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


AN OPEN LETTER TO MY EX-HUSBAND'S NEW GIRLFRIENDYou must be cringing as you read this. You must be thinking I’m going to school you on how to treat your new boyfriend. You must be thinking I’m going to lay down some laws about how to treat my children.

That is not at all what this letter is about.

I would like to welcome you.

Welcome to this unique dynamic of “modern family.” Welcome to the way we wing this life and this relationship. Yes, I said relationship, but not by its standard definition.

The children keep us in a relationship, much like your work keeps you in a relationship with your boss. If success is the goal, whether in work or parenting, the relationship between those who strive for that is important. I will not fill this letter with none-of-my-business-type of advice on how to treat a man I have known since I was 20. I won’t tell you anything that is personal about him; anything that he chooses to share is between you two. I’m not going to tell you why things did not work between us. All I will say on the subject of us is what I say to everyone:

To me, he’s a great guy — for someone else.

This might sound weird, but I’m so excited about you. My sons will see a side of their father that they don’t even know they missed. They’ll witness the kind of happiness that blooms from the excitement, joy and mystery that comes with a new relationship. They’ll see their father beaming with hope. They’ll hear him laugh (too much and too loud, as they’ve reported to us) and speak with a new charm in his voice. And because they love and admire him, all of these things will make them happier, too.

I want you to know that it is so important to be yourself around us. Please don’t ever feel threatened, intimidated or out of place around us. Just like you, we are also fumbling through the newness of your place in our lives. We trust that if you are good enough for him, you are good enough for us. We expect you to have quirks, flaws and a uniqueness about you that might leave us scratching our heads from time to time.

And we don’t want you to change a thing.

Don’t ever feel like you can’t speak to me, my (new) husband or any of the boys. Say anything. Or say nothing at all. Please be you.

You’re going to see us (the kids, mostly, but also my husband and me) quite often. You’re going to find yourself sitting with us at concerts, plays, games, graduations and many other events. It will feel awkward at first, maybe, but I hope that changes quickly. While the kids know very well that their father and I are divorced and done, they need to know that we are united in our support of them, and this is one of the many ways we will unapologetically display that support.

I want them to look out at the audience while on stage and see all of us together watching them with pride and excitement. Many of my friends have asked me if sitting between their father and stepfather feels weird. I have done weirder things to esteem, encourage, teach and build my sons. (Singing ridiculous songs about potty training is the first thing that comes to my mind.) This is no sweat. I ask that you join us (when you are ready) and become part of the united front that supports them unconditionally.

You may find yourself sitting through conversations between him and me. Please understand that we need to communicate in order to run our successful “business” of raising amazing humans. Sometimes we need to do it often. And along with the trust I mentioned in the former paragraph, there is trust that you will know when it’s appropriate to chime in. Should you ever feel uncomfortable or insignificant during times like this, I ask that you look at the bigger picture and keep in mind that our communication outside the subject of our children is almost non-existent.

He will never call to ask me advice on fashion. (which is a good thing because I have none!)

He won’t call me to chat about a TV show he enjoys.

He won’t call me to complain about his work day.

Our relationship revolves around three growing boys. While other subjects may arise while we’re in the same space for a long period of time, please know that my role in his life is “mother of his children.”

Nothing more.

I give you a lot of credit for embarking on a relationship with a father of teenage boys! This is new to them, too, and they have no idea what to do or say around you. They are teenagers with their own lives, hopes, dreams and intentions, and they may not always be at their best. I ask that as you become more of a presence in their lives, you get to know them individually.

My hope is that as time goes by and you are around them more, that you’ll have a unique relationship with each of them. This will take deliberate work and effort. And at times it won’t be easy, much like anything else that is worthwhile.

I hope this letter doesn’t scare you off. I imagine you understand that there is no way I could get all of this out when I met you for the first time and wondered if I was supposed to awkwardly shake your hand.

Carefully and respectfully, I welcome you.


