–As FG Warns Public To Beware Of Fake News

The Presidency has dismissed recent allegations of bias, favouritism and nepotism leveled against the Acting President, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo.

A faceless Social Media contributor using the name, Ismaila Farouk, from Zamfara State, had alleged that
Osinbajo’s recent outings and appointments made into some federal agencies, his office were sectional and not in the interest of the north.

But the Senior Special Assistant to the Vice President on Legal Matters, Dr Bilkisu Saidu, who spoke on “Shirin Safe’’, an interview programme on BBC Hausa Radio on Sunday, described the nepotism charges as simply laughable, untrue, unfair and should not be taken seriously.

This is even as the Federal Government, through the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, has warned the public to beware of fake news being circulated, most especially through the social media.

The most recent fake news, he cited was that of bomb blasts news at the weekend, which had suggested of occurrence of bomb explosions in Lagos and Abuja, with back up pictures of bomb blasts which occurred some years back.

Dr. Said said that contrary to Mr Farouk’s conclusions, most senior positions on the Vice President’s office are held by Muslims including by individuals who are from the north.   

She said,  “If you are talking about religion, the most senior official or position in the Office of the Vice President apart from the Vice President himself, is the office of the Deputy Chief of Staff to the President and the name of the person occupying that office is Abdulrahman Ipaye and he is a Muslim.

“The positions following the Chief of Staff’s in the order of hierarchy are the Special Advisers in the office of the Vice President. Here there are three Special Advisers and two out of the three Special Advisers are Muslims, Senator Babafemi Ojudu and Barrister Mariam Uwais from Kano State,’’ she added.

Dr Saidu said that a cursory look at the other senior positions in the Vice President’s office indicate that religious consideration was never a factor in the appointment of the officers, noting that “If you look at the remaining senior positions in that office, most of them are in the hands of Muslims from the north.’’

She said: “For instance the person in charge of Protocol (i.e. the Director of Protocol) is Ambassador Abdullahi Gwary from Yobe State; those in charge of welfare and health in the office of the Vice President are mostly Muslims and from the north. 

“Worthy of note are the stewards, those who serve the Vice President’s meals, they are mostly Muslims, so what do the critics mean when they talk about religion.’’

Dr Saidu concluded that when non-progressive minded people fail to win public support on their personal agenda they often resort to the use of religion given its sensitivity among Nigerians.

According to her,  “when people lack what to use or have exhausted all avenues to speak evil against perceived opponents or ridicule the good works that they are doing, they resort to use of religion or other means possible to damage the image and reputation of that opponent.’’

Meanwhile, the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed said, “We are appealing to Nigerians not to ever engage in a knee-jerk reaction to any news, and to subject all information to a very serious scrutiny by checking with security agencies and government spokespersons.”

He urged Nigerians not fall for internet hoax, explaining that the aim of those formulating and spreading fake news was to heat up the polity and cause confusion like the fake news of a bomb blast in Lagos which went viral on the Internet over the weekend.

Mohammed said the gory video of the blast that occurred many years ago was being circulated along with the false news of a bomb blast in Abuja, while the news of a non-existent bomb blast in Lagos was also widely circulated, forcing the police to promptly debunk the rumour.

The minister also said the latest strategy being employed by the purveyors of fake news was to attribute to top government officials’ improbable statements that were capable of destabilising the polity, causing tension and threatening the country’s unity.

He said the fake news phenomenon as ‘the scourge of our times’ which would probably get worse in the months ahead, hence the need for all Nigerians to be very vigilant so that fake news purveyors would not succeed in their quest to sow the seeds of chaos and confusion.

Mohammed also appealed to the traditional media to join the campaign against the purveyors of fake news, especially because the websites of many reputable media organisations were being used to spread false information in order to gain credibility.