Menace of WhatsApp Broadcast Pranks 

Menace of WhatsApp Broadcast Pranks

by Demola Adefajo

There is no doubt about it, the WhatsApp and other social media have revolutionised our knowledge base. WhatsApp has enabled us keep in regular contact with friends, co-workers and family at minimal cost. However, it has come with its own negative baggage.

As a regular or occasional user of WhatsApp and other social media you must have come across some messages which you believe to be true and you decide to send to your friends and groups only to discover that they are untrue! It is also possible that you have identified some of your contacts who are always sharing messages which almost always prove to be hoaxes. In fact, I have a contact whose name I have changed to Alarmist because of her penchant for sending alarming messages which almost always prove to be untrue.

I have identified different categories of these messages based on their motives. They are those I call Marketers. They are designed to extol the virtue of some particular products which they claim can do a lot of magic. One of such is a broadcast recently recommending use of hand sanitisers to prevent sexually transmitted infections! We also have one advertising coconut oil as a cure for cancer.

The second category are those I tag demarketers. The broad objective is to malign some products. This category of broadcasts comes out with outlandish claims meant to malign such products. Victims of this type of broadcasts include Coca Cola, Paracetamol, Crunchy Biscuits, Dew Water, fruits etc. They come out with claims that a large number of people have died in a particular country after consuming the product! A cursory search on Google would expose the deceit. They however bank on the fact that most people are more likely to share a message than to check the veracity. They would even dare you to check on the net.

The third group are the pseudo religious broadcasts. You are asked to share a particular message in order to receive some favour. The designers even go further to give examples of people who sent the message and secure contracts or suddenly become millionaires. On the other hand, they give examples of some imaginary characters who met with misfortune because they refused to share! Did Dangote also share this type of message? Maybe that is the secret of Bill Gates’ wealth!

Among the pseudo-religious broadcasts are those designed to create discord among adherents of various religious groups. One of such was sent to me with the instruction to send to all my contacts! It claimed Christians are being killed in one part of India. A check on Google showed that there was no such killing. More importantly, the place mentioned does not even exist! Another is a message alerting Muslims to the plan by Denmark to burn the Qur’an “next Saturday”. The message has been circulating for years. Yet it is always “next Saturday”. You are asked to send to all your Muslim contacts so that they can boycott products made in Denmark! Hmmm! When will it be “next Saturday”? Is Denmark a person?

There are also the downrightly mischievous ones designed to poke fun at us! Maybe you still remember that message instructing us to bath with salt water and drink a lot of salt to prevent Ebola. It was originated by some girls who were bored and wanted to catch some fun. They then decided to design that message. So many people believed and did as instructed. At the end of the day many high blood pressure patients were dispatched to the great beyond after the salt they took aggravated their health condition!

We also have a recent one asking us to send to five WhatsApp groups to claim a sum of N720,000. Just like that!

In fact there are websites dedicated to creating this type of message!

Whichever the category of WhatsApp hoax broadcast they all bank on our fear, greed, emotion and laziness.

Here are some tips to avoid falling victim.

Beware of long health warnings. They often pack a lot of lies in the middle after starting with facts,

Hesitate before sharing messages. Maybe if you read a second time you would discover some lies in the message. This is why they often end with instruction to share now.

Always check on Google. Many of these hoax messages have been circulating for years and they have been documented as hoax. Just type the key words into your browser. E.g. Paracetamol Machupo virus hoax.

It is not true if it stands too good to be true! Ignore messages asking you to inform physically challenged persons that there is a scheme paying them N100,000 per month! Or a message instructing you to send name of your over 70 for free Hajj!

Ask questions. Don’t just share. Ask “Why is this person asking me to share with all my contacts?” What do they stand to gain?

We should endeavour to know a little about everything. For instance, if we know that HIV cannot be transmitted through food, we would ignore messages claiming some people got infected with HIV when they eat banana or water melon.

Try clicking on the links or call the phone numbers. This writer has made a number of breakthroughs by clicking on the link and indicated. On many occasions, the link refers to a different unrelated matter entirely.

When I called the phone number used to advertise a particular job offer, the person at the other end told me he had nothing to do with the said job. He lamented that he had almost developed a phobia for his phone as a result of the number of people contacting him for a job he knows nothing about.
Resist the urge to be the first to break a particular piece of news even when we aren’t sure it is true.

Be more scientific minded and less superstitious. A more scientifically minded person wouldn’t help send messages claiming some people died after receiving calls from a particular phone number

Some widely circulated WhatsApp hoax messages

Share this message with 20 contacts and your WhatsApp logo would turn blue! Even if you send to 1 million contacts, it would remain green.

