Fake News

Fake News

Monday, June 18, 2018 8:51 am

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi

Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi

In June 2012, I was having a telephone conversation with my husband JKF about fake stories in circulation about his administration. He had recently returned from an overseas trip, and while he was away, the news was all over the place that he had fallen ill and had been rushed out of the country. It would have been easy to debunk the story of it had not been for the unwise remarks of one of his cabinet members who said, ‘We found it strange that he travelled the same day we had an Executive Council meeting. He did not appear to be in a hurry. When people are travelling they usually leave very early. Oga took his time to preside over the meeting. When we heard he had travelled out that night, we thought there was an emergency’.

So, because the Governor did not disrupt his schedule, it meant he had suddenly taken ill and ‘had to be rushed abroad’. The conversation we were having was about another strange story that had started making the rounds. It was about a University that JKF and I allegedly owned in Ghana. At first the story sounded so preposterous we laughed it off and said only mad people would believe such a story. How wrong we were. Not only did very sane people believe the story, there are some people who still repeat the story till today. Never mind the University has no known Vice-Chancellor, Faculty or Students. Not a single building of the University has been seen. Yet some people believe a University exists.

The stories keep getting sillier and sillier. Unfortunately, we live in times when people barely question the source or veracity of the information they receive. The loyal friends who take it upon themselves to do battle on our behalf online are always told, ‘but that is what people are saying’. I am sure you have heard the one about the N50 million bed we bought for the new government house building that JKF completed before he left office in 2014. When I saw the news reports I almost fainted. My people who tried to console me very helpfully said, ‘No one will believe such nonsense’. Wrong again. Some gullible people still believed. N50 million bed?

Back in the day, we were taught that the best answer for a fool is silence. These days, with everyone being their own creator and consumer of news, both real and imagined, that wisdom is not as helpful as it should be. In these days of instant real/fake news, silence means consent, and even your supporters will demand for a sign that they can go to war on your behalf. I find the whole business very tiresome, pretty much like the saying about having to throw a stone at every barking dog.

At this point, let me introduce the fact that I have a cyber stalker. Yes, I have one. There is a particular fellow who seems to be obsessed with me. I have never met him, but he has been on my case for the past six years. Almost every single negative story about me (and he has churned out a lot) can be traced to this obnoxious character who will remain unnamed for now till our legal and security teams figure out what to do. Apparently, the guy believes that he can attack my husband through me. He hates my guts and everything I stand for. He resents the large following I have, so he spends a lot of time planting all kinds of lies.

Two weeks ago, when there was the shooting at our Party secretariat in Ekiti, a story made the rounds claiming that I accused one of our Party leaders of attempting to kill my husband. Yesterday I was minding my own business when another story made social media. This time I was demanding that President Buhari should use federal might to help my husband win the Ekiti elections on July 14th! The last time I looked in the mirror, I seemed firm of mind and body. Now there are these stories being planted which are enough to bring my sanity into question. I am outspoken and opinionated, perhaps this is what makes my cyber stalker believe that if he plants a story about something I said or did, people will believe it. If I have anything to say I will say it without having to insult anyone or tell lies about them. This is what is known as ‘silly season’ in politics, so fake news is to be expected. However, for those of us who have family and friends far removed from political adventures, these stories can be very distressing.

Fake news is not harmless. It damages reputations, it is unfair and unjust. The purveyors of fake news are spineless cowards who know they can not make a case on its own merits so they fabricate stories to deflect, titillate and distract. Shame on them all. My cyberstalker will get his comeuppance one day. Till then, please don’t believe everything you read.

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there. May you reap the fruits of your many labours. May God bless the work of your hands. Have a great week.

• Bisi Adeleye-Fayemi is a Gender Specialist, Social Entrepreneur and Writer. She is the Founder of Abovewhispers.com, an online community for women. She can be reached at [email protected]

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