The new media have been abuzz with the news that former President Jonathan was invited to Donald Trump’s inauguration, while President Buhari was ignored.
Interestingly, Jonathan — who didn’t attend Obama’s second inauguration in 2013 – is now being portrayed as a new bride.
On the surface, this sounds like a strong statement coming from the in-coming Trump administration to President Buhari.
But the US presidential inauguration isn’t a political rally, it’s bipartisan and also a great American tradition. Little wonder that President Obama refused to comment on the action of Democrats boycotting the inauguration. Obama says that all he knows is that he will be attending.
Invitations are normally sent to chiefs of diplomatic missions to the United States and their spouses and not to any other representative of foreign countries. Swearing-in inaugurations are seen as domestic events and leaders of foreign countries do not usually attend US presidential inaugurations.
But an in-coming president has the liberty to invite a personal friend. This explains why UKIP’s Nigel Farage was invited and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu wasn’t.
The main issue here is fake news. The last presidential elections in the US brought this issue to the fore. But how does fake news work?
Last November, a fake news medium, USA Radio, reported [out of the blue] that President Jacob Zuma was one of the first presidents to receive a call from Donald Trump inviting him to his inauguration. In fact, the medium reported that while other world leaders were busy trying to reach the president-elect, Zuma surprisingly got a call from him.
Despite the fact that presidents need not be invited, the intent behind this fake news was probably to boost Zuma’s profile in Africa and in his home country. Similarly, the one on Buhari was to diminish his profile.
A few weeks ago, USA Radio also reported that Donald Trump warned out-going Ghanaian president about making last-minute policies that would make governance difficult for the in-coming Ghanaian president. The medium reported that Trump asked John Mahama to reverse all appointments he made after the results of the elections were announced. The warning, the medium said, was made in a New York Times interview. (Over 5.6k people shared this link on the site.)
The motive behind this report is hard to decipher. Was this fake news supposed to make John Mahama backtrack on making some of his last-minute appointments in anti-corruption agencies?
Interestingly, not all fake news come from ‘the blues’. Some get their oxygen from news stories which are susceptible to multiple interpretations.
On 4 June 2016, Trump tweeted: ‘’Self- determination is the sacred right of all free people’s, and the people of the UK have exercised that right for all the world to see’’.
This tweet has been analyzed and expanded by all kinds of fake news channels in Nigeria. Apparently, the up-coming solidarity match by IPOB [a group fighting for self-determination], this Friday, which is scheduled to coincide with Trump’s inauguration, is a fruit of the various interpretations from this tweet.
Even MASSOB and IPOB have written letters to Trump, but there are no news about the response they got. It is not clear if Trump has ever heard of these names.
Many argue that fake news impacted on the last US elections, even on Brexit. It is definitely going to play a significant role in politics in the years to come. It also destroys reputations. This is very painful. (One won’t be surprised if many fake news emanate from Buhari’s forthcoming vacation.)
It is important that the new media device ways of filtering out fake news. Facebook is already doing that.