Fake news almost ruined my 40-year- old marriage, says Lai Mohammed

The immediate past Minister of Information and National Orientation, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has disclosed how fake news peddled on social media almost ruined his 40-year-old marriage, of operating foreign account with $1.3 billion lodged.

Penpushing reports that Mohammed stated this at an event to commemorate the 90th birthday anniversary of Prof Wole Soyinka, Africa’s first Nobel laureate, in Lagos recounting how his wife took up the issues with him at midnight.

The former Minister whose presentation was ‘The Media in the Age of Disinformation”, emphasized that that one of the pressing challenges he faced in office as minister was the spate of fake news, misinformation and disinformation.

“Permit me to share publicly with you today for the first time, how social media threatened the foundation of my 40-year-old marriage. It was sometimes in 2018 when I came to Lagos from Abuja for an official assignment’, he explained.

“As usual, I retire to bed about midnight, but about 3 a. m., my wife gently roused me from my slumber. At first, I panicked, fearing that there had been a security breach, but my wife’s mien belied that possibility, for she was calm and composed’, Mohammed said.

‘Solemnly, my wife asked me if I was fully awake as there were some serious issues to discuss. I could not fathom what was that urgent or serious to warrant being woken up at this time of the night. My mind immediately did a kaleidoscope of my rascalities and escapades in the last few months”.

Penpushing further reports that the former Minister stated that the accusation from his wife was a bombshell and was narrated to him in Yoruba language, adding that he was surprised that his wife believe the fake news

“Daddy, death can come knocking at any moment, please let me also, as your wife, be a signatory to your oversea account in Ali Financial which contains 1.3 billion dollars’, Mohammed recalled what his wife told him

‘I spent the next two hours or so, sweating to convince my wife that there is no iota of truth in the allegation. I had to fetch a calculator and reproduce the Federal Appropriation Act for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 in the middle of the night and explain to her why it is simply preposterous for me to have 1.3 billion dollars in a foreign account’, he added.

“I explained to her that there is no year my capital budget exceeded N5 billion, which then, at about N400 to a dollar, was just 12.5 million dollars. I explained that, even if I managed to divert every kobo of it to my personal account, it will take at least, 104 years to save the sum of 1.3 billion dollars being peddled that I stole’, he said.

“My wife insisted that the whole world believed the story and that her friends had, as a result, besieged her with all kinds of requests. She said every effort on her part to deny the existence of this foreign account only succeeded in depicting her in the minds of her friends as a selfish, greedy and uncaring friend. Is my wife truly convinced of my innocence? The answer is in the wind! “

Penpushing also reports that Mohammed, who is the Managing Partner of Bruit Costard, a lobbyist and public relations firm, recalled that the consequences of fake news, disinformation and misinformation were far-reaching.

The former Information Minister pointed out that social media remained the platforms of choice for the purveyors of fake news, anti-state groups, anarchists, secessionists, terrorists and bandits, recalling that while in government, his ministry uncovered 476 online publications that were dedicated to spreading fake news against the former administration of Buhari.

Penpushing reports that he specifically recalled the fake news that the former president had died while receiving treatment in a London hospital and was replaced by a clone called “Jubril from Sudan”, stressing that the challenge of fake news continued up to the campaigns leading to the 2023 general elections where President Bola Tinubu became a target, when videos and speeches attributed to him were manipulated and distorted.

The former Minister noted that the purveyors of fake news were relentless in their efforts to de-market the laudable policies and programmes of the Tinubu’s administration, adding that fake news had become exponential through the use of Artificial Intelligence and deep learning techniques to create highly realistic fake or manipulated videos, audio recordings or images.

‘The consequences of disinformation and misinformation are far-reaching. They undermine democratic processes, sow discord within communities, and pose significant threats to public health and safety’, Mohammed stated.

“Today, even the media is at the risk of losing its credibility because of the proliferation of fake news on the social media. Therefore, the media, as custodians of the public trust, must take decisive action to combat the scourge of disinformation and misinformation,” he said

Penpushing further reports that Mohammed declared that social media platforms and other intermediaries accountable for their role in amplifying disinformation and misinformation should be held responsible

The former Minister posited that they should be checkmated through robust regulatory frameworks to curb the spread of false information while safeguarding freedom of expression, and admonished social media platforms to prioritise the integrity of information over profit motives and take proactive measures to detect and remove harmful content from their platforms.

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