As Nigeria’s 2019 general elections are fast approaching, the major opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party PDP, lacking in rich manifestoes capable of making Nigerians embrace it, has now fully embraced fake news as a campaign strategy.
In what the party’s critics have dubbed Dubai Strategy, they accuse the PDP of being behind the proliferation of fake and hyperpartisan news that have flooded into Nigeria’s laptops and living rooms.
According to a statement by one of its critics, “Their campaign to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari is fuelling their desperation.”
Mention of a few of recent fake news ascribed to the party and its presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will suffice here:
In December, 2018, the party alleged that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) had arrested sons of Atiku. It later emerged the allegation was false. The EFCC, in a rebuttal, said it actually arrested Ogbonna Orji, son of Senator Theodore Orji, over money laundering and it had absolutely nothing to do with son of ex-VP Atiku Abubakar.
The EFCC said: “The former Abia governor has been under investigations by the EFCC, for money laundering activities, which was discovered to have been carried out through his sons. The EFCC had been on the trail of cars allegedly bought by the sons, and last Friday the cars were traced to a night club in Abuja, where operatives waited patiently through the night to arrest the owners — Ogbonna and his friend, Kelvin Ilonah.
“They were arrested at about 5a.m on Saturday, and they led operatives to their three-flat apartment, where documents retrieved showed that it was rented at a rate of N13million per annum. They have so far given useful information to the EFCC, which is aiding in investigations. It should be made clear that the EFCC never “went after” Atiku’s sons, neither was Atiku’s son arrested by the EFCC.”
Shortly before the above false alarm, Nigerians were shocked when the same PDP raised the alarm that the bank accounts of Peter Obi, its vice-presidential candidate in the 2019 elections, have been frozen.
More than a week later, Obi did not say a word to corroborate the claim while the party gradually left the issue to die down. It makes sense that if this was true, Obi would have confirmed it and even if he didn’t want to, the party, for what it is known, would have kept the alarm on till the account was unfrozen, but, both never did because it was false news.
Fast forward to December 10, 2018, one of the support groups of the PDP presidential candidate known as “Atiku Abubakar 2019” posted a picture of U.S. President Donald Trump allegedly endorsing Abubakar.
The page, which has close to 40,000 followers quoted Trump as saying: “Support AtikuObi presidency to reduce unemployment, poverty and lifelessness of the economy as my government has done in America. I think America first. Atiku thinks Nigeria first.”
Crosschecknigeria, (a dozen different Nigerian media outlets working together to investigate and accurately report misleading and false information that is circulating online about the 2019 general election), discovered that the picture was fabricated. The original picture, which was manipulated, was first used on September 3, 2015, when Trump was Republican presidential candidate for the US presidential elections.
Raging now is another PDP-contrived falsehood where former Aviation minister under PDP government, Femi Fani Kayode and another party sympathizer, Yinka Odumakin alleged, now certified to be false, that EFCC had invaded CJN Walter Onnoghen’s residence, with the purpose of arresting him. The anti-crime body had threatened them with lawsuit and summoned the duo. FFK, as he is popularly called has deleted the tweet, and offered apology to EFCC.
It is the light of PDP’s unholy association with falsehood that observers are viewing the statement of Lere Olayinka, Media Aide to former Governor Ayodele Fayose, alleging an assassination attempt on his life.
Olayinka is no stranger to accusations of peddling fake news.
In December 23, 2017 the All Progressives Congress (APC) threatened Olayinka with lawsuit over a statement he credited to Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi that “the cause of the current fuel scarcity was because the economy has improved so much that more Nigerians are buying cars.”
The APC, in a statement signed by its Assistant Director, Publicity, Edegbe Odemwingie, said that at no time did Mallam Abdullahi made such statement or even implied it.
The statement read further: “At no time did Mallam Abdullahi make such statement or even implied it. The statement was a pure fabrication by one Lere Olayinka…who made the alleged tweet on December 19, 2017, without citing any source and was rightly ignored by right thinking people. ‘Our Party immediately issued a disclaimer, warning the general public to be wary of the said Olayinka for being notorious for peddling fake news. ‘We have been compelled to issue this disclaimer yet again as there appears to be a deliberate ploy to soil the reputation of Mallam Abdullahi through the spread of this fiction. ‘We also wish to note that Mallam Abdullahi has commenced legal action against Mr. Olayinka as his lawyers have written to him to disclaim the said statement or be sued for damages.”
Political observers have ascribed various reasons for Olayinka’s latest allegation that thugs on the order of the state Governor Kayode Fayemi fired shots at him during the PDP/Atiku campaign rally.
Given his maverick nature, the observers maintain that he is probably trying to fleece Atiku of some money, to create an impression that he was attacked because of his commitment to the Atiku/PDP cause.
They wonder why the governor would send killers after him. “Of what threat is a political liability like him to the Governor,” they wonder.
The governor, they maintain, has put in motion what to make him accountable for his role in the immediate past administration in the state by setting up a panel to probe the agency he headed: the Broadcasting Service of Ekiti State (BSES).
The fact-finding committee was set up to probe how the corporation was run under him so badly that the corporation was shut by the National Broadcasting Commission (NBC) over serial breach of broadcasting code.
Other allegations against him include the fact that he ran the place like a fiefdom and in connivance with some staffs, looted the place, maintaining that he is only afraid of his shadow, but his days would come in court.
The corporation, under him, was earlier fined N500, 000 for breach of broadcasting code, which was not paid before it was finally closed down on July 14 over alleged declaration of the result of the governorship election by former Governor Ayo Fayose when collation was still ongoing.
The NBC also wrote a letter to Olayinka demanding explanation on why he accepted to serve as the Director of Publicity of Kolapo Olusola Campaign Organisation (KOCO) when he was serving as Acting DG OF BSES.
KOCO was the campaign platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate at the election, Prof. Kolapo Olusola.
Olayinka’s recent past malfeasances, his critics postulate, are the reasons he’s seeking attention from his paymasters and sympathy from unsuspecting Nigerians.
While at the state’s broadcasting stations, he bought three watches valued T about 1million Naira and went into an obnoxious barter arrangement with about seven hotels, where he occupied rooms at the same time and put his girlfriends.
Each evening, the rambunctious drop out was said to do a “ward round”, to visit his girlfriends in each hotel and sleeps in any of the “joints”,Ashe calls them.
He knew his day will come in court and that is why he is now crying wolf, where there is none.