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Editorial

Social Media Reform: Good, But…

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Last week, the Federal Government disclosed its plan to police the cyberspace and inject sanity into the social media. Apparently ruffled by the avalanche of fake news, hate speech and other divisive stuff that traffic daily on social media platforms, the government said it can no longer sit by and watch promoters of fake news and hate speeches tear the fabrics of the society apart.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, at a press conference in Abuja, last Tuesday, said, “We cannot allow fake news and hate speech to become free speech because the Siamese twins of evil are capable of inflicting untold damage on our democracy and are threatening our national unity. They represent a clear and imminent danger to our survival as a nation.” He, however, allayed fears of using the reform to muzzle the media or stifle free speech.
The minister was only echoing or amplifying what President Muhammadu Buhari had said in his Independence Day broadcast that “Whilst we uphold the constitutional rights of our people to freedom of expression and association, where the purported exercise of these rights infringes on the rights of other citizens or threatens to undermine our national security, we will take firm and decisive action.”
This is not the first time the Federal Government will be raising concerns over contents on social media. A year ago, precisely on July 11, 2018, the Federal Government launched the “National Campaign Against Fake News and Hate Speech.”
The Information and Culture Minister also recently set up a committee on the implementation of the recommendations that were approved by the President to inject sanity into the nation’s broadcast industry, following the alleged breach of professional conduct by some broadcast stations before and during the last general elections.
Notwithstanding that the government’s latest move has attracted a red flag from some stakeholders, including the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) who question the propriety of such plan, The Tide welcomes any reform to sanitise the social media in view of their abuse.
While we appreciate the genuine concern of many Nigerians that the Federal Government’s plan has the potential of muzzling  the media and stifling free speech, we are also concerned about the abuse the social media has been subjected to in recent times.
We are also not oblivious of the fact that social media has radically transformed the world and made it more interesting and exciting. Information now travels faster and easier while genuine business transactions are also promoted and made easier through the medium for a vast global market. The cyberspace also gives everyone a voice to be heard and affords the people the right of immediate reply unlike the conventional media. But that is where the gains stop.
Researches have shown that fake news diffuse significantly farther, faster, deeper and more broadly than the truth in all categories and the effects in most cases have fatal consequences.
According to a research led by Sinan Aral of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, it takes the real news about six times long of what it takes fake news to reach 1,500 people.
We agree with the Information and Culture Minister that hate debate on social media is adding fuel to some low intensity fire and,  if not checked, would consume the nation. Indeed, there have been many posts and videos on the cyberspace purporting to be true, but later turned out to be a hoax after verification.
President Buhari was a victim of such social media malady recently when promoters of fake news went out with reports purporting that the president wanted to take his Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Mrs Sadiya Umar Faruk, for a second wife.
Another horrible example was a viral video of a building belching flames that was purported to be the Nigerian Mission torched in the thick of recent xenophobic attacks in South Africa. The building, upon fact checking, turned out to be a factory that was earlier gutted by fire in Bangladesh.
Unlike the conventional media which has a gatekeeper mechanism and  is guided by rules and regulations, the social media is free-for-all with all forms of junks. Sadly, promoters of fake news and hate speech on social media platforms usually get away with it since there is no conventional means to either track them down or censor their messages. This, therefore, necessitates the regulation of the social media.
We believe that tightening the noose on the unlimited madness that often trends on social media will sanitise the cyberspace that is currently getting out of control.
In doing this, however, the government must be conscious of the fundamental human rights of the citizenry. The procedure to combat extremism in the cyberspace must not only conform with international best practices but must not also be a bait to circumscribe the civil space. It must not be targeted at stifling the views of the opposition or witch-hunting real and perceived enemies of the state.
In order to avoid the misuse of such reform and to gain the confidence of many Nigerians, especially pundits, we recommend that a council of tested and seasoned professionals like the Nigeria Press Council (NPC) be put in place to try vendors of fake news and hate speech.

