The danger of spurious online political analysis at election time
A SEEMINGLY popular trend occurring few months before elections in Nigeria is for people to suddenly become self acclaimed online political analysts. The term unemployment, at least for those few months, then becomes a misnomer, after all jobs are freely available as political analysts in the social media space. No job application fee or interview is required to get this job. All one needs to do is to spend considerable amount of time on the social media, making all sorts of statements and allegations.
Statements which have featured include, hold it, like, Buhari is a terrorist, a bigot or that he is an uneducated man. The following have also been said about Jonathan: He is a fool or an Otuoke clueless man and voila! Once one joins the club, one immediately becomes a hero and may even be employed as an online campaign manager for one of the candidates.
There is a commendable side to this phenomenon, as one may choose to look at the situation as more people participating in politics and getting more involved in the Nigerian state affairs. However, the not-very-commendable side to this phenomenon is the fact that most of the allegations are usually false and baseless.
How can one reconcile the fact that the President recently lost his sister and the self-acclaimed political analysts dominating the social media attributed this to the unproven allegation that the President is corrupt and, therefore, should see the death as a punishment? That was cruel and contrary to our nature as Africans, Nigeria’s in particular. Nigerians are not that heartless no matter our level of disagreement not to empathise with their fellowmen in time of grief and difficulties.
Similarly, these political analysts have attributed General Buhari’s being a northerner and his ‘unbritished’ style of spoken English to mean that he is a stark illiterate. Just like lying tyrants, ask these political analysts to defend such statements and all you would get is shouts of ‘just vote for him and you will see’. No concrete answers!
These self acclaimed political analysts must, however, realise that they are setting a very dangerous trend for the Nigerian populace. If this trend continues, then it won’t be long before many Nigerians are fed with lies, thus leading them to taking laws into their hands, all in the name of fighting for what is right.
The focus here is on youths because they make up the bulk of people who use the online platform to air their views. It is alright to call Mr. Jonathan names, a clueless man and so on, or Buhari a terrorist and religious bigot, but verifiable facts must be presented to show that they are in truth what the public is being made to believe they are. To support claims and accusations against a political candidate with verifiable facts is very important, as it not only clears the air as regards that particular accusation, it also helps to win over to one’s camp a whole number of undecided voters, before the elections. Hiding on Internet platforms to make claims not true or claims not backed up by facts makes the concept of online journalism a curse more than a blessing. The solid foundation the online media has laid in bringing facts in real time to people should not be rubbished by some lazy and most times selfish people who resort to making spurious claims.
Youths and others involved in such acts must desist from making such spurious and damaging accusations against people, but leaders in particular in view of the gullibility of most people. Need we remind ourselves that we are leaders of tomorrow and we will, of course, be judged by our actions?
All over the world, political analysts are well paid and respected. If you can analyse the political situation in a country, you are well respected and people always look out for your opinions and views on very important matters and issues. True political analysts do not have two heads. They are people who have studied the Nigerian political environment; people who have invested their time and money in travelling to different parts of the country to verify facts and claims by speaking to different classes of people. It is after that they defend their statements with facts. Anyone who wants to become a political analyst must toe the path these respected political analysts have trodden. It is not enough for one to just talk based on happenings and stories gathered from hearsay and gossips. There is absolutely no place making claims when research has not been done. In such a case, it is best for one to listen and learn from those who have invested time and money in understanding issues.
Media organisations must also see to it that only true stories are fed to the public. A time it is for investigative journalists to make a name for themselves. They should write award-winning investigative stories. These investigative journalists must dig into the past of candidates vying for electoral posts and present their findings to the public to make informed decisions on whom to vote for. The electors are not helped with praise- singing but with facts.
If we are to have good and intelligent leaders, we the followers must also be wise and intelligent followers. It, therefore, means the Nigerian populace should turn investigators themselves. Stories or claims should not be taken in hook, line and sinker. Information like harvest must be sieved to separate chaff from the grain. It is only then, we would have taken a major step towards ensuring a free and fair election.
• George is concerned about the development of youths and children