Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

Delta State Governor, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, wednesday expressed worry at the colossal damage the propagation of unfounded or ‘fake news’ was causing in Nigeria’s polity and its economy, charging journalists and other media professionals to focus on reports as well as holding accountable those in various positions of authority in the country.

Okowa stressed that it is only when reports are factual and focused on holding leadership accountable that fake news would cease to thrive with misleading and damaging consequences for both the fabricators and the unsuspecting recipients or consumers of the fake news.

The governor made the remarks while declaring open the fifth annual conference of the Association of Communication Scholars and Professionals of Nigeria (ACSPN) in Asaba, the state capital.

The theme of the two-day conference was ‘Media Narratives-Hate Speech, Fake News and Political Stability in Africa’.

Represented by his Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Mr. Charles Aniagwu, the governor said fake news was thriving in Nigeria because “we have abandoned the unity, development and peaceful co-existence of our people as our collective focus.”

He lamented that we have, as a people, embraced the agenda of promoting only individuals and political interests.

Okowa further said: “What that has done to us is that instead of focusing on how to make Nigeria grow bigger and better, we are focused on how individuals would grow.

“As long as we continue to look at individuals and relegate Nigeria to the background, fake news will continue to be the order of the day because such news will only just move the interests of those persons which may not be in consonance with the interests of the entire country.

“Until we get back and begin to realise that Nigeria is our country, and that what we need to do is to make it work as a country, we will continue to chase shadows. I want to plead with journalists to realise that we don’t have any other country; the only country we have today is Nigeria.”

The governor noted that it was the responsibility of journalism professionals to ensure that Nigeria continues to exist as a country driven by the desire to develop her people in all ramifications.

According to Okowa, “For us to develop our people, the journalism profession has a very critical role to play. Let us desist from promoting just individuals as against promoting our country.

“If we follow the aspect of holding those in authority to account, not to account to individuals but to account for the reasons for which they are holding public offices, and when you report, report those things that are going to move the county forward, our country would be better. Until we focus on these, we will continue to carry fake news without knowing that the news is fake.”