A few days after he was sworn in as president in 2015, Muhammadu Buhari jetted off to London, his favourite city on earth, to renounce two of the signature campaign documents that helped propel his improbable electoral triumph.
The documents are “One Hundred Things Buhari Will Do in 100 Days” and “My Covenant With Nigerians.”
He said the documents were a “fraud.”
In other words, he admitted that the very foundation of the government he was elected to lead was a classic bait-and-switch scam.
His campaign baited Nigerians with saccharine but intentionally fraudulent promises and then switched to repudiate the promises immediately they got what they wanted.
This germinal fraud, born out of the Buhari regime’s heightened self-awareness that it had absolutely no capacity or plans to rule for the benefit of the people of Nigeria, became the basis for the shameless propagandocracy it runs. In my March 4, 2017 column titled “Propagandocracy and the Buhari Media Center,” I defined a propagandocracy as “a government conducted by intentionally false and manipulative information.”
Early in the life of the regime, it inaugurated a shadowy troll farm called the Buhari Media Centre, which now goes by other names.
The BMC started with only about 40 people who have multiple fake social media accounts. But it’s now an entire propaganda and mind-management industry that employs thousands of people and sucks up millions of naira monthly. Thousands of N-Power beneficiaries have now been incorporated into it.
Their remit is to flood online comments with pro-regime propaganda, smear and libel government critics, invent slanderous falsehoods against critics, magnify the slip-ups of critics and use that as a crutch to deflect focus on the government’s unending fraud, etc.
Another tactic of the regime’s troll factory, which someone said should properly be called an online “human swine factory,” against critics is to borrow a lead from Donald Trump and label any news that makes them look bad “fake news.”
Never mind that the regime and its paid online flame throwers subsist on real fake news.
For instance,on February 18, 2017, the Buhari regime lied that Nigeria was the “second largest producer of rice in the world” and attributed this information to CNN.
Premium Times found that Nigeria was not even among the top 10 rice producers in the world and that the reference to CNN was a prevarication.
Lauretta Onochie, Buhari’s social media aide, has been caught countless times passing off stock photos of road construction in other African countries as evidence of the regime’s infrastructural upgrade of Nigeria. In October 2018, APC’s official, verified Twitter handle passed off a photo of a rice farm from India to tout Buhari’s “rice revolution in Nigeria.”
In February 2018, former Agriculture minister Audu Ogbeh lied that the Thailand ambassador to Nigeria had told him that Buhari’s government was responsible for the collapse of seven of its rice mills in his country.
The ambassador told the Nigerian news media he never had any such conversation with Ogbeh. The Cable also found out that, outside of the ambassador’s disavowal, Ogbeh’s claims were totally made up.
In October 2018, Festus Keyamo, now a minister in the Buhari regime, downloaded a photo of an abandoned rail track in the Middle East and said it was a photo of a rail track in Nigeria until Buhari came to the rescue.
Much earlier in 2014, Kayode Ogundamisi, one of the best paid diasporan Buhari Media Center (BMC) trolls, intentionally shared a fake photo of Congolese trekkers and said itwas Boko Haram refugees fleeing in Adamawa.
The examples are almost limitless. The regime and its paid trolls subsist on fake news yet smear critics who unintentionally slip up and immediately correct themselves.
While I was away from social media last week, the Buhari regime’s online human swine factory had a feeding frenzy over a screenshot of a February 23, 2019 Facebook status update on Dasuki’s alleged death that I deleted within minutes of posting.
The update was informed by a recorded phone conversation. The recorded phone conversation in which someone said Dasuki had died because he had been denied access to his medications and that the Buhari regime was hiding news of his death because of the election had been wildly shared on the Hausaphone WhatsApp sphere—and on some websites—before it got to me.
I received it on WhatsApp from at least 10 people, but I only took it seriously when someone who had shared reliable information with me in the past also shared it with me. He told me one of the people in the recorded phone chat was his colleague in the intelligence services.
Within minutes of sharing it on Facebook, Dasuki’s family friend and biographer Yushau Shuaib told me it wasn’t true. So I took it down and made another status update to clarify why I had taken it down. But Buhari apologists who monitor my social media feeds like monitoring spirits took a screenshot of the first update before I deleted it and, of course, ignored the subsequent one where I disclaimed the earlier one.
Now, here are the issues.
In journalism, you can never always get it right the first time. Dan Rather, one of America’s most accomplished journalists, fell for inauthentic documents that claimed George W Bush received preferential treatment at the Texas Air National Guard in 1972–73 because of his father’s influence.
He apologised and retracted the story after the documents were found to be entirely false.
Even Washington Post’s reporting of the famous Watergate scandal (from where every scandal is now suffixed with a “gate”) had series of what people would have called “fake news” today.
Some sources lied to and misled Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, and the Nixon admin seized on this to call the entire reporting of the scandal into question.
At a point, Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee wanted to withdraw the reporters from the story. But the Washington Post was mostly accurate, and it brought down Nixon.
That’s why we say journalism is only the first rough draft of history. Others say it’s history in a hurry. Carl Bernstein famously characterized it as only “the best obtainable version of the truth.”
Like other ethical journalists, when a piece of information I share is not true, I say so. But these are few and far between. All other bits of information I’ve shared about the Buhari regime’s moral putrefaction are accurate. Here’s a partial list:
- I was the first person to expose the existence of the Buhari Media Centre (BMC). They initially said it was “fake news.” Now they admit it exists and have even incorporated beneficiaries of N-Power into it.
- The memo instructing the police to extend the tenure of Buhari’s nephew is true. Even the Punch verified it.
- The memo instructing the posting of senior DSS officers to Ilorin to rig the last election is accurate.
- The exposé on the names of Buhari’s relatives serving in his government is true.
- The screening of ministers after Senate confirmation, instead of the other way around, is true.
- The auctioning of ministerial appointments to the highest bidders is true. Many people have confirmed it.
- The meeting with youth leaders in Aso Rock to attack anti-regime protesters is accurate.
- Buhari’s personal call to ask that Danjuma Goje be let off his fraud trial as a compensation for not running against Ahmed Lawan for the Senate Presidency is wholly true.
The list is endless. Several people within and outside the regime who fear that giving information to the domestic media would endanger their lives reach out to me daily. When I can verify their information, I share it.
One or two slip-ups, which I publicly rectified within minutes, don’t change these facts. I will never intentionally tell a lie. Never.
Because the Buhari regime feeds on and perpetually shares fake news, it imagines everyone is like it.