Last week, we were treated to a report, which went quite viral, claiming that five Igbo traders — complete with names — were killed in Madala Market, in Niger state. Shortly after the story went viral, the Niger State Police Command spokesperson, Bala Elkana James refuted the story, and that got me searching. What I found was frightening. The story was, word for word, a copy of a similar story which had made the rounds four years ago.
It appears that John Kalu, Oliver Ezemah, Uche Nguweze, Sunday Emmanuel and the fifth, unnamed, person had somehow, in four years, resurrected, made their way back to Madala, become traders there once again, failed to learn from their past and were once more slaughtered for failing to recite the Quran.
Yesterday, I was treated to an audio recording of a purported Alhaji who received a phone call from some chap called Kunle, and then both men proceeded to discuss, at some length, a scheme by “the North” and “the South-West” to ‘finish off’ people from “the South-East” and “the South-South”. Of course, that audio has begun making the rounds, with no one bothering to ask the most obvious question, which is: “why would an ‘Alhaji’ have Psalm 23 as his caller tune?”
Three weeks ago, in the heat of the protests in some parts of Igboland over the arrest of Radio Biafra’s Nnamdi Kanu, various online personalities, under the guise of attacking the separatists, fabricated all sorts of evidence, in order to give the dogs a bad name, and hang them.
Last week, a piece was published in The Economist, regarding the separatist protests that have rocked parts of Igbo land for a bit now, and one of the comments in that piece was bold enough to make a claim that the missing 105 soldiers (as reported 2 weeks ago in online newspaper Premium Times), were all Igbo, and were killed as the first salvo in an ethnic cleansing programme.
The truth is that when misinformation like this starts to become the staple, and nothing is done to counter it, such misinformation begins to develop its own legs, and before you can say “legs”, will have started to run around, with enough variations as to cause real trouble.
It is clear to me, that the chaps involved in all of this have either not thought through the potential repercussions of what they are doing, or having thought through it, could not care less provided they have a pay day right now, or even more insidiously, know the repercussions, and are engaging in their actions with the specific intention of causing that kind of trouble.
A word has to be said about the, to be frank, incompetence of both our security services, and government information (better known as propaganda) services. The narratives that are being pushed out can be countered if these people who are paid to do these jobs will, just for an hour a day, actually do their jobs. It is clear to me that they are not interested in doing their jobs. No counter narrative is being pushed out, so the lie, as it is wont to do, ultimately becomes a lot of people’s truth. The problem is that these new truths, such as the one that holds that the South-East is the only marginalised part of Nigeria; or that government appointments are geared towards satisfying only one ethic group; or that one religion has a definite plan to dip the Quran into the Atlantic; will become stronger over time, if they are not challenged. When the seed of hate is planted in the minds of the people, and the soil is not made barren, those seeds will germinate and flourish, then bear fruit in the fullness of time. The fruit of the seeds of hate, is war.
Having, within the last week, seen a report from 2011 rehashed and passed off like it is from 2015, then in the last few days listened to an audio clip pretending to be from some chap calling an Alhaji, it is clear to me that someone, with quite some resources, wants to destroy this country, and the person is using the fact that too many of our people are ignorant and sentimental to push his agenda.
Dear Nigerians, war is not what you see in the movies. Please ask questions of anything inflammatory you hear before acting. Please! Please!! Please!!!
Follow Cheta Nwaze on twitter @chxta