You really must hand it to those Nigerians who just sit and fabricate rumours.
They are a different breed; congenital liars and irredeemable reprobates who have no scruples whatsoever and feed off the mass hysteria of their tall tales.
Since I was born over four decades ago, I have witnessed some of the biggest rumours ever spread in Nigeria since independence. I actually marvel at the ruthless efficiency at which those rumours spread and the jaw – dropping gullibility of both the educated and the illiterate in believing such tales from the palaces of phantasmagoria.
All it takes is just one plant of a lie and like a beanstalk, the planter sniggers in a corner as he or she watches the tale grow in length and breadth, across lips to lands and lairs. Everyone becomes sucked in the whirlwind of giddy tales.
It’s really crazy.
I remember a couple of rumours which I recount here. In my opinion, they are just about the most amazing rumours ever in Nigeria’s history.
It was in Summer 1994 and in America, Nigeria had just been defeated by Italy in the knock -off stages of the 1994 FIFA World Cup. The nation was in deep gloom the next day; especially as the team Nigeria fielded was regarded as the best Nigeria ever had. And if not for inexperience, the Super Eagles would have defeated Italy in that match and would have moved to the quarter finals.
As the nation mourned the exit of Nigeria from the World Cup the next day, the most satanic of rumours mixed with some tincture of evil hope started spreading from 2pmthat afternoon. Remember in 1994, there were no mobile phones nor Internet and only the federal radio and television stations were the sources of news back then. There wasn’t even the innovation in Nigeria of the now common ‘Breaking News’ then. So when the rumour started that afternoon that ALL the players who played for Italy against Nigeria had tested positive to steroids and that FIFA had disqualified Italy as a result and put Nigeria back in the competition, jubilation rent the country as if Nigeria had won the world cup itself!
There was excitement and jubilation everywhere in Nigeria as the news spread like wild bush fires and everyone temporarily felt better ( if that was the aim of that wicked rumour). By 9pm, more than the touted 30 million viewers then of NTA News were glued to their TV sets but nothing of such was mentioned. Yet we all went to bed abusing NTA for being slow to carry the news which ‘BBC and CNN don carry’ according to many people.
It was Larry Echiejile ( now known as Larry Izamoje) of OGBC radio the next morning at 7:45am on his popular World Cup update who debunked the rumour by placing a live call on air to the Fifa media officer in America who was as astonished as any civilized mind about the rumour. It was all a lie.
That was a classic one.
The other Satanic one ( and really one could really bring Satan and prophecies into it because Pastor Tunde Bakare somewhat got mixed in it) happened in 1999. General Obasanjo had just been declared the winner of the Presidential Elections in 1999 and it was a few weeks to the handover by the Military Government to Civilians. One afternoon, from nowhere, a crazy rumour hit the nation like a nuclear bomb; General Obasanjo was dead!
He was said to have died in Abuja after ‘drinking tea’ somewhere and given that drinking tea was a convenient way of knocking off enemies of the military government those days, it was easy to believe. Chief MKO Abiola too had drank tea and died and there were even whispers that General Abacha had a sip of tea too before he took bites from the apples which poisoned him.
Nigeria, especially the Southwest, went gaga with the rumour. OBJ had been killed. A growing discontent brewed and the Southwest was ready to explode that night but for OBJ’s timely appearance live on AIT and NTA that night to debunk the rumours.
The last rumour I would award as another classic would be the fantastic resurrection of Abubakar Audu who died yesterday in Kogi State. I don’t know how a rumour of such proportions could gain such traction in these days of social media where it is easy to either spread or debunk a story but I guess Nigerians have been battered weary by fuel scarcity and economic woes and a dropping body language of the leader in charge and needed to believe a story for its sake.
‘Audu is alive! Audu woke up! A prophet prayed for him and he woke up’ went the stories. For over two hours social media was agog in Nigeria and it was so shocking and unbelievable to see how minds became gullible in swallowing such drivel ( Maybe I shouldn’t blame them as Lai Mohammed as the APC Spokesperson gave Nigerians a crash course in stuff like that during and after the elections)
How a dude who had died thirty six hours back with the thickest of rigor mortis set in his body could be expected to become a Lazarus beat the heck out of me. But the charade ended when the stiff and cloth covered body of the late Governor was posted online as the burial rites went on.
Rumours. Rumour mongers.
They are a threat not just to our national security but to your personal and psychological security.
Charles Novia is an award-winning filmmaker. He is founder of November Productions and November Records. Connect with him on Facebook.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.