Thursday, 16 February 2017

Fake news from nowhere

A distinguished political analyst in Nigeria lamented last month that the country had probably invented the Fake News phenomenon, closely linked to Donald Trump's presidential election campaign in the United States and a lucrative business model. As if to buttress this claim, some Nigerian bloggers and commentators were last month assuring us that President Muhammadu Buhari had died of a mystery illness. Days earlier, his office had announced that he would be staying in London for medical tests.

When the death story petered out, it was replaced by reports of Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo being held hostage by several state governors as well as Senate President Bukola Saraki until he agreed to stand down and transfer his powers, as head of state in Buhari's absence, to one of their number. For Nigerians of a nervous disposition, this is a reworking of the plot around the ailing President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua in 2010. The planned trip on 16 February by Saraki and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, to see Buhari in London may dispel some of the myth-making. The scarcity of information so far about Buhari's ailments has given Nigeria's Fake News industry a shot in the arm.

Curiously, investors in Nigeria's billion-dollar Eurobond seem unbothered by the President's indisposition. The bond issue was eight times over-subscribed and with an interest rate several percentage points lower than those of other economies in the region.

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