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Are we even more ignorant in the internet age?



Are we even more ignorant in the internet age?

Although French writers had earlier used the term Industrial Revolution, the English economic historian Arnold Toynbee (1852-83) would be credited with popularizing the term. For Toynbee, no word could have succinctly captured Britain’s technological and economic development of the 18th century (1760-1840) more than Industrial Revolution.

The world is said to have passed through several industrial revolutions on its way to the current Fourth. The First Industrial Revolution produced steam engines and mechanized the textile industry, the second made mass production possible and the third developed the web and improved information and communication technology. The Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is the current era, is an upgrade on the third by way of introducing smart technologies and the attempt to have everything automated and connected. Other experts in this realm have suggested that the Fifth Industrial Revolution already looms large in the horizon in the form of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cloud computing.

With the current Industrial Revolution and the impending Fifth being all about Information and Communication Technology (ICT), one would expect that, at no time in the history of humanity, should we be more informed than now. Apart from being circulated around the globe within the shortest possible time, to swiftly access information has also become possible with increased sophistication in ICT.

Nonetheless, a careful dissection of the activities of some social media users in Nigeria will rather paint a grim picture of a generation that has been sentenced to a lifetime of misinformation and disinformation, owing either to personal lethargy in their quest for information, or manipulation by a selfish and malicious clique that specializes in purveying fake news, or still, primordial sentiments that are informed by ethnic, religious, regional or partisan considerations.

With COVID-19 ravaging menacingly through every nooks and crannies of the globe, President Buhari in his usual reticence initially overlooked addressing the nation on the pandemic. The deafening decibels which the President’s silence had hit at the time amidst a global health crisis with far reaching implications on the economy, politics and governance, as well as other aspects of social life prompted Nigerians to demand a national address from their President. For most citizens, such an address will not only calm frayed nerves in the face of the current danger, but will also signpost sensitivity, responsiveness and above all responsibility on the part of the country’s leadership that is embodied by the President. The President would later yield to the majority wish of Nigerians, though belatedly, by making a televised broadcast to the nation on 29 March, 2020.

Sadly, the Presidential broadcast which was necessitated by an explosion of genuine interest and demand among patriotic and right thinking members of the Nigerian society would, however, be hijacked by an ignorant bloc as evident in the inanities with which they have centered their conversation as per the President’s speech. I shall return to this anon.

A case of sheer ignorance, cynicism and ill will toward the nation

We are way into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, but the bulk of ignorance that is being exhibited by these naysayers would portray us as though we were still at the Neanderthal stage of human evolution. To this bloc of citizens, the coronavirus is a white man’s disease and not a worry for the black man. The virus cannot survive in tropical Africa. Even if it survives in Africa, the virus only afflicts the rich and not the poor. The virus is nothing more than a Chinese or American invention simply geared toward stifling the ever rising profiles of the two Abrahamic faiths that we proudly associate with in this part of the world: Christianity and Islam.

No wonder, some men of God still take to the pulpit to preach to thousands who would gather in auditoriums on Sundays across the nation. No surprise then at the sight of a motley collection of worshippers huddled up in Mosques on Fridays across the nation. All these are done in flagrant disobedience to lawful orders restricting gatherings of such nature. In one instance in Katsina State, it got from bad to worse. The ignoramuses in a sheer demonstration of mob anger decided to torch a police station as response to the police who had dared to enforce government’s social restriction order in the state.

Why focus on the mundane?

This ignorant bloc would rather focus on the mundane instead of the kernel of the President’s speech in a series of diversionary tactics. Oh the speech of the President was prerecorded! Were that to be so, it was the President who was prerecorded anyway. Oh the President delivered his speech from the basement of a hotel in Cuba (and to some of them, Dubai) where they alleged the President had been receiving treatment after “being infected with the coronavirus.” Which is which? Such crass ignorance would be pushed a notch higher when they allude: “One of the flags behind the President is not a Nigerian flag but that of Cuba?” Interestingly though, all these wild allegations are at best a figment of the imagination of the makers as they are accompanied without any scintilla of proof.

Read also: Buhari’s COVID-19 speech is like fine wine with a bit of vinegar

In the internet age that we are in, a click on Google would have helped them spot the difference(s) between the Cuban flag and the one behind the President; but their unquantifiable degree bile for the President wouldn’t warrant that simple task, which to them, is a “tedious exercise” anyway. Why would anybody due to their unpatriotic disposition which in turn accounts for their poor knowledge of their country’s national symbols and insignias display such ignoble ignorance in full glare of the world? I think it is high time we made civic education an integral part of our everyday life in order not to remain the laughing stock that we have turned ourselves into with the “Cuban flag” faux pas.

