Buhari’s government being threatened – Lai Mohammed

The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, has said​ ​the growing cases of hate speech, disinformation and fake news in the​ ​country are being orchestrated by naysayers and their sponsors​.

He said President Muhammadu Buhari led government was being threatened and blackmailed in a bid​ to​ ​discredit the government, destabilize the polity and make the country​ ​ungovernable​.​

The Minister made the statement at the Extra-ordinary Meeting of the​ ​National Council on Information (NCI), which has the theme ‘​’​Hate​ ​Speeches, Disinformation, Fake News and National Unity”, in Jos,​ ​Plateau State​.

”The campaign (to discredit the government) is a multi-million naira​ ​project and the people behind this string of hate speech,​ ​disinformation and fake news are not about to stop. In fact, they will​ ​become more vicious in the days, weeks and months ahead,” he said.

Mohammed blamed the resurgent push for separatism, as well as
​ ​the rising cases of ethnic and religious disharmony on the ”growing​ ​phenomenon of hate speech, as well as the disinformation and fake news​ ​campaign”, and warned that hate speeches and incitement to violence​ ​set the stage for the genocide that left at least 800,000 people dead​ ​in Rwanda in 1994.

He traced the worsening cases of hate speech in the country to the​ ​period leading to the last general elections, when the then​ ​presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC),​ ​Muhammadu Buhari, was the target of a vicious campaign.

”Never in the history of electioneering campaign in Nigeria has such​ ​a quantum of hate speech been directed at any candidate. This did not​ ​stop even when he won the election and became President.

“For instance,​ ​the President had hardly left Nigeria for his vacation in London on 19​ ​January 2017, during which he said he would have routine medical​ ​check-up, when these hate and fake news campaigners circulated the​ ​news that he has died. Between then and now, they have repeated​ ​similar fakes news times without number,” the Minister said.

He cited three instances of disinformation and fake news targeted at​ ​him, including when he was quoted as saying the government does not​ ​know who will sign the 2017 budget, when what he said was that whe​n​ the budget is transmitted to the presidency, a decision will be taken.

​Mohammed ​recalled​: ”On Wednesday, 26 April​ ​2017, after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, I​ ​briefed State House Correspondents on what transpired at the meeting.​

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“I​​ said, among others, that President Muhammadu Buhari did not preside​ ​over the day’s meeting because he decided to work from home that day.​ ​In reporting my briefing, one of the correspondents quoted me as​ ​saying the President would work from home henceforth, rather than on​ ​that day only.

”Also in May 2017, I travelled to China on official assignment. I had​ ​just arrived in that country, after a long flight, when I started​ ​receiving calls from Nigeria, seeking my reaction to a story making​ ​the rounds in the Social Media, quoting me as saying that though​ ​President Muhammadu Buhari is in a London hospital, he is using​ ​Made-in-Nigeria drugs. I purportedly made the comment in an interview ‎with Channels Television, after the Federal Government’s launch of the
Made-in-Nigeria campaign in Abuja a few days earlier.

”At first, I chose to ignore the story, saying Nigerians would easily​ ​see the folly of it. But the phone calls from Nigeria became more​ ​frequent and more intense, to such an extent that they could no longer​ ​​be ignored. I had to put a call through to Mr. John Momoh, and​ ​Channels Television promptly issued a rebuttal, saying it neither​ ​interviewed me nor​ ​carried any such story.”

On the way forward, he said ​”​Nigerians must say NO to hate speech and​ ​boycott any medium that is used to spew hate or that engages in​ ​disinformation and fake news​”​, adding that if left unchecked, the​ ​canker-worm of hate speech, disinformation and fake news is capable of​ ​undermining national unity and pushing the nation to the precipice.

The Minister also told the delegates to the meeting, which included​ ​government information managers from all the states of the federation,​ ​that every state must emulate what the Federal Government has done,​ ​through acting President Yemi Osinbajo, who held a series of​ ​engagements with key stakeholders to calm frayed nerves in the​ ​aftermath of the quit notice recently issued to section of the country
by northern youths​.​

”We must be resolute in tackling the canker-worm of hate speech,​ ​disinformation and fake news. We as government information managers​ ​​must embark on a relentless campaign against these evil tendencies at​ ​our various levels, whether federal or state,” he said, adding that​ ​the regulators must also be alive to their responsibility by​ ​sanctioning erring media outlets​.​

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