This post originally appeared on



Describing how Nigerians leveraged the social media to curtail the spread of Ebola, the Executive Director, Paradigm Initiative Nigeria, ‘Gbenga Sesan, said, “Social media is about sharing, and when the content is considered very useful or entertaining, there is the possibility of virality due to repeated social sharing. When the crisis hit us, social media was one of the first channels through which Nigerians could understand what was going on, discuss its implication and also get tips for protection.”

He added, “WhatsApp has been credited for the viral message that suggested the use of salt for bath and drinking, which unfortunately added to the losses we suffered due to Ebola. Fear and panic got their fair share of social media sharing, but the larger use to which social media was put was very positive.”

For any Nigerian, or citizen of any country hit by Ebola, Sesan advises that it is important to share information with friends, relatives and others as the disease will only be spread further due to lack of information.

“As soon as I found reliable information from medical professionals, and on-the-ground assisting teams, I was quick to share. I used Twitter to share useful information but also used other platforms including SMS to share with those who might not have the chance to get online information,” Sesan said. “I was recently invited by The Future Awards Africa to join their #StopEbola campaign, and I have continued to use a display picture sharing that message with my followers on Twitter.”

As with any local or global crisis, information plays a major role in crisis management, and Sesan hails Nigerians for leveraging the instant information sharing capability of the Internet to push Ebola out of the over 170-million-populated country.

“Imagine if we had to use gongs and town criers to announce and share information about Ebola prevention?” he asked.

Japheth Omojuwa, a Nigerian blogger with over 100,000 Twitter followers, also affirmed that the social media played a crucial role in Nigeria’s fight against Ebola.

Before the virus hit Nigeria, social media was useful in alerting Nigerians to the risk of an entry. After Nigeria’s first confirmed case, Omojuwa reiterates that platforms like @EbolaAlert and @EbolaFacts were very useful in sharing information about the virus and preventive measures.

He said, “I started the hashtag #FactsOnEbola and it soon caught on as several social media enthusiasts in Nigeria and across the continent began to use it to share information and third party experiences.

“The news of the hashtag soon reached conventional televisions and news platforms as I eventually got a chance to share the idea behind the hashtag and why social media was useful in the fight against Ebola with platforms like Reuters and the BBC.”

Omojuwa, who said the content of his social media engagement was curated from reliable news platforms and the WHO’s website, said his online Ebola activism was mostly about sharing and amplifying information with respect to preventive measures.

On the role the Internet can play in dealing with issues such as the Ebola outbreak, the Communication and Public Affairs Manager, Anglophone West Africa, Google, Taiwo Kola-Ogunlade, submits that Internet plays an important role in the discovery and sharing of health-related news and knowledge in Africa, particularly in the rural places where access to health care can be extremely scarce.

He said, “A dusty, rural village off the beaten path may be dozens of kilometres from the nearest doctor or nurse. If someone becomes violently ill, the time it takes to get to hospital by foot or by other means of transportation can be of critical importance, and such effort is not undertaken lightly.

“This is where the Internet (particularly mobile-enabled technology) plays an important role. Today, the route to understanding causes of action/information on diseases like the Ebola is a lot faster because of the reach of the web. For example, Ebola was the most searched term on Google Search between July and October. And the interest ranged from adequate knowledge of the disease to symptoms, news and the cure.”

According to Trending Searches on Google, Ebola virus topped the searches which emanated from Nigeria between August and October, 2014. This was followed by ‘Ebola Nigeria,’ ‘Ebola in Nigeria,’ ‘What is Ebola?’ and ‘Ebola News’ among others. Rivers, Oyo, Delta, Cross River, Federal Capital Territory, Abuja and Lagos topped the list of states where most Ebola related searches emanated from.

An international Digital Economy and Services Leadership specialist, Dr. Anderson Uvie-Emegbo, in an interview with our correspondent, recalled that tweets such as those of the National Orientation Agency relayed messages such as “Report every suggestive symptom of Ebola to the Ministry of Health – 08023310923, 08097979595. Email:”

He said, “Nigerians are by nature heavy communicators on messaging and chat platforms. Nigerians used social media to share Ebola advisory information and promote humour around the disease. Several Twitter handles were used to actively share conversations. Even the government was not left out. They sent out simple and easy to understand informative messages on the risk factors of Ebola disease to the mobile phones of millions of Nigerians.”

