The upshot is that false news is a growing trend and is likely here to stay. Just as the social media, it will only evolve in more diverse ways. – The author

Our intertwined world is encountering a vastly changed narrative of news flow, reportage and cause-advocacy via media.

The change is linked to growing universal rage — the so-called “age of anger”, and a sense of audacity, which drives anti-establishment sentiments and protestations.

Yet two realities are incontrovertible: fake or false news, hate speech and post truth via social media are spiraling globally, as the mainstream media is battling a crisis of legitimacy.

But just as the social media accentuates mass communication, it has thrown up an unnerving flip side –false news and post truth- which makes social media an adverse game changer.

Those who contend that social media offer a level playing field, overlook the pitfalls.

The scariest part of false news is the absence of an undo button. Evidence exist that false news has for some nations, become a tool of statecraft.

Russia meddling with recent U.S. elections is a case in point. Globally, the social order is being changed.

Alternative or rogue governments are being elected, due to the impact of false news.

Also, false news is now abetting recrudescence of rightwing extremism in Europe. The global tsunami of disinformation is replete with hybrid threats fostered by hoaxes.

Yet, the most insidious generators of false news, is the lone perpetrator, sequestered by choice in a room or café with an iPhone or tablet and access to Wi-Fi, who feels the awesome power afforded by anonymity and driven by indignation or righteousness to redress perceived societal ills.

The desire to shape opinion by legerdemain and revenge are also compelling factors.

Indubitably, false news is now the electrified third rail in global politics, Nigerian politics included.

With its vast reach, false news retains huge capacity for destructive consequences. Worryingly, there is no agreed antidote.

Recently, the Czech Republic set up a specialized anti-fake news unit to combat Russian fake news inundation.

In Africa, the response has been slow, notwithstanding that within one month, the news of the demise of Gambia’s president-elect Adama Barrow and of Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari were published and gained currency, until refuted.

Less perturbing but equally fabricated news included, Eritrea polygamy report; Tanzania’s president ban on miniskirts; and Nigerian lawmakers making 11 years the age of sexual consent?

All these are examples of the dreadful phenomena we confront daily. There is real and false news.

Until recently, false news was rare and benign, except for some non-injurious clichés; “bad news is good news” and “no news is good news”.

Not anymore. False news is bad news and therefore trouble.

While rhetoric remains the bedrock of political obfuscation, false news stretches rhetoric beyond the acceptable.

Moreover, false news is primarily fueled by politics and peaks during electoral periods. Hence, the 2016 U.S. elections added credence and impetus to false news.

Why the sudden groundswell of false news?

The social media is false news breeding ground. All that’s required is just a click of the “share” icon.

Besides the anonymity provided by social media, the convenience of instantly tweeting or retweeting a news item, without confirming the veracity, underpins the spread of false news, but not the reasons for fabricating untruth.

Interestingly, the attentive public has unwittingly become part of the problem.

The natural instinct to question the authenticity of a news report, has been dulled by the euphoria of being among the first to share a scoop, be it on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or WhatsApp.

What is overlooked is false news potentials as a tripwire for mob action or restiveness and possible national security implications.

False news traits include sensational and captivating headlines; oftentimes without a direct quote from the subject of the story.

False news goes beyond stretching the truth, often in malicious and troubling ways.

Hence, false news is not just capable of upturning nations’ social balance, but capable of fostering and foisting violent extremism.

False news abets political exigencies, more so where State controlled broadcast media outlets and on air personalities resort to spewing of verbiage during unmodulated call-in programmes.

There exist an inextricable nexus between false news and hate speech. Both aim to hurt.

This explains why ahead of the 2019 elections, the Abuja-based Savannah Centre for Diplomacy, Democracy and Development (SCDDD) constituted the Democracy Stability and Media Accountability Project (DESMAP) Council.

The Council is “to address the administrative and legal gaps that exist in the extant body of laws and code of ethics on journalism and media practice, especially as they relate to the propagation of dangerous, false news and hate speeches.”

Nigeria is facing its share of false news, but despite the broad awareness of the negative impact of false news, the Federal Government is yet to contextualize fully the alarming challenges posed by false news and hate speech, and thus has not risen fully to the task.

