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The lies are getting deeper; the propaganda steeper, and the curses and insults sicker. There should be limits to crudity. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is Nigeria’s president-elect and will be sworn in as president in a few weeks. So, naturally, he should be accorded the dignity and regard his station demands.
In the build-up to the 2023 presidential election, tale contrivers in the service of chief traducers mass produced objectionable conjectures, fibs, dangerous fallacies, and obtrusive slander against the president-elect. I would not want to repeat them here to give life to extinguished lies exiled in the sarcophagus of dead matter.
The invented tales did not stop Nigerians from signing a social contract with the president-elect. They voted for him overwhelmingly. Really, fake news is the weapon of desperate losers. And citizens could see through the veneer of the fallacies and fermented lies.
But the mischief, malice and execrable contrivances persist even after the elections. It appears every week new malicious cock and bull stories are crocheted from the lie-knitting factory of some sore individuals. These maligners should be tired by now.
Reinventing the wheel of disinformation, dissimulation and mendacity will not upend the outcome of the presidential election. It will not change the certain fate of the president-elect being sworn in. It will not change the resolve of Nigerians; it will not dampen their faith and trust in Nigeria and its electoral process.
I believe the overarching aim of these fabrications is to create doubt over Nigerians’ electoral decision and to foist a consciousness of uncertainty, helplessness, gloom and doom on the national psyche. This is what I call scorched-earth politics. Politics of where the losing side in an election retreats into the trenches to plot on how to bring down the house; politics of self-seeking; politics of war against the national interest and national security; politics of hate and prejudice.
Are these the signs of what is to come? Will the vilifiers spend the next four years on the treadmill of malediction and profanity? Will Nigeria have to contend with a maelstrom of inconsolable belligerents and inveterate anarchists? Will it be another cycle of hate-trading, vicious propaganda, and national hysteria?
I fear for Nigeria. Not because of its threshold to withstand blizzards and tempests, but because of the ominous threats from dangerous and diabolical politics of hostility. Nigeria has always survived the night; it will survive whatever darkness.
It is disturbing that opposition — whether to government or individuals — is not rooted in ideology, policy, or issues of governance, but morbidly depressing and inconsequential matters of faith, ethnicity, personal idiosyncrasies, and even marriage. It is deeply concerning. Is this how we are going to fix Nigeria? Is this how we will make progress – debating inanities and abandoning essential issues governing our life? May we not spend the next four years debating absurdities and abandoning substance. May we not spend the next four years debating conspiracies, ethnicity, religion, personal foibles, and asininities.
My fear is implicit in the experience of the past seven years under President Muhammadu Buhari. Not long after Buhari assumed power, did the egregious campaign against his place of nativity and religion become the defining trope of defiance against his administration.
At the time, I wrote there was more to the offensive than whatever missteps the administration might have made. Yes, the administration might have taken some wrong detours through contours, but what became the biggest subject of debate was an ethnic group.
In the next four years, Nigerians must be circumspect not to be drawn into the whirlpool of irrational opposition; destructive crusades, anarchical protests, and ethnically charged undisciplined conversations.
Criticisms and peaceful protests are critical aspects of democracy but should be expressed within the bounds of the law.
The security, unity and peace of this country should matter to us. Regardless of who we voted for, we need to bond our voices for a united and progressive Nigeria. Governance affects every citizen, whether left, centre or right. A Nigeria that works for everyone is what we need and should work for. We should oppose ideas where necessary and not dissolve into cannons of calumny. The buoyancy of democracy is in the quantity of active citizens and in the quality of ideas.
But should there be no limits to fake news, noxious propaganda, and malicious fabrications? Should we persist in an ecosystem of lies, slander and hate? How do we address the pesky problem of hate speech, fake news, misinformation, and disinformation on social media — particularly on Twitter and Facebook? How do we confront this problem? We cannot look away and pretend that this creeping monster does not portend enormous danger for Nigeria.
In cases where the extant laws have been applied against some offenders as regards “cyberstalking and cyberbullying,” there has been outrage by citizens. So, should we sustain this freewheeling to certain implosion? Does the social media space need sanitising? I believe we should not suspend our hands and watch Nigeria go up in flames from conspiracies, hate, and propaganda. But citizens’ rights must be protected at all costs and not abused.
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