It is my deduction that fake news is fecundated by prejudice; prejudices whether ethnic, political or religious. Nigeria’s social media dome is a hang-out for lies, malice and bigotry. Falsehood in this seemingly anonymous quarter is oxygenated by hate and bias. The canard of the Nigerian Army recruiting repentant Boko Haram insurgents, for example, has been rippling because it fits into the prevailing solitary narrative and slant.
It is really startling to see well-certificated Nigerians gobbling and vectoring fallacies because they suit their bias. These ones advertise ‘’certificated ignorance’’ with vanity titles on their bios. How can anyone who has gone through the tedious mill of pedagogy and who makes pretensions to high academic qualifications resolve without a scintilla of proof that the nation’s military is absorbing terrorists? Is it a case of ‘’certificated ignorance’’ or deliberate mischief?
It makes absolutely no sense that a ‘’PhD holder’’ will choose to believe the nattering of internet infestations but disregard obtrusive facts. In scholarship, there is methodology – a process in arriving at conclusions. Theories and arguments must be tested and verified. But why do some cast aside the diligence and thoroughness that come with education to promote falsehood?
The surrendering of some Boko Haram fighters has effectuated cynicism and suspicion among Nigerians. Nigerians have a reason to be sceptical about the mass capitulation of the insurgents, especially as the military authorities handed some of them placards, saying ‘’Nigerians forgive us’’ and making drama of the entire matter.
Personally, I believe that performance was unnecessary. It is only counter-productive. These are people who are unlettered and whose hands have been made unclean by the blood of the innocents they killed without provocation. It is customary to allow the surrendering of enemy forces. But I do not think it is decent to make a lachrymal show out of the submission of suspected killers. That violates the sensibilities of their victims – widows, orphans and those who lost precious ones.
The surrendering of insurgents is a tactical breakthrough if only it will bring an end to the decade-old war in the north-east. But the war still rages, and already the government is rehabilitating and reintegrating these ‘’repentant outlaws’’. It is natural that Nigerians will want to proceed with cautious optimism and cynicism since terrorism is still much alive in the region.
Reacting to the pervasive apprehension over the reformation of insurgents, Lucky Irabor, chief of defence staff, asked Nigerians to trust the rehabilitation of the repentant insurgents. A statement issued by Benjamin Sawyerr, defence spokesman, on Tuesday, said: “On the recent fear and apprehension making the rounds about the mass surrendering of Boko Haram/ISWAP ex-members, the CDS reassured Nigerians to trust the relevant agencies that have been tasked with responsibility of planning the rehabilitation of repented insurgents.”
Rehabilitation offers an exit path for insurgents seeking absolution. But Nigerians would like to see those who took up arms against the state, killing citizens pay for their crimes. It is a knotty convergence of expedient policy and moral justice.
But is the army recruiting repentant Boko Haram members? While the military through ‘Operation Safe Corridor’ has been rehabilitating insurgents, there is no official record of the enlistment of former insurgents into the army. We should give our armed forces some credit. It is acute mischief to spread injurious falsehood that has the potency of desiccating citizen/law enforcement cohesion.
The military is about the most organised of all Nigerian institutions – forged in discipline, formulaic procedures and principles. Over the years the army has come out to dispel the speculation that it is recruiting former insurgents. It had to double down on its position on Wednesday as the fiction remains animated.
Onyema Nwachukwu, army spokesman, said: “For the avoidance of doubt, the NA does not have any repentant terrorist joining its ranks and does not have any plan for that. There are teeming able-bodied Nigerians that are willing to join the NA to genuinely help in the fight against terrorism and other violent crimes. The campaign of falsehood embarked upon by some individuals who do not wish the nation well cannot distract its personnel from their resolve to bring an end to the violent crimes in the country.”
I have done some digging seeking answers from confidants in the military circles and some trusted sources, but there is no verisimilitude in the pesky rumour. At most, some former insurgents are used as informants and baits to capture ‘’bigger fishes’’. I also learnt that the surrendering of insurgents is purely intelligence-driven. There is more to it than meets the eye.
Fake news remains fossilised as long as the triggers are operative. Ethnic, religious and political biases fecundate falsehood here.
The fake news of the army recruiting former Boko Haram insurgents dovetails with the ‘’northernisation of the military conspiracy theory’’. This falsehood has rippled for long because it fits perfectly into the prevailing ethnic and sectional prejudices.
The fight against banditry and insurgency is a collective effort. We should not help in the propaganda of the enemy.
By Fredrick ‘Mr OneNigeria’ Nwabufo