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Former Minister, Lai Mohammed Spills On How Fake News Threatened The Foundation Of His 40-Year-Old Marriage 

Former Minister, Lai Mohammed Spills On How Fake News Threatened The Foundation Of His 40-Year-Old Marriage 

Alhaji Lai Mohammed, a former Minister of Information and National Orientation, has revealed how the circulation of fake news on social media almost jeopardized his 40-year-old marriage.

The ex-minister shared his story during an event in Lagos commemorating Prof. Wole Soyinka’s 90th birthday, where he discussed “The Media in the Age of Disinformation.”

The text of Mohammed’s presentation was made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Saturday.

Mohammed, also serving as the Managing Partner of Bruit Costard, a lobbyist and public relations firm, reflected on one of the significant challenges he encountered during his tenure as minister: the rampant spread of fake news, misinformation, and disinformation.

Mohammed emphasized that fake news, disinformation, and misinformation nearly destroyed his marriage, highlighting their extensive consequences.

He said,

“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.

“As usual, I retire to bed about midnight, but about 3 am., 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.”

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He continued:

“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”.

Mohammed said the accusation from his wife was “a bombshell” and was narrated to him in Yoruba language.

He presented the narration as follows: “Daddy, death can come knocking at any moment, please let me also, as your wife, be a signatory to your overseas account in Ali Financial which contains 1.3 billion dollars.”

The ex-minister expressed disbelief that his wife fully believed the false story circulating about government officials, including himself, supposedly having large sums of money in overseas accounts during former President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.

“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.

“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.

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Mohammed added:

“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!”

Mohammed reiterated that social media remained the platforms of choice for the purveyors of fake news, anti-state groups, anarchists, secessionists, terrorists and bandits.

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During his time in government, Mohammed remembered that his ministry uncovered 476 online publications solely dedicated to disseminating fake news against the previous administration of President Buhari.

Mohammed specifically remembered the fake news claiming that the former president had passed away while undergoing treatment in a London hospital and had been replaced by a clone named “Jubril from Sudan.”

According to Mohammed, the problem of fake news persisted through the campaigns leading up to the 2023 general elections, during which President Bola Tinubu became a target. Videos and speeches attributed to him were manipulated and distorted to spread false information.

He mentioned that those spreading fake news were persistent in their attempts to undermine the commendable policies and programs of Tinubu’s administration.

Mohammed highlighted how fake news had grown drastically due to the use of Artificial Intelligence and deep learning techniques, enabling the creation of 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.

“Today, even the media is at risk of losing its credibility because of the proliferation of fake news on Social Media

“Therefore, the media, as custodians of the public trust, must take decisive action to combat the scourge of disinformation and misinformation,”

he further said.

Mohammed asserted that social media platforms and other intermediaries, accountable for amplifying disinformation and misinformation, should bear responsibility.

He advocated for the implementation of robust regulatory frameworks to monitor and curb the spread of false information while preserving freedom of expression.

He urged social media platforms to prioritize the integrity of information above profit motives. Mohammed emphasized the importance of taking proactive measures to detect and remove harmful content from their platforms.

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