Share this picture and some organisation would donate to treatment of a sick child. Bloody waste of time. Nobody is monitoring how many times you send a particular message!

40 persons died after eating a particular biscuit in South Africa. Ok o! I wonder how 40 persons would die after consuming a product in South Africa and yet no newspaper reported it and the company has not been blacklisted!

Share this video until it reaches Buhari! Thanks so much. I don’t have Buhari on my contact list. Besides, the person in the video does not bear any resemblance to the person you claim to be reporting.

To be continued!
Demola Adefajo blogs at
Twitter: @demoadefa

How fake news thrives in Nigeria

How fake news thrives in Nigeria

Agency Report

By Ephraims Sheyin

Thomas Jefferson, the third American President, is credited with what many regard as the most flattering attribute to journalism.

“Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the later,’’ Jefferson wrote in January 1787.

Unfortunately for the newshounds, Jefferson is also credited with what is seen as the most devastating remark on the media.

“The man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them,’’ Jefferson wrote a few years later.

“In as much as he knows nothing, he is nearer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehood and errors.’’

Jefferson’s dramatic u-turn may just have been caused by the preponderance of fake news, something that has taken over today’s media space, with both the social and traditional media struggling to outdo each other in the spread of hoaxes.

Consider this. A state governor is reported to be involved in a road accident which killed the driver and left the governor with a broken spinal cord. He is reportedly ferried, unconscious, to a foreign country for urgent medical attention.

The governor appears days later, hale and hearty, to the shame of newspaper editors, who had splashed the road crash rumour on front pages.

Or this. A gateman, Musa Usman, makes it to the front pages of several newspapers and enjoys prime time on televisions and radio for rejecting a house offered him by an Indian boss he had served for 25 years, opting to rather have a borehole in his community.

For placing public good above personal interest, he is celebrated as a model, with encomiums flowing from all directions. Usman has, however, declared that no house was offered to him. He says that his Indian master did not give him such an option. The house offer story was just someone’s imagination.

Not long ago, a news medium quoted a governor as pouring encomiums on his former political godfather, now a bitter political rival, at a ceremony to mark the latter’s birthday. Such a report should ordinarily be a simple and harmless one.

But, a few minutes after the story was published, the organ received threats of legal action. The event never happened. It was a hoax by a reporter, who had no qualms feeding the public with utter falsehood. The news was fake. A cheap lie.

The instances are just everywhere. Aside from the fake news, photos or videos are purposefully created and spread to confuse and misinform. Photos or videos are also manipulated to deceive, while old pictures are often shared as new.

In some cases, photos from other shores are shared in the Nigerian space, ostensibly to create the impression that they are local scenes.

Commenting on the trend recently, Umaru Pate, Head, Department of Mass Communication, Bayero University, Kano, said it was “dangerous, unethical, provocative and subversive to peace and societal serenity’’.

“Fake news misinforms and misdirects society with severe consequences on individual and national systems. It heightens tension, builds fear and mistrust among people.’’

The Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has also deplored the trend, declaring recently that fake news could “threaten and destroy’’ the country. He has also launched a campaign against it.

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo echoed similar worry in a speech at the biennial convention of the Nigeria Guild of Editors (NGE), in Lagos recently.

“Fake news will make media practice lose its appeal; it will challenge the credibility which is the base of journalism practice,” he said.

He called on editors to consciously take back the space by infusing online media practice with traditional and professional competence, to right the wrongs in the industry.

“Some people must take up the role of speaking against the bastardisation of journalism by the new media,’’ he declared.

Mr Osinbajo called for the resuscitation of investigative journalism to tackle national challenges and help government plan better, noting specifically that the advent of the new media had increased misinformation through the spread of fake news and other negative reports that often caused confusion, disaffection and disunity.

“Editors must evolve strategies that will keep journalism in its place as the digital media appears to be moving away from the newsroom to the clouds,’’ he said.

Mr Osinbajo regretted that the role of the newspaper was gradually being usurped as the print media continued in its pursuit of traffic, rather than accuracy.

He called on media stakeholders to equip newsrooms with gadgets and technologies that could detect and remove fake images from news items and emphasised the need for accurate, fair, balanced and objective reportage at all times.

Like Mr Osinbajo, many media analysts blame the worsening trend of fake news on the collapse of investigative journalism.

Peter Amine, Secretary of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Plateau chapter, for instance, believes that the spread of fake news can be minimised if reporters and editors insisted on the dictum “when in doubt, leave out’’.

