By Joel Popoola
“Together we shall be”
With protests taking place in at least one in three Nigerian states, it is hard to imagine a less appropriate slogan for our nation at this moment than the one President Buhari unveiled less than a month ago to mark the 60th anniversary of independence.
Nobody can say for certain when the current protests will end, and what will change as a result of them.
But what we know for certain is that Nigerians of all backgrounds, beliefs and ages will have to reunite when the #EndSARS protests are over. Together we must be.
But the social media misinformation which has defined so much of these protests will only make things harder.
A perfect example of this is the video circulating widely of presidential spokesperson Femi Adesina apparently dismissing the protests as “child’s play”.
But the video is old and has nothing to do with the current protests. It has been edited out of context and circulated with the words “if you are not angry enough, I hope this will help”.
Anger is one of the things Nigerians currently have more than enough of. We do not need any more. It is clear that peaceful protesters have suffered enough real-life indignities, insults and injuries. Inventing new ones only undermines their own credibility.
Similarly suspect social media information has been spread the other way, with semi-official sources and their surrogates seeming to spread untruths undermining and slandering peaceful protests against police violence and poor governance we all know continues to blight our nation. Telling us to ignore what is in front of our eyes only undermines their own credibility.
These protests will only end when officials and the public, electors and elected, come together and work to design and deliver a new Nigeria.
Mr Adesina himself has released a statement highlighting that the misleading video has led to him being “bombarded…. with curses, expletives, and messages from the pit of hell”.
We cannot allow social media to irrecoverably define relationships between the state and the public as antagonistic.
Recent days have brought home to us the tragic cost of the total breakdown in trust between public and political class in Nigeria causing relationships between government and governed to become grounded in mistrust and resentment, as we witness the widespread looting of government storage warehouses containing COVID-19 aid.
Protesters have claimed that the supplies were being hidden and hoarded by officials for their own use.
State governors have stated that the supplies were being held in reserve in preparation for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.
Maybe this was yet another example of public officials serving no-one but themselves. Maybe it was an eminently sensible action of governors planning ahead to meet the challenges of an uncertain future.
But in a climate of mistrust and misinformation, a lack of communication and a lack of transparency, the only outcome is yet more unrest.
What is not up for debate is that official Nigerian government figures show that more than half the population had to take out loans to pay for food during the first COVID-19 lockdown.
We can only solve problems like this if we trust each other and work together.
We can only build trust if people get their information from reputable, authoritative and credible sources – not from retweets and reposts designed to mislead and divide.
At the digital democracy campaign I lead, we believe new online platforms are needed to bring politicians and the people they serve together. That is why we have created a free mobile app called Rate Your Leader.
The Rate Your Leader app allows registered voters to directly contact local leaders person to person from their mobile phones, with our technology ensuring that all communication is courteous, civil and free from abuse.
Using Rate Your Leader, local people can ask straight questions of local leaders and expect straight answers in return. If they feel the response they receive are misleading or biased, they can rate the responders appropriately for their neighbours to see.
The app also allows local leaders to identify and address the issues which matter most to the people who elect them, building their profile, reputation and trust.
Together we can be. We have much more in common than we sometimes believe. We must not let falsehood divide us nor hostility define us.
Social media is key to defeating this, but right now it is dividing us.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur, digital democracy campaigner and creator of the Rate Your Leader app. You can reach Joel on Twitter @JOPopoola
Yobe Governor, Buni Marries Abacha’s Divorced Daughter, Gumsu
Yobe Governor Mai Mala Buni on Wednesday married Gumsu Sani Abacha in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT).
The marriage was held at the Abuja residence of the new wife’s brother, Mohammed Abacha.
Buni is the All Progressives Congress (APC) Caretaker National Chairman; Gumsu is a daughter of former Head of State, Sani Abacha.
Notable personalities and government officials, including the Comptroller-General of the Nigeria Customs Service (NCS) Hameed Ali attended.
In 2019, shortly after he assumed office, Buni tied the knot with Ummy, a daughter of his predecessor and incumbent Yobe East Senator Ibrahim Gaidam.
