As the 2019 general elections approach, SUNDAY ISUWA writes on why Nigerian electorates should be critical thinkers before making decisions Within a period of one year, more Nigerians have registered and created new websites and blogs, largely for the dissemination of information concerning the 2019 general elections. With the advancement in technology, it was gathered that many are planning to take advantage of such devices to advance the interest of their preferred candidates without following due process.
Findings revealed that many politicians in Nigeria have set up their social media teams mostly for dissemination of their campaign messages. As the 2019 general elections approach, there are now influx of fake Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and groups that are either consciously or unconsciously speaking for politicians, issuing statements on their behalf without names as signatories. It was gathered that some youths that work for politicians as ‘Social Media Team’ have been given Identity Cards that give them access to offices while others are lodged in hotels to carry out unholy campaigns about their masters. Some of these social media workers, it was learnt, are given stipends to buy airtime and data in order to share fake news or information on social media. Some are professional writers while others are journalists, it was gathered. “Some of the things Nigerians should be observing in order to know that the information or news is fake, is the non attribution. Once you see an information being shared online and at the end they write, ‘copied,’ without attribution to a writer, there is a high tendency it’s fake,” said a social media analyst, Tikikus Simon. The main concern of many Nigerians, it was gathered, is how the electorates will be able to dissect accurate information that will enable them take informed decisions in the 2019 general elections. “As politicians are getting smarter, Nigerians must get smarter too,” said a social commentator, Julius Daniel. He said Nigerian electorates must become critical thinkers to be able to identify fake news, hate speeches and other vices that can mar the 2019 general elections. “Some individuals have device ingenious way of mobilising their cadre in different constituency which full time work is to call during radio programmes not to make contribution but to attack political opponents or post fake things on social media platforms,” a professor of journalism and mass communication at the School of Communication Studies, University of Ghana, Kwame Karikari said. Karikari who urged Nigerians to always fact checked what they see in the social media, also advised the media to exercise caution in using opinion polls that cannot be independently verified. “70 people were slaughtered in 1983 during an election in Ondo State following an announcement by the State owned radio station,” the Director of International Press Centre (IPC) Lagos, Mr Lanre Arogundade said, tracing the genesis of hate speech in an election in Nigeria. He said the 2011 post election violence and others should serve as a serious caution on politicians and political parties as the elections approaches. “Monitoring politicians ‘language’ before, during and after the elections is very important,” editor and media trainer, Lanre Idowu said. “Violence arises from contents and language. Journalists need to be aware of some microscopic elements that will want to misinformed the public,” Idowu disclosed. Idowu revealed that there are people paid to spread fake and false news. “There are people paid to spread fake news. They are paid to do that. You have to be a critical thinker to be able to identify such characters,” Idowu added. “Nigerians must also scrutinise language from politicians that divert our attention from the main issues. Unsubstantiated allegations must be fact checked,” he advised.