From party officials’ half-truths, to wild conspiracy theories, to fabricated news
articles, fake news has spread far and wide in recent time and this deliberate spread
of misinformation online, and on social media platforms in particular, has generated
extraordinary concern, in large part because of its potential effects on public opinion,
political polarization, and ultimately democratic decision making.
Fake news has been a growing concern in global politics for a number of years, and it is now exploding across the continent, with highly orchestrated social media campaigns deployed with
alarming influence. This, as noted, is a global phenomenal and with relatable and
identical effects. It is a significant threat to the integrity of information sharing and
news reporting and has a particularly unique environment to thrive in Africa. In this our
research, we look into what is means by fake News, its causes and effects on Election
in Nigeria.

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Fake news as a global pandemic

Fake news refers to news stories that do not use industry-accepted best-practices
aimed at ensuring accuracy and credibility of information when producing news and
editorial content. Fake news might refer to stories that are outright false or fabricated,
but it can also include stories that present information in misleading ways (Victor
2021). Sometimes these categories are referred to as misinformation. The term “fake
news” has become so ubiquitous in our society that it’s even become a punchline
(Wright 2020). But the threat is very real — with real consequences.


Fake news is not new to the global space. In US elections, fake news hasn’t existed
for almost a century. People were worried about fake news during the heyday of
newspapers in the 1910s and 1920s, but since then, journalism has undergone
a professionalization process that has made it into a fully-fledged industry with
educational standards, ethical guidelines, and common editorial practices (Victor
2021). For instance, Watts et al. (2021) opined that in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War,
the vast majority of media outlets uncritically repeated the administration’s false
assertion that they had clear proof that Saddam Hussein had WMD.

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Despite being refuted by numerous experts, Sarah Palin’s claim that the Affordable Care Act would establish “death panels” in August 2009 was repeated in more than 700 mainstream
news articles even after it was debunked by a variety of fact-checking organizations
(Watts et al 2021). More recently, the 2016 US presidential election, which, along with
other events that year such as Brexit, raised widespread concerns about a possible
rise of populist/nationalist political movements, increasing political polarization, and
decreasing public trust in the media.

The Nigerian Experience

Fake news is not new to Nigeria. For instance, during the 2015 elections, a 55-minute
documentary called “The Real Buhari” that was full of untruths was broadcast on
television and then circulated on social media. In 2017, Biafra separatists trying to
sabotage the governorship election in Anambra claimed that the army was infecting
schoolchildren with monkey pox in order to depopulate the South East. This caused
some schools to close and parents to pull their kids out of fearful classes (Hassan
2019). The assertion that President Muhammadu Buhari has been replaced with
a Sudanese clone named Jubril is the fake news story that has received the most
attention. Nnamdi Kanu, the head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), first
made the accusation in a YouTube video in September 2017.

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The claim was frequently made over the ensuing months, but most observers laughed it off as a joke. However, as the 2019 General election drew near, it became clear that some facets of society actually hold the false rumor to be true. It has gotten so bad that President Buhari
felt compelled to address it head-on in December 2018 via a press release and a
public declaration that “I assure you, it’s the real me.” (Busari CNN 2019). Although
an obviously ridiculous claim, the necessity of a public denial shows how easily fake
news can take hold. This phenomenon has reached new heights, however, ahead
of Nigeria’s 2022 general election. As the campaign has heated up, fake news about
both President Muhammadu Buhari and his main opponents former vice-president
Atiku Abubakar and the vice presidential candidate in the last general election, Peter
Obi, has swirled on Whatsapp, Facebook and Twitter. It has been shared knowingly by
canny campaign officials as well as unwittingly by thousands of unsuspecting voters.
Meanwhile, #FactCheckElections.Org has done a lot of fact checking works on recent
news item revolving around elections in Nigeria and on the subtler end of the scale,
there are examples such as, the claim that Olusengun Adebayo of the SDP has opted
out of the Ekiti gubernatorial race. Lo and behold, the claim was false.
This is just one of the much fake news that is circulating the media minute after minute and we’re going to continue to see it until after the election, and after all of the votes are counted.
Expectedly and predictably, this habit of rumor mongering has created an ever-more
uncertain and heightened atmosphere ahead of Nigeria’s high-stakes elections.
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