Beyond The Headlines #4 – Always Verify Statements Credited To VIPs

It has become commonplace to see statements credited to very important personalities on Nigerian issues, mostly spread through WhatsApp broadcasts and published on blogs. This is done to lend credence and give weight to the opinions being expressed through the statements.

However, here is the sad part: it is very likely that the said personalities never made any such statements. For example, a statement credited to former Minister of Finance, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala claimed that she had publicly endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for a second term at a United Nations summit in Mauritania. A fact-check of that claim by this platform proved it to be false.

Also, a statement had been making rounds on various blogs crediting a statement to General TY Danjuma, a former Chief of Army Staff and Minister of Defence that he had accused President Buhari of being the direct founder and sponsor of Miyetti Allah whom he called Fulani jihadists. Again, a fact-check by this platform concluded that the statement was false.

So how do you know what statements are truly said by the personalities and which are not?

First, a key element of the false statements is that they hardly ever mention how and where the statements were made: was it at an event, during an interview, through a press statement or published on their official social media page? The statement credited to General Danjuma did not make mention of any medium through which the statement was made, which raises a red flag.

Secondly, if the statement mentions an event at which it was made, it is important to verify if indeed such an event took place. For example, the Okonjo-Iweala story claimed she made the statement at a UN summit in Mauritania; however, there was no UN summit in Mauritania on that date. Rather, it was the 31st Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of Government of the African Union (AU Summit). This is not a matter of semantics; it is critical to verify if such a statement was made at all.

Thirdly, the reputation of the mediums publishing the statement. Statements by important personalities will be published by reputable platforms who have quality checks and adhere to the principles and ethics of journalism. However, if the statements are only found on obscure blogs or platforms such as Nairaland, it raises doubts about its credibility.

This is a good time to emphasize that not everything published on a website is true, and not every blog or news site is credible.

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