It was close to midnight a few weeks ago and we just landed Lagos. I was scheduled to be in Ilesha for a workshop on security the next morning.
My driver had been in wait at the airport since midday. Prior to that day, news had filtered of all sorts of horrors on the road from Ibadan to Ife. Nonetheless I needed to get to Oshogbo that night so i could deliver a keynote address the next morning on the very issue of security. No other option, I set out for Oshogbo at midnight.
We drove to Ibadan without incident other than enduring my driver’s penchant for aiming at potholes and the few checkpoints we encountered. As we went past the Iwo road roundabout, tension built. Wide awake with primal fear, we raced along. One check point, then another, then another, even a customs checkpoint. By the time we arrived Gbongan, the night seemed so eerily tranquil.
The third leg of the journey from Gbongan to Oshogbo was to be the shortest albeit the most bumpy. We arrived Oshogbo just before 4am. I slept for two hours then attended the workshop at Zenabab Event Centre Ilesha to deliver my address. Not long after the event, I surprising read on social media that someone had been kidnapped whilyothers had been killed during the same hours I had travelled through the Ibadan - Gbongan road. I was saddened and confused all at once.
Surely, if what I experienced on the road was abnormal and the kidnappings and killings were indeed the norm I should know people who could verify these incidents. So I placed a call to the police in the areas where the incidents purportedly took place expecting a harvest of grim confirmatory news.
I also had people source information about the individuals concerned and their relatives- if they existed at all. As new stories unravelled I investigated each one, some true, most others fabricated or exaggerated.
Yesterday, I again drove from Lagos to Oshogbo, arriving Oshogbo at night. Again, I encountered multiple checkpoints along the Gbongan road. Yet another incident had been reported at Ikire and pictures posted where hordes of kidnappers were arrested. Again, the reports grossly distorted and exaggerated what either never happened or didn't happen the way it was reported.
Just few days ago, a simple dispute between two artisanal gold miners (one an indigene and another a resident) where no one was hurt or killed was described in breaking news as “a conflagration of mayhem and destruction with scores killed and houses set ablaze in Ifewara, the hometown of Pastor Adeboye, the General Overseer of Redeemed Church”. I spoke to the AIG of police who told me the situation is under control. Then to Kabiyesi , The Adimula of Ifewara. The traiditonal ruler wryly told me “not even a chicken was killed in the dispute”. He commended the police for responding promptly and for quickly defusing the situation which could have been worse.
Such social media exaggeration is not only wrong but dangerous in that it stokes up tensions between communities that have mingled for years with the potential to tear families apart and ruin harmonious relationships.
Yes, there are cases of kidnap across the country and in Osun. But some miscreants appear to be trivialising the seriousness of the security situation by fabricating stories of kidnapping and exaggerating others.
There is the recent case of a pastor allegedly setting up his own kidnap in an attempt to collect a N3m ransom in Ado Ekiti. Evidence suggests that the pastor has a case to answer. Such a diabolical scheme should be unthinkable! It prompts the kind of offensive comments, sometimes made in jest like the pastor was Fulani, such jokes that feed the exaggerated narratives about Fulanis or herdsmen from our own country, our fellow Nigerians, and some even fellow Omoluabi's, as being responsible for all violent crimes in Nigeria.
Rather than scapegoating, we need to properly provide support to victims of kidnapping and their families. We can start by not making up stories that makes them relive the horror of their ordeals when those stories are not true. It is a cruel and wicked thing to do them. Worse still, peddling fearful falsehoods or exaggerations can only embolden the criminals who engage in this conduct and makes the job of law enforcement more difficult.
By forcing law enforcement to chase lies, we waste their most precious resource- time. And that makes all of us less safe. Lying about security can literally cost lives and livelihoods.
Think before forwarding the next social media post about some horrific kidnapping or murder or unrest in Osun. Think before exaggerating news about an incident. Think before sharing unrelated posts or pictures that are wickedly tagged Osun( Ikire/Gbongan or ilesha road).
Think about the past victims of kidnappings and relatives of murdered kidnap victims before posting fake news about kidnappings. Thinking before acting is one of the most worthy qualities of an Omoluabi.
As security is the problem of every one of us, we all have a role to play. If you see something say something!
But for God’s sake don’t say something you don’t see or don’t know directly without verifying if it is true.
If we Omoluabis get off this road of peddling rumours about our state as a bundle of intractable problems, and rather, start thinking of our people and land as a series of endless opportunities, imagine what we could do? Think of what we could achieve?
Most recently, Gov Oyetola embarked upon security solution. He has repeatedly engaged the security agencies and their response has been commendable. He has conducted two major statewide security summits- he met with the South West Governors towards setting up a regional joint patrol and rapid response squads and recently visited the Army Chief in Abuja to concretise the robust security plans.
Again security is of concern to us all. I therefore urge every Omoluwabi to speak up to what is true and right or keep the peace by not retelling lies .Think before you foreword the next social media fabrication, think!
Adeyanju writes in from Inisha