Is there any saying more powerful in Nigeria right now than, “the pen is mightier than the sword?”
Have you gone one day without coming across fake news? Then you must be living under a cave and need a reality check.
Gone are the days when everything you read on the pages of the newspaper was meant for the purpose of information and enlightenment.
These days, the news, either in the print or electronic media has been distorted to the point where every item has become the subject of conjecture.
Nearly every news headline in the media is loaded with mischief and half-truths; they are put up just for the purpose of drawing anger or other emotional responses from the news reader or viewer.
Nearly everyone everywhere on the streets of Nigeria or on social media has become a conspiracy theorist, a proponent of there is no smoke without fire. And it is not totally surprising because Nigeria as a nation is fast approaching another electoral cycle, thus, we are looking at another season of fake news and conspiracy theories.
But how did we get here? Let’s go back a bit in time and examine the political history and the emergence of conspiracy theories.
Conspiracy theories are nothing new to human history; each civilization has had to grapple with its own unhealthy dosage of it and sometimes featuring tragic actors.
Take for instance the despicable plots to eliminate Julius Caesar and his dreams for Rome by (ironically) people closest to him in government, the Roman Senate.
He was stabbed to death at the steps leading to the Senate on the day he was to declare himself the leader of Rome, his detractors called labeled him too ambitious and his dreams did not align with theirs, so the most powerful leader in the world had to die for the senators' insecurities to live.
Isn’t history funny that Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari's political dilemma does not look too different from Caesar's fate over two millennia ago?
Buhari and Nigeria are going through similar circumstances; one man poised to change and reinvent the way the country is governed and who is determined to slay the beast standing in the way of the country’s greatness; the scourge called corruption.
Buhari's determination to clean the Aegean stables as we know political office in the country rather than earn him plaudits earned him the scorn and umbrage of the political class.
How dare he try to change the manner the political class fleece the people of their commonwealth? What cheek on him?
Buhari's dream to change Nigeria’s outlook is antithetical to the political class’ dream and he had to be stopped by every means necessary, be it blood or not, the end would justify the dirty means.
On the other hand, the Nigerian masses saw in Buhari the man of the people, the one who is likely to snatch and deliver the ownership Nigeria’s commonwealth from the ruling cabal into the hands of the masses. His famous, "I am for nobody, I belong to everybody” speech at the May 29, 2015 inauguration resonated well with the masses.
If only things were that simple...Fast forward three years, the majority of Nigeria’s masses are angry at the mere thought of President Muhammadu Buhari. His name, mannerisms, and style of leadership seemed at variance with what he promised them.
Is that really the story or the public’s anger against Buhari is being fanned from obnoxious quarters?
Since inauguration, Buhari has had to fight different wars from different quarters, simultaneously and appears to be one the losing side on all. He loses because he failed to heed one of the greatest laws of power which say, “Concentrate your forces.”
Buhari met a monumental rot in the Nigerian statecraft, the stench of corruption engulfed him round about, threatening to suffocate him. Even the people closest to him, members of his cabinet, allegedly are caught up in the corruption malaise.
Corruption in government was a way of life, a culture. The civil service in Buhari’s kitchen cabinet was allegedly involved up to their necks in graft and all forms of official bribery (the civil service is a different kettle of fish entirely and will get its much-needed scrutiny under the magnifying glass of anti-corruption when the time is up).
The odiferous stench and political horse-trading that brought Buhari to power were perhaps responsible for the delay in cabinet selection which took him six whole months, the period within which the ousted opposition had regained composure from the shock of 2015 general elections.
They set upon the natural task of knocking Buhari's every move, justified or not, with the feverish re-constitution of their own propaganda machinery.
The political game of cat and mouse between the APC and PDP was helped in great part by the unfortunate cabinet delay. The goodwill that ushered him into office started diminishing as fast as he gathered it.
Where did all the political repositioning leave the Nigerian masses? They were lumbering in limbo, awaiting the dividends of democracy from the man they voted massively for in the 2015 presidential elections.
Does President Buhari deserve knocks for spending too much time for cabinet selection? Without the shadow of a doubt, yes.
Nigerians were largely disappointed because the delayed exercise was not devoid of controversial figures with odious political baggage.
The masses' thirst for change has driven many to the nearly to the edge of the precipice; life had been tough and brutish for the 16 years the opposition-held sway like the proverbial Hobbesian state.
The people had lost their long-enduring patience for bad leadership that Buhari ended up on the receiving end of their rage for good governance.
