It was a dark and gloomy day in Nigeria. The terrorist group, Boko Haram, had invaded the Nigerian Army barracks and killed dozens of soldiers on November 18, 2018. Spectators and news agencies described the terrible incident as “the deadliest against a unit since Boko Haram resumed its attacks against military formations in July.”
July is notable because scores of Nigerian troops were killed in successive attacks between mid and late July. And at least 90 soldiers have now been confirmed dead between then and now.
As you would assume, Nigerians have been through a roller coaster of emotions since the emergence of Boko Haram – from indifference to anguish to hope and back to hopelessness.
And so when a photo surfaced online (Twitter) on November 18, showing a soldier kneeling in front of the dead body of his fallen comrades, it generated a lot of retweets.
But it wasn’t the retweets and the number of people that saw the photo that really got us thinking; what was interesting and somewhat disheartening, was the number of hostile comments that accompanied the photo. That single photo was able to garner comments from 227 Nigerians, some of whom attacked the government for “failing us” or expressed dismay with words: “my heart bleeds. Honestly I’m in tears right now!” or chants such as “Buhari must go! Buhari must go!”
Some other comments also stood out – those alleging that the photo was “fakenews”. So, we ran a quick search using Google Reverse Image Search and it turns out that the picture is merely a screengrab of part of a Kannywood (Hausa) movie titled “Abu Hassan”. The movie was produced in 2017 and is available on YouTube.
Further search also showed that one of the actors in the movie, Sani Zaharaddeen, had uploaded the same picture on his instagram page earlier in the year.
The person who attributed the photo to Boko Haram, Mr Farooq Kperogi, an Associate Professor of Journalism and Emerging Media at Kennesaw State University must have read his comment section because he subsequently released an apology but not before over 2000 twitter users had retweeted the post.
And therein lies the danger in posting or reposting information online without verifying them. Even if you retract that tweet or online post, the message has already been sent; opinions have been shaped; and violence may occur. If you think that is extreme, ask the Rwandans whose genocide (that killed hundreds of thousands of people by the way) was fuelled by misinformation on the radio.
The presidential election is only a month away and false/politically motivated messages are expected to be on the rise. Just as it is your inalienable right to express yourself online, it is also your obligation to ensure that your ‘expression’ does not cause the loss of another’s life or future!