Information Minister, Allhaji Lai Mohammed, recently met social media influencers in Lagos and was waxing lyrical on the need for them to “self-regulate”, maintain “credibility” and weed out the “charlatans” in their midst. How interesting it is when the hunter becomes the hunted.
Here is Alhaji Mohammed who a few months ago did not consider any line too decent to cross in the quest to use vile propaganda to win political power. His party did not reject (I will not say it recruited) the services of these “charlatans” dwelling on cyberspace in maligning people, spreading falsehood and promoting hate amongst Nigerians.
The APC campaign leaned on this army of e-thugs to promote malicious propaganda and vicious attacks against anyone who did not share their views. They were all over Facebook, Twitter and all internet fora doing name-calling, spreading wicked rumours and maligning their opponents with unsubstantiated allegations. They had no argument on any issue. Most of them did not even understand what the issues were beyond the abuses they were programmed to unleash on others. They could not hold two lines conversation before they would start “your mother, your father”. A great number of them became maladjusted in thinking that it would take several years of mental rehabilitation for them to be able to function like rational human beings ever again.
Now that Alhaji is in power, he wants those “charlatans” to cease functioning so that he won’t enjoy the dish they served those who came before him.
Hear him: ”Let me assure you that the Federal Government does not intend to stifle free speech or abridge the rights of Nigerians to air their views freely. We are not about to regulate or stultify the Social Media.
This explains why we are asking you to self-regulate. That is why we are encouraging you to rein in the impostors among you and show restraint when dealing with issues of national unity, issues of Nigeria’s sovereignty, as well as issues concerning the lives and well-being of Nigerians.
”What I am saying in essence is that you must self-regulate in order not to self-destruct. Self-regulation allows you to weed out the charlatans among you in order to maintain your credibility and ensure your survival. Lose credibility and lose it all. That is the stark reality. If you must survive and grow, you must not compromise your credibility.
”It (hate debate) is adding fuel to some low-intensity fires and, if left unchecked, could conflagrate and consume all of us. Remember, you need a peaceful country before you can even dream of greatness. You need a united, strong and virile country to provide the necessary environment for your dreams to come true.”
It doesn’t cut easily like that, Alhaji! This may be why Oscar Wilde said “when the gods want to punish us they answer our prayer”. Your party savoured the antics of these “charlatans” up until “power changed hands” and it would take more than mere admonitions for them to learn that there is other saner way to public debate.
And in this regard, the honourable minister may have to take some post-humous lesson from the late “garrison commander” of Ibadan politics, Alhaji Lamidi Adedibu, who was so canonized by “Ebora Owu” and APC “navigator”, Olusegun Obasanjo.
Obasanjo told us in his Ota home in 2003 how he was in Ibadan to campaign and the then Oyo State Governor, Alhaji Lam Adesina, reported to him that Adedibu was pulling down his campaign billboards. He said he thereafter asked Adedibu why he would do that and he said that it was in retaliation for the report Alhaji Rashidi Ladoja made to him that Lam pulled down his own billboards too.
He said Lam explained at that point that it was the state signage authority that carried out that task based on contravention and that they even removed some of his own billboards.
Obasanjo reported that he then turned to Adedibu and said to him that as an elder, he should have inquired what transpired before embarking on retaliation, wondering what type of legacy he was bequeathing. The political warlord responded, “A whole president came to resolve the problem I created and you are still asking me about legacy”.
Eventually, Ladoja became governor with the assistance of Adedibu and all his ways. But they fell out along the line because Ladoja wanted Adedibu to stop being Adedibu.It was Ladoja who lost his seat when push came to shove.
Adedibu is late now but the Information Minister can still find the video on YouTube as he was reporting to his followers his encounter with Ladoja when Obasanjo called them to a meeting. He said that Ladoja was insolent to the point of condemning him for what he used to crown him governor. “O ni mo mo nna eyan, bi enipe o ma di gomina ti mi ba nayan” (he said “I go about beating people as if he would have become governor if I did not beat some people).
Yinka Odumakin is a political activist and National Publicity Secretary of Pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group, Afrenifere. This article was first published on Daily Times.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.