“What we have, regrettably, is a situation where reporters, in a hurry to be the first with the news, hurl every rumour at the public. One can even understand the `wild freedom’ in the social media where there is no control, no editors, and no consequences for lying.

But, what does one make of similar lies celebrated in the traditional media?’’ he queried.

He blamed the preponderance of fake news on laziness and the loss of the investigative culture that should be the hallmark of functional journalism.

He urged editors to rise up to the challenge of curtailing the activities of erring reporters.

But, as stakeholders strive to minimise the incidences of fake news, analysts have suggested a deeper look into why it is getting more common and becoming the norm.

According to Mr Pate: “Fake news is partly caused by the absence, or late arrival of official information, which creates a vacuum filled by rumours and imaginations.’’

According to him, desperate politicians, ethnic jingoists, foreign interests and mischief makers have also taken advantage of the explosion in social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Google, Nairaline and WhatsApp – to spew fake news and hate messages which inflict confusion into the society.

While urging media houses to focus more on investigative reporting, he cautioned against selective reporting and the promotion of prejudicial stereotypes about groups and individuals based on incomplete facts, mischief and ignorance.

Other analysts have also called for more training to reporters and editors to boost research capacities among media professionals so as to minimise shallow reporting and episodic attitudes in news coverage and programme production.

They have also cautioned the media against promoting statements of politicians, ethnic champions, religious zealots and other interested parties without critical inquiry about specific social conflicts.

They noted that such groups were usually prone to spreading fake news against perceived rivals.

While urging media gatekeepers and news content managers to be more critical, the analysts have pointed out that publishing fake news could confer legitimacy, credibility and massive reach to such fakery and confuse the audience about truth and falsehood.

Worried by the effects of such misinformation, many Nigerians have always wondered if it is possible to quickly spot fake news to avoid being misled.

Sylvestre Dada, a communication expert, offers suggestions.

“The readers, listeners or viewers must check multiple sources, and try to establish trusted brands over time.

“They should also use various verification tools, with news content managers encouraged to check and think, before broadcasting or publishing.’’

He added that young people should be educated on what was trustworthy, as against what is fake, so that they could draw a line between the two.

But as Nigeria strives for reliable information crucial to her growth, media professionals saddled with that task appear to face lots of challenges, including the limited knowledge of the country by even top editors. Another challenge is the commercialisation of news.

Other limitations include ownership influence, social malpractices and corruption, media professionals acting as judges or advocates for hidden interests, and cases of senior editorial staff acting as consultants to politicians and religious groups.

The existence of cartels among reporters covering specific beats has also led to the adulteration of what is reported as the “media gangs’’ only decide what information to publish after “discussing and agreeing’’ with the news sources.

Analysts say that such “unholy fraternity’’ has often led to the “burial’’ of some hard truths that would have been useful in the nation’s search for greatness.

Another challenge is the “copy-me’’ syndrome, a practice where reporters receive reports of events they did not cover, from colleagues, and publish same, not minding if what they had been “copied’’ is fake news.

Not a few reporters have lost their jobs to this scary practice, yet it still persists.

To effectively battle fake news, observers have suggested closer working relationships among credible media organisations to facilitate the dissemination of only credible and verified news to reduce the attention to fake information by social media.

They have also called for increased and continuous training for media professionals, with regulatory outfits encouraged to strictly apply the rules, while professional bodies keep eagle eyes on members to guide against derailment. (NANFeatures)

More fake news here

More fake news here

By Bunmi Makinwa

Can one avoid fake news? It is highly unlikely. Anyone who uses social media, also called social networking services, will receive fake news. The more frequently one uses social media, the more fake news one receives. The challenge is to identify and ultimately avoid spreading fake news as the personal and social impact can be damaging. In fact, it may also have legal implications. The growth of technology, media technology in particular, in combination with the ease of creating one’s information through cheap mobile telephony, has democratised “news” both for good and bad uses. An active user of social media receives information many times each day from friends, families, casual acquaintances, and unknown people. It has become easier than ever to generate and spread information. It can be about anything. In several formats, including text, video, photo and voice, anyone can use just a smart telephone to express views, ideas, wishes and news that can reach numerous people across the world in rapid time.

Such shared information may be fake news which contains mis-information and inaccuracies. The information may be designed purposefully to deceive or mislead the receiver. Or it may be used to inform, or promote a viewpoint, sale, generate interest in an issue, or perhaps to entertain. Most people re-post information quickly and hardly spend time to verify its authenticity. Fake news varies in appearances and implications. As Nigeria’s 2019 elections for president, governors and other offices draw nearer, fake news will increase in frequency and sophistication. The relevance of newspapers, radio and television notwithstanding, social network services are very effective means of communication. Their impact on political discourse and communication is significant in Nigeria.

