Thoughts on conspiracy theories



By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

  The headlines of newspapers and television news and social media are currently dominated by COVID-19, the terrible scourge which has left powerful nations squirming in great discomfort. Scientists assure us that the pandemic started in the Wuhan province of China, a city where exotic animals are sold in open markets. The fatal virus, we are told, must have leapt from animal to man in that horrible market. As late as January 2020 President Donald Trump kept referring to COVID-19 as ‘Chinese disease’ while the Chinese brutally confronted the reality on the ground. Some three thousand and three hundred lives were lost to the disease in China. America disputes this figure. But who are we, who has the capacity to verify who is telling a bigger lie?

But soon, a theory took off and built a life of its own. COVID-19, we are told by conspiracy theorists, is the result of an experiment by the Chinese gone wrong. A variant of this is that Americans took the virus to military games last year in China and lost control over it! Yet another dimension of the theory is that we are not dealing with any virus. It is the 5G network being rolled out by the big networks that is killing off human beings! The 5G conspiracy is raging, fooling some who ordinarily should know better. I remember The Plagueby Albert Camus! How portentous, how revealing, how damning!

Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Some theorists have added that the 5G conspiracy is meant to reduce human population but because it is going to be highly beneficial towards creating a new world order, western governments do not mind sacrificing the lives of their citizens. Some religionists have associated it with the ‘666’ sign so clearly described in the Book of Revelations! The world, they claim, is moving towards one universal government and Donald Trump is being used by God Almighty to stop the devil’s designs! Under this arrangement the world will be governed by one government to fulfil the prophecy of the antichrist! A lot of ‘dangerous nonsense’ is circulated daily on social media.

There have always been conspiracy theories in society in all recorded history. People or groups always try to peep beyond the given. The assumption is that governments or people in power never tell the truth. Conspiracy theories fill that gap. In Christian theology, the first conspiracy theory was when Satan convinced Eve that it was because God did not want her and Adam to gain full insight into things that he commanded them not to eat of the forbidden fruit. About the Messiah himself there were conspiracy theories too. Some said he did not resurrect from the grave and going to heaven is fetish or romantic imagination. His disciples spirited his body away from the grave and that’s the reason others met an empty grave that Sunday morning!

 A conspiracy theory is a ‘belief that some covert but influential organization is responsible for an unexplained event’. It is a theory that explains an “event or set of circumstances as the result of a secret plot by usually powerful conspirators”. There are persons in the world who believe that there are some powerful people in the world who have a say in everything that happens. Except they have a buy-in, nothing happens especially at the international level. Illuminati. The power machine in the US run by some seven families.     

  We are told that the first time the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ was used was in 1871. There have been some great theories in the past. At the end of the Second Word War, Hitler committed suicide. Yet conspiracy theorists swear that the scoundrel escaped to Latin America where he lived on for many years. There are still people who believe that American President John F. Kennedy (JFK) was killed by the American military establishment because he was opposed to some policies of the military. The CIA, the Mafia, Fidel Castro, and the KGB have been mentioned in connection with the assassination. The lone gun man who shot JFK did not act alone they believe. Over one thousand books have been written about the Kennedy assassination. Indeed, the Kennedy assassination has been termed the ‘the mother of all conspiracies.  

 Here in Nigeria we have had our fair share of conspiracy theories.  Col. Joseph Akaahan Chief of Army Staff Nigeria Army died in an air crash in 1967 shortly after the Biafran secession was proclaimed. Although it was said to be an accident, there are still questions about the exact cause of the crash. Was the crash enemy action? Was he sabotaged by the two pilots? In September 1992 a military transport plane crashed into the swamps in Lagos minutes after taking off from Murtala International airport killing about one hundred and fifty middle level officers. Conspiracy theorists said the crash of the plane was orchestrated by the incumbent government to neutralize the officers who were planning a coup! When former National Security Adviser Gen. Owoye Azazi and Governor Patrick Yakowa (a Christian) of Kaduna State died in a helicopter crash in 2012 some Nigerians suspected foul play and said there was a grand plan to eliminate one or both for different reasons. The most notorious conspiracy theory in Nigeria is the one that asserts that the incumbent president Muhammadu Buhari died in 2017 and was replaced by a look-alike from Sudan! Some people can swear their life on this preposterous Jibril theory!

 Conspiracy theories are very sweet to tell. They catch the fanciful imagination of the people.  A man dies and people start spinning stories about the wife killing him off to inherit his wealth. Have you ever been involved in a project which later developed theories? Hahahahahaha! Not funny! You would wonder whether the stories come from Planet Mars! Which is not to say that there are no circumstances in which things do not add up. There are legions of them. But we often miss them.   

 Conspiracy theories will always exist. This arises from our penchant for the mysterious, the things not seen. But it also thrives on ignorance. It promotes a cult, a counter narrative, a counterculture if you like. It is an industry that feeds on itself. My study of the current conspiracy theory about 5G is that it has to do with superpower rivalry. 5G is no more dangerous more than other newly discovered scientific discoveries. The theory that 5G is the cause of thousands of deaths currently scaring the world is an example of ‘dangerous nonsense’ that needs to be cleared before it clears us! 5G carries radiation, yes, just like mobile phones. 5G will drive Artificial Intelligence. 5G will be used for state security. 5G will be used to coordinate aerial attacks. It will be used to transfer huge data. But it is not the monster that some alarmists have created! Let embrace the ‘brave new world’ and dispense with old wives tales coated like scientific material!  

-Professor Eghagha who writes from the University of Lagos, can be reached at and0802 322 0393

-The Guardian