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Buhari’s 800m Walk: Fake News and the Oga at the Top, By Jimanze Ego-Alowes


ABUJA (Sundiata Post) The present government as is, is led by Muhammadu Buhari, a retired Nigerian Army general. Buhari had on occasions complained of fake news and such related irritations on his own skein of news. However, it is his government media warriors that are really raking up all hell against fake news. At least that is the much they will to dramatize to the rest of us.

Of all the canvassers or pretenders against the practice of fake news, nobody beats the presidential media motor-mouths. And atop that pile of presidential wonder-media makers and manipulators must be Mallam Garba Shehu, the special assistant on such matters. He is of course aided by his Ministerial counterpart, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.

To give an example, Lai Mohammed who started his political propaganda careering under Bola Tinubu, have had occasion to rain verbal brimstones on alleged fake news purveyors. But there is then a question. Are the presidency and other agents and sympathizers of this government, any innocent?

Just the other day Garba Shehu told a story. It was the story of the 800 meters dash or walk by his principal, the president. According to the well attested opinion of the Shehu, that miracle dash or walk was to prove a point. The moral according to Shehu is that the Abuja potentate is literally in great health, almost like Usain Bolt, etc.

In other words Buhari is done the heat and is about to run his contenders out of town and contention, come 2019. This is the gospel, okay apocrypha, according to Mallam Shehu.

And we innocent citizens took it all in good faith. We dutifully digested Shehu’s information regime and vials. Millions of us, not being politicians, merely waited for the contest to begin. For us it is to be within the fields of play that we would really know if the president has the health to campaign in the 36 states or not.

But the contender politicians won’t wait. They themselves are in the race. So they started to make jests of the president about his pace and gait on the race course. For instance, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, himself not particularly young, put up images of himself rollicking on treadmills. And as if that was not enough he gave the president verbal uppercuts. For Atiku, the 800 snail walk is not a proof of office suitability or even excellent health.

And things went down for Mr. President. If the Garba Shehu claim was meant as image lozenges, it failed. Perhaps to douse a raging mockery, or to tell the truth, the president himself came up with his own view of what actually was about. The following media report gives a flavor of things:

President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday said his decision to trek some distance after observing Eid prayers at Kofar Arewa Eid Ground to his residence in Daura, Katsina State was not about proving his fitness level…. According to a statement by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President spoke while receiving representatives of the five local governments in Daura Emirate at his private residence…. Garba had told journalists shortly after Buhari embarked on the trek on Tuesday that it was a confirmation that the President was fit for second term…. But Buhari explained that the walk was not about proving his fitness level or scoring cheap political capital…. He said he did not need to convince anybody about his state of health…. He said, ‘‘This is my constituency, the people came out in their large numbers to see me and the car in which I was being driven had tinted windows…. ‘‘They were not seeing me so I came down so they could see me. I didn’t need to convince anyone about my health and the decision to contest for a second term that I made public in April this year.” https://punchng.com/800-metre-walk-not-about-proving-my-fi…/

The implication of all these is that Garba Shehu lied or was spreading self-concocted fiction, that is lies, and passing off same for truth. The question is what else is fake news?

One source defines it as; “Fake news is made-up stuff, masterfully manipulated to look like credible journalistic reports that are easily spread online to large audiences willing to believe the fictions and spread the word.” https://www.webopedia.com/TERM/F/fake-news.html

We can now say that all Shehu said in respect of presidential 800 meter dash is deliberate fake news. He used his nearness to power to position his words as echo chambers of presidential voice, mind or thinking. And that came with authority due his position. And millions in deference to his high office believed him. Yet Shehu knew it was a lie. At least the president has given his own version of things. And that version has no family resemblance with Shehu’s fiction. And to save the presidency let us believe it tells the truth.

Now, it is known to Shehu that the media houses he sold his lies to all have online, social media and sometimes print presences and or versions. That is the story went viral and was transmitted from Abuja to Calabar, from Washington to Tokyo. And this was even more so, in its being a presidential release. So by authoritative definition Shehu is a practitioner of things the presidency accuses others of: fake news.

Of course there are numerous other fake news releases by the presidency, agents and sympathizers of this government or so called ruling party. For example a viral news report goes:

APC chieftain caught spreading fake news on Facebook. Barely a week after the Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, kickstarted a campaign against the proliferation of fake news, a top member of the ruling party has been caught posting false information on his social media page. https://www.premiumtimesng.com/…/276924-apc-chieftain-caugh…

So with a case of fake news now established against presidential aides and agents. And in this Shehu specific instance, judging by the confessions of Mr. President, what is to be done?

One of the things that could be done is to sack Garba Shehu. That is the minimum if the Presidency is desirous about fighting fake news. But being compassionate fellow-feeling citizens, we will immediately canvass against that. There could be other ways out. This is especially in the light of the fact that the present government has failed in numerous areas. And one of those is in our unemployment figures. They are getting worse by the moment. Thus, adding Shehu to the list of the unemployed youths or middle aged men may worsen an already bad statistic. Even more, if Shehu could be this mischievous and dangerous in employment and high office, he could simply go toxic if pushed to the breadline. In fact he could be worse than the Boko Haram, operatives and all. That is we need to keep Shehu employed at least for our own good.

The point is that however self-forgetting we are, we must remember that Boko Haram started as a revanchist push for power. Let us all remember that a guy, one Mallam Mohammed Yusuf was like Mallam Garba Shehu a high operative in a given government and office. And suddenly he was sacked from power or his retainership, by his helmsman. And he Mallam Yusuf wanted back, power and all. And the rest is history.

So sacking Shehu might make for a tactical victory but it will amount to a strategic error. Mallam Garba Shehu knows too much to be pushed. So the best gambit is to nudge him out of Aso Rock or risk a second Boko Haram, perhaps a more malignant type. Boy things happen.

The point then is where do we post out Shehu? Sambisa forest won’t be too bad for starters. At the worst it is still a Nigerian territory and Shehu is so patriotic, so the two fit together. Anyway whatever happens the presidency if she is serious against fake news, must second Shehu out of her offices. That makes sense. It is an ancient lore that the child who suffers dysentery cannot ask his elders not to fart. A presidency which canvasses media orthodoxy cannot be flagging off its competitive dash or walkouts with fake news, Mallam Garba Shehu and all. Ahiazuwa.

Source: Facebook

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