The masses would not wait for dividends of democracy and good rulership to trickle down anymore, thanks to technological advancement, cheaper mobile telecommunication devices, and social media giving the people a voice.
The Arab Springs uprising set in motion in Africa a political movement even the hardest of tyrants could not impede, the peoples' voices can never be stifled anymore, they can hold their government to account.
While social media could be deployed to a social good like crowd-funding community projects and raising funds to foot an indigent person's surgery bills, it could be deployed to devastating effect too.
A single social media post could ignite a massive protest with millions of participants joining within the twinkling of an eye. That explains the peoples' impatience with the Buhari administration, the people can rightfully voice their frustration over the state of the economy, the war against corruption and the insecure state of security in the country, and the government must listen and act.
The question now is what is behind the feverish call for President Buhari's head over the present state of the nation?
The unseen hand pulling the puppet's strings had revised strategy and deployed the silent weapons in the quiet wars to destabilize Buhari's quest for a second term in office.
What silent weapon are we talking about?
The mass deployment and propagation of fake news. The approach of general elections in any country is marked by fake news and Nigeria is not any different.
Fake news had been deployed to destabilize governments of other countries to astounding success, it’s the season of fake news in our dear nation.
How do you explain the print and electronic press' sudden penchant for sensational headlines which has been aiding the spreading falsehood about the Buhari administration all around the nation these days?
Fake news season is in full effect, people, ‘shine your eyes’ like they say on the streets.
The Nigerian economy is facing dire challenges but was the Federal Government responsible for the brigandage, kidnapping of oil workers and the spate of pipeline bombings that rocked the country in 2015?
The Naira has not recovered from the 2015-2017 downward spiral when there was little or no forex to shore up its value.
Where were the detractors of the Buhari administration when it cut government spending by saving billions in bank charges through the implementation of the Treasury Saving Accounts (TSA)?
Why didn't the originators of the TSA idea implement it when a proliferation of government accounts bleed Nigeria to the tune of billions in the recent past?
Detractors of the Buhari administration are quick to point out the flaws in the anti-corruption war and attribute the present cases in court to witch-hunting but where were they when the EFCC secured 139 convictions on financial crimes, including that of former governors Jolly Nyame and Joshua Dariye? Dariye, for those who care to know, is a senator on Buhari's ruling APC.
Where in the world has any nation in the world called for the impeachment of their president over insecurity?
The US president, Donald Trump, has been under fire over incessant secondary school shootings and failure to strengthen gun control but has anyone called for his impeachment yet in spite of the daily shooting of US citizens?
The Nigerian security apparatchik has failed President Buhari and Nigerians but shouldn't he be allowed to solve the security riddle on his own terms?
How many Nigerians are privy to the security report President Buhari receives daily?
Does anyone have any idea how many of the ruling class are complicit in the failure of the security agencies because of clandestine involvement in the supply of arms and ammunition to various militia groups stoking the fires of insecurity across the country?
How many Nigerians are privy to the involvement of highly placed Nigerian politicians who leak security reports to the print and electronic media just to score cheap political points?
Shouldn't the press be responsible in its reportage and promote facts instead of employing exaggerated headlines to sell newspapers and garner website hits?
President Muhammadu Buhari is no perfect individual, neither is he an omnipotent politician but he needs breathing space to run the machinery of governance properly. If Nigerians were to be fair to Buhari, they ought to desist from the sharing and propagation of fake news and inflammatory reports.
Nigerians should desist from sharing suspicious Whatsapp broadcasts of political nature without fact-checking first.
No one should share inflammatory or religious material because you could be setting other people’s communities on fire.
Fake news needs to be eliminated by fact-checking; no one should be involved in the propagation of false information and material capable of creating chaos.
The development and safety of Nigeria isn't the responsibility of the Buhari-led federal government alone, it's everybody's duty.
South Africa and Kenya are no safer than Nigeria, people die of violence there daily but they attract millions of tourist yearly because of how their nationals proudly promote their strong suits.
Let not one Nigeria be fooled that Nigerian lives don't matter to Buhari, don’t lend your social media influence to the propagation of another politician’s agenda whose sole aim is to discredit Buhari vehemently.
It’s fake news season, let’s be careful and not get hoodwinked by desperate people who want to employ under-hand tactics to see Buhari fail Nigerians.
Buhari's fate at the 2019 polls will be determined by the Nigerian electorate, it would be a good thing to still the hands of religious and ethnic jingoists and fake news merchants who want the nation to burn to the ground before the first ballot is cast by March 2019.