According to available statistics, Nigeria’s active users of social media increased from only 52 million in 2013 to about 90 million users in 2017. With a huge population of young people, the country will most likely surpass its hitherto growth rate of about three percent for active, users. Especially if the costs of mobile telephony decreases and the economy picks up in the near future, more young people will use the Internet with social media as primary means of communication. The mobile telephony subscription in the country rose from 1.6 million in 2002, to 87.4 million in 2010, and it is now at about 154 million. Some fake news can be sighted from a mile off. Especially by astute communication and media professionals. A casual observation will show if the name of the purported media organization is wrongly portrayed, or if there are wrong spellings, unusual language or style of presentation. In some cases the hyperlink used as source of the news or information does not exist. Or the statements made are simply doubtful.

Yet, fake news can be cleverly done. It is possible to use modern innovations to modify photos, voices, images and scenes and combine them to look credible. In such cases, it is difficult to spot the manipulations. More advanced analysis or technology is required.

Recently, Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka spoke of a fake website that had his identity all over it. He succeeded to trace the originator but the person has not taken the website down. Many wealthy people, celebrities, well-known persons, leading brands and organisations have fake information about them and attributed to them on the social media. Facebook, Twitters, websites and blogs, WhatsApp and Instagram are popular in Nigeria, and they contain a lot of fake news despite deliberate efforts by the platforms to identify and eliminate such fake news and their creators.

Whilst there is general agreement that fake news should be discouraged and stopped, there is little common position on how it can be done. Current libel laws may be already adequate. Others ask for special policies and laws to counter fake news, whilst some countries place special taxes on use of social media. There have been several instances where national authorities close down access to the Internet. Just as one does in daily lives, one must apply common sense to determine what is fair, right or wrong. There are no better ways than to question claims and appearances. For ease of doing things, you may want to consider the following ten points on your social media messages (text, voice, video, cartoon, photo and other materials). I call them my intuitive 10 laws of social media scams. They are particularly relevant as the political space heats up with ongoing campaigns.

All freebies on social media are scam. If the freebies are actually free, everyone and too many people have already taken whatever was available before I get to know.

If it sounds like fantastic news, a truly phenomenal happening, I hesitate. If it sounds untrue, it most probably is untrue.
Who said it? The same liar. He/she lied about things in the past. Forget it.

Oh, this story is credited to a well-known person, a public figure etc. If it is really true then I should find it on websites of the relevant major media, including newspapers, radio and TV. Is it there?

This does not sound like the same person I knew as a public figure. He or she would never do it or say such a thing.
Does this quoted person have the qualification or experience to speak with authority on the issue? Can I find his background information or depth of knowledge through a regular Internet search?

Alright, this item quotes a reputable major news organization. Let us check it on the website or in the information area of the news media.

The fact that it is written does not make it true. Anybody can write anything about anybody at any place at any time for any reasons. Where else can I check the truth of it? Who should know?

Allegations of corruption and abuse of office stated about every top politician is likely to be true. But proof is hard to come by. Choose which ones to accept and act upon. Avoid the ones that may lead to a libel case.

Buhari does not hate Atiku. And Atiku does not hate Buhari. They are friends, and will remain friends after the elections. Please, do not send me these hate stories.

Makinwa is Chief Executive Officer, AUNIQUEI Communication for Leadership.

Credit: The Guardian

How fake news almost caused disagreement between me and my wife – Osinbajo

How Fake News Tricked My Wife To Thinking I Stood With Strippers — Osinbajo

By Seyi Gesinde

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo has narrated recent encountered he had with his wife, Dolapo, consequent upon a piece of fake news which wrongly presented him to the public.

Lamenting the situation, Osinbajo, while speaking at a British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) symposium on fake news tagged, “Nigeria 2019: Countering Fake News,” on Wednesday in Abuja, said a blog posted a picture depicting him posing with strippers.

Shedding light on the matter, Osinbajo said he had indeed taken a picture with the women at an entertainment event and were fully clothed, it was found out that the blogger who posted the photo where the women were not fully clothed and wrongly presented it to the public.

The Vice-President, who observed that fake news is as old as communication must, said it must be effectively tackled as it could cause violence and destroy lives.

Osinbajo recounts the experience: “I have been one of the targets of fake news. It can also sometimes cause you marital peace. I got a call from my wife about three or four weeks ago and she said Yemi what are you doing with strippers and I said what do you mean by strippers? So, I read a story in a famous blog that said, ‘Osinbajo caught with strippers.’

