Opinion: Kogi State And The Battle Against Propaganda
By Samuel OJ Temibi
When Alhaji Yahaya Adoza Bello aka fair plus, was nominated to replace the late Abubakar Audu in the December 5th 2015 supplementary election, many of us knew that it would be difficult for the young man to rule the state if indeed he was going to win the relentless court battles between him, Honourable James Faleke the incoming deputy governor designate, Ichalla Idris Wada the incumbent governor. Either through an orchestrated arrangement or divine proviso, Bello the new entrant into Kogi state politics won all court cases and so, the tough times we envisaged, began to manifest.
It all began when the governor commenced the protracted Kogi state civil servants screening exercise in 2016, we all knew how the governor was adjudged to have failed in the exercise after he successfully sent packing some two-timing civil servants who he named ghost workers and those who either falsified their result or age.
Although this would not mean that the governor, did not mistakenly weed out the wheat while removing the chaff. From that point on, the battle on propaganda shifted gear, the ceaseless and raging propaganda war was won by those who waged it because all the efforts made by the governor to block these cankerworms in the name of civil servants from eating deep into the coffers of the state was vehemently resisted and criticized by people we now termed wailers. They indeed intensified efforts at discrediting every effort put in place by the governor to perform excellently.
On his assumption of office as the 4th executive governor of Kogi state, he [Bello] ordered for the books and financial records of all the ministries and MDA’s of the state, as a finance person himself, he discovered that the fraudulent activities been perpetrated in those ministries and agencies where alarming.
Similarly, on the assumption of office, he ordered the demolition of those archaic roundabouts unbefitting of Lokoja, the state capital. Kogi state indigene in diaspora wailers group, badmouthed the governor, saw no good intention in beautifying the state capital, they adduced the reason for demolition to the use of hypnotiser voodoo in capturing the senses and mind of the state indigene towards loving Bello.
The fact that Kogi state has the highest number of social media critics and opposition spread across the nation does not help matters, even the erstwhile DG information who is the present Commissioner for information, Evangelist Kingsley Fanwo was overwhelmed by those who were calling for his head on social media. What about the powerful grammarian, Odaudu Joel Minister who was then the SA media to the governor? He too had a continuous fusillade of social media missiles to contend with at all times.
Mr Gbenga Olorunpomi who was then the electronic media assistant to the governor was not left behind in this consuming war. The story of how Petra Akinti the then Chief Press Secretary to GYB was swept away by this propaganda battle still left a sour taste in the mouth of many.
Assuming that GYB’s first term was almost defeated by destructive criticisms, propaganda and unnecessary mendacity. I will not be completely exonerated or absorbed from the retinue of those who waged rampant social media war against Bello, although most of my social media wars came out of misinformation. Be it as it may, I had never lied against the government during my time in opposing social media group, what I did was to accentuate the misdeeds of the governor and condemn his preposterous policies which I will be glad to do again if I read, see or feel any.
Let me unearth the controversies and lies that surrounded the story of payment of salary years ago. Going on the search engine now, you will read that governor Bello once owed 20/39 months of salaries, all these may not be true.
Although this does not explains that the governor never for once owed salaries but is it logical to accuse a governor who only took over the mantle of leadership on the 27th of January 2016 for owning 20/39 months salaries in 2017?
According to the state chairman, Nigeria labour congress, Comrade Onu Edoka, all the outstanding arrears owed by former governor Idris Wada was put on the new governor who just came into office. With this misinformation on salary payment, the arc enemies of Bello spread the negative gospel-like wildfire, it was going to be difficult to contain them if it will be possible at all.
It is simply pathetic that we are now in the new age of social media, where information may be hard to verify. While the real and serious-minded media practitioners are toiling it out to send accurate and unbiased information to the cyberspace, bloggers and harbingers of bad news are at the corner of their rooms releasing unverifiable lies.
When the news about the new coronavirus pandemic hit the country, we knew that the governor was going to be embattled again. We knew that Kogi state propagandists are going to flex muscles and once again exhibit professionalism in what they are good at.
Even though the virus is not yet discovered in the state, attacks on the governor were already in top gear, the icing on the cake for many of this sadist was his interview on Channels TV. A simple slip of the tongue was blown out of proportion, yet the governor has made adequate preparation, in case there comes a confirmed case in the state.
One thing that brought up this write-up, is the misrepresentation of Kogi state isolation centres with a tent covered with trampoline circulating on the social media. When the virus landed in Nigeria, an article was written by yours truly, calling on the state government and the commissioner for Health to intensify efforts at setting up the necessary centres and equipment needed to fight the virus till it subsides.
Through our findings, the trampoline isolation centre belongs to the federal government while Kogi state isolation centres were set up inside enclosed wards in some of our state-own hospitals. The more the government heightens efforts to perform, the more the propagandists rise to sabotage the efforts and discredit the government. What a pity!
At first, news circulated on the social media of how a woman who was isolated in Abuja isolation centre ran to Kogi state, the author is a well-known traducer of the government and he was calling on the government to look inward and prevent the woman from transferring the virus to the people of Kogi state.
He the harbinger of bad news went as far as attaching the name and phone number of this supposed patient on the disjointed write-up. On seeing the name, some of us knew that this can’t be true, then, the story started flying up and down the social media space till we were challenged to defend and disabused the mind of the people against such lies.
An investigation was later carried out on the issue, to many peoples surprise, it was revealed that the news was fake. The author who was supposed to be challenged through legal action to defend what he wrote, was again left to enjoy himself in his world of misinformation.
Presently, Kogi state is having three well-equipped isolation centres, FAREC Health centre Lokoja, CAMDIC Hospital Lokoja and Yusuf Hospital in Ankpa. All these are completed buildings designated as Kogi state COVID-19- virus isolation centres, one would wonder where the shameless propagandists invented the trampoline isolation centre which has been destroyed by rain just to tarnish the image of the state government.
A few weeks ago, a piece of news broke out, that Osun state government incarcerated a Facebook user for peddling fake news against the government. Well, no one is saying that the governor should start arresting propagandists but at least, a decisive stand should be taken by the government in either winning the war on propaganda or not.