The rumour of whether there was going to be a presidential wedding, precisely, whether President Muhammadu Buhari was going to wed the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, Sadiya Umar Farouq, went viral on social media and dominated discussions in towns, houses and groups the whole of last week.
In the end, there was no wedding between the president and the minister as was speculated in some quarters, and it was stated that the president will not be getting married again.
The Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr Femi Adesina, debunked the rumour, saying it was a deceptive manoeuvre by those who fabricated the news to distract the administration.
He said the news was far from the truth and that no such marriage was planned to take place at the Presidential Villa.
And, to lend credence to Adesina’s statement, the alleged bride, Sadiya Umar Farouq, was on the day of ‘wedding,’ out of the country, representing Nigeria at the 70th session of the Executive Committee of the High Commissioner’s Programme in Geneva, organised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
Seemingly, the president had or has no intention of practicing polygamy and his rejection of the practice is, convincingly, attested to by Fatima, daughter of Mamman Daura, Buhari’s nephew and the man considered closest to him. She said her father and Buhari are both monogamists, while reacting to recent social media claims that Buhari, aided by influence from Daura, is set to marry another wife. Sadiya, by the way, is said to be a favourite of the alleged Aso Rock cabal which Daura is rumoured to be the head of.
Speaking in an interview with BBC Hausa Service, Fatima said: “It (rumour) is all part of what I am saying about the false allegations against our father. He is not even aware of the rumour about the marriage issue because he doesn’t use the social media. They are both monogamous. Both my dad and the president practice monogamy. They are all lies aimed at blackmailing him. They keep falsely accusing him. It does not tally with reason.”
So, who’s responsible for spreading the rumour that the president was set to get married to Sadiya, why was Sadiya targeted among other women and why did the rumour surfaced when the wife of the president Mrs Aisha Buhari was away to London for medication and, primarily, who stands to benefit from the rumour?
Of course, in any serious attempt to answer these questions, no individual or interest can justifiably be excluded, and the reason is obvious. I say obvious because Sadiya is believed to be very close to the president and members of the so-called cabal, if truly it exists, and knowing the group members’ relationship with the first lady, Sadiya can become soft target for those politicians sympathetic to Aisha.
Hit the soft target, impugn Sadiya’s integrity, cause ripple between her and the president, disparage and discredit the cabal and show its members for what they truly are – manipulators of president, a man known for his integrity and belief in monogamy. Portray the president as someone dependent on the cabal who cannot now decide things good or otherwise for himself, this camp may have plotted.
Interestingly too, Sadiya may have made herself soft target by, perhaps, becoming the maiden minister of the newly created Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development, whose responsibilities, such as the supervision of NEMA and NSIP, among others, were drawn from some existing departments and agencies.
Thus, for the presidential decision to strip others of their powers and bequeath same to her, Sadiya must suffer some punches. After all, in the dirty game of politics, players take everyone as enemy and every punch desirable and crucial. Interestingly and crucially too, as the country approaches 2023, when riches and influences are bound to determine who gets what, the least supervisor of any agency would wish for himself or herself is to see his powers whittled and resources dwindle.
Like those in the first camp, those in this category may just well thought, “let’s unsettle the lady, make her fumble and unsuccessful, and the president may just well regret or rescind his action to strip us of some of our responsibilities and create a new ministry for this lady.”
However, looking at it politically, if the calamitous outing of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Zamfara state during the 2019 general elections is anything to go by, then the targeting of Sadiya, who, at least for now, is the major beneficiary of the APC-led federal government from the state, can be expected.
The APC has, owing to the making of its chieftains in Zamfara state, failed to produce any elected official during the elections. The president was said to be unhappy with this development and turned down requests and lobby from some powerful party bigwigs to be appointed minister and, instead, appointed Sadiya, seen by some chieftains as a political novice.
Therefore, could Sadiya be a subject of attack from her own people? Well, in politics, considered a game where the winner takes all and loser loses everything, nothing can be ruled out. And, if we consider the fact that relevance is all that matters in politics, then the current visible attempts to rubbish Sadiya and make her irrelevant in the scheme of things, can be understood.
But all these attacks are, undoubtedly, built around fake news that Sadiya wanted to ‘steal’ Aisha’s husband, and primarily to impugn on the personal integrity of Buhari and his administration.
However, no nation desirous of development and respect for rule of law can withstand fake news which can be equated with darkness and ignorance. A revered Muslim scholar, Imam Al-Ghazali, in his writings, defined ignorance as being close to darkness and non-existence.
Discussing the subject of knowledge, he said: “Knowledge is the contrary of ignorance, and ignorance is one of the accompaniments of darkness, and darkness belongs to the sphere of immobility, and immobility is near to non-existence, and what is false and misleading is to be classed with this.”
On reading this passage, the first thought that comes to mind is that of a worldwide phenomenon that, according to some government leaders, intelligence and technology experts, presents a serious risk not only to democracy, but also the future of humanity.
They were referring to fake news, written and published and propagated in, especially, the social media, with intent to misinform and mislead. The motive is often to damage an agency, entity or person and or gain financial or political reward.
The rumour, therefore, of the president’s marriage to Sadiya, cannot be an exception. The rumour was created, propagated and intended to damage personalities and for some people to make political and material gains.
Still, it shows how unsafe, vulnerable, gullible and weak Nigerians are in this dangerous era of fake news whose purveyors make huge gains, sometimes, to the detriment of the overall national interest. Truly, now is the time for authorities to act and check spread of fake news.