By Oseloka Obaze & Chiagozie Udeh


Aluko’s confession on Ekiti poll

The ripples generated by the June 21, 2014, governorship election in Ekiti State seem to be widening. Former People’s Democratic Party,PDP Secretary in the state, Dr. Temitope Aluko, recently made startling revelations in Abuja on how federal might was allegedly used to subvert the poll’s credibility.

He claimed that the exercise that saw the return of Governor Ayodele Fayose was not an election but a “coup” against Ekiti people. A self-confessed party to what he described as electoral manipulation, Aluko who is Fayose’s friend of 40 years and former Chairman, Security and Intelligence Committee of his campaign organisation, expressed regret over his role in the whole affair.

Among other things, he alleged that former President Goodluck Jonathan gave Fayose $37 million cash to prosecute the poll in which security agents, including soldiers, were allegedly deployed against the opposition, the All Progressive Congress (APC) leaders in the state. Aluko-PDP Apparently, the erstwhile PDP stalwart in Ekiti State fell out with Fayose when the latter reneged on his pre-election promise to make Aluko his chief of staff.

Until their once rosy political relationship went awry, Aluko was PDP’s chief agent who endorsed the election results. At the election petition tribunal, he testified on oath that the poll was free and fair. By his voluntary confession, Aluko has held himself out as a participant in an orchestrated electoral offence. The implication is that by his own admission, his testimonies at the election petition tribunal were odious lies calculated to mislead the judges.

In the eye of the law, Aluko is also culpable for perjury. Aluko’s conduct is a morbid reflection of the cesspool of corruption and fraud that characterise our electoral system. We therefore urge that the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari should be extended to those who commit electoral fraud against the people. Such individuals, irrespective of the political party they belong to, should be prosecuted.

We also restate our call on other security agencies to emulate the army’s example by investigating the involvement of their officers and men in the controversial Ekiti governorship election. Those who are found to have played ignoble roles by compromising their professional etquettes should be punished accordingly to serve as a deterrent to others. This is the only way to restore sanity to the nation’s electoral system. If Aluko’s mind-boggling revelations are ignored, it will be an affront on our democracy and a failure of the rule of law.

Read more at:


Afenifere and the kiss of death

For the umpteenth time, Ripples is constrained to cite the tortoise in the Yoruba tale. Asked when he would return from his trip, while bidding his folks farewell, he promised to return, only when he was disgraced!

Indeed, ace playwright, the late Ola Rotimi, was so fascinated by this tortoise quip that he used it to anchor the tragedy of Kurunmi, the ill-fated Aare Ona Kakanfo and Ijaye warlord, in his tragic play, Kurunmi.

Kurunmi, generalissimo of the Oyo imperial army, bated himself to self-ruin by his classic confrontation with Ibadan, the Oyo imperial garrison, under the command of Basorun Ogunmola, in those 19th century years of blood, gore and plunder, in the pre-colonial Yoruba country.

Good old hubris, couched in Yoruba native-speak, assailed the tortoise. That explains his irrational answer. The same hubris goaded Kurunmi’s tragic unhorsing; just as it is behind the unfolding but spectacular unravelling of the Afenifere gerontocracy, in contemporary Yoruba political country.

Pa Olu Falae’s popular censure, following the old man’s N100 million “obtainment” from Dasukigate, would appear a gripping sub-plot of that high drama.

Indeed, Chief Falae’s unfolding odyssey would appear the stuff of which Grecian tragedies are made.

Like Kehinde (last to come) in the Yoruba concept of twins, that nevertheless claims seniority over Taye (precursor), Chief Falae zoomed past about everyone to eminence. His Taye (to revisit that Yoruba twin metaphor), included battle-hardened veterans of the Awolowo political combat of the 1st Republic, that claim a near-divine right to the Awo political franchise.

Though a latter-day Afenifere joiner, his delicate positioning between Awoist high orthodoxy that balks at injustice from any quarters, and the Babangida-era new breed progressives that accused Shehu Musa Yar’Adua and co of perfidy, at throwing MKO Abiola’s June 12, 1993 presidential mandate, splendidly paved Falae’s way.

