Fellow Nigerians, these are very interesting and humorous times indeed! Barely one week after the Big Brother Naija show was concluded, ending our light relief, some restless Nigerians have started their own nebulous reality show in earnest. To say Nigerians are well endowed with fecund imaginations and fantastic creativity would be an understatement. This is why rumourmongering is big business in this climate.
Let me reassure you that it didn’t just start today. Many are blaming the proliferation of social media and the affordability of internet data for this unusual surge in the wild speculations and stories flying everywhere today, but I wish to disagree with this theory. This is a major aspect of my research work at The African Studies Centre, University of Oxford.
Society Journalism is not new to Nigeria or Africa. This genre thrives on wild rumours and fertile imaginations. It was once described as junk journalism. And society loves junk generally because it is like fast food. People love to read and hear and discuss society people. Society people or newsmakers themselves love to gobble up junk stories, no matter how ridiculous they may be or sound. More often than not, the stories are untrue, but society still feeds on them.
Let me take you down memory lane. In May 1989, a wild rumour surfaced that nearly sent the government of President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida packing. The content of the rumour was so bizarre, but even intelligent people still believed the story. It was what led to what was tagged THE SAP RIOTS. SAP was the acronym for Structural Adjustment Program which President Babangida had introduced at the time. Then came the news, which was made believable by the participation of the famous social critic, Dr Tai Solarin, who swore by Jove that the story was impeccably true. What was it all about? It turned out that this tale was what he had learnt from a brief but hasty trip to a public toilet where he had overheard a conversation in which the lurid allegations were made.
It was reported that while Nigerians were being asked to tighten their belts and lives, Babangida’s family allegedly owned some of the most exclusive and expensive boutiques in Europe. Since there was no social media to help project, propel and distribute the gossip, the promoters had to improvise by typing the tales by moonlight on stencils and printing them as leaflets.
Unlike today, that was a time when we had no social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and WhatsApp, it therefore remains a mystery how they were able to make those leaflets go so viral in 1989. From Lagos to Edo State and around the South West axis, the stories developed wings and began to spread across Nigeria like wildfire in harmattan. The more people tried to douse the fire, the higher the fire took a major leap of its life. And sadly, people believed the campaign of calumny against the government of the day which led to the youths taking to the roads and streets screaming “Babangida must go…” Anyone who said anything contrary was instantly considered an enemy of the people and friends of the looters. The situation was not so much different as it is today, but social media has since made such stories readily available to a willing, gullible and sometimes ignorant market.
I was away from our office at the Weekend Concord newspaper when the news broke on a horrible Wednesday. I returned on Friday afternoon by which time the first edition of the tabloid had gone to bed and already printed. The screaming headline was BLACK WEDNESDAY IN LAGOS. I immediately disagreed with my boss, Mr Mike Awoyinfa, that the headline was rather weak for a Saturday paper. He then challenged me to come up with a better headline and I picked up the challenge and came up with my own: RUMOURS THAT FUELLED THE RIOTS! My Editor was over the moon with his Deputy Editor, Mr Dimgba Igwe (now of blessed memory).
The next problem was how to write a good story to justify my new headline without getting into trouble with the military government of the day. Trust me, I offered to be the lamb of God who would carry the sins of the world. Interestingly, this was 30 years ago, in 1989. I ordered a bottle of beer and raised one of my legs on the table while I pumped the alcohol into my brains to emit some powerful words for one of the biggest stories of my journalism career. That was when the famous columnist, May Ellen Ezekiel, who had just lost her job at Quality magazine and was now working on her own publication, Classique magazine, but kept a column in Weekend Concord, which I edited, sauntered in and saw me drinking while writing. First it was strange, and almost sacrilegious, to find anyone drinking in the main offices of Concord newspapers, except at the popular Bush Canteen, earmarked for such purpose, and then to be writing a satanic story at that. May Ellen approached me and said “shuo, what’s going on here?” I explained the delicate story I was working on and she was excited too. That was the day her respect for me quadrupled and she started making moves to headhunt and poach me to her magazine, to which I fell yakata about a year later.
