How Nigeria’s ex-lawmaker spread falsehood on COVID-19 vaccine, mislead followers
By Kemi Busari
To many Nigerians, Dino Melaye is a man of several talents – a vocal politician, activist in early years and author of a book. Outside politics, the former senator’s skills in singing and dancing, which he deploys in his political battles, arguably endear him to Nigerians the most.
In one of his ‘hit songs’ popularly titled ‘ajekun iya’, Mr Melaye was seen dancing and singing after a senate committee acquitted him in an alleged case of certificate forgery. In several others, he would mock his political opponents, and sometimes praise God for victories.
With this mix of talent and a political career constantly laced with controversies, the former lawmaker who represented his people at both the House of Representatives and the Senate, constantly engages his millions of followers on the social media, especially on Twitter.
This engagement took a new life in 2020 when Mr Melaye started tweeting on the COVID-19 pandemic. Beginning from late 2020, he has released a series of tweets on vaccination against the novel coronavirus, mostly untrue.
Using the ‘tweet content’ feature on Tweet Deck and a keyword search of ‘COVID-19’ and ‘vaccine’, over a dozen tweets containing purported factual information on vaccination were traced to Mr Melaye.
An analysis of the reach and effect of some of his tweets shows that through millions of primary reach and thousands of reproduction, Mr Melaye’s conjectural tweets on vaccination have real life effects. With over two million Twitter followers, even at the time the virus was detected, Mr Melaye’s words were words of authority to many. Only a few Nigerian politicians have more followers.
First, we take a look at the tweets and their metrics.
Fact-checkers’ treasure trove
On December 31, 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine for emergency use against the virus. Two weeks earlier, Mr Melaye had put out a video on Twitter to advise his followers on the expected vaccine. Way Back Machine only crawled on Mr Melaye’s Twitter page once in 2020. By then (December 16, 2020), he had about 2.55 million followers.
Fact Checks of the week
On June 1, 2021, Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari, received a briefing from the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, at the Statehouse in Abuja. Yakubu had come to brief the president on a series of attacks on facilities of the electoral body across the country…
A press release has been circulating on social media platforms, especially WhatsApp and Facebook in the morning hours of Friday June 4th 2021 that the president has ordered for the reduction in prices for a bag of rice….
Earlier in May, Nigeria’s Army Chief, Lt-Gen Ibrahim Attahiru, was killed alongside 10 other officers in a plane crash in Kaduna State. This led to several claims including the claim that 11 persons survived the crash…
Tip Of The Week
There’s precious little that we can do about the barrage of misinformation that we see daily, but there’s a lot we can do together if we learn to identify suspicious claims in the news and refrain from fuelling the fire by spreading them! Here are our top picks of likely-to-be-false news which [sadly] couldn’t be fact-checked.
CLAIM: A viral Twitter screenshot with the inscription of the “Twitter Public Policy” claims Twitter is apologetic for the recent action it took against President Buhari’s tweet.
SOURCE: WhatsApp, blogs and Twitter
A viral screenshot of a tweet bearing the inscription of the ‘Twitter Public Policy’ handle, appeared online with a rather new narrative that seems to suggest Twitter’s desire to apologise and mend things with the Nigerian Government. But how true?
While screenshots of social media handles have served as great evidence in the past, it is now imperative that you still check the user’s handle to check if it’s really there or not. Fake Screenshots is the new misinformer!!!
Questions to ask yourself: Who is the source? Which credible news platform has published this?? Is the screenshot still on the user’s handle?
What you should do: Verify before sharing.
Other Fact Checks
- Viral image depicting police officer shooting at protesters fact-checked
- How true is claim Twitter changed retweet button to green in solidarity with #June12thProtest?
- Did UNICEF say blocking children’s access to pornography constitute human rights’ infringement?
- No evidence these Military trucks are heading to SouthEast as Facebook user claims
- Yes! Crowwe App’s Terms and Conditions largely copied from Spotify
- 2018 photograph recycled as recent military attack in Abia State
- Fake tweet paints Twitter apologetic to Nigerian Government