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May 21, 2018

Rumour mongering as fuel for crisis

Rumour mongering on the increase on social media
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It is true that there is no smoke without fire and that in any “rumour”, so to speak, there is always an element of truth. However, the quantum of damage false rumours have wrecked on Nigeria’s socio-political and economic life is better imagined than described. Among other evils, it leads to unnecessary crisis, fear and apprehension in a nation where insecurity looms large already.


This has worsened, since the present era of information explosion through the social media – cell phones, Whatsapp, Twitter, Facebook, Imo, Viber etc which have come within the reach of practically everyone. The social media has become a rumour mill as well as rumour mongering machine that spread falsehood.


Unfortunately, people believe the social media as they believe the bible because, many lack the intellect and ability to decipher facts from fiction and truth from falsehood. Many people lack the sense of discretion and discernment.


There is no excuse for the level of ignorance Nigerians portray when they hear rumours that have no evidence or fact behind them. Often times, people are too ready to spread any junk that enters their phone without questioning its authenticity, especially when the sender warns that evil would befall the recipient if he fails to circulate same to a specific number.


When the unfounded rumour is not about a trailer load of guns arriving Awka and being offloaded, it is about pictures from the Rwanda killings posted to the net, being circulated to people’s cell phones in Nigeria as if the massacre was currently taking place in Nigeria. When it is not about a particular food item that has been poisoned by traders from one part of the country, it is about warnings to people to refrain from picking calls from strange mobile phone numbers or wearing certain kinds of clothing or attires.


It behooves us as right thinking people to always ask critical questions when things which ordinarily are absurd to the ears and which attack our sensibilities are dished out to us on Whatsapp or any other platform.


Rumour mongers succeed in exploiting the social media to aggravate tension because there is insufficient information to people about what is going on around them, especially the activities of government. To a large extent, what fuels rumour is government’s reluctance to provide accurate and up-to-date information to the public. Oftentimes, the technocrats who serve as the mouth piece for the government or agencies, would procrastinate when request for vital information reaches them, thus, creating loopholes for false rumours to thrive.


While we don’t advocate censorship of information, we call on government to be pro-active by not only reacting to rumours, but moving swiftly to dispel falsehood before it is spread. Government should stop starving people of vital information, especially on burning and crucial issues of the moment. There is need for a re-orientation of our people by government using the media to inform and educate the people. This should start with the schools in the form of Civic Education as well as setting up social media platforms to counteract false rumours.


We should do away with the present culture of rumour mongering. Let us learn to question critically every information or post that anyone sends to us on Whatsapp or facebook. Stop accepting them hook, line and sinker. Government should monitor social media sites and services rendered by mobile phone companies and networks. Government through relevant agencies should provide vital information capable of dispelling rumours. By such pro-active use of the social media platform, false rumours capable of creating fear and aggravating social tension would be nipped in the bud.



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