The campaign to discredit Buhari’s govt is a multi-million-naira project, says Lai


Lai Mohammed, Minister of Information and Culture, says there is an ongoing campaign to discredit the government of Muhammadu Buhari, and it is a multi-million naira project.

According to Mohammed, the growing cases of hate speech, disinformation and fake news in the country are being orchestrated by naysayers working against the government.

He said the people and their sponsors are bent on discrediting the government, destabilsing the polity and making the country ungovernable.

Mohammed made the statement on Thursday 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,” he said. “In fact, they will become more vicious in the days, weeks and months ahead.”

He also blamed the resurgent push for separatism and the rising cases of ethnic and religious disharmony on the ”growing phenomenon of hate speech, as well as the disinformation and fake news campaign”.

He 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 recalled the period leading to the last general election, 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,” he said.

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“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 fake news times without number.”

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



    Citing other instances, Mohammed said: ”On Wednesday, 26 April 2017, after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting, I briefed State House Correspondents on what transpired at the meeting. 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 was in a London hospital, he was 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.

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