Last Sunday, I received one of those videos generously passed around on Whatsapp. I usually would not bother to open. But given that this was from a well-meaning family member not resident in Nigeria and the video was not meant just for myself but others in the family, I felt I needed to see it, before passing it on. So I opened to watch.
It was just as suspected. A ‘Pastor’ speaking from his church in Okokomaiko, predicting the end of Nigeria as a country. So sure he is about what will happen, describing some of it in graphic, chilling details, that he makes the appeal that people from a certain part of the country resident in another part should immediately take leave of that part of the country. In other words, it is a call of each to his tent.
The message is a paradox, I would think. We are supposed to pray to avert this. But then, if we are standing in faith as expected, confident that our prayer of faith has been heard, would it not amount to acting in fear, rather than faith, to take flight, on the strength of the privileged foresight he is sharing with us? Who knows with these things?
Who knows what he saw? That is not a realm to get into. But if other voices like his who have raised such alarm in the past is anything to go by, the Prophet might not be reading what he saw, if he saw, right. Some have not recovered from what they thought they saw in 2015 and 2019 and are desperately seeing into now what they would want to see, not what it is.
It is the same thing with many of the Social Media Prophets who foresaw doom. Rather than shake off yesterday and start working with tomorrow in mind, they are busy seeking to discredit today. They mourn every little step in the right direction and trumpet whatever misstep that is reported. Desperate to be proved right, they fall for anything, even cheap lies and fake news, simply because it resonates with their expectation and wish. Well, they say it is patriotism. It has to be.
‘Nigeria has never been this divided!’, “The level of poverty has never been this bad!”, “The level of insecurity has never been this high”. You will be mistaken to assume these as hypotheses which ought to be subject to testing. Those who mouth them simply expect everyone to agree. They are categorical statements not meant to be subjected to interrogation. They are often thrown around with the caveat that whoever does not agree with it is either ‘eating’ from the government or a hypocrite. The intent is to instill fear and bully other voices into silence.
It is deliberate. There is a colony of fear, carefully being groomed and nurtured by a gang of ‘it has never been this bad’ . It is a loose army, bound together by different reasons, some even contradictory. The only thing they are agreed upon is that the present reality is incongruent with their expectation, even if that expectation is skewed, misguided, selfish, short-sighted, unpatriotic or ignorant.
This Army does not operate on the basis of respect for rules or ethics. It does not recognise the laws of war. It is a guerrilla army of assorted elements under different commands, some lone wolfs, shooting from all angles. Some pretend to be authorities, serving cooked-up garbage as exclusive meals for their followers. Some are busy weaponising fake news, distorting history, weaving narratives around lies, disguised to confuse the gullible. There are factories behind the scene distilling fake news, wholesaling them through agents, who now pass them on to retailers, many doing so out of ignorance, themselves already caught up with fear.
The end of it all is to instill fear into the people. The fear is real for many, as the different platforms are being employed to disseminate all kinds of information targeted to pull the people apart and trigger ethnic and religious strife. Difficult to tell if some of the people behind this – Prophets, Distributors and Retailers know what they are doing.
Those narrow political ends some think they can achieve will amount to nothing if what they are grooming blows up in their faces. It should not be that difficult for the to see the evil that is at the end of the stick they are carelessly toying with. Except they do not care. They should care.