As the general elections draw closer in Nigeria, the country has taken a trend to promoting fake news and counterfeit pages which will likely affect people’s behaviour ahead of the polls.
It is becoming increasingly difficult to different between fiction and reality in the digital world; Nigeria, however has taken the fake news age to a new dimension and every social media platform is being exploited especially Facebook and WhatsApp. This new trend is targeted to influence people’s behaviours towards the upcoming elections. It’s more pathetic because it appears that many Nigerians are ignorant and clueless about what an “ideal” should look like.
On WhatsApp, countless videos of questionable characters have been on the circulation. These are videos of officials who have been in the government but failed to work during their time of appointment because of greed. It’s quite shameful because ignorant Nigerians are often quick to forward these videos which are obviously staged to appeal to ignorant people’s emotions. It only proves one thing: elections in Nigeria is not a contest of ideas.
On Facebook, shortly after the #LazyNigerianYouths trended on social media, a counterfeit page belonging to Zahra Buhari, daughter to President Muhammadu Buhari surfaced and currently has about 135,000 followers. In a particular post, she referred to Nigerians as “senseless,” and this post has been shared over 2000 times. The statement has caused an uproar among Nigerians on social media, and this won’t go down well with the APC party.
The ignorance in Nigeria has allowed fake news to fester. People hardly bother to confirm any report. Once a story is posted, it’s shared over and over and begins to trend until a fresh scandal surfaces. The said counterfeit has posted many photoshopped images of President Buhari to make a jest of the political party, in favour of PDP which lost as an incumbent party in the last election.
This was the same issue during the last US election, where Russian propagandist created fake pages to sew bitterness to influence the people behaviour utterly. However, following thorough investigations, the culprits were apprehended.
This is not the case with Nigeria. Anything goes, and the government officials are less bothered about a counterfeit page or fake news. It appears that every Nigerian is featuring in a reality TV show and everyone is merely playing along to keep people talking and distracted from critical concerns in the country.
Another recent fake news is the fake video of two people exchanging verbal blows on a plane, and the media has been agog with the speculation that these two women are the Minister of Finance, Mrs. Kemi Adeosun and former Minister for Education, Mrs. Oby Ezewkwesili. Although both women look like the faces the media is presenting, the video has been in existence since last year.
The Government’s Reaction
One would have expected that like the US which reprimanded Facebook for allowing such menace to thrive it its platform, that the Nigerian government will do the same. Far from it. Even though the authority should know that fake news succeeding on the social media would affect the ratings of a political party and in fact, change people-behaviour towards the upcoming elections, it hasn’t done much.
Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili took to Twitter to debunk the mischievous claim, while the president released a press statement that the official page of his daughter Zahra Buhari should be discarded. Is this enough to curtail the tension the ugly situation is causing?
Ahead of the UK elections in 2019, all Facebook ads will be vetted to ensure maximum transparency. It’s an opposite reaction with Nigerian authority. Corruption cases are not adequately investigated and curtailed; we know the perpetrators of the fake news scandal will not be brought to book. In the end, elections in Nigeria is not a contest of ideas.