Fortunately, that evening, our Chairman, Chief Moshood Abiola, returned from a trip to Europe and brought us copies of the Ebony magazines which was allegedly supposed to have carried the stories of the Babangida’s outlandish ownerships of expensive shops and choice properties abroad while Nigerians languished in excruciating pains. Nothing of the sort was ever published by Ebony. That was not the type of gossipy stuff Ebony would normally disseminate. So, I first regurgitated all the fictional anecdotes before revealing that we had laid our hands on recent editions of Ebony and nothing of the sort was contained therein. And we published a bromide of the Ebony on the cover to prove the authenticity of our claims. I believe our second edition on Saturday morning reportedly sold over 80,000 copies in Lagos and its environ alone. And I earned a double promotion that May 1989, when I moved straight from Staff Writer to Literary editor. Six months later, I was promoted News Editor, and it was such a meteoric rise for me. Our Managing Director, Dr Doyinsola Hamdat Abiola, who had handpicked me for the job at weekend Concord as a pioneer staff, from my former post at the African Concord magazine, was very proud of her decision.
Thus, you can imagine how I feel today, 30 years after, with another round of incredible fictionalisation, this time, about a former military ruler, now a civilian President, Muhammadu Buhari. The difference this time, I must reiterate is that the youths of today are much more audaciously creative, and largely emboldened by their smartphones from where they can operate even more clandestinely and incognito.
No one knows how the rumours of President Buhari’s supposed whirlwind romance with one of his new Ministers surfaced and blew out of proportion such that everyone is talking about it authoritatively. Different versions of invitation cards have been designed and printed online. Some people claimed the wedding was definitely taking place and procured their own “aso ebi”, a special uniform dress for special guests, friends and relatives. By Thursday night, I had reached out to several impeccable sources within and outside the Presidential villa and was told categorically that no such event would take place on Friday, October 11, 2019. I also confirmed that the supposed bride was not even anywhere near Nigeria. She was away overseas on national assignments.
But some new videos, purportedly showing the supposed arrival of the reportedly estranged First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, who has made England her new home and base these past months, were going viral. One of them was a loud voice lamenting how some parts of the villa had been locked up and the woman in the video was practically stridently lamenting and soliloquising about how she was being treated shabbily. “Enough is enough” was her bitter assertion in that particular video. There were other videos of the new bride dancing and being sprayed with crispy notes in what looked like a traditional wedding party. All the videos of the alleged returnee wife and the supposed incoming bride turned out to be old footage obtained from God knows where and how.
My investigations further revealed that the First Lady was also out of the country. I therefore, tweeted that there was no way such a wedding would take place in secret, but many still disagreed with me. President Buhari is a man well known for his strong convictions and would not hide behind one finger, if and when he decides to take another wife. It is not an offence against his culture and religion to marry more than more wife, so there is nothing that can stop or discourage him, if he really wants another wife. What I find odd and strange is that his handlers allowed the silly rumours to fester beyond redemption. A simple statement would have killed the unbridled rumour in its infancy.
By yesterday afternoon, the rumour came up with renewed vigour as the day of reckoning loomed with some people running commentaries like football commentators from the “wedding venue”. I have never felt so entertained and titillated in my life. My name even came into one of these spoofs. These guys are downright hilarious!
Someone created the account, Uncle Demola @OmoGbajabiamila, and ran this commentary:
“Burna Boy is giving us ‘when the gbedu de enter body’ “…
“Oshiomhole don off shirt.”
“LMFAOOOooo… Chris Ngige is doing breakdance to Burna Boy’s song. Anambra people can disappoint sha!”
“Adebayo Shittu is finally here.”
“When Baba see strippers, E just de shout ‘Astagafurillahi, Astagafurillahi, Astagafurillahi!’ ”
“I’m hearing noise outside. Let me go and check what’s happening.”
“There is a serious problem outside between Rochas and DSS.”
“Apparently, Rochas Okorocha came with a giant statue of Buhari and he wants to bring it inside but the DSS guys won’t allow it. Where’s Abba Kyari FFS???
Rochas just came in and he’s complaining bitterly about the DSS guys not allowing him bring the statue in.”
“Wait! Dino Melaye has been allowed to enter as Naira Marley’s backup singer. Smart man!” #BUSA19
“Naira Marley has not even started singing, Lauretta Onochie is already twerking… DSS, heissss DSS. Do your job naaau!”
“Shehu Sani is on low cut. Baba wan disguise enter. ABBA Kyari catch am. DSS is taking him away already!”
“Apparently, someone told Dele Momodu that the party had been called off. So, he didn’t bother to come. Baba dey Twitter now de lament as e see say groove don begin.”
“LMFAOOOOooo… ABBA Kyari don bounce Dino Melaye.”
“Elrufai don show!!!”
“Goodluck Jonathan came with his own Sapele water. Ijaw man himself. Hennessy na like Sprite for am.”
“Garba Shehu de in charge of Barbecue.”
“Be like Femi Adeshina de suspension.”
“…Dem don wake Ganduje, make E come go sleep upstairs. Be like Baba don de snore.”