They could have focused on the fact that the President failed to mention specifics such as the supply of more ventilators, test kits and the setting up of more test/assessment laboratories. They could have highlighted the failure of the President to namedrop a watertight strategy as to how authorities intend to trace and track the over six thousand contact persons now at large. They could have focused on the low testing capacity of the National Center for Disease Control (NCDC) which seems to suggest a discriminatory testing approach in the country. They could have expended energy on the non mention of our nation’s supply chain distributors in that speech. They could have done much better by focusing on the lack of clear cut palliative measures and sustenance modules for Nigerians  generally whom the President had ordered to remain indoors in his speech. But alas, they have chosen to dissipate energy on the mundane. Why?

In his many attempts to downplay the coronavirus, President Trump of the US initially bragged that he was not worried at all saying that America had it totally under control. He would later blame foreigners and the Obama administration for the unpreparedness of the American healthcare system in curtailing the spread of the virus when the virus began gaining traction in the US. He would even re-tweet that Jonson & Johnson was on the verge of producing a vaccine which turned out to be false. Trump would later shamefully tweet about “Crying Chuck Schumer”, Schumer being the Democratic Leader in the Senate and would mock the Democrats by referring to them as “Do Nothing Democratic comrades” when they urged him to be more aggressive in his handling of the pandemic. At one of his campaign rallies, Trump would also ignorantly suggest that the virus would go away as warmer weather approached by April in the US.

Trump has set the unwanted record of being the most inconsistent leader going by the manner in which he has handled the virus in his country compared with the efforts of other world leaders in their respective countries. In fact, the President’s approach was so bad that it got the Director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease in America, Anthony Fauci – a seasoned immunologist to say that he felt like jumping in front of the microphone when Trump was reeling out inaccurate facts and figures concerning the virus on one occasion.

But despite Trump’s colossal misjudgement of the virus as a mere nuisance, and in addition to the fact that it was coming on the heels of a deeply partisan impeachment trial of the President in the Senate, both Republican and Democratic senators closed ranks to support America by passing an unprecedented two trillion dollars stimulus packaged that was put forward to them by Trump.

The lesson here is simple but all the same profound: amidst a national crisis, patriots must pull together by casting aside their differences. Good citizens do not weaponize fake news under the pretext of opposition politics just to pull down the roof of the nation on their fellow countrymen. Spewing hate and lies during national emergency situations of this nature does no one any good.

It has even been maliciously suggested in some quarters that the only duty Buhari has discharged admirably since coming on board as President is proving to Nigerians that he is alive when ghoulish news of his demise would have made the rounds. The proponents of this school of thought have also gone ahead to reject and mourn the jubilant mood with which the President’s supporters usually respond to his “emergence from the dead” as one of the banes of our nation’s democracy.  To these people I say:  You cannot run felicific at the news of President Buhari’s rumored ill health and in some circumstances, rumoured death, and expect his supporters not to resort to triumphalist tones anytime the President emerges as fit as a fiddle from each round of such fake news.

As Italy buckles under the scourge of COVID-19, two Italian engineers Cristian Fracassi and Alessandro Romaioli have responded by manufacturing respiratory oxygen tubes known as “Venturi Valves” to augment the shortfall of ventilators, which are instrumental in keeping patients alive while they undergo treatment. It is expected that our conversation as a nation should be characterized by heroic acts of this nature. We as citizens can draw the much desired lessons from this spring water of Italian heroism. Now is therefore the time to embrace the reasoning of President John F. Kennedy as conveyed in his 1961 Inaugural Address by asking what we can do for our country, being the responsible citizens that we are.

With thousands of deaths across the globe, the world has inevitably reached a sobering milestone. Our nation may yet face some of its most difficult moments in her history in the coming days, weeks, if not months. What good citizens ought to do at this time is deploy all resources toward advocating massive changes in lifestyle for a society that is known for its communal characteristic. We need to be seen urging ourselves to keep to social distance guidelines. What we need at the moment is the piling of incessant pressure on the ruling elite to fix our already broken or near non-existent health system. What we need to do is to empathize with all health workers and other people who render essential services that we may continue to have society. As good citizens, what we need to do in these trying moments is to give up ourselves for volunteer services!

Personally, I have on several occasions in the past expressed my dissatisfaction with the manner the President has handled some affairs of state. I believe that the President needs to be checked not only by the opposition, but from within the governing party as well. However, to resort to cynicism instead of criticism at this war-like period is, to say the least, destructive. That you get apoplectic with rage at the sight of the President because you don’t like his face is nowhere near a solution to the calamity that has befallen the entire human race. Do not allow your hate for the President to translate into hate for your nation. While Buhari will come and go, Nigeria shall remain.

In an age of the internet; in the Fourth Industrial Revolution era; on the cusp of the Fifth Industrial Revolution, let us not just hop unto any lump of garbage that is dropped by persons whose reasoning faculties have simply taken a flight of fancy. We have no reason to be so gullible to the point of swallowing unverified information simply because it fits into the narrative we will like to have out there. The tools with which we can gain and verify information are right here with us. Information is power and if you do not have it, you are invariably powerless. Let’s pursue vigorously real information and not fake news! Let’s pull together to salvage our country Nigeria!

By Prince Singa Edward Zhattau…

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