By Joel Popoola
Real leaders know that self praise is no praise, but why has no-one told our politicians?
Imagine you heard that someone you knew was paying people to go around saying nice things about them. You’d think they were pretty pathetic, right?
Sadly, this kind of behaviour is becoming all-too-common in Nigerian politics.
Abubakar Malami, this week, became the latest political figure to be accused of hiring paid social media influencers to publish countless posts praising the Justice Minister for reforming the Nigerian judicial system and promoting accountability in government.
The hastag #achievementsofMalami even trended on Twitter.
I have no proof at all that these allegations are true – indeed given Nigeria’s problem with fake news being spread on social media, we all need to be savvy enough to consider that they are utterly untrue, and I welcome any effort to increase transparency and accountability amongst our political class.
But as a leading Nigerian tech entrepreneur I can certainly confirm that such behaviour is becoming endemic in Nigerian politics.
Regrettably, building an army of online mercenaries to relentlessly sing your praises online whilst simultaneously belittling and mocking your opponents has become an established electioneering tactic in Nigeria.
And it is bad for our democracy. It erodes trust and corrodes people’s willingness to engage in a political process where it appears that every politician either too good to be true, or too bad to be believed.
For politicians, the ability to pay people to broadcast your good works is a dangerous disincentive to actually having to do any good works in the first place. Real leaders know that self-praise is no praise at all especially when it is coming from rented mouths.
For voters, a well-functioning democracy depends upon a knowledgeable electorate. If voters cannot distinguish easily between fact and fiction, and are unable to trust what they read about candidates they are unable to make informed choices at the ballot box.
And the fact that so many young Nigerians are so jaded about our democracy, which in many cases, is younger than they are – that their political support, online at least, can be bought for a handful of Naira shames our nation.
At the digital democracy campaign I lead, we have a solution.
We have developed a free app called Rate Your Leader, which lets confirmed voters speak directly to their local leaders straight from their smartphone.
The app lets people ask direct questions to local decision makers as well as letting politicians know what matters most to the people who elected them.
And if the voters don’t think that the information they receive is believable or is excessively partisan, they can leave their leader a rating, letting their neighbours know how reliable their peers believe this source of information to be – a permanent visual mark of credibility.
The app also keeps communication courteous by blocking any offensive messages from being sent. Our goal is a new era of political engagement and accountability.
Distinguishing between fact and fiction online has never been more difficult. Just this week one of Nigeria’s major newspapers – traditionally and correctly seen as information source with the most credibility and integrity – was forced to take action to distance itself from a Facebook group trying to pass itself of as the paper’s official page and posting fake news as if it had come from the newspaper itself.
Then there is the case of Nigerian football hero, Victor Oshimen, who following his record move to Napoli in Italy was quoted online as saying:
“I am proud to join a club, who have seen great players like Maradona… I also want to go into the club’s history”.
It’s not controversial to say that Oshimen must aspire to follow in the footsteps as such a Napoli icon – one of the football greats, a World Cup winner who led the club to two league championships.
But Oshimen this week tweeted “I never said such a thing”.
When we cannot even trust a statement as uncontroversial as a footballer wanting to be as successful at his new club as one of their greatest ever players, what can we trust on the internet?
That is why a platform for verified voters to get information direct from verified politicians – and publically highlight to their neighbours the value of that information – is so vital.
Joel Popoola is a Nigerian tech entrepreneur and digital democracy campaigner and is creator of the free Rate Your Leader app. Joel can be reached on Twitter @JOpopoola or email@example.com
Insecurity: FG Resuscitates Special Terrorism Prosecution Courts
Attorney-General of the Federation (AGF), Abubakar Malami, has said that special terrorism prosecution courts will soon be resuscitated in Nigeria.
In a statement on Thursday, Special Assistant on Media and Public Relations to the AGF, Umar Gwandu, said the decision is part of efforts to address insecurity.
