Fake news got to its height in the last few weeks with the reports that President Muhammadu Buhari would be getting a second wife.
First, it was the absence of the First Lady, Hajia Aisha Buhari, from the seat of power for a long period that got the tongue wangling. Rumour mills went to work insinuating that the wife of the President had irreconcilable differences with her husband and had resolved to stay out of the Villa to register her discontentment.
It was reported that the First Lady was not comfortable with the activities of some unnamed men around her husband who allegedly have been controlling the levers of power. So the long stay of about 90 days outside the power house was interpreted to be her own way of protesting the excesses of the ‘cabal’ in government. After observing her hajj in Saudi Arabia, she went to London, United Kingdom to hibernate.
But the First Lady cleared the air that she actually went on a holiday to have private time with her immediate family members. According to her, she had missed the annual holiday for sometime due to the demands of her exalted office. This put a lie to the speculations that she may have be angered by the activities of the so called cabals in the corridors of power.
However, a disturbing video released by Fatima, daughter of Mamman Daura (Buhari’s older nephew), cast the First Lady in bad light. In the viral video, the mother of the nation was portrayed to have violently confronted Fatima just as it was reported that the President’s wife was locked out of the Villa.
Initially, the authenticity of the video was in doubt until Fatima claimed to have released it to the public, promising to even release some more. The First Lady equally authenticated the video explaining that the Daura’s locked her out of her apartment in the seat of power.
Though it is unfortunate that skirmishes within the first family were brought to the public glare, it must be stressed that such is inevitable among humans as there is bound to be disagreements especially among closely knitted family members.
It was the release of the video that bolstered the rumour that the President would be taking a second wife by last Friday. Until last Friday, the insinuations that President Buhari would be taking his Minister of Humanitarian Service and Disaster Management, Hajia Sadia Umar Farouk, had assumed flesh and blood. The nation waited expectantly for the D-Day and funny enough, activities in the Vila assumed a high tempo.
Ahead of the D-Day, some ministers were overhead discussing the rumours in hushed tones ahead of the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC). But the ‘new bride’ who was expected to tie the supposed nuptial knot with the President was in the United States of America (USA) attending to state functions.
Calls kept coming from everywhere seeking to find out where and when the wedding will hold. While some claimed that it would hold in the National Mosque, Abuja, others said they had it on ‘good authority’ that every arrangements had been made for the nuptial tie to be done in the Presidential Villa’s Mosque.
Notwithstanding the fact that the bride was not on ground, it was observed that the number of Muslims who came to pray in the Aso Villa Mosque increased particularly last Friday. This was probably for some of the faithfuls to witness the ‘wedding’.
The Presidential spokesman, Femi Adesina’s denial of the imagined wedding was also not enough to stop the people from looking forward to a marriage that was not to be.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that many politicians who would not want to be caught unaware of the ‘wedding of the century’ were lobbying those in the corridors of power to get the ‘Special Invitation’ to attend the event.
Operators in the social media took it to a ridiculous level by providing ‘invitation Cards’ codenamed BUSA 2019. The hilarious card was probably taken for real as some persons were reported to have contacted sources in the Villa to get it. Some even dressed the President in impeccable suit while the minister was seen in a viral video in a wedding gown.
Alas, Friday came and there was no wedding! The President, as usual, was in the office attending to official matters while everyone connected to official responsibilities in the seat of power were seen going about their normal business.
Now, the ‘Presidential Wedding’ story has shown the damage that the social media could do if it continues unregulated. Though many would say that proposing regulation in the use of new media in the country would be tantamount to gagging the press in a democracy.
The ridicule that the phantom wedding brought to the President and first family by some unconscionable persons who, armed with just a mobile phone, manufactured and sustained lies was regrettable.
One can only imagine the negative effect such fake news could have on the peaceful coexistence in the country should the same fervency adopted by the purveyors of the phantom wedding be deployed to promote unsavory information.
Notwithstanding the argument that democracy thrives with the freedom of the press, something just has to be done to stop the propagation of fake news in the country. Today, it’s about a presidential wedding that never was, it could be about other sinister issue with capacity to dismember the country tomorrow. Something just had to be done and the time is now.
The National Assembly must make laws that will criminalize fake news. Purveyors of fake and unverified news must be brought to account. Sources of fake news must be traced and perpetrators brought to book.
The media must carry out self cleansing exercise. With the social media, everyone is a journalist. Journalism must be professionalized. Those bloggers bereft of journalist etiquette must be isolated, disowned and dealt with accordingly. It’s only by doing this that the genuine media Organisations could be excused from the mess the social media had brought upon the noble profession.
Since some bloggers and online publishers have obviously resolved to bring the entire media into disrepute by generating and reticulating get fake news, the populace must learn to take every information from them with a pint of salt until confirmed by the traditional media. This is just one of the ways the people can retain sanity in an uncoordinated media milieu.