The Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, says the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was the real culprit of electoral malpractice in the Osun State governorship elections.
He said, to hide its culpability, the PDP disseminated fake news to make the All Progressives Congress (APC) appear the guilty party even though its (PDP) members were the ones arrested.
Mohammed also reacted to the emergence of former vice president Atiku Abubakar as the presidential candidate of the PDP, saying a vote for Abubakar in the 2019 election will represent a return to “a sordid corruption-laden past.”
The minister stated this on Monday in Abuja when he paid an advocacy visit to the headquarters of Daar Communication Plc, owner of African Independent Television (AIT) and Raypower Radio stations.
Mohammed was at the media house to drum support for the National Campaign Against Fake News launched by the federal government on July 11.
Fielding questions from members of Board and Management of Daar Communications and some journalists at the event, the minister expressed confidence that Nigerians would make the right choice in President Muhammadu Buhari come 2019.
“The stark choice for Nigerians in the 2019 election is either to go back to the past – a sordid corruption lading past – or a brighter future, which beckons as represented by President Muhammadu Buhari.
“I am, however, very confident that Nigerians will make the right choice,” he said.
On the fake news phenomenon, the minister said it was assuming a dangerous dimension, especially as the nation approached the 2019 general elections.
He disclosed how fake news was used to almost scuttle the recent Osun governorship election won by the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Mohammed also said the recent fake news on the release of Leah Sharibu from Boko Haram captivity had serious security implications.
“There is no better time to intensify the campaign against fake news, especially as we approach the 2019 general elections.
“The enemies of democracy will explore the phenomenon of fake news even more than before.
“As you witnessed in the last Osun governorship election, especially the rerun, about 16 PDP members were arrested by the police for impersonating international observers to perpetrate violence.
“But, within minutes, the whole story was turned as if it was APC stalwarts that were arrested. This is the power of fake news.
The minister continued: “A few days ago also, news circulated in the social media that Sharibu Leah has been released.
“You can imagine how much trauma this would have caused the parents of Leah, the embarrassment it has caused the country, as well as its security implications.
“This is why we believe that fake news, if not checked or stopped, it has the potential to destroy than a civil war,” he said.
The minister also reiterated that the Farmers/Herdsmen clashes were being given ethnic and religious coloration by the fake news purveyors to cause crises in the country.
He stressed that the clashes were as a result of demography, climate change which necessitated struggle for scarce resources and in some cases, sheer criminality.
Mohammed, however, noted that the campaign against fake news being championed by his ministry had yielded results.
“This campaign has succeeded in creating national awareness against fake news and brought the issue to the front burner.
“Since we launched the campaign there have been national discourse and lectures against fake news.
“Only recently, Facebook has indicated interest to, along with other policy makers, come and have discussions with us on how to combat the menace of fake news,” he said.
Mohammed also said that fake news as a global issue, various countries had devised various means including legislation and punitive measures to combat the menace.
He reiterated that the federal government would not censor, coerce or make legislation against fake news.
“We intend to leverage on the sense of responsibility of all our media organisations, who also recognise the fact that if they do not self-regulate it will lead to self-destruction,” he said.
The minister appealed to Daar communication to support the government in the campaign.
Tony Akiotu, the Group Managing Director of Daar Communication, gave the assurances of his organisation to support the government in the campaign.
He corroborated the minister that fake news phenomenon had attained a dangerous dimension and all hands must be on deck to tame it.
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