“And there was a photograph of me sitting between two perfectly clothed ladies but underneath this picture, the same ladies were not wearing much.

“In fact-checking (I noticed that) the photographs with these two ladies at an entertainment event were taken when they were perfectly clothed but by the time the story was put out, it was as though I had taken a photo with them at the time they were not clothed at all.

“As it turns out, I wasn’t in the picture of where they were not wearing clothes but just the caption, the stories and all that gave the impression that here I was in the company of these ladies at a point when they were doing their business. I think the capacity of fake news to cause great harm is not in doubt at all.”

Credit: Tribune

Soyinka, others call for criminalisation of Fake News

Soyinka, others call for criminalisation of Fake News

by Vincent Ikuomola and Gbenga Omokhunu, Abuja

Nobel Laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka and other panellists have unanimously agreed that fake news be criminalized as a way of curbing the menace.

The call was made in Abuja on Wednesday at a symposium on fake news organised by BBC News.

Soyinka said that fake news has the capacity to cause the Third World War, adding that it may come from Nigeria.

The Nobel laurel, therefore, asserted that fake news be treated as a crime.

Other panellists include Jamie Angus, Director, BBC World Service Group; Funke Egbemode, President, Nigeria Guild of Editors; Uchechukwu Pedro, Founder, Bella Naija.

According to Soyinka, “People do not understand what is like to have things attributed to you which you know nothing about. Apart from the fact that I have been killed on social media several times. These last years I had telephone calls asking me where are you and I said I am in a hall. And I said I know why you are calling because you thought I was dead. Imagine waking up one day and finding a statement attributed to you and in a kind of language which you never used. For example, during former President Good luck Jonathan, there were statements that I said why did Jonathan marry an illiterate woman. I never made comments like that whatsoever.

“And I made a statement that if people are not careful world war 3 may quickly be started by fake news and that fake news probably will be generated by a Nigerian. We have a system where fake news can multiply in a second. Many of the fake news carriers use it for Business. I have someone whom we have tracked down in Poland, using a fake Facebook page of my name and my picture. And I give him a deadline to pull down the page. He lives in the United States of America but lives in Poland. He is a member of an organization called some AIESEC which actually encourages young businessmen and women.

“The first thing is to accept the fact that fake news is real and people should stop rushing to the fake sites. Individuals who have no voice before have been empowered suddenly. Every individual is now a journalist, editor promoter and most of all a publisher. There is competition to be the first to comment. So the ‘419’ individuals sleep in cafes doing all sorts of things. Fake news should be treated as a crime. When you pin down one of such criminals it should be a case of INTERPOL because they move all over the place. They should be advertised as criminals and get the police to arrest them.

“I had complained about this to a former inspector general of police that this has to do with personal security, community security. I had expected him to reply but there was no response. Not even acknowledgement.

“This should be a collective responsibility. Above all, we should treat it like a crime”.

The representative of the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Festus Okoye, a National Commissioner, posited that fake news constitutes a danger to the forthcoming general elections.
Okoye who also pointed out that the country has an army of angry people with different agenda therefore urged the security operatives to be watchful so as to arrest any threat that may want to spring up.

The INEC commissioner also challenged Nigerians on the need to be able to draw the line on what they want to believe.

The commission, Okoye said will be undertaking regular briefing as the elections draw near as part of the measures to curb fake news.

Confessing that fake news is an issue ahead of the 2019 poll, Okoye said, “it is important that we should pay attention to fake news, it is an issue in the forthcoming 2019 general election.

“Fake news is misinformation, it has no basis in fact and no basis in reality. But it is generated for a particular purpose. The issues of fake news is of most important in an election period where the stakes are high and where the gladiators wants to win and some of them want to win by all means. So there are people who just sit down mix friction in other to generate a certain reaction. And when they generate such reaction you can never tell how it will go. In a country like Nigeria sometime people receive information saying forwarded as received without you looking at the dynamics of what they are forwarding. So for me if you forward as received that means you believe in what they are forwarding or you can attest to what you are forwarding. It is a very serious issue and we are also paying close attention to fake news.

“The truth of the matter is that during an election period people wants to guild there thoughts. As the chairman of the information on voter education committee of INEC, we have had to battle with a situation where it was reported that we have established polling unites in Chad, Niger and other neighboring countries for purposes of having the the Internally Displaced persons to vote.

“Nobody wanted to believe us when we said that there is nothing like that. One of the things that generate fake news is our inability to put out information in the public. When we put out information and you give it a different narrative then it is not our fault. I believe that if governments, agencies are proactive in putting out information on public space. In Nigeria you keep on hearing that there is no smoke without fire. That give people the opportunity to believe something even if they know that the chances of that news to be real in not possible. ”

Egbemode on her part warned INEC to be ready for fake news, saying politicians will do what they have to do.

