The internet continues to shape several aspects of our lives, it has undoubtedly caused a paradigm in how we communicate and share information regardless of proximity or existence of facts. There are many benefits of the web and its role in today’s world, but it should come as no surprise that the internet has also spawned a resurgence of misinformation or what we call fake news. For a country like Nigeria where internet penetration and literacy is still low, it is becoming increasingly easy to disperse news based on ethnic, political or religious bias for the purpose of swaying judgments and emotions. The problem is that information on social media doesn’t have to be vetted, investigated, or confirmed before it escalates, and this leads to misinformation and rumors spreading like wildfire online.
Reno Omokri, an ex-aide to former President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is widely known for his half-baked nuggets and untruths, propagated trolling and mostly serves as the mouthpiece of the opposition on social media, although he never admits the latter. Since the emergence of the Buhari-led administration, Reno has taken a bullish approach to countering everything the government is seen to be doing and is constantly in the business of promoting hate and disinformation.
The self acclaimed author and questionable clergyman does poor work in his research and facts before taking to his Twitter account to attack the President Buhari administration with funny yet acerbic hashtags to push his narratives. He seems to have taken it upon himself to feed Nigerians with hearsay and jumps at every opportunity to discredit the government with shallow points and pure hate under the disguise of social activism. The pervasiveness of his tantrums and political bigotry on social media, from the distribution of disinformation to organized social media attacks is low and lacks dignity. But it is without doubt, that Reno is a fire starter, and many times it is always for the wrong reasons or because of his lack of constructive intellect.
Not too long ago, Reno argued on his social media platforms that the reason why President Buhari wasn’t invited to the G-7 summit was because of his “misrule and poor leadership skills”, adding that the President’s visit to Japan was meant to distract attention from a G-7 snub. Guardian was first to call out this fake news with a fact check post. Since when did Nigeria become part of the G-7? This is a gathering of the world’s super powers and they decide who they want to have partake in their meetings given global trends and issues dominating their agenda. Back in 2015, President Buhari earned a seat at that table. He was invited to engage with members of the G-7 on the pressing challenges of Nigeria especially security in the North East. Where was Mr. Omokri then? For someone who brags much about once being in the corridors of government this knowledge should have been easy stuff. It appears that there is more that he does not know – save he is being deliberately mischievous, which seems likely. But if we pretend that he does not know much about international politics and how these relationships work, he should learn these things rather than use illiterate tactics to prove his points.
Reno continues to use his social media platforms to make many unsubstantiated claims made against the government. Many unsuspecting Nigerians have unfortunately bought into his lies and falsehood without fact-checking him. His constant attack on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo does not just irritate, it questions Mr Omokri’s assumed sanity. It seems clear to any social media observer that this is his new point of duty. His latest trend, #RenoMoni, was created to mock the efforts of the Social Investment Programmes’ TraderMoni and MarketMoni. In this faux attempt to mock the genuine micro-credit scheme, he doles a few thousands to some of his followers persuading them to believing that the government’s Market and Trader Moni schemes are fake and dubious unlike his own twitter jamboree.
But just recently, the Vice President was in Nasarawa state to assess ongoing disbursements of loans and interact with the beneficiaries. During his visit, he highlighted the progress of the initiative and the government’s plan to reach more states across to country. Significant too was the testimony that more traders were paying back their loans and getting access to bigger loans. Before now, we have seen men and women tell their stories about how the program has impacted their lives and businesses. Yet Reno, who lives in California, USA is relentless about misleading people and preying on doling cheap money to his elite followers to get them to buy his faux logic.
And this is not the first or last of his shenanigans. He is well known for attacking people who are not on his side or more intellectually sound than he is. He is swift to block any one who shares the truth to his Social Media timelines. His concoctions of stories and religious sentiments are deliberate to ignite outrage and discredit others. Evidently he derives joy in pushing fallacies and harmful propaganda for attention. The same man who is quick to question other people’s integrity shies away whenever he’s called out concerning his credibility and other dubious campaigns he has been involved in.
What people like Reno Omokri fail to realize is that communication should enhance democracy, rather than endanger it. Instead of acting ignorant or tirelessly attacking the government, we should help the public air their concerns rather than manipulate them. Reno should think less of himself if he is as concerned as he wants us to believe, because rogue activism is undermining democracy, making it very hard for ordinary citizens to decipher truth from his falsehood. His constant bombardment of conspiracy theories, and other misinformation fuels cynicism, and citizen fatigue. His presence on social media has made the arena a danger zone, not because he claims to be an activist that puts government on its toes, but because he endangers truth, the most fundamental tool in information management.
Moyosore Andrews is a journalist and social media commentator.