Welcome to a new world where fakeness reigns over the affairs of willing subjects. There are fake police, fake pastors, fake parents, fake governance structures, and fake news. The ubiquity of fakeness is