He stressed that fake news is dangerous, posited that some people are paid to spread it.

She said: ” Fake news is sophisticated. And some people wants to use that to set the country on fire. They want to see the effect. They know that there are some people who believe in sensation and they just take a full advantage of that. In the newsroom, we also know that fake news infringes on professionalism, it compromises integrity. Names that is built, brand that is build over decades.

“So we make sure that as an editors we cross check. If you cannot prove it then it cannot even be called a news item. That is what we do and that is what we have been doing. This is the season for more fake news. It is because of the advent and strength of the social media that we are having fake news and there are a lot of people who are paid to spread fake news. These people who post or Carry fake news are not journalists. The fake news issue did not originate from the newsroom. We know what we will lose if we peddle the smallest news item that is fake. We will lose ground, credibility. INEC should be ready for more fake news as the election approaches. There is news and there is gossip. When you want what is real you know where to go to. And when you want gossip and sensationalism you know where to go. When you want to listen to a sermon you do not go to a bar.”

Another panelist, Uche noted that ” A lot of the fake news website mimic real news website, so they have they have similar template, it even contains lot of real information alongside the fake information. Fake news go viral than the real news. Many of these people that are posting fake news employs different methods by putting prominent figures to make it real. This is a political period we should be careful and vigilant. The traditional media is not creating fake news. Newspapers do not do that. The people who are posting fake news are not those who will benefit from it. When we have no official news people are going to take the unofficial one.”

Credit: The Nation

Jubril al-Sudani

Jubril al-Sudani

By Cheta Nwanze

I have vivid memories of the celebration in Benin City on July 6, 1994, when we heard that seven of the Italian players who had knocked us out of our first World Cup the day before had tested positive for drugs, leading to Italy’s disqualification. My cousin, Chuma, who came into Benin from Jos the next day, confirmed that he had also heard the story in Jos, which confirmed the authenticity of the story.
Our first World Cup campaign had started well. African champions, in our first match we dazed Bulgaria 3-0 before falling to Argentina 2-1 in a tightly contested match where Maradona the junkie played some funny tricks. Then we beat the Greeks 2-1. Therefore when the knockout game against Italy came, we were confident of victory. We scored first, but the Italians turned it around and won. Nigeria’s World Cup debut was over.

But the next day, the rumour about the Italian drug tests spread like wildfire, and people came out to celebrate our passage to the quarter finals. Thus it was that on June 9, we gathered around the television set expecting to see our Super Eagles file out against Spain. It never happened.

The rumour carriers in 1994 could be forgiven by today’s standards, as they had no way to verify the drug test rumours, except to wait, and get their hearts broken as Gli Azzurri filed out to face Spain in Foxborough. Rumours are a staple in Nigeria, and that incident made me promise myself that I would try and verify every story. It’s a promise I have largely kept, although I have had some spectacular failures which still haunt me. You see, some stories are just too sweet not to run with once you hear them.

Twenty years later, another rumour caused quite a bit of heartbreak in Nigeria, and this time it was spread by the very tool that would have allowed its propagators to verify, the mobile phone.

The year was 2014, and Nigeria was in the grips of a potential outbreak of the Ebola virus. In Catholic churches as an example, the Pre-Eucharist ritual of Pax Domini was suspended so that people would not have to come into contact with a potential carrier of the virus. However, for some reason, the rumour spread, aided by the BBM instant messaging client, that a saltwater bath could cure someone of the virus.

At least two people died, and 20 ended up in hospital in Plateau state alone, because of excessive use of salt water, based on that rumour. Something that could have very easily been verified. It is important to note that given the medium of spread – BBM, a good number of Nigeria’s cream took part in spreading that story.

Last week, Nigeria’s President was subjected to international ridicule, because he addressed a rumour. The rumour had gained ground that Muhammadu Buhari whom we see, is not Muhammadu Buhari, but a body double, or clone according to some, a chap from the Republic of Sudan, whose original name is Jubril.

There are three threads to this incident:
First — Jubril al-Sudani is the creation of a delusional and possibly deranged Nnamdi Kanu. He first talked about it in a Radio Biafra broadcast last year. Unfortunately, Jubril gained strength on the back of the information gap that Buhari’s long absences created when he disappeared for treatment without explanation. Till date, we do not know what was, or is, wrong with our President. If he had been honest, we won’t have had to deal with this. When there is an information gap, people will fill it with something.

