Lai Mohammed: Fake news biggest threat to 2023 elections

Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, has said that fake news poses the greatest threat to the 2023 elections.

Lai Mohammed, the minister of information and culture, has said that fake news poses the greatest threat to the 2023 elections.

The opposition parties, he said, should not use disinformation to win over voters.

The spread of false information about Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate (APC), saddened him.

In Abuja, at the presentation of the ministerial scorecard by Interior Minister Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, Mohammed claimed that “fake news is capable of hampering the success of the polls.”

He said: “The increasing resort to fake news and disinformation by a section of the media is becoming a significant threat to the success of the 2023 general election.

“It is generally assumed that thuggery, insecurity, vote buying, attack on INEC facilities, etc., are the biggest threats to the elections.

“But fake news and disinformation constitute an equally-potent threat because they are capable of hampering the success of the polls.

“In recent times, we have all witnessed how a letter purportedly from INEC was used to cast aspersions on the candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC).

“Shortly after that, the death of an innocent man was turned to a political tool to further attack the same APC candidate.

“Of course, there have been other cases similar to the two I have just enumerated. This is a dangerous development which must be nipped in the bud.

“If the opposition has suddenly realised that they cannot match the ruling party in a free and fair election, and have thus decided to weaponize fake news and disinformation, the media should not allow itself to be used for that nefarious purpose.

“Since launching our national campaign against fake news, disinformation and hate speech, in 2018, our strategy has been to use persuasion and enlightenment, rather than coercion.

“And that was why we partnered with a number of media houses for the campaign. But it would seem as if that is not deterring those who are bent on using these (fake news and disinformation) as tools of destabilisation, destruction and distortion.”

In an appeal to those who spread disinformation, Mohammed warned that those responsible would be held accountable by the state.

Additionally, he said, “We have all seen the damage done to elections in other climes by fake news and disinformation.

“No government will sit by and allow anyone or any organisation to use fake news and disinformation to sow the seeds of discord.  We are therefore compelled to warn the purveyors of fake news and disinformation, especially in the run-up to next year’s elections, to stop forthwith. Enough is enough.”