimed Nuhu Ribadu accused President Buhari of creating banditry and terrorism. I remember Nuhu came out two years ago in a press statement to deny this.

A professor in a WhatsApp group I belonged even pushed the narrative . Academics are supposed to reference whatever they publish but this professor will not even adhere to this simple rule guiding his calling- no reference, just emoting!

Today, people are making the Channels news piece look like it happened yesterday or even at noon today. Many have been scared beyond reason.

One cannot but ask  if some people somewhere want to set fire on Nigeria, cause disharmony and ultimately war. They want to set us on the path of Rwanda, Sudan, Somali and Syria. I hope they know the consequences of their action.

Yes there are securities challenges in our country just as there are in other places ( see Thailand today where an individual slaughtered 26 people in a mall ) but the way we exaggerate ours and broadcast falsehood is alarming.

Lagos and Abuja based on 2019 statistics on violent deaths are far safer than New York and Houston according to UNODC and the NBS. Yet no American is maligning America for insecurity.

I have done a check and also did content analysis and found that that Channels broadcast was made in 2013.

Even at that  it looks unprofessional to me. It was an era of hysteria. It was a period when bombings were common in Kano, Kaduna, Abuja and even Nasarawa and Kogi. The military was under funded and small capital meant for arms were looted by Dasuki and shared with CAN. Even media houses got their share and they whipped up divisive hysteria to engineer election wins that never came. Thank God.

Let us assume 400 persons were intercepted by the army, how did those who apprehended them come to the conclusion they were members of Boko Haram ? Did they wear a lapel button indicating that? Did they wear uniform or carry identity cards, or had an inscription on them showing they were members of this terrorist group? Even the man parading them illegally on TV was not identified as a personnel of the Army. He was not in uniform nor was his name, rank or title mentioned. He was barely intelligible.

When I was an editor these and more are the questions I would have asked my reporter before broadcasting such news. It was irresponsible journalism at its best. And somehow those who sought to use it for divisive purpose filed it away for seven years like an ammunition to be weaponized when they needed it.

But then, why is our instincts always go bad mouth our country? Why is our thumb fast to spread bad news even when fake about our country? Where is our patriotism to question unwholesome news about Nigeria? Why is our thumb so itchy to destroy our unity rather than to build it?

Now when foreign countries seize on this fake reports and pronounce ban on Nigerians from visiting their countries we  will rage at everyone but ourselves. We are seriously demarketing our country and we shall be the one to pay the price for doing so.

We are the biggest and largest economy in Africa. Our citizens are the best educated in the United States among immigrants. Lets promote that instead of fake news that destroy the fundamentals of our beautiful country. Change starts with you, stop forwarding before you verify. Ask yourself, does this build or destroy Nigeria? If it doesn’t, then quit!

  • Senator Ojudu is Special Adviser to the President on Political Matters, Community Engagement & Borders

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