President Muhammadu Buhari was in Argungu, Kebbi State, on Thursday last week to attend the fishing and cultural festival, which that town is famous for.
Prior to this year’s event, the festival had not held for 11 years, due to the insecurity that had suffused a large part of the Northern states. But a ray of hope is being seen on the security horizon. Peace is gradually returning, and the Kebbi State government decided to revive the festival.
The President attended, and all went well. Very well. Till those who do not want the country well waded in with their contortionist act, in which they twist everything to give a negative perspective.
Nigeria had what was called groundnut pyramids in the pre-oil boom era. Agriculture was the king then. But when we started earning petroleum-dollars, the pyramids vanished. But since his advent in 2015, President Buhari had redirected the country back to agriculture. Now, new pyramids are emerging. Of rice, maize, beans, and other grains.
A group photograph was to be taken with some governors and farmers during the festival, with thousands of bags of rice as background. That was when something dramatic happened.
The line was formed, the photographers were clicking away, when a phantom emerged from nowhere. In complete breach of protocol and security, a young man had meandered his way in, and went straight in the direction of the President, with his hand outstretched in greeting.
Of course, it would not happen. Not in Nigeria, nor in most countries of the world. The intruder was short-circuited, and whisked away for censure and questioning.
The event ended, and we departed for Abuja. In the Presidential aircraft, the intrusion was a point of discussion. The President was completely unperturbed, knowing that the young man meant no harm. The security details said he would still be profiled, so that nothing was ruled out.
By early evening, we were back in Abuja, and went to do other things. Till the social media erupted. Fictive reports, backed with videos of the intruder being checked by security agents, began to fly around, with outlandish headlines: President Buhari escapes attack in Kebbi. President Buhari escapes death in Kebbi. And so on.
The sense of mortification of those of us who were there was great. Was it not what we witnessed, saw with our own very eyes? There was no attempt to attack or harm the President. Rather, an over-excited citizen had wanted to appreciate a man he admired. He broke all protocol and security rules in the process. He was checked. How did it then become an attack?
The story was assuming a life of its own, and people who thrive in chaos and disorder had begun to revel in it. They were hopping from one leg to the other like Rumpelstiltskin, in the fairy tales we read as youngsters. It was time to wade in, and we did. A press statement was issued, explaining what truly happened.
The peddlers of fake and hate news were stopped dead in their tracks. Their lies had blown up in their faces, and they beat a hasty retreat.
The next day, the coffin of their lies was finally nailed. The intruder, Mohammed Jamilu Gunddare, came out to address the media. One newspaper had published the fiction that he was gunned down, and neutralized. He said he was never shot. And neither did he plan to attack the President.
The Usman Danfodio University, Sokoto, graduate said he had always been intrigued by the honesty and integrity of President Buhari, and had wanted to express appreciation to him. So he broke all the rules. All he wanted was just a handshake.
Gunddare was wrong in his approach. But why did some people begin to peddle falsehood, concocting what did not happen? Why did they say it was an attack on the President? Very sorry, regrettable, even pitiable. Why are some people so prone to evil imaginations? Was that what they would have loved to see happen to their own President? O ma se o.
Some people passionately hate their country, its leaders, humanity in general, and I believe they even hate themselves. Sadly, some of them go to churches and mosques. If they find no evil report to peddle, they create it themselves. On social media platforms, they are quick to share unsubstantiated negativities. Yet, the Good Book in Exodus 23:1 admonishes us: “Thou shall not take up a false report…thou shall not follow the multitude to do evil.”
After sharing fake, evil reports on Thursday, they went to mosques on Friday, while others went to churches on Sunday, raising their hands in praise and worship. They were merely reporting themselves to God through those uplifted hands.
What would anyone have gained, even if the President was attacked? Why were they celebrating it, licking their lips in frenzy? They are of all men most to be pitied.
And when the lie blew up in their faces, you would think they should be decent enough to retract their posts, and apologize. For where? They simply moved on, as if everything was okay.
At the root of fake news is hatred. Bile. Malice. But why? Can you swallow poison, and expect it to kill your neighbor? It doesn’t happen. Such people must test and examine their ways, and change their hearts and conduct.
I love the comment of my friend and fellow journalist, Fred Chukwuelobe, on the statement we issued, when the contortionists went to town. He said: “Those weaving this ‘attempted attack’ story are not happy the President was unharmed. The best news they’d have loved is that the ‘attacker’ succeeded and harmed or even killed the President. People can weave and wish harm to their fellow citizens, and hate so much and be bold to share and celebrate it. So sad people have lost their sense of reasoning just because of hate.”
Bullseye. On point. Why do people hate their country, their leaders, and even themselves so much? I have nothing but pity for such. President Buhari is in the hands of God, and it has been demonstrated in many ways. Who Jah bless, no man curse. Those are not my words, but of reggae star, Bob Marley.
.Adesina is Special Adviser to President Buhari on Media and Publicity