It’s It is hardly in dispute that the scourge of fake news has become a real and present danger in Nigeria today. The purveyors of this poisonous brand of information have gone mad. They know neither etiquette nor decorum. Their mode of operation easily gives them away as bold, daring and liars. They are struggling to find space in the real world of information gathering and dissemination. The threat posed by the fake news syndrome has become so intense that the reading public no longer knows where to draw the line between authentic and fabricated information. I fear that, if nothing is done and also urgently, the agents of fake and manipulated stories will soon take the reading public out of the realm of reality.
That is the extent to which social media has gone in its general drive to conquer and redefine the Nigerian media industry. Like most things in Nigeria, the operators have invented new rules of conduct. They answer to no one but themselves. Once again, as is usual with us in this part of the world, we will pretend to have seen nothing until untold damage is done to our sense of proportion. Right now, we see the threat of social media as one of the aberrations of a changing world. It may well be that. But there must always be a limit to madness. Certain brands of madness, including the one under review, should have a method. Allowing fake news to reign supreme like we are doing could be lawless. It is capable of disorienting a large part of society.
This brings me to what the immediate former Governor of Imo State, Emeka Ihedioha, has been experiencing in recent weeks. It seems that Ihedioha, because of the wave of fake news weaving around him, is being groomed as an object of deliberate destruction by evildoers. His detractors are determined to distract him as long as they can as the countdown to the Imo governorship race begins.
Just the other day, we received some lewd information, namely that Ihedioha wrote to the Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, urging him not to obey the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal which ordered that the leader of the Biafran Indigenous People, Nnamdi Kanu, you must be released from detention. Those behind the cocktail of lies know that the story will not resonate well with Ihedioha’s Igbo relatives. The goal, therefore, was to drag him into the filth of the people’s hatred and rejection of him. That’s what fake news providers are always aiming for. They must hit someone or something hard.
I would have left the matter at that, until the mother of all fakes intruded on the scene. Ihedioha is once again another subject of demonization. This time, we are told that her voice was cloned from a phone conversation in which she allegedly made statements that have implications for the dire security situation in Imo State. Her accusers here are agents of the Imo State government. They are bombastic. Some are looking for a prolonged fight with him.
But we understand the antics of those involved. Elections are drawing near and some gladiators will stop at nothing to gain an advantage over their opponents. That is politics. But it is dangerous to allow this kind of politics based on disinformation to fester. That is why our security agencies should be interested in the matter. Those who spread disinformation should be invited to explain their actions. Appropriate sanctions must be imposed when and where a willful violation is established. This will certainly reduce the excesses of those who are polluting the media space with fake news. It is detrimental to society to pass off falsehood as fact.
If it were a few years ago when journalism was not yet contaminated, this mischief would have nowhere to prosper. But all that has changed. The advent of social media has degraded the media space to the point where the reading public can binge feed on anything. Social media certainly has some redeeming features, but it has largely been more of a problem for the information world. Journalism, by its very nature, is rushed. It thrives on urgency because anything that qualifies as news has to be delivered hot and fresh. It should not be allowed to go rancid. For information to qualify as news, it must be served to the reading public within a certain time frame. That is part of what gives rise to the deadline in the journalistic profession. With no deadline, probably no stories will be written, how much more will be published. The urgency that the term engenders is thus the sauce with which the news is served. But then, journalism is based on facts. Information, for example, must be factual and authentic to deserve publication. It must also be verifiable. Any conventional information medium worth its salt must operate in accordance with these professional requirements.
Unfortunately, social networks have stripped journalism of these noble and traditional attributes. It does not respect fact or authenticity. Unlike real, proper journalism, where there are gatekeepers who test stories for publication for authenticity and factuality, social media is a one-man riot squad in which facts play no role. In any case, fiction, rumors and pranks rule and reign. It is a medium in which a man plays the role of reporter, writer, deputy editor and editor. He is also his own editor. So he has no one to check him out. It is for this reason that social networks have gone crazy. That is the threat facing modern journalism.
As this scourge plagues Imo’s political space, we should stop to locate the substance or lack of it in the disinformation directed at Ihedioha. Those behind the barrage of fakes must have seen it as a political tool, indeed a means to an end. That end, in his imagination, is to knock Ihedioha out of the 2023 gubernatorial race. The idea here is that if he’s not on the ballot, the search for a possible return of Governor Hope Uzodinma for a second term will be less tortuous But I consider this tactic to be childish. It misses the point about what the 2023 gubernatorial race in Imo State should be concerned about. For a state that has not known peace since unexpected disorder enthroned nearly three years ago, the people of the state are exasperated. They are in the middle of a strange order. They have been unable to come to terms with the rarity. In fact, they hardly recognize their status anymore.
Given this unpleasant state of affairs, people are unwilling to be led astray, despite the lies they are being slapped with. They will closely watch who is speaking, in order to establish if they have the aces. And your real consideration will be: who will lead the state out of freestyle bloodshed?