FAKE news hurts. Outrightly cruel. It assaults the sensibility of the victim, leaving a long last- ing effect on the psychology of the individuals concerned. Former Head of State, General Yakubu Go- won (rtd), Monday, had his own share of the bad taste of a huge rumour mill Nigeria has become. For no known reason, some perni- cious minds just decided to send shock waves into the public through social media, spreading false news of his purported death..…CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>
At his age, 89, death should not ordinarily be a thing of fear. Who will not die anyway? Death is the only thing that is certain in life. No mortal is immune from it. It doesn’t mat- ter at what age; the inevitable will come when it will come. That is why in African mythol- ogy, false announcement of death is regarded as sacrilege.
Regrettably, with the advent of social media, that culture of restraint and decorum has been completely eroded. No more compassion for other fellow humans. To be sure, Nigeria has a law regulating the use of social media. Pre- cisely, Section 59 of the Criminal Code prohib- its the publication of false news with intent to cause fear and alarm to the public.
The Federal Government in furtherance of its desire to ensure adequate scrutiny of news items being churned out by online platforms has also taken a step further to unveil a bill aimed at regulating digital platforms. The pro- posed legislation, which has been submitted to the National Assembly, seeks to repeal and re- enact the National Broadcasting Commission
(NBC) Act, CAP L11, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 2004.
But criticism, bordering on fears of censor- ship and an authoritarian crackdown on dissent opinion, has made some public affairs com- mentators and media practitioners to view the motive with suspect. The proposed legislation if passed into law will hit Internet users with
steep fines or jail term for spreading what au- thorities decide is fake news.
Again, under what is known as the social media bill, which the Senate had also ad- vanced, police could arrest people whose posts are thought to threaten national security, sway elections or “diminish public confidence” in the government, according to the draft text. Authorities could also cut the Internet access of those that violate the regulation.
That is where suspicion lies. At the same time, not a few people have realised the need for the government to regulate social media content for the good of all. Proponents of the legislation said the measure would help to pro- tect innocent Nigerians from lies that sow un- rest at a time when countries across the globe are grappling with the menace of misinforma- tion. On the other hand, Nigerian celebrities, tech activists and civil organisations argued that such a law could muzzle free speech. It
is neither here nor there. Freedom of speech is an inalienable right of every citizen by the international convention to which Nigeria is a
But the truth is that freedom goes with re- sponsibility. And so there must be a way to make those who derive pleasure from hurting other people pay for their irresponsible acts. This is imperative in view of the fact that the dynamics of social media encourage the swift spread of rumours including false information about individual deaths.
The threat of misinformation is not peculiar to Nigeria alone. It is a global phenomenon which is gradually assuming an alarming di- mension. For instance, in 2003, a spectacular case emerged when it was reported that CNN had accidentally published draft obituaries for Nelson Mandela, and Pope John Paul II, among others, on its Website. While this had
been blamed on technical or administrative er- ror, many analysts strongly believed that such grave mistakes would proliferate as competi- tion among online news media intensified.
Following the error, a number of celebri- ties have indeed been the subject of false an- nouncements of death that have spread rapidly
across the social media. This, with an increas- ingly democratising online publishing, the spread of false death news and announcements have multiplied-often driven by deliberate acts of disinformation, hoax or trolling rather than by error, misreporting, or misinformation.
There are several ways false death an- nouncement can spread to the public.
One is by deliberately posting fake death information, often as prank or scam. Sometimes, reporting false death announcement could be based on
mistaken information. It could also be from the hacked social media account of either a public figure or news outlet. Whichever it happens, it
has to be nipped in the bud to prevent unpalat- able consequences for the individuals and the nation at large.
The good news here in Nigeria is that Go- won is alive and kicking, cooling off in his Plateau home state. For whatever mischief the fake news of his death is intended, the former military Head of State, a complete gentleman and exemplary leader, holds no grudge against anyone. He merely refuted the speculation and wondered where the unfounded rumours start- ed from. His Personal Aide, Adeyeye Ajayi, in a terse message sent to newsmen on Monday, said the former head of state is alive and well.
“I am still around and well. I am not in a hurry”, Ajayi quoted Gowon as saying. By professional standing, academic creden- tials, easy calm and general disposition, the reticent former military general is arguably
one of Nigeria’s finest leaders still around. Un- like his contemporaries bestriding the political space like a colossus, he remains largely apo- litical.
Some of his admirers describe him as the ‘last good man standing.’ Gowon became the Head of State and Com- mander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on July 19, 1966, at the youthful age of
31. From his early life through his stint in the military and later, as Head of State, C-in-C, as well as in post-service life, his actions revolved around his guiding philosophy of a one united
For his love and passion, some people have turned his name to a well-known acronym: ‘Go On With One Nigeria.’ Understandably, because they see him as
one of the finest officers who led this coun- try in the most turbulent periods of its history.
During his nine years in power, he surrounded himself with great minds made up of politi- cians, bureaucrats, technocrats and specialists, who helped him to succeed in managing the war and its economy such that Nigeria did not take a single penny as a loan. Rather, Nigeria leveraged on the oil boom and followed well-laid-out development plans.
He also helped to ensure the unification of Nigeria to remain as a single country by bringing an end to the Nige- rian civil war. Besides that, he played a significant role in the establishment of ECOWAS due to his firm belief in the integration of the sub-region, as well as the establishment of the National Youth Service Corps to engender patriotism, industry
and sacrifice among Nigerian youths.
Since General Yakubu Gowon retired from public life, he has been playing the role of fa- ther of the nation as he continued to selflessly
serve his country. In 1992, he founded his own organization called the Yakubu Gowon Centre for National Unity and International Coopera- tion which is working on issues of good gov- ernance in Nigeria as well as infectious disease control including HIV/AIDS, guinea worm and malaria, among others. Its main objective is to ensure a strong and united Nigeria, free of disease and poverty, where every citizen has an opportunity for self-expression and the real- ization of their full potential.
He is the founder of a non-denominational religious group ‘NI- GERIA PRAYS. Till date, General Gowon is playing the role of an elder statesman not only in Nigeria, but in African politics. He holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Warwick, United Kingdom.…CONTINUE.FULL.READING>>>