Natura abhors vacuum.
Second — Buhari’s choosing a foreign venue to respond to the allegation in person, when he could have simply told the person who asked the question something along the lines of, “I don’t dignify such stories with a response,” is a clear testament to the disdain with which Buhari holds Nigerians in Nigeria. Not responding to the rumour was the right thing, but Buhari being Buhari, the moment he was outside the country, his mouth loosened up. Then the international press, and the comedy circuit, picked it up. The first person to pick it up was the influential American political commentator, Ben Shapiro, who has the ear of a man that allegedly called Buhari lifeless…

Third — Most importantly from my viewpoint is this: remembering the Italy rumour, and the saltwater thing, that this rumour spread like wildfire is evidence of the kind of society that we are. We thrive on unsubstantiated tales, and disdains rigorous fact-checking and data gathering. To be honest, I am a lot more frightened about Nigeria’s future now than I have ever been. The kind of people who have propagated this tale, highly educated people, makes me worried. I got WhatsApp messages from people, where they simply forwarded the flipped “left-handed Buhari” as evidence that he is now a clone. If the so-called cream of the crop in Nigeria can spread this without thinking, imagine the kind of damage a well thought through fake news campaign can do to us.

Culled from The Guardian

FAKE NEWS ALERT: Buhari, Jibrin Al-Sudani, Osinbajo and NEMA — what’s the link?

FAKE NEWS ALERT: Buhari, Jibrin Al-Sudani, Osinbajo and NEMA — what’s the link?

by Oluseyi Awojulugbe

After several public appearances and speeches since news of President Muhammadu Buhari’s “death” broke out in January 2017, the rumours should have died by now.

But no. Not yet.

In recent times, the news started trending again that Buhari actually died, and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo should have taken over as president but a certain Jibrin Al-Sudani, a body double, was brought in by the “cabal” to replace him. Osinbajo would have resisted, according to the allegation, but his hands were “soiled” and he had to retreat.

How do these events connect?

CLAIM 1: Buhari died and body double replaces him

The content of various WhatsApp broadcasts claims that the president passed on in January 2017 in a United Kingdom hospital. The broadcast claims that the president was replaced with Jibrin Al-Sudani, a former prisoner and body double.

Buhari’s purported ‘death certificate’

In a January 2017 fact check published by TheCable, it was established that the websites claiming to be UK’s Metro newspaper and Huffington Post of the US were spoofs.

Some of the loopholes that killed the story were: calling the high commission in London ‘Nigerian embassy’ and attributing the death announcement to the Nigerian mission and not Aso Rock, which is the seat of power.

Read the fact check here.

A commenter on social media wrote in response to the latest speculations: “The writers claimed that President Buhari who died in London was replaced by Jubrin Al-Sudani, a former prisoner but they did not think that there is something called technology. They also have never heard of a voiceprint. This is a set of measurable characteristics of a human voice that uniquely identifies an individual. These characteristics, which are based on the physical configuration of a speaker’s mouth and throat, can be expressed as a mathematical formula. The term applies to a vocal sample recorded for that purpose, the derived mathematical formula, and its graphical representation. Voiceprints are used in voice ID systems for user authentication.

“Even if the bigots that wrote the article claims that Buhari will pass the voiceprint in Nigeria, will he pass the test across the world? Will he get past world leaders? Will this mirage of a Jubrin speak like him, recognize all the people he knows, his family, friends, etc? This is a stupid and lazy allegation to say the least.

“The writers also claimed that Aisha Buhari could not stand this so-called Jubrin that she refused to receive Prince Charles and Camilla on their royal visit to Nigeria.

“But the writers forgot that in September, Aisha and her husband graced the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York. They held multiple meetings that were reported by both the local and international media.”

CLAIM 2: Osinbajo blackmailed to play along

The authors also claim that Vice-President Osinbajo could not confront the cabal and take over as president because his hands were soiled with the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) scandal.

True, the house of representatives report said that the vice president acted against the law by approving N5.8 billion north-east intervention fund for NEMA without appropriation from the national assembly.

However, the report said the approval was given in April, three months after the purported death of the president. Practically, the sequence of events was impossible.

Osinbajo had not given the approval during the period of the president’s rumoured death.

Linking the purported death of Buhari in January 2017 and the failure of Osinbajo to become substantive president in January 2017 to the NEMA affair of April 2017 is implausible.

The office of the vice-president has defended his action in approving the emergency funds.

