Nigerian Politicians adopt fake news as campaign strategies, will there be consequences?
Despite warning Nigerians to desist from promoting fake news because of it’s consequences, the ruling party and the opposition, PDP have consistently manipulated information conveyed to the public in order to marred the reputation of one another, and perhaps earn Nigerians pity.
Rather than focusing on issues based campaign, the media is being flooded with falsified reports.
On September 15, 2018, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) raised the alarm that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had frozen the bank accounts of Ademola Adeleke, its governorship candidate in the Osun governorship election.
The opposition party also alleged that the anti-graft agency froze the accounts of members of his family, including Hip Hop star, Davido.
The alleged act was perceived as a clampdown on the PDP and so, nerves flared up and tension brewed. People cursed, fumed and kicked. Some took to the social media to protest the accounts freezing and even called on others to “rise against” it.
But alas, it ended up as fake news. The EFCC denied the claim while neither Adeleke nor Davido corroborated the party’s claim. Months down the line, fake news is still booming in Nigeria like never before.
TheCable studied the trend of fake news in the country and discovered that with the way things are, the various political parties and their supporters may be relying on fake news ahead of the elections, even more than they would rely on their own candidates. It was also discovered that the purveyors of fake news use various approaches – false content, manipulated pictures/videos, false connection, satire, misleading and impostor contents – to either misinform or disinform unsuspecting individuals.
Below is a timeline of the major fake news in recent months:
September 20: ROAD CONSTRUCTION BY THE BUHARI ADMINISTRATION
Lauretta Onochie, President Muhammadu Buhari’s special adviser on social media tweeted a picture of road construction, tagging it Nasarawa-Jos road.
Verdict: TheCable ran a background check on the photo and it turned out the picture was from iStock, an online photo library.
Possible Intent: Campaign purposes.
September 22: PDP CHIEFTAINS ‘SPONSORS OF FULANI HERDSMEN KILLINGS’
It took Onochie only two days to return with a weightier fake news, when she tweeted that the herdsmen-related killings in the country have reduced because the “sponsors” are preoccupied. She made the statement alongside pictures of four PDP chieftains: Senate President Bukola Saraki, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a senator from Kano state; and Aminu Tambuwal, governor of Sokoto state.
Suddenly its all quiet.
The sponsors of the “Fulani Herdsmen killings” are preoccupied with a serious issue.
They are jousting for the ticket for the candidacy of Nyesom Wike & Sons Ltd, oops, PDP
Come Oct. 6, some will be begging to return to APC pic.twitter.com/tqHd1CDSu6
— Lauretta Onochie (@Laurestar) 22 September 2018
Verdict: There is no supporting evidence to back this claim. Since the killings started, the police have not said they have identified anyone sponsoring the acts.
Possible Intent: Provocation. The Rwandan genocide comes to mind.
October 28: TREE GROWING ON RAIL TRACK DURING THE PDP ADMINISTRATION
Festus Keyamo, spokesman of the Buhari Campaign Organisation, tweeted a picture of a tree in a rail track, saying: “This is how trees grew in-between rail tracks between 1999 and 2015.”
This is how trees grew in-between rail tracks between 1999 and 2015. Those were the years of ‘Initiation and Started’, when they swallowed all the money but never completed. Now, this is the ‘Completion Era’ as the tracks are beginning to roar back to life. pic.twitter.com/NKNhAfBvGn
— Festus Keyamo, SAN (@fkeyamo) 28 October 2018
Verdict: A check by TheCable showed the picture was from far away Middle east. Keyamo later claimed he had used the picture as “an illustration” but how so?
Possible Intent: Campaign purposes
November 26: NIGERIAN MILITARY OFFENSIVE ON BOKO HARAM
On the heels of the Melete attack in which many soldiers were killed, Joe Igbokwe, an All Progressives Congress (APC) publicity secretary, shared three photos and claimed they were from a Nigerian military offensive against Boko Haram.
Verdict: Crosschecknigeria, a coalition of various media houses, discovered the photos, though authentic, are out of context. The first picture was published on November 8, 2004, and shows the US Navy airstrike on Fallujah, Iraq; the second has been online since December 4, 2015, while the third is a stock image of the Russian jet Sukhoi Su-25, used to illustrate airstrikes of different natures in various locations.
Possible Intent: Campaign purposes
December 4: PICTURE OF ATIKU SHARING FOOD AT CAMPAIGN RALLY
Onochie also tweeted a picture of food packs with N500 notes attached to each of them, claiming they were from the campaign rally of Atiku Abubakar, presidential candidate of the PDP. She had written: ‘’Keep them in poverty, then give them handouts – Atiku in Sokoto yesterday.
