WITH DAN AGBESE

OM­BUDS­MAN

Sunday Trust - - NEWS HEALTH -

them­selves to the scene. But there is no let up, what with the khaki not look­ing so shiny any more. We would be asked to choose between the cor­rupt and the less cor­rupt. There are no an­gels in pol­i­tics. All the hal­lows in pol­i­tics are tainted. Never for­get that.

Facts sans facts. Facts without facts are a com­mon me­dia fare in an elec­tion sea­son. They usu­ally con­sist of false in­for­ma­tion dressed up prop­erly as facts in­tended to dam­age a po­lit­i­cal op­po­nent. A dead give­away is when a politi­cian calls God as his wit­ness that the facts he places be­fore you are facts. The ob­vi­ous dif­fi­culty here is that nei­ther the ed­i­tor nor his re­porter can call on the almighty to authen­tic the facts given to them. If, there­fore, the ed­i­tor takes the politi­cian’s word for it, he is likely to do worse than goof. The politi­cian who read­ily swears is a dan­ger­ous news source.

Forged doc­u­ments. This is a se­ri­ous prob­lem in an elec­tion sea­son. My first se­ri­ous ex­pe­ri­ence with this was in 1983 when I was ed­i­tor of the New Nige­rian. One morn­ing, my manag­ing di­rec­tor dumped a large brown en­ve­lope on my desk and told me it was from the min­is­ter. No, it did not con­tain money. It con­tained a 32-page doc­u­ment. It de­tailed a pur­ported plan by one of the lead­ing politi­cians of that era to send the Sha­gari ad­min­is­tra­tion pack­ing with the force of arms.

The doc­u­ment seemed be­liev­able with all its lurid de­tails but it was en­tirely fake. Ex­pect politi­cians in all the po­lit­i­cal par­ties to dump sim­i­lar forg­eries on ed­i­tors. No ed­i­tor can be too care­ful. The rule of the thumb here is: if you can­not in­de­pen­dently cross-check a doc­u­ment, the chances are, it is a forgery.

Fake news. This is a new global de­vel­op­ment. As noted ear­lier, fake news is man­u­fac­tured in­for­ma­tion with lit­tle or no ba­sis in fact. It is tar­geted at achiev­ing some sin­is­ter or un­holy ob­jec­tives. It would be a mis­take to think that our politi­cians are not suf­fi­ciently adept at this. I be­lieve they are. If it comes to this to se­cure some po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tages, none of them would hes­i­tate to re­sort to it. The prob­lem with fake news is that it comes from mul­ti­ple sources. It has the ca­pac­ity to re­lent­lessly bom­bard the pub­lic space. It op­er­ates on the prin­ci­ple that false­hood re­peat­edly pur­veyed by the me­dia morphs into truth. Re­mem­ber Goebbels and the Nazi pro­pa­ganda ma­chine and be wise.

The brown en­ve­lope. This usu­ally refers to money dis­trib­uted to re­porters at news con­fer­ences. The brown en­ve­lope has mu­tated into a more in­tractable sys­tem by which politi­cians ma­nip­u­late the news me­dia to suit their pur­poses. The size of their gen­eros­ity can­not be con­tained in a brown en­ve­lope any more. Be­ware of the sud­denly rich re­porter on the po­lit­i­cal or busi­ness beat.

The blame game. Some­one in the past did not do well by the coun­try and its peo­ple, hence we are where we are now. In pol­i­tics, fail­ure is usu­ally blamed on oth­ers. It is the name of the game. Po­lit­i­cal cam­paigns are of­fi­cial times for self-pro­mo­tion. Al­ways read between the lines.

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