Anthony Obi Ogbo | Guardian News, Houston, TX
It escalated with a “Breaking News” pullout on January 29th, categorically reporting that an ailing Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari was dead. According to the authors, “phcitybreed.tv”, Buhari died in a London Hospital where he was receiving medical care. The blog attributed its source to another fake set-up, “CNN-ALIVE”, and also indicated a confirmation by that the Nigerian Mission in UK. This piece generated millions of shares and infiltrated the social media with heated discussions about a fragile Nigeria’s sociopolitical system under its sick president.
January 30, the blog made it even worse; claiming that Queen Elizabeth II had sent a condolence message to Buhari’s family and the people of Nigeria. “In a message of condolence, the Queen described Buhari as “one of Africa’s pillars”, the blog wrote. Quoting “another London source”, the blog further claimed that the British Prime Minister, Theresa May visited the Nigerian Ambassador to the UK to express her condolence.
By the first week of January, the social media was already saturated with various headlines and photos suggesting President Buhari was dead. Two other blogs; “metro (blocked)” and “naijanewsplus.com” took the lead; feeding a desperate social media audience with uncorroborated “Buhari-is-dead” headlines with horrible doctored photos. In fact, Naijanewsplus.com published an old photo of Queen Elizabeth II as a recent photo – signing a condolence register on Buhari’s death.
Another blog noted for notoriety and sensational stories, weeklypostng.org published a fake photo of the ailing President together with an image of an unidentified burial event; narrating how Aisha Buhari wept bitterly over her husband’s death. Naijanewsplus.com also published a different version of a crowded burial event carry a corpse depicted as that of the late President.
March 10 however; President Buhari returned to Nigeria from the United Kingdom where he actually received medical treatment for an undisclosed ailment for 50 days. Today, this same “dead” President is alive undertaking both national and international engagement. So, what must have gone wrong?
The President and his media handlers may have instigated these array of misinformation and deceit by lopsidedly dribbling the public about the President’s ordeal. It communicated his medical leave, but failed to update Nigerians with substantial details, fueling all sorts of rumors about his survival. Desperate bloggers sponsored by those opposed to his regime however, saw this as an opportunity to incite a population already angry about the public system under President Buhari. These are the background realities that provoked the “fake-news” culture.
The FAKE NEWS PARADE – KNOW WHO THEY ARE
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has been reported dead in a London Hospital
(Site already taken down).
BREAKING NEWS: Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari Is Dead Confirmed By CNN-ALIVE
► ► ►
Now confirmed: Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is dead
► ► ►
Buhari’s DEATH …. See Queen Elizabeth II condolence Message To Nigeria!(Watch Video)
► ► ►
Buhari’s Death: SAD NEWS!! The Worst Has Happened. Aisha Buhari Weeps Bitterly – Live on CNN
► ► ►
Indeed the “fake News” culture is a bad trend in any nation’s political development and stability; especially as Nigeria gears up for a 2019 general elections. Fake news websites disguise as real news outlets but calculatingly publish hoaxes, propaganda, and falsehood —habitually using social media to enlarge their messages and drive web traffic. The websites seek to misinform the audience for both financial and political gain; and they have indeed influenced political trends in major counties.
In the United States for instance, the Senate intelligence committee leaders have received reports that Russia hired at least 1,000 trolls to spread fake news stories to hurt the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton during its previous presidential election. The fraud was said to have been orchestrated by Kremlin which reportedly paid an army of vandals to create fake anti-Hillary Clinton news stories targeting key swing states.
Nigeria, currently battling a negative image as one of world’s most corrupt countries is obviously leading a dangerous “fake news” culture which might be politically destructive. To curb this chaos, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) must step up with aggressive strategies to locate and track down individual culprits and media outlets reputed for spreading falsehoods. They could collaborate with the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States currently investigating similar trend to explore relevant leads to this obnoxious development.
This country is presently crippled with ethnic strifes and economic recession as it approaches a 2019 general election season. Thus, effective policies must be put in place to track down culprits and social media sites behind this destructive trend.