According to his media team, Osinbajo, then as acting president, acted in the best interest of Nigerians and saved thousands of Nigerians by swiftly approving N5.8 billion for emergency food supply — in line with Section 43 of the Bureau of Public Procurement (BPP) Act which makes provision for emergency procurement, in which case the procuring entity can engage in direct contracting for goods and file a report thereafter with the BPP.

Conclusion: As previously established, news that President Muhammadu Buhari died in January 2017 remains false and theories that Vice-President Osinbajo could not take over office then because his hands were “soiled” from the NEMA approval in April 2017 are chronologically impossible.

Culled from TheCable

Buhari and the fake news of his death

Buhari and the fake news of his death

By Raymond Eze

There is no gain saying the fact that all mortals are indebted to death. In Nigeria’s history, the fate of losing sitting or former Presidents and other prominent leaders has befallen us a number of times. Among such incidences were the deaths of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Ahmadu Bello (the Sardauna of Sokoto), General Aguyi Ironsi, General Murtala Muhammed, D.r Nnamdi Azikiwe, General Sani Abacha and Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua. In spite of the circumstances of their death, the news at least was never hidden. Some of them, if not all, were accorded state and/or religious rights of honour due them. Presidents die. They are human and mortal.

But President Muhammadu Buhari has not died. He is not dead. He perhaps died only on the social media, Facebook pages and WhatsApp groups. What has become the height of fake news which is now making the rounds started with one Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB. He dropped an allegation that Nigeria’s living President Buhari is an impostor. And the news is spreading like wild fire. The pain is that even lettered people who should know better are buying the story. Nonsense! What could have made these people this gullible? What magic or creative power could have made this new Buhari have retentive memory or power of recognition? This must be a joke taken too far. There is no known technology that can impute his experience in the military, identification of associates, friends and relatives as well as experience in office if he is an impostor.

Taking ill is not synonymous with death. If so, all that had taken ill before would have been dead. And perhaps the earth would have been empty because people fall sick every second. It baffles one that some people take their hatred for the President to the extent of wishing him dead. These haters should know that his family members still love him and want him alive, if not as President but as a father, a husband, a grandfather or an uncle etc. But proponents of this fake news won’t have any of such. They are rather engrossed in their infamous act of spreading fake news. They hate the President that, even if he is standing before them, they would prefer to believe that he is a ghost or an impostor as it is in this case.

The masterminds of this ignoble act have attempted to convince their gullible audience through non-existing physiological comparisons. They maintain that he was sick beyond recovery. So how could he have recovered? To them, no miracle or medical efficacy could have restored his health, otherwise how can he look chubby after his sunken jaws and cheeks closed up in good health. Some have also gone to the extent of alleging that the Queen of England even commiserated with the country over the purported death. Others said the AU had a minute silence in his honour. Unbelievable! And no international protocol observed for or accorded him? For crying out loud, are these no longer World affairs that could not have been hidden from international focus? Or did all the CNNs and BBCs of this world also die along with him? If the Queen commiserated with the country, who received her as the chief mourner? It is important to put on record that President Buhari is an accomplished man, a member of the Kastina Emirate, a retired General of the Nigerian Army, former Head of State and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. His death would, no doubt, be celebrated as done in the case of personalities of his class. He is indeed an accomplished person. The man is ain’t going anywhere yet. Life and death are beyond humans and their knowledge and abilities. Death is beyond our control.

It has become obvious some people would have asked Buhari to die or take his life were that to be in their hands. Some others have insinuated that Buhari does not look sick anymore neither does he go for medical check-ups as he used to. Why are you disturbed? This is an unusual and unsolicited care for the President. And sure, not out of love. Only mischief smells here. What is really the annoyance of these President haters? Are they really angry that he no longer travels often to seek medicare or are they pissed that they can no longer use that against him?

The presidential campaigns for the 2019 general election has begun and so much thrash of this nature would be spilled on gullible individuals with the aim of defaming their opponent and canvassing for votes. This type of dirty politics is not healthy for the growth of democracy in the country and Nigerians must beware. Although every individual is entitled to their opinions, it is disappointing for some interests to easily buy into the fake narrative being propagated by mischief makers who do not wish the country well.

This is obviously not the best of times for the country. Some misguided groups or persons, for their selfish interests, are selling a toxic idea to the vulnerable. This, at a time like this, is capable of setting the nation aflame. It is believed that Buhari has supporters. Who can say what kind of negative narratives they may have against their political opponents. And what if they have and decide to use it, who can imagine the extent to which it may go. Nigerians should be guided. We must join hands together to resist the unfolding propaganda in the interest of national unity and stability.

Everything is not politics. This is not the time to play politics with the life of our President.

•Eze writes from Enugu via: e-mail: