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Danger of half information in an election

Posted: Apr 2, 2015 at 12:15 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

By Bob MajiriOghene Etemiku


A lot of people still quote and rely on ‘the pen-is-mightier-than-the-pen’ quote. I no longer do. I had to stop aping the quote after I realized that a lot more people have jettisoned their pens, pencils, biros and parker pens for the laptop, iPods and mobile phones. I am one of them.  There’s almost nothing you cannot do with those sleek toys these days, much more than the ram and the rod that’s the lot of the pen and pencil. With the computer, the iPod or blackberry phone you could travel the world in an instant and pretend that you were some kind of modern day Faust. And if I tell you that I wasn’t worried after years of using my laptop that I can no longer hold my pen, I would also be putting you in harm’s way with half-information. I remember a certain oga I once worked with who insisted on the old-fashioned biro instead of the PC – he was meticulous with the way he handled the fountain pain, and each time I watched him pick up his pen to compose an article or sign a document, I would feel as though I was in the same room with a William Shakespeare who was carefully dipping the tip of his feather into a pot of ink and penning an everlasting line.

But today as a matter of fact, we are our world and our world is us, unfortunately lumping us all back in time to the Babelonian era where everyone spoke one tongue, was one tribe and were determined to build a super-structure reaching to the heavens. I can hazard a guess and suggest to you quietly that that Babelonian tower has sneaked up on us quietly in the form of the information superhighway – at the click of a button, we can get at any kind of information we want. But have we at any point of our lives as citizens of the free world ever stopped to consider just a few of these questions – who puts the information on the superhighway on the superhighway? Why are the people putting the information there putting the information there? What do they hope to gain from the information posted on the highway?

Well, I cannot be hard put to come up with answers to some of these questions. I know for a fact that many of our people who patronize information ‘freely’ harvested from the internet have often boasted that they got their information ‘from the net’ without as much thought that there could be someone out there who has access to technology but who also has a motive. Information is not supposed to be that cheap but these days it is – to the extent that nearly all specialized knowledges that were once exclusively obtained from specialized institutions of learning like universities, have all converged on the ‘net’. My new lawyer colleague of mine and I ran into a couple of people who were talking about certain hallowed issues that we slaved and burnt the midnight oil to try to master. But once the issues begin to be heated up and the debutantes run neck and neck, I wanted to know where and how they got the information upon which they were using as slabs to slit each others’ throats.  ‘It’s all on the net’, they would tell you.

To that extent, we should be anxious about relying on the village well to get our water, and recommend that we try to erect a few private water taps of our own built in the privacy of our comfort zones. Why do I say that? Well, I cannot be so certain that a scallywag did not piss in the well at night while we all slept, or that an unfortunate thief while trying to evade his pursuers had inadvertently fallen into the well some ten to twenty years ago and died there. Going to that same well in my ignorance that someone pissed in it, or that someone had died in the well would expose me to all kinds of infections. And just a few days ago after I supervised a Situation Room reportage of the conduct of the March 28 General Elections, certain ‘authentic’ results suddenly began to pop up on the ‘net’ on Facebook and Twitter. There was a young chap with me who immediately lapped them up. He was brimming with the excitement that in all the supposed ‘authentic’ results that were on the ‘net’ three quarters were favourable to his preferred candidate. I stopped him from going anywhere near those poisonous substances. ‘Are you aware that there are offences for publishing an election result if you’ve not heard from INEC?’ I asked him.

But could I stop those who chose to believe that the garbage that was flying around in the market place were toxic substances? Across Nigeria after the elections, persons with ubiquitous settings and dark intentions started flooding the net with results which the body statutorily empowered by the democratic process we all subscribe to had not announced. Immediately, the danger of anarchy and chaos began to loom, especially as we had already decided that the election had been ‘peaceful’. Since various camps with different kinds of results have posted their results on the ‘net’, they have already prepared the ground for anarchy. I believe, in the circumstances, that if the PDP were to win the presidential elections, the APC would cry foul. In the same vein, if the APC were to win the presidential elections, a larger version of what just played out on the 31st of March 2015, where a Godsday Orubebe stormed the International Conference centre, venue for the collation of the results, will take the country into distress. Elections are not about just our conduct before and during elections: at every stage of the political process, elections and the outcome thereof is usually how we react to the results of those elections. What usually determines our response is the kind of information that has been flying right, left, and centre – and this time, all the information on the ‘net’ if on one side of our divides.


•Etemiku wrote in from Benin City