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Editorial

Checking Cultism In Schools 

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Despite concerted efforts by government and concerned stakeholders to provide Nigerians with quality education, a few persons have chosen to toe the line that leads to destruction through voluntary initiation into different cults, which has eaten deep into our education system.
What is known as secret cult in tertiary institutions began at the University College, Ibadan, in 1953 when Nobel laureate, Prof. Wole Soyinka, Aig-Imoukhuede, Pius Oleghe, Ralph Opara, Nat Oyelola and Prof. Muyiwa Awe formed the Pyrates Confraternity with the objectives of ending tribalism, conventionalism, and elitism, among others.
But those objectives have long been defeated as many lives have been lost while property worth millions of naira destroyed due to the actions of cult groups in our tertiary institutions. As a result, the National Association of Sea Dogs had ordered a cessation of all its activities on campuses of higher education institutions.
As attempts are made to eradicate this hydra-headed scourge, there seems to be a geometric progression in membership and number of cult groups, as the trend seems to be a fad among young people in the country. Today, almost every street in the nation has one form of cult group or the other.
Unfortunately, many youths or students join secret cults because of the thirst for power and authority. This is common among those who aim to fight for their rights. In Nigerian schools, for instance, some significant reasons why people become cultists is to fight those who oppress them, lecturers, school authorities and members of other cult groups. No wonder there are countless cases of murder and bloodshed.
It is regrettable and indeed worrisome that after a long period of existence in tertiary institutions, cultism has cascaded down primary and secondary schools in the country. These institutions are fast becoming veritable grounds for breeding cultists, making one to wonder whether we are actually being educated in the right direction.
Concerned about the development, the Inspector-General of Police, Mohammed Adamu, recently launched a campaign against cultism and social vices in primary and secondary schools in Rivers State as part of efforts of the police to sustain the fight against cultists across the country.
During the launch of the campaign at Model Primary School, Igwuruta, Adamu, represented by the Commander of Anti-cultism Unit, Elele, in Ikwerre Local Government Area, CSP Yusuf Idi, said the essence of the campaign was to catch the young ones in both primary and secondary schools to prevent them from entangling in cultism.
According to the IGP, the latest campaigns became imperative following current investigations which revealed that sixty to seventy per cent of those involved in cult activities were initiated while in primary schools. This revelation is tragic and requires urgent measures to curb the threat.
We are frightened by the depth at which cultism has consumed our education system, particularly with its incursion into primary and secondary schools. We are equally at a loss as to how this ill permeated primary and secondary schools, some of which kids possess identification marks and consume hard drugs.
The massive initiation of children into several cult groups identified by the anti-cultism law of Rivers State is an eye opener to the rot in our schools as well as the rate at which pupils of primary and secondary schools are involved in the clandestine acts. We wonder what propels youngsters to engage in such macabre activities that characterise these organisations.
Since the presence of cult groups in our primary and secondary schools is a spillover of the prevalence of cultism in our universities and other tertiary institutions, we think strongly that steps have to be taken to rid our tertiary institutions of different cult persuasions and other violent gangs.
The Tide supports the IGP’s campaign initiative against cultism, especially at the lowest levels of educational institutions in the country. However, we urge the police to go beyond the campaigns and investigate the reasons for the rising membership of Nigerian kids of these nocturnal groups.
Given the danger the trend poses, every hand must be on deck to eliminate the plague across our institutions. Schools, religious bodies, parents, student unions, government, and non-governmental organisations have to collaborate to resist this evil in schools through law enforcement, seminars, workshops, campaigns, advocacy and talks.

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Editorial

Still On Leah Sharibu

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A 26-year old medical aid worker, Jennifer Ukambong Samuel, who was recently freed by Boko Haram obviously amazed the nation when she reportedly said that another captive, Alice, who had stayed longer in the camp of the dreaded terrorist group, told her that Leah Sharibu was alive and in good health.
“I didn’t see Leah Sharibu but Alice said Leah and Grace were doing fine, that is what she told me. That if I had known her before she was abducted, I would have agreed that she is doing fine; she is very fat but she wasn’t fat before her abduction.”
Jennifer’s admission that the insurgents gave them food and encouraged them to request whatever they wanted for their comfort was equally good to hear.
Even as her revelation could pass for a mere hearsay, it nevertheless came at a time when the people’s anxiety was beginning to turn to real fear, especially with social media reports suggesting that Leah had been killed by her captors following the Federal Government’s failure to meet the conditions for her return.
The public’s fear was also informed by the Sharibu family’s recent complaints that President Muhammadu Buhari’s communications and assurances on their daughter’s release from captivity had waned of late.
Leah Sharibu was among the 110 schoolgirls abducted from Government Girls Science and Technical College (GGSTC), Dapchi in Yobe State at about 5.30 pm on February 19, 2018. Their abduction came four years after about 276 girls were whisked away in similar circumstances during an early morning raid at another school in Chibok in neighbouring Borno State. Although, more than half of them are said to have been released so far.
While 104 of the Dapchi girls regained their freedom after a series of indirect negotiations between the Federal Government and the insurgents, Leah was said to have been held back based on her refusal to renounce her Christian faith and convert to Islam. The remaining five girls reportedly died in captivity, apparently while trying to escape. Recall that even Leah attempted to escape but was caught and returned by a migrant Fulani household.
Like many Nigerians, The Tide is bothered by the inability of the Federal Government to secure a successful release of Leah and the remaining Chibok schoolgirls. In fact, in the case of Leah, there are those who suspect that Mr. President, being a devout Muslim, may not be impressed with the teenage girl’s uncommon courage to hold onto her Christian faith rather than accept an ‘easy and harmless’ condition for her freedom.
Proponents of this theory have consistently pointed to the speed and tenacity with which the Presidency intervened last year to save a Muslim girl, Zainab Aliyu, from the hang man’s noose in Saudi Arabia where she was arrested and detained on a drug trafficking charge.
Again, if Leah were to be the daughter of a prominent Nigerian politician, wouldn’t the government have done every thing possible to ensure her release?
Leah’s case became even more pathetic when her voice was clearly heard in an audio clip in August, 2018 pleading with President Buhari to quickly accede to Boko Haram’s prisoner-swap demand so as to ensure her release. But rather than respond to the distress call of a hapless Nigerian girl, the Federal Government said it doubted the authenticity of the audio, claiming that such could as well have been the handiwork of political mischief makers, especially in the lead up to the 2019 general elections. It promised to verify the audio clip but has remained mute ever since.
The Federal Government had consistently reassured Nigerians on Leah’s life and health even in captivity. But in the event that those were mere political posturing while it secretly nursed the fear that she may have been killed and therefore doubted Boko Haram’s sincerity, we believe that the latest revelation should serve as a clarion call to galvanise the government into a more determined action to bring the girl back.
Considering the manner in which these kids were whisked away, the agonies of their loved ones and the international embarrassment that attended the raids, we think that nothing is too much to sacrifice for the return of Leah and the rest of the Chibok girls, especially where it requires prisoner swap.