“Amaechi and Wike are also here but the two of them are on handcuffs so that there won’t be any fighting between them.”
“Akeredolu with this his baggy trousers sha. Who is his tailor nitori Olorun?”
“Buhari has collected the mic from Naira Marley. Looks like he doesn’t like the Soapy song. Not sure Abike Dabiri will like this!”
“Rauf Aregbesola is drinking Malt.”
“Fashola is calling NEPA boys to bring light. Be like fuel don low for gen and Mele Kyari nor remember to buy fuel.”
“Femi Gbajabiamila is here on a Gucci up and down. Iyalaya anybody!”
“Femi Otedola and Dangote are forming big boys. Nonsense!”
“I think I have been reported. The DSS guys are looking at me wan kain…” That’s the narrator, Uncle Demola himself.
For me, that was the height of comic relief that attended this silliness and maybe it came at the right time of acute stress everywhere. It certainly alleviated my feeling of gloom and doom. The solution is certainly not to ban or criminalise fake news. That was not done in 1989 by the more authoritarian, dictatorial military regime of Ibrahim Babangida. It should not be done now, when we are in a constitutional civilian democracy! For me, as a journalist, the freedom of speech guaranteed by the constitution is sacrosanct and, in any event, there are extant laws available to deal with any abuse or infraction. Any new law will only be used by those keen to muzzle critics and presumed opponents of government like the so-called “wailing wailers”!
My conclusion is that nothing can ever shock Nigerians again so that even if this story had been true, we would have taken it in our stride. Our proclivity for absorbing shocks is infinitesimal. The world is waiting and watching how alleged family feuds, rebellion and relationships involving the leadership, domestic and other staff would end eventually.
Will this national drama ever lead to a denouement? Time will tell.
Mamman Daura’s Daughter’s Release of Clip at this Time is Mischievous, Didn’t Share Video Where She Abused the First Lady, Aisha Buhari – Presidency Source
A source within the Presidency has debunked claims made by Fatima, daughter of Mamman Daura who is one of President Buhari’s closest allies on being attacked by First Lady, Aisha Buhari at the Aso Villa, The Nation reports.
Recall that in an interview with BBC, Fatima denied report of her father arranging a second wife for President Buhari. She also denied claims that her dad is allegedly the head of ”a cabal” which controls the Buhari presidency (Aisha Buhari had in the past alleged that some persons have taken control of her husband’s government).
Fatima also revealed that she recorded the viral video of Aisha Buhari screaming at some persons in the Villa in 2017. According to her, she recorded the video to prove that the First Lady was violent to her and her family members after President Buhari asked them to vacate an apartment they were given in the villa after he assumed office in 2015.
However The Nation reported that a Presidential source debunked the claim, alleging that Mamman Daura’s daughter failed to tell the full story on why they were asked to vacate the apartment.
According to the source, the apartment was needed for the then recuperating Yusuf after his Power Bike accident.
She said: “By now the airwaves are awash with Fatima, Mamman Daura’s daughter, consenting to the fact that she indeed shot and leaked the now infamous video clip which showed the wife of the president in a very angry mood.
“The incident happened over a year ago when the wife of the president, on the instructions of the president, asked the Dauras to vacate their living quarters inside the Villa for a sick Yusuf Buhari who was recuperating after an accident.
“For this reason, the quarters were needed and the Dauras were asked to move to another part of the Villa. Long before the accident, Yusuf’s mother had requested in writing for the Dauras to vacate the place because the building is officially designated for the biological children of any serving president.
“The IG of police, DG DSS, NSA and the vice president who was the acting president, were all notified of this request. Despite this, the Dauras deliberately refused to comply with the instructions of the security agencies. Mamman Daura’s daughter, Fatima, did not say this in her interview.
“What really was the intent for the video being released now if not for mischief? Fatima didn’t showcase her part in the drama where the door was locked against the first lady to deny her access to some areas of the Villa, neither did she acknowledge the abuse she first vented before the first lady reacted under the instruction of DG Lawal Daura, who was brought into government by Mamman Daura.”
Brazil/Nigeria Match: Why I Used Okoye Instead of Ezenwa – Rohr
Brazil forced Nigeria to a 1-1 draw in the friendly game played on Sunday.
Speaking after the match, Rohr noted that Ezenwa, who is number two in the pecking order of goalkeepers, has not tasted action since the conclusion of the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, while Okoye was active for Fortuna Düsseldorf’s reserve team in the Regionalliga West.
“We decided to put in Maduka because Ezenwa didn’t play for months, not even in the CHAN Team,’’ Rohr said in an interview with the Super Eagles Media Team.
