Vanguard is Nigeria’s most visited news website and the 17th top Nigerian website in all categories, according to Alexa, the Amazon-owned American company that monitors global web traffic. It also has the most Facebook “likes” of any Nigerian newspaper. But it is also perhaps the most irresponsible and undiscerning user of unverified social media tittle-tattle in its news stories, and sometimes partner with Nigerian government to disseminate lies against her people, just like it did to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Nnamdi Kanu, claiming that IPOB has split into TRIPOB, RE-IPOB and all what not, when it is obvious that those groups are fake or rather does not exist. That, for me, is a troubling mix.
You would think an Internet and social media-savvy newspaper like Vanguard would also have the common sense to know that not everything posted on the web is worth publishing without further verification and fact-checking. The paper’s editorial philosophy seems to be that whatever is on the web, especially on social media, is inerrant and deserves to be in the news. These days, the paper’s reporters just scout Facebook and Twitter and scoop any trending gossip from the cyber space.
Read also:VANGUARD:YOU CAN ONLY FOOL NIGERIANS WITH YOUR LIES/DECEIT AND NOT BIAFRANS...BIAFRA WRITERS TO VAGABOND NEWSPAPER
According to Daily Trust publication on 20th December, 2014, Vanguard gave editorial endorsement to an obviously fake Twitter handle that impersonated Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II. On December 13th, a Twitter handle: @Malsanusilamido tweeted that Boko Haram would soon be defeated. The tweet reads, “I say help is on the way. Terror must and will be defeated.”
The following day, Vanguard had this headline: “Muhammad Sanusi II says help is on the way, Boko Haram will be defeated.” But Vanguard didn’t only publicize the tweet of an obviously fake Twitter handle; it also editorialized the Tweet and implied that the Emir was hinting at a Buhari presidency as the panacea to Boko Haram. “Sanusi, Nigeria’s second most powerful Islamic leader, was presumably referring to the emergence of former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari as the candidate of the opposition All Progressives Congress in next year’s presidential election,” the story, which has no byline, said.
Read also:VANGUARD: BUHARI’S VINDICTIVE MEDIA ARM IS A DISGRACE TO THE PRESS: IPOB WILL DESTROY THEM WITH TRUTH
So many things are wrong with this story. First, the Emir of Kano isn’t “Nigeria’s second most powerful Islamic leader.” That distinction belongs to the Shehu of Borno. In Sokoto caliphate hierarchy, the second most powerful monarch after the Sultan of Sokoto is the Emir of Gwandu. No Nigerian journalist can feign ignorance of these basic historical facts. But that’s beside the point.
What’s even more indefensible, I think, is that Vanguard’s reporters and editors didn't know that the Emir of Kano had officially disclaimed ownership of any social media account since August that year. Premium Times, Nigeria’s fastest-growing home-based online newspaper, in an August 14, 2014 news story titled “Emir Sanusi disowns facebook, twitter accounts,” quoted a Kano Emirate Council official to have said, among other things, that “a twitter handle in the name of the Emir was frequently used to publish libellous statements in Mr. Sanusi’s name.”
Read also:VANGUARD: DISCLAIMER ON TRIPOB/RE-IPOB GROUPS: ANOTHER BUHARI'S DIVIDE AND RULE ANTIC; PROMOTED BY VANGUARD NEWSPAPER
Yet Vanguard wrote a news story based on a tweet from this fake Twitter handle. Even if the paper’s editors missed the Premium Times story that said the Emir had no social media accounts, which is inexcusable, why wouldn’t the editors ask their correspondents in Kano to confirm with the Emirate council if indeed the Emir issued a statement on Boko Haram on Twitter? That’s a journalistic no-brainer!
It is apparent that @Malsanusilamido is maintained by the same gang of 419 Internet fraudsters who have mutated from sending unsolicited scam emails to Internet users to cloning the social media accounts of famous people to swindle unsuspecting “mugus.” A quick survey of the handle’s tweets will reveal this to any discerning person. In fact, in response to @Malsanusilamido’s tweets, several people have imposed on themselves the task of exposing the Twitter handle as an impersonation. Yet, people who earn a living from skepticism, from fact-checking, verifying, and reporting news, couldn’t, maybe, still can’t, tell that @Malsanusilamido is fake.
Read also:VANGUARD NEWSPAPER: HIDDEN FACTS ABOUT THE ADULTEROUS OWNER, HIS DIABOLIC WIFE AND DEPRAVED EDITOR.
But, as I pointed out earlier, this isn’t altogether surprising. Vanguard, in spite of, perhaps because of, its impressive online presence, is going down the toilet. Its news agenda is now set by social media chatter, not by the reportorial work of its reporters and writers.
Vanguard is in the vanguard of destroying what remains of the credibility of Nigerian journalism. This is disconcerting. If newspapers turn to mindless chroniclers of idle gossip on social media, why would anybody pay money to read them? Newspapers the world over are grappling with disruptions to their business that have been brought about by the advent of the Internet, but passing off lazy social media chatter as news is one avoidable, self-imposed handicap the Nigerian news media will do well to stop.
Those seeking to read the truth should boycott Vanguard News peppers; they only feed people with junk and nothing more.
By Chijindu Benjamin Ukah
Edited By Uche Nwosu
Published By Nwosu C.S
For Biafra Writers