By; Jerome-Mario Utomi
Among other teachings received as a student of media and communication studies, I was specifically told that information is the life wire of every business/governance. That to manage a business is to manage its information, and managing its information, means managing its future- that was back in the days.
Each time I remember these teachings as well as ponder on the madness of fake news that is presently ravaging our national geography, I observably but honestly conclude that our public office holders looking at inherent realities may not be believers in, or unmindful of the above time-honoured dictum.
Without wasting words, apart from the not too impressive performance associated with leadership in Nigeria, what apparently set the table for this fender-bender information atmosphere and proliferation of falsehood, propaganda, and fake news on the nation’s information wavelength is the government’s thoughtless dissemination of, and non adherence to democracy’s demand for open flow of information to, and most importantly from the people- even in the face of the Freedom of Information (FOI) Act.
It hardly needs to be said that such appalling setting has overwhelmingly created scenarios where the leaders in case after case dish out right information in the wrong places and time.
Towering evidence that our leaders may not have performed creditably well in this direction is Mr. President’s choice of an international forum, (in London) as the most appropriate location to remind Nigerians that some of their youths are lazy-a remark that irked the youths and further polarized the already strained relationship between the government and the governed.
Apart from the above unspeakable act of dispensing right information in the wrong place, there is an accompanying belief by Nigerians that majorly, it’s through foreign personalities, foreign media and very few Nigerian owned that accurately report the political and socioeconomic situation in the country- a behavior Nigerians with critical minds described as both native and burdensome.
Factually supporting the above position is the recent revelation by the USAID Country Mission Director, Stephen Haykin who represented the United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Stuart Symington at the 10th Anniversary Colloquium of the Financial Nigeria Magazine in Abuja.
Haykin, in that report stated that ‘Nigeria is pouring scarce resources required to fix critical sectors such as education and healthcare services into subsidies on petroleum products and electricity while adding that the inability of the country to recover the cost of electricity as well as the failure to recover the full cost of production from pump prices of petroleum products which means that critical resources were being diverted instead of being invested in education and healthcare’.
Certainly, a sad truth coming from a foreigner and a fact many of us were unaware of.
Indeed, for Nigerians with critical interest, the revelation is not by any means lacking in merit as different statements/remarks hovering around petroleum products subsidy management has daily been laced with incongruence and gaps- a state of affairs that has caused serious concern many.
For instance, as recorded, between 24th of May 2015 to 15th of January 2018, Nigerians were fed with baskets full of divergent comments about subsidy management that does not square with the logic.
From commentaries, ‘apart from Mr. President’s declaration in 2015 that he doesn’t understand what subsidy means, despite condemning its attempted removal in 2011 by the then Goodluck Ebele Jonathan led administration, Ibeh Kachichikwu, the Minister for state, Petroleum who had earlier declared that subsidy removal was impractical at his confirmation hearing suddenly turned 360 to say that subsidy has been removed. Before the dust raised by that unexpected comment could settle, that of Rotimi Amaechi was up when he succulently noted thus; ‘we are not saying that subsidy has been removed’’.
As if that was not enough woes for Nigerians, Lai Mohammade added his voicing saying that the removal of subsidy will create 200,000 jobs and that fuel price hike was precipitated by the fact that Nigeria was broke. Still on the same issue, Professor Osinbajo, the nation’s vice president informed bewildered Nigerians that subsidy has not been removed, that what we had was just a mere price hike while Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressive Congress(APC) national leader at some point remarked that the removal of subsidy was a very bold step. In all these conflicting remarks coming from the same government, Nigerian are left to fill in the gaps.
Noticeably, it was such misinterpretation/misrepresentation of facts and the government’s failure to remember that the best way to manage information is not by hoarding that fuels this uncensored news generation that is currently threatening our national existence.
Again, from the analysis of the feeble attempts made above by the government coupled with the hot vibes about subsidy and other national issues, it is possible to situate that, ‘reason is under serious assault by forces using more sophisticated techniques; propaganda, psychology, electronic mass media to feed Nigerians with what they choose ahead of logic and asymmetrically considered palatable for the masses.
However, the good news is that Nigerians like their global counterparts are beginning to use their own sophisticated techniques; the internet, and other online organizing platforms to detect, collaborate or contradict such information daily dished out from the government quarters.
The implication of the above is that the masses have for the moment lost fears of punishment and yielded obedience to the power of the internet which has become their new friend while breeding the proliferation of fake news, falsehood, and propaganda as a consequence.
Very instructive, what is playing out on the nation’s information space in my views is but a clash of misinformation between the fifth columnists in the fourth estate serving their master’s interest while pretending to be journalists and the poor masses who are the real victims of broken promises.
From this tragic understanding, I must, therefore, follow the sage maxim that nothing once begun should be abandoned unless it is proved to be morally wrong. Certainly, it has become eminently crucial that the government comes to the term that the only way out of the nest of fake news is by dropping this asymmetrical information management model as it is morally wrong and adopt a democratized information dissemination that will reflect the true picture of what the present administration is doing to better the lots of the masses..
Utomi, a Journalist/Researcher wrote in via; firstname.lastname@example.org