The Awoist old guard was uneasy with MKO, given Abiola’s past brush with Awo. Yet, they couldn’t, by their ideological DNA, be indifferent to the annulment. That a Yoruba man was victim was grand bonus.

On the other hand, though MKO was not ungrateful for Afenifere’s rally, he appeared more at ease with the younger elements, not the old fundamentalists. Falae, again appeared the merry median between the two.

At things would pan out, Chief Falae had the historical distinction of announcing the birth of the National Democratic Coalition (NADECO), the final vehicle to battle Gen. Sani Abacha to the virtual death. He also — need we recall? — beat the great Chief Bola Ige to the Alliance for Democracy (AD) presidential ticket in 1999.

How Falae blazed the historic NADECO trail is rendered in Clapping With One Hand by a participant-observer, Olawale Oshun, in the first of his trilogy on the June 12 saga. The other two books are The Open Grave and The Kiss of Death.

But as Falae bolted to the top before everyone, he appears fated, by Dasukigate, to career down the abyss, also before anyone!

There is a story making the rounds — that Falae was booed in church, while telling his own side of Dasukigate. At best, the story might be true. At worst, it is only apocryphal.

But true or false, its believability only underscores the Yoruba obduracy against fallen heroes, particularly when accused of venality and abject lack of character. The Akure high chief now treads that perilous path.

But even as Falae’s odyssey unfolds (at least in the angry Yoruba streets), he may yet remain a hero to the Afenifere gerontocracy. What if the N100 million Chief Falae collected was less for the Social Democratic Party (SDP), of which he is national chairman, but more for Afenifere, in which he is regional champion?

This puzzle is not illegitimate because of the dissonance coming from within SDP. A national source claimed the chief rendered only N5 million; and even then, did not disclose the source of the “donation”. The Ogun SDP was even shriller in disowning Falae, claiming the state branch of the party never got a dime.

So, where did the money go? Or is Papa stoically not ratting on others?

The angst in the South West is as much shock at the Dasukigate chink in Falae’s hitherto formidable integrity armour, as it is linking Afenifere (Afenifere of Awo, the immaculate avatar), to free-wheeling sleaze in contemporary Nigeria.

Indeed, Afenifere of late had developed the disturbing conceit of the tortoise that courted nothing but disgrace. The body’s 2015 pre-election and electioneering manoeuvres were disgraceful — and wilfully self-destructive.

Awo never swam against the wish of his supporters. Indeed, his political canonisation stemmed from Awo, the ultimate policy wonk; as much as from Awo, the symbiotic politician: he led, but was also led, by his people.

But in their self-imposed season of anomie, Afenifere committed the ultimate ideological apostasy, by their own Awoist doctrine: pushed the wrong cause, backed the wrong horse, kept the wrong company, and coalesced behind the wrong person, as arrowhead to Aso Rock, in Ondo Governor, Olusegun Mimiko, ruthless political hustler and survivalist, who just defected to the wide-and-merry Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), from the supposedly straight-and-narrow Labour Party (LP).

But whoever traded with Mimiko and made a profit: the late Adebayo Adefarati, the late Olusegun Agagu, Ali Olanusi or even Bola Tinubu?

Ah, Asiwaju Tinubu! That must be the original trigger: for if Tinubu moved right, the Afenifere grandees must move left, if he moved up, Afenifere must move down, even if it were the most asinine thing to do!

But why would a conclave of wise elders and seasoned political generalissimos bait themselves into sure misfortune, just because of the fortune of one man?

Spite. Concentrated spite often brews concentrated flaws, which could well deliver concentrated catastrophe!

That applies to Chief Falae, as it applies to the Afenifere conclave.

Incidentally, the full title of the last, of Hon. Oshun’s trilogy on June 12 is: The Kiss of Death: Afenifere and the Infidels. Some grim prophecy there, it would appear!

So, have the old fundamentalists of Awoism turned infidels to their own cause, and therefore earned the kiss of ideological death?

Just a thought.