“He didn’t have any experience of competition in the last three months so we decided to play with Maduka because he was playing for his club.”
Rohr regretted that Uzoho had to leave the game because of injury, praying the goalkeeper would recover soon.
He added: “Francis had a great match, we regret so much his injury, he will have examinations tomorrow so we will see exactly.
“He is playing again in his club so he can come back with us to play. I hope he will not be out for a long time because we have two important matches to play, against Benin in Nigeria and Lesotho, so we have a lot of work to do.
“He is playing well in his club so he can come back with us. I hope he will not be out for a long time because we have two important matches to play. So, we have a lot of work to do.”
Uzoho, who was impressive in the game left the pitch in the 65th minute as a result of the injury.
The Omonia Nicosia goalkeeper is now a doubt for next month’s 2021 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Benin and Lesotho.
The German was impressed with the general performance of his players, saying, ‘they caused many problems for Brazil.’
Rohr lauded his team’s fighting spirit and solidarity for the duration, despite Brazil leveling in the second half through midfielder Casemiro.
The 66-year-old insisted the Eagles gave their more flamboyant opponents “problems” despite conceding possession to the South Americans.
“The team did very well, big solidarity, because Brazil wanted to win the game,” Rohr added.
“They scored very early in the second half and when they scored we had another 44 minutes to play, so, it was really not easy but with a lot of solidarity, fighting spirit and also counter attacks especially our wingers; they were very strong today, and we gave them problems.”
Customs Places Indefinite Ban on Exports, Imports Through Land Borders
The Nigeria Customs Service on Monday announced an indefinite ban on importation and exportation of goods through the land borders.
Comptroller-General, NCS, Col. Hameed Ali (retd), who stated this at a press conference in Abuja, also said Niger Republic had placed a ban on export of rice to Nigeria as a result of Nigeria’s border closure.
This came as the Nigeria Immigration Service said it had stopped 1,111 foreigners from entering Nigeria since August 20, 2019 when the country’s land borders were partially closed.
Ali said, “For now, all goods, whether illicit or non-illicit, are banned from going and coming into Nigeria. Let me add that for the avoidance of doubt, we have included all goods because all goods can equally come through our seaports.
“For that reason, we have deemed it necessary for now that importers of such goods should go through our controlled boarders where we have scanners to verify the goods and how healthy they are to our people.”
The closure of borders is being enforced by the NCS and NIS, in collaboration with the Nigerian armed forces and the Nigeria Police Force. It is being coordinated by the Office of the National Security Adviser.
Ali said the aim of the exercise was to better secure Nigeria’s borders, address trans-border security concerns and strengthen the economy.
The customs boss said it was disturbing that some neighbouring countries were circumventing the ECOWAS protocol on transit.
He said, “For clarity, the ECOWAS protocol on transit demands that when a transit container berths at a seaport, the receiving country is mandated to escort same without tampering with the seal to the border of the destination country.
“Unfortunately, experience has shown that our neighbours do not comply with this protocol. Rather, they break the seals of containers at their ports and trans-load goods destined for Nigeria.”
Ali said the closure of the borders had curbed the smuggling of foreign rice into Nigeria and addressed the diversion of petroleum products from Nigeria to neighbouring countries.
According to him, 10.2 million litres of petrol had been stopped from being diverted out of the country since the borders were closed, while producers of local food were making increased earnings.
On security, the customs boss stated that so far, 317 suspected smugglers and 146 illegal migrants had been arrested.
He said, “Also, some items seized are 21,071 pieces of 50kg bags of parboiled foreign rice; 190 vehicles; 891 drums filled with petrol; 2,665 jerry cans of vegetable oil; 66,000 litre-tanker of vegetable oil; 133 motorcycles; 70 jerry cans of petrol and 131 bags of NPK fertiliser used for making explosives. The estimated monetary value of the intercepted items is about N1.43bn.”
He explained that 95 per cent of illicit drugs and weapons used for acts of terrorism and kidnapping in Nigeria came through the porous borders.
He said following the closure of Nigeria’s borders, “Niger Republic has already circulated an order banning exportation of rice in any form to Nigeria.”
According to him, no date has been fixed to reopen the borders, adding that Nigeria will only end closure when its neighbours have fully complied with the Economic Community of West African States Protocol on Transit.
He said, “The government, through diplomatic channels, will continue to engage our neighbours to agree to comply with ECOWAS protocol on transit.
“Goods that are on the prohibition list in Nigeria, such as rice, used clothing, poultry products and vegetable oil should not be exported to the country.