KEEP THEM IN POVERTY, THEN GIVE THEM HANDOUTS- ATIKU in Sokoto yesterday pic.twitter.com/JumaW5vi4A
— Lauretta Onochie (@Laurestar) 4 December 2018
Possible Intent: Provocation, deceit
December 4: ATIKU HAS COWS WITH ‘ARMED HERDSMEN’
Is she ever going to stop? Writing via her Twitter handle, Onochie claimed Buhari has 150 cows “secluded in a ranch” while Atiku Abubakar has “thousands of cows with armed herdsmen” roaming the country, adding: “Do I need to say more?”
Hmmm, @MBuhari has 150 cows. Secluded in a RANCH and not posing any threat to farmers and their crops.
Atiku has thousands of cows roaming the nation with ARMED HERDSMEN, from Sokoto to Benue, from Taraba to Enugu.
Do I need to say more?
— Lauretta Onochie (@Laurestar) 4 December 2018
Verdict: No supporting evidence to back up claim. Checks by TheCable show while there have been reported cases of herdsmen with arms in the country, the police have not been able to identify those behind the menace, much less Abubakar being one of them.
Possible Intent: Provocation.
December 4: NIGERIA HAS HIGHEST RATE OF INFANT MORTALITY IN THE WORLD
Ben Bruce, senator representing Bayelsa east senatorial district and also a PDP member, claimed via his Twitter handle that Nigeria has “also taken over from India as world headquarters for infant mortality,” adding: “They promised us change and delivered nightmares.”
Just devastated to read that not only have we taken over from India as world headquarters for extreme poverty, we have also taken over from India as world headquarters for infant mortality and out of school children population. They promised us change and delivered nightmares!
— Ben Murray-Bruce (@benmurraybruce) 7 December 2018
Verdict: TheCable investigated the claim and did not find any supporting evidence. The last report released by UNICEF – in February – ranks the country 11th globally. Eva Hinds, a communications specialist with UNICEF in Abuja, told TheCable Nigeria has highest rating of infant mortality in Africa and not in the world.
Possible Intent: Provocation, campaign purposes.
December 9: EFCC FREEZES OBI’S ACCOUNT
Nigerians were shocked when the PDP raised the alarm that the bank accounts of Peter Obi, its vice-presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, has been frozen.
Verdict: The EFCC and ICPC already denied the claim. More than a week later, Obi is yet to say a word to corroborate the party’s claim while the party is gradually leaving the issue to die down. It makes sense that if this is true, Obi should have confirmed it and even if he does not want to, the party, for what it is known, would have kept the alarm on till the account is unfrozen.
Possible Intent: Provocation, campaign purposes
December 10: TRUMP ENDORSES ATIKU
One of the support groups of the PDP presidential candidate known as “Atiku Abubakar 2019” posted a picture of US President Donald Trump allegedly endorsing Abubakar for next year’s election. The page which has close to 40,000 followers quoted Trump as saying: “Support AtikuObi presidency to reduce unemployment, poverty and lifelessness of the economy as my govt has done in America. I think America first. Atiku thinks Nigeria first.”
Verdict: Crosschecknigeria discovered that the picture was fabricated. The original picture, which was manipulated, was first used on September 3, 2015, when Trump was Republican presidential candidate for the US presidential elections.
Possible intent: Campaign purposes
December 10: CBN SAYS N20 TRILLION STAMP DUTY “HAS DISAPPEARED”
A PDP support group known as “PDP Nat’l Youth Frontier” tweeted a reported claim by the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) that the N20 trillion accruing from stamp duty “has disappeared from the federation account.”
Verdict: No supporting evidence such as a news report to back up this claim. Also, a previous investigation done by leaks.ng, a coalition of media houses, showed that the money has not “disappeared”, instead the various government agencies, including the CBN, involved in it refused to comment on its whereabouts.
Jonathan created stamp duty fee of N50.
Stamp duty has generated over N20 Trillion.
Today CBN declared that the generated N20 trillion stamp duty has disappeared from the federation account.
10th December, 2018.
— PDP Nat’l Youth Frontier (@PDPNYF) 10 December 2018
Possible intent: Provocation, campaign purposes.
September 28 – OSUN Rerun election
— Bukola Saraki (@bukolasaraki) 28 September 2018
THE WAY FORWARD
There is the fear that the greatest challenge that would face the 2019 elections is not insecurity or funds but FAKE NEWS. It has never been this bad in the nation’s political history. So, what is the way forward?
Tips to curb fake news:
Confirm the information you see on social media before sharing it; check and crosscheck the ‘broadcast’ message sent to you on WhatsApp before forwarding to the next person
Use tools like google image reverse search, tineye to confirm the authenticity of a picture.
Always call the relevant authorities to confirm a piece of information such as a reported attack, alert messages etc. You can get the phone numbers of all the police public relations officers here.
While campaigning for a candidate, focus on issue-based campaigns.
Always remember it takes only seconds for a false information to go viral; think about the harm it can cause.