2023 Polls: Social Media, Fake News Threats Real

2023 Polls: Social Media, Fake News Threats Real

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With political events building up towards the 2023 general elections, efforts by stakeholders, ranging from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Political parties, Civil Society Organisations (CSOs), and Security agencies to ensure a hitch-free and successful exercise must be commended by all well-meaning Nigerians.

Being daily inundated by the challenges the spread of fake news and hate speeches on social media poses, the Department of State Services (DSS), has raised an alarm that these issues are certainly the biggest threat to hitch-free and successful general elections in 2023.

Though the doubters of this advisory are generally not in short supply, the DSS’ warning that misinformation and unguarded statements, amplified by the media, could derail efforts to deepen Nigeria’s democracy cannot be taken for granted by all stakeholders in the political space.

Therefore, it is important to commend the nation’s secret police for exuding boldness and dexterity in declaring to media practitioners, both traditional and online media that by sharing FAKE NEWS, alongside incorrect and inflammatory commentaries, they have inadvertently instigated crisis and violence in parts of the country.

Needing no patronising, nobody can fault the DSS’ spokesperson, Dr. Peter Afunanya’s submission that FAKE NEWS and inflammatory incendiary speeches have the potential to inflict huge harm on Nigeria’s unity, thus, the need for media practitioners to as a matter of national importance, shun fake news and rather work towards the promotion of unity, progress, and peaceful co-existence in the country

According to Afunanya, heading towards the elections, with upbeat political programmes, “What the media and every stakeholder must do is ensure that the game is played according to rules. Nigerians must avoid any act that promotes hate and disintegration and say no to the separatist movements, terrorism, fake news, hate speech, religious bigotry, and other acts that tend to divide us as a nation.

Afunanya cannot be wrong in his concerns that “Social media and fake news are the biggest threat to human existence not only to elections,” and urging media colleagues to exercise restraint and always fact-check information before publishing is definitely not out of place because as he pointed out “fake news is a major cause of violence in our society now.”

And his subtle caution that slanting news to achieve ulterior motives should be avoided as well as pledging that the “DSS won’t abdicate its responsibilities and would continue to do the right thing no matter whose ox is gored” are well noted.

Though not in any way holding brief for the security agencies, whose personnel are sometimes overzealous in their service delivery, it is imperative to advise that the media must also be circumspect in their hasty defence of culprits and perpetrators when they are confronted with their missteps and eventual demand to steer clear of acts capable of undermining national security.

Amid such awkward circumstances, it will obviously be irresponsible to expect that relevant authorities of government will “standby idly and watch miscreants and mischief-makers bring avoidable chaos and disorder upon the nation”

By and large, given the popular saying that “Nigeria is the only country we have and everyone must put hands on deck to promote peace and unity in the polity, it may not be asking too much that the media and journalists should ordinarily be in the forefront of ensuring these two important elements of nationhood have a permanent abode in Nigeria going forward.

Responsibility and patriotism demand that all stakeholders are law-abiding and observe the rules of engagement to present the desired atmosphere for the Police and sister security agencies to resolutely provide adequate security throughout the period of the elections and ensure that the exercise is peaceful and successful.

The counsel that politicians and the youths should shun all acts of violence capable of undermining the success of the 2023 polls cannot be overemphasised if the DSS, like other agencies, must “professionally discharge its statutory mandate which, among others, is to detect and prevent threats and crimes against the internal security of Nigeria“.

Happily, the Service assurance of its resolve to breathe down the necks of criminals and their collaborators whose activities are inimical to the elections, identify and arrest them for prosecution is heartwarming news. 

On the strength of such a declaration, the media, as key stakeholders, would not be shying away from its responsibility as the Fourth Estate of the realm wooing the public to support security agencies and INEC to conduct violence-free elections.

Fake Registration Centre, Extortion

Away from its admonitory on next year’s polls, another cheering news coming from the DSS is the arrest of three individuals allegedly operating a fake Continuous Voter Registration (CVR) centre and extorting eligible voters with the promise of enrolling them in the ongoing registration exercise in Nasarawa state.

As explained by the INEC acting Head of Department, Voter Education and Publicity, Ibrahim Onawo, it is kudos to the Service eagle-eye operatives for nabbing three suspects while distributing illegal registration forms to eligible voters at the Government Science Secondary School, Lafia.

Heartwarming is the fact that the suspects’ arrest followed a tip-off by the committee set up recently to investigate alleged extortion of eligible voters in the state, a development that aptly demonstrates the public partnership that the DSS is continuously coveting to rein in criminal elements and check their unwholesome activities across the country.

Victor Buoro is an Abuja based journalist