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Editorial

In Support Of Amotekun

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The raging controversy over the establishment of the Western Nigeria Security Network codenamed Operation Amotekun has again brought to the fore the ills of Nigerian society and the fault lines of the nation’s existence.
The security network launched on January 9 in Ibadan, Oyo State capital, was conceived by the South-West governors to complement the efforts of the conventional police and other security agencies in taming the scourge of banditry, armed robbery, kidnapping, murder and other sundry security challenges in that region.
According to its proponents, Amotekun is not an army of the region or usurper of the functions of the conventional security agencies but an initiative meant to fill the obvious huge gap left by the police in the area of neighborhood watch, intelligence gathering and early detection of crimes in the South West.
It is, therefore, cynical that an ingenious initiative like Amotekun will attract vehement opposition from some vested interests, including the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami. Rather than supporting the genuine innovation and patting its proponents on the back, Malami and his co-travellers, mostly from the North, are scheming to throw spanners in the wheels of the security outfit.
Malami did not only declare Operation Amotekun as illegal, he also went further to threaten severe actions against its promoters. A more disingenuous dimension was the rantings of the Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, the umbrella body of Fulani herdsmen, who warned South-West governors to back down on the security network or risk their region’s chances of producing the President in 2023. How uncanny and puerile can this be?
The Tide wishes Malami and his co-travellers good luck in their infamous attempt at demonising a well conceived initiative.
However, we commend the South West governors for rising up to the security challenges in their region a’la Operation Amotekun and we recommend similar security networks in other regions. We also commend the unanimous resistance of the people of the South-West to hold on to the security network in the face of opposition by some vested interests.
We believe that the establishment of Operation Amotekun by the South-West governors is a frontal response to the helplessness of the federal police to combat crimes in the region and the failure of the Federal Government to protect its citizens.
We recall that not long ago, the South-West was a flashpoint of security breaches where banditry, kidnapping and despoilation of people’s farmlands held sway. The July 2019 murder of Funke Olakunrin, daughter of an octogenarian leader of Afenifere, Pa Reuben Fasoranti, by armed bandits along Ondo road, is still fresh in mind. Many other innocent citizens across the country had been hacked down in similar circumstances. It is, therefore, natural that the South West governors, who are chief security officers of their respective states, take the bull by the horns and rescue their people from unwanted onslaught and brigandage.
There is no gainsaying the fact that security challenges in the country have become increasingly daunting for the security agencies to combat and have, in fact, boxed the country into the Hobbesian state where life has become nasty, short and brutish. Needless to say that the security situation has stretched the security agencies beyond their capacity, such that there is a thunderous clamour for state policing.
Already, we are aware of the existence of some unconventional security networks across the country such as Hisbah police in Kano, Civilian Joint Task Force and various community vigilantees.
Amotekun is, therefore, not different except that it is regional in outlook and modus operandi.
While we agree that there may be constitutional limitations to the purview of Operation Amotekun, there is no evidence that suggests that the security network is an effort to hijack the role of the police or in confrontation with the Federal Government. Malami’s fears are, therefore, needless and misplaced.
His postulation that Article 45, second schedule of the Constitution as (amended) gives the Federal Government the exclusive power to manage the police is akin to playing to the gallery. It is a mischievous attempt at clothing Operation Amotekun and any other similar security outfits that may spring up thereafter with the garb of a regional army ready to usurp the functions of the police. Malami’s outburst is also a futile attempt at throwing the law at community vigilantee or personal maiguard hired by individuals to protect lives and property.
It would have been more honourable and dignified for the AGF and others who oppose the establishment of Operation Amotekun to concede to the simple fact that the people of the South West have been pushed to the point where they can no longer afford to standby while anarchy and lawlessness reign in that region. They have seemingly taken their security away from the almighty Federal Government that has failed to protect them and their property.
That is the kind of result a nation gets when genuine innovations such as state police and security outfits like the Rivers State Neighborhood Safety Corps are not allowed to see the light of day due largely to some inexplicable and self-serving considerations.

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