Sharing his personal experience on how he used the social media during the Ebola outbreak, Uvie-Emegbo, said, “Being a medical doctor who once contracted Pulmonary Tuberculosis while treating patients with HIV and Tuberculosis, I was particularly aware of the risks of transmission of the Ebola Virus Disease to our medical personnel.

“Among other things, one of the objectives of my Ebola-related social media engagements was to advocate for a significant improvement in the protection of exposed medical personnel. I contracted Tuberculosis because the system offered me no protection from the patients I so lovingly cared for.

“I curated and shared positive Ebola-related stories and hashtags. I participated in several online conversations and in all of these, I emphasised the need to protect health workers as their lives and those of their families were on the line. Sadly, we lost one of Nigeria’s finest – Dr Adadevoh.”

The team leader at Ebola Alert, Lawal Bakare, a trained dentist and founder of HEIT Solutions, a health promotions company based in Lagos, submitted that the Nigerian collaboration towards containing Ebola was a collective effort at all levels of government: federal, state, local governments and MDAs.

“Beside the health sector, the agriculture, technology, works and education sectors played key roles,” he added.

He explained, “Ebola gave to us the opportunity to implement the Adelaide Statement on Health in All Policies, which highlights an inter-ministerial and inter-departmental approach to health. Health is our collective effort and as was evident in the Nigerian Ebola outbreak, the collective effort of federal, state and local governments can do great things.”

On what to do to ensure that the country remains Ebola-free, Bakare identified five steps: prompt reporting of suspected cases, high environmental and personal hygiene standard, high index of suspicion for Ebola, sustained government collaboration, and sustained community action and participation.

Of particular importance, according to him, is the role the social media will continue to play in keeping the country Ebola-free.

He said, “The Nigerian Ebola surveillance protocol is highly dependent on information. We have over 110 million active mobile subscribers and 54 million Internet subscribers and widespread distribution of public and private primary healthcare centres nationwide. That is a huge amount of potential reporters.

“If we will remain Ebola-free, any suspicion of Ebola, whether by individuals or health facilities, must be immediately reported to health authorities.”

Apart from government-owned health facilities and toll-free mobile telephone lines, other reporting channels being relied upon are Twitter (@EbolaAlert),, and web: Livechat on

The @EbolaAlert Twitter handle being managed by Bakare during the EVD outbreak was getting over 200,000 hits a day in Nigeria, answering questions related to Ebola and directing users to relevant information.

In what experts considered as an attempt to gauge the public awareness campaign carried out online and offline, the NOIPolls Ltd in partnership with EpiAfric, an Abuja-based public health consulting firm, conducted a poll seeking to know the level of awareness about Ebola among Nigerians.

Key findings from the poll revealed that 91 per cent of respondents surveyed acknowledged awareness of the outbreak of the viral disease.

“Slightly more than half (51 per cent) of adult Nigerians affirmed they have enough information to protect themselves from the Ebola virus disease. The highest proportion of respondents who confirmed that they have enough information to protect themselves against the disease were aged between 30-45 years (61 per cent),” the report said.

According to the Programmes Manager, Onelife Initiative, Mr. Sola Fagorosi, the social media can play a preventive role during any crisis.

“The understanding that the world of today is so interconnected would help one always have a preventive pose even when a health crisis is brewing in, say Botswana.

“Social media will allow for literacy on what the problem is and how to prevent it. It will also allow one to share information and also read, watch and listen to what is happening to others and how they are surviving the situation.”

He advised the government, especially the ministries of health and communications technology to continue to use social media channels and other means to regularly share about the virus and new measures put in place by government.

“It should not stop until the virus is totally contained in other countries,” he added.

No doubt, Nigerians created and curated messages which went viral on the social media, among other measures, to combat Ebola and the country today is good for it.

Copyright PUNCH.