By Dr. Jude Imansuagbon
As a growing young child in my village, there was one primary school teacher his sobriquet is “Ignorance is a disease and knowledge is power.”
He was known for his uprightness, deep knowledge and versatility in different subjects. He was highly respected in the village. He was the only man who has television and radio in our village then. He is late now, but left a great legacy in character and academics. I looked unto him as a role model.
Throughout my primary and secondary education in the village, I recite his nickname almost on daily basis. That showed the level of importance I attached to it. In short, it became a mantra of sort to me in my academic pursuit and others. Till date, I am mindful of it, even though I have since realised that the nickname is just a wise saying or adage. Some institutions and establishments used it as their motto.
Today these sayings: Ignorance is a disease and education is its cure, while knowledge is power is on the lips of Nigerians. But the questions are; are these sayings still operational, obtainable and acceptable among Nigerians? I doubt so, because it seems that to many Nigerians both at home and in Diaspora, education and knowledge have become more of incurable diseases now than power. Don’t ask me why and how, unless you are not observant or conversant with the activities of some Nigerians on social media platforms these days, where it is becoming extremely difficult to separate the educated from the uneducated, illiterates from the literates, the mechanics from the madmen.
I know that many would be baffled, frightened and even confused with these submissions. Don’t, for they are obvious and evident. Just hold your breath and listen very well.
Recently, I woke up from slumber in the morning. After morning devotion, I picked up my phone as usual to read Nigerian newspapers and others online before preparing for work. Shockingly to me, the first thing I stumbled on social media platforms were trending photos of wife of Enugu State governor, Her Excellency, Mrs Monica Ugwuanyi, where she was observing the UNICEF annual global children handwashing and personal hygiene programme with the pupil of one Awkunanan, which is line with the global practice and standard.
On a critical look, I saw on the banner that it was about this year’s UNICEF Annual Global Handwashing Day programme in Enugu organised by Her Excellency Mrs Monica Ugwuanyi’s pet project, Ugo’s Touch of Life Foundation for pupil of one primary school in Awkunanaw, Enugu South Local Government Area. I also remembered that my little daughter told me on phone, while exchanging pleasantries with her that the UNICEF handwashing event was also organised for them in school as well. I vividly recalled that I have seen the governor’s wife rendering different kinds of assistance to the needy, women and the sick in the state through this her pet project. It is not usually a state government sponsored event. But to these crosspatches who have never seen anything good in Enugu in recent times, the only offence of Her Excellency is just being Governor Ugwuanyi’s wife.
Although, it appeared that the photos of Her Excellency, Mrs Ugwuanyi at the aforementioned event were not properly captioned as expected, they are photonews and self-explanatory for any sane and decent mind to comprehend or decipher. I took my time to peruse through the comments trailing the pictures, especially as the peddlers have confused and deceived many people with false and negative comments on them. I was shocked to see the quantum of ignorant and mischievous comments of some people I know and I don’t know that commented on the photos without crosschecking or fact checking. Even after some smart and patriotic social media users dug similar pictures of the event in Nigeria and abroad and tagged them with Mrs Ugwuanyi’s own photos for clarity and proper comprehension, many continued to allude, spread and attribute all kinds of lies and speculations to the pictures to achieve their selfish political aims.
While some said she was commissioning borehole, others accused her of harassing school children.
I was speechless and marvelled at the level of Ignorance many educated and eminent Nigerians displayed with their hasty and derogatory comments on the photos, they would have spared few minutes to fact check on google and others before goofing. I don’t have any personal relationship with the government of Enugu State or the governor, but I have observed that in recent times, especially since after 2019 elections, social media platforms have always been agog with any little incident in Enugu. It is either it is skewed to negativity, blown out of proportion or is kept trending for long. That is conspiratorial and worrisome.
Culpable in these indecent and wicked acts are people with high pedigree and exposure. They include some journalists, bloggers, academics, politicians, youths and social media hirelings. On checking some of their profiles on their social media accounts which are neither here nor there, one would discover that while many claimed to be living in Nigeria, others claimed to be living abroad, where technologies are at one’s beck and call to crosscheck facts.
I was so happy when I saw on the Facebook wall of one of the prominent Newspaper columnists in the country, Mr. Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye, who had earlier spread and made insidious comments about the photos, apologetically recanting and retracting his earlier stances after being educated and put through by another commentator with deep knowledge about the global event. I really admired the renowned columnist’s courage of conviction and readiness to learn and mend his ways at all times. In short, he displayed a rare humility and regret by taking his retractions to different social media platforms to correct the erroneous and ignorant impression he had earlier created in people’s mind about the event.
Ejinkeonye is an exception from millions of Nigerians, especially from and in the southern part of the country with the best of global certificates and knowledge, but are busy spreading falsehoods against individuals and governments on social media platforms without any remorse or apology.
With the rate and manner, educated Nigerians are falling prey to the antics of social media liars and deceivers, how can one convince anybody again that Ignorance is a disease and knowledge is power, when those with the best of knowledge, education and exposure have been knowingly and unknowingly displaying Ignorance and lack of knowledge on social media platforms without baiting eyelids. Many have by their dispositions on social media platforms shown that they don’t worth the qualifications they are parading or the intelligence they are claiming, having reduced themselves to mere bandwagonists, rumoursmongers and liars.
Most times I wonder how foreigners who peruse through some of these unverified stories and photos about Nigeria and uncouth comments that trail them will feel about Nigerians and Nigeria. Can anybody blame developed countries that have made social media accounts of Nigerians as prerequisites for visa applications and approvals. It is high time majority of Nigerians should start to engage in self-censorship, cleansing and fact checking on social media platforms before commenting or sharing to avoid the huge embarrassment and shame they are exposing the country and themselves to.
No doubt, the world is a global village. Don’t rush into drawing conclusion on photos and stories on social media platforms without fact checking the sources its motive and authenticity. That is the standard practice globally and Nigeria should not be an exception. Social media fake news is becoming a societal problem. It is like wild fire that does nobody any good. It can make or mar Nigerians and their country. It is all depends how they use the platforms.
*Dr. Jude Imansuagbon, a university don writes from Ikpoba, Benin City, Edo State.