“The federal government is committed to ending insecurity in the country. The courts are to bring to book all those found guilty in connection with terrorism, so as to serve as a deterrent to others,” the statement read.
“In addition to the prosecution of 400 suspected Boko Haram financiers, the measures taken by the government will counter the twin trouble of insurgency and insecurity in the country.”
On April 30, 2013, Ibrahim Auta, the former chief judge of the federal high court, made a practice direction that amended the order 48 rule 4 of the federal high court (civil procedure) rule 2009, which took effect on June 3, 2013.
The practice direction was intended to fast-track criminal trials relating to offences of terrorism, kidnapping, trafficking in persons, rape, corruption, and money laundering cases, and ensure that delays in criminal trials are largely eliminated.
Under this practice, the court shall ensure that criminal cases are fully ready for trial before hearing dates are agreed, in order to minimise undue adjournments and delays.
Parties involved in the trials are also expected to focus only on important matters relating to their cases.
$65m Fraud: ICPC Declares Buhari’s Son-in-Law Wanted
The Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) has declared Gimba Yau Kumo, son-in-law of President Muhammadu Buhari, wanted over an alleged $65 million fraud.
In a notice published on Thursday, Azuka Ogugua, spokesperson of the anti-graft commission, said Kumo is declared wanted alongside Tarry Rufus and Bola Ogunsola over alleged misappropriation and dispersion of national housing funds.
Kumo, a former managing director of the Federal Mortgage Bank of Nigeria, married Fatima, the president’s daughter, in 2016 at Daura, Katsina state.
“The persons whose pictures appear above, Mr. Tarry Rufus, Mr. Gimba Yau Kumo and Mr. Bola Ogunsola, are hereby declared WANTED by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) in connection with issues bordering on misappropriation of National Housing Funds and diversion of the sum of Sixty Five Million dollars ($65,000,000),” the ICPC said.
“Anyone who has useful information on their whereabouts should report to ICPC Headquarters Abuja, any of the ICPC State Offices or the nearest police station.”
In April, the senate committee on public accounts summoned Kumo to explain the alleged irregular award of N3 billion contract when he was still at the bank.
Igbo Aren’t Violent People, Ignore ‘Rumour’ of Attack on Lagos – Ohanaeze Tells Sanwo-Olu
Apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, has asked Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, to ignore threats of attacks on the state.
On Monday, Hakeem Odumosu, Lagos commissioner of police, said the command is probing threats of attacks by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Oodua Republic agitators.
The groups have, however, denied the allegations.
Speaking at a meeting with Sanwo-Olu at the Lagos government house on Thursday, George Obiozor, Ohanaeze president-general, said the “rumour” is intended to distract the governor from delivering good governance to the people.
Obiozor said Igbo people are not known for acts of violence.
“Today, the leadership of Ohanaeze Ndigbo worldwide, in the company of Igbo elders and leaders in Lagos, are here to pay you (Sanwo-Olu) a solidarity visit and to further reassure you that Ndigbo are not violent in nature, neither are we known for acts of violence anywhere we live,” Gboyega Akosile, chief press secretary to the governor, quoted Obiozor as saying.
“[On] the constant and periodic dangerous insinuations, rumour, gossip and callous statements that Ndigbo in Lagos or any part of Yorubaland contemplate or instigate violence in Lagos or any part of Yorubaland, we wish to state clearly that anywhere this dangerous rumour or statement is emanating from is aimed to cause division, crises and conflict amongst us.
“We think that this rumour is intended to distract the Lagos State Government from its efforts to provide good governance for all and cause disaffection between Ndigbo who live in Lagos and their host community, which is the second home of several Ndigbo.
“The quick denial of this rumour by members of IPOB and Yoruba groups in Lagos and across the south-west was a source of relief.
“The Igbo nation is renowned for being agents of development, not destruction. Ndigbo are builders and their contributions to the development of Lagos State are evident and exemplary.”