Gumsu, 45, is the governor’s fourth wife. Her marriage to Cameroonian multi-billionaire, Bayero Mohamadou crashed in 2020.
Wike Locks Down Rivers for LGA Elections
Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has ordered restriction of movement ahead of the local government election in the state.
The election is slated for Saturday, April 17 across 4,442 polling units, 319 wards and 23 local government areas.
In a broadcast on Thursday, Wike said the restriction from Friday night to Saturday is needed to ensure the smooth conduct of the election by the Rivers State Independent Electoral Commission (RVSIEC).
The governor assured residents that security agencies will provide adequate protection at all the polling units and collation centres.
“Consequently, vehicular and human movements, within and out of the state and the local government areas is hereby totally restricted from the midnight of Friday, 16th April, 2021, until the end of polling at 5pm on Saturday, 17th April, 2021, except for persons and vehicles strictly on essential duties with genuine and valid identifications,” Wike said.
“The security agencies have been directed to strictly enforce the restriction on human and vehicular movements and arrest and prosecute any person who dares to violate this ban. I have been briefed and received assurances from the RVSIEC that it is fully prepared and ready not only to conduct, but also to ensure that polling is hitch-free, fair and credible.
“Furthermore, the security agencies have clear directives to arrest and deal decisively with any person or group of persons, no matter how highly placed, who attempts to prevent the peaceful and orderly conduct of the election or compromise its integrity in any way.
“We call on community leaders and the general public to be vigilant and promptly report every suspicious movement and or illegal activity around polling units and collation centres in their localities to the security agencies for immediate action.”
Wike added that his administration will always ensure the promotion of democratic principles, including the election of officials at local government levels across the state.
“As a government that believes in the practice and consolidation of democracy, and in fulfilment of our constitutional duty to ensure the sustenance of democratically-elected local government councils in the state, we have since decided never to run our local government system with caretaker committees, except in inevitably justifiable circumstances,” he said.
“It is against this background that this election has been fixed to once again give our people the opportunity to effectively participate in the process of electing and constituting the next set of chairmen and councillors to administer the 23 local government councils.”
The governor urged voters to conduct themselves peacefully and refrain from any act of violence, adding that the election is not a do-or-die affair.
EFCC Frees Okorocha after Two Days Detention
Rochas Okorocha, former governor of Imo state, has been released from the custody of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), two days after he was invited for questioning.
Okorocha, who is currently representing Imo west at the senate, was grilled at the EFCC office in Abuja on Tuesday, over issues bothering on alleged corruption.
The former governor, who was in charge of Imo from 2011 to 2019, had been accused by the state government of various corrupt practices including diversion of public funds — although Okorocha has denied any wrongdoing.
Documents obtained by TheCable showed how the former governor awarded 12 contracts worth N20 billion in violation of the public procurement act.
TheCable had also reported how a government committee uncovered N112.8 billion “dubious debts”, which various banks owed the state during Okorocha’s tenure.
Sam Onwuemeodo, Okorocha’s media adviser, confirmed that Okorocha left the custody of the anti-graft agency on Thursday.
“With gratitude to God Almighty, we are delighted to inform the general public that the former governor of lmo state, and by the grace of God, the Senator representing lmo west senatorial district, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, is out of the office of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, and he is now in his house,” the statement reads.
“He left the Commission’s office on the afternoon of Thursday, April 15, 2021.”
Onwuemeodo, who described Okorocha’s invitation to the EFCC’s office as a “trip” said the former governor had earlier given the assurance that he will cooperate fully with the agency.
“We didn’t bother about whether he spent 24 hours or 48 hours at the Commission’s office. We were only keen in his having the needed opportunity to address the allegations contained in the avalanche of petitions written by the lmo State Government, against the former governor,” the spokesman said.
“Remember also that we had alluded that EFCC was not a slaughter house, but a responsible institution, established for the good of the nation and her people. And Okorocha being in his house today, only confirmed our hypothesis that, indeed, the Commission’s office is not an abattoir.”