By Quadri Yahya
A Trend of Misinformation
On August 15, 2022, some reputable media outlets in Nigeria published a viral report on the ongoing court case involving a governorship aspirant in the People’s Democratic Party in Ogun State, Segun Showumi, and the party’s certified candidate, Hon. Ladi Adebutu.
While many international and local media are advocating for the dissemination of credible and truthful information, reputable news media sometimes are found in the pitfall of misinformation.
Just as it often happens during an election period, politicians wrestling for offices are won’t on devising tactics to convince and deceive innocent electorates. Many of these falsehood claims had been debunked by Fact-Checking organisations including Dubawa, Africa Check, and FactCheckElection among others doing diligent jobs to ensure the spread of truthfulness on new and conventional media.
Amidst this, however, some well-known media organizations; Arise TV, TC Continental, Galaxy; etc, not to talk of national newspapers like Vanguard, New Telegraph and other local online media circulated a claim about a judicial proceeding on the PDP governorship candidature.
All print media reported that an Appeal Court sitting in Abuja has ruled in favour of the factional governorship candidate of the PDP, Segun Showunmi in a case between the aspirant, PDP, certified candidate, Hon. Adebutu and one other.
The Vanguard report headline reads:
Ogun PDP gov’ship: Showunmi wins at Appeal Court
A local online media headlined the news report thus:
Segun Showumi Floors Ladi Adebutu at Appeal Court Over Ogun PDP Governorship Ticket
The same news story was also televised by some of the television stations mentioned earlier.
Meanwhile, it was observed that all headlines flying around suggest Segun Showunmi as the candidate of the PDP.
It was also observed that all the reports have the same introduction, at least, the first two paragraphs. They all relied on an interpretation of a lawyer.
The news report went viral and was shared on another news platform WhatsApp group where many people shared rebutting views about the news report.
On 25 May 2022, drama married by crises preceded the parallel primaries of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in Ogun State which produced two governorship candidates – Ladi Adebutu and Segun Showunmi.
Daily trust reported that the two factions held primaries at different locations in Abeokuta, the state capital, on Wednesday.
The details of the report read:
Sowunmi, who was the spokesman of the PDP presidential candidate in 2019, Atiku Abubakar; Adebutu, former Rep member and an ex-banker, Jimi Lawal, and Abodunrin Abimbola, are the four aspirants battling for the PDP ticket.
Sowunmi, at a primary held at the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ), Abeokuta, the State capital, polled 554 votes to defeat his closest rival, Lawal who scored 30 votes, while Adebutu polled 15 votes.
The chairman of the electoral committee, Abayomi Daniel announced Sowunmi the winner of the election after the votes were counted.
According to Daniel, a total number of 778 delegates were accredited, 702 votes were cast while three votes were And a few hours later, parallel governorship primaries of the party spearheaded the state exco, loyal to Adebutu, commenced at the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidential Library (OOPL)
Adebutu and Lawal were the only aspirants present at the venue.
The parallel primaries which began around 4:45 pm on a calm note later turned violent following a clash over two delegates’ lists submitted.
The PDP electoral panel, headed by Prof Akase Sorkaa, had allegedly brought a list from the PDP headquarters in Abuja, while Lawal submitted another one at the venue.
Lawal, who was Special Adviser to Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and his supporters insisted that the two lists were not the same.
This led to a shouting march, pushing and shoving among the supporters, bringing the exercise to a halt.
One of the aides of Lawal, Austin Oniyokor who has some documents claiming to have been certified by the INEC, insisted that the exercise must not take place unless the said document is adopted.
The drama which lasted for over 30 minutes saw security operatives helpless while INEC officials temporarily relocated from the hall.
“This exercise cannot be conducted with a fake list. These are INEC-generated documents. These are your certified documents,” Oniyokor shouted while addressing INEC officials.
However, the state chairman of the party, Hon. Sikirulai Ogundele, called for calm among the warring factions to allow the primary to hold peacefully.
He insisted that the delegate list being adopted was brought from the national headquarters of the party by the electoral committee.
The secretary of the party, Sunday Solarin, alleged that the drama was a ploy by some elements to disrupt the exercise.
The situation became worse as another group allegedly “imported” political thugs to the venue, hurling missiles at the delegates at the entrance of the hall.
Our correspondent reports that the environment was tense as security agents called for reinforcement with soldiers who later came, shooting sporadically into the air, and dispersed the thugs.
Sanity later returned to the venue after about two hours of crisis and delay.
When the accreditation began around 7:10 pm, Lawal, his aides and supporters walked out of the venue.
In the end, Adebutu has announced the winner having polled 714 votes out of the 715 votes cast.
Just like politics play in Nigeria; aspirants are never satisfied with the first outcome of an election. The aggrieved party oftentimes swing into action by going to court to challenge an election result usually called “a stolen mandate”.
The aspirant who failed to clinch the ticket heads to a High Court sitting in Ogun State. The Court, to be referred to as the Lower Court, struck out the case with the stand that it has no jurisdiction on the matter.
Three days ago, however, an Appeal Court sitting in Abuja ruled that the Lower Court has the jurisdiction to hear the matter.
This was what some media platforms misinterpreted.
While speaking with PLATFORM TIMES, a media that did a fact-check report on the circulating claim, the Publicity Secretary of the Ogun PDP, Asiwaju Bankole Akinloye cautioned the media to not be used by politicians.
He said, “Just in case of next time, to avoid misinformation, the media should talk to me as the spokesperson of the party or talk directly to the state chairman of the party or the Secretary.
“What Segun Showunmi caused in the last two days was made possible by the media practitioners.
“It’s the media that deliberately or mischievously manipulated what the court said and it’s not good for the credibility of the profession”, the spokesperson said.
The fight against the spread of misinformation and fake news has become an essential trend in the media space. For fact-checking organisations to achieve their aims and curb the spread of falsehood, conventional media outlets must again strengthen their verification process to support the cause.
For a healthy society, there is a need for truthful media; and truthful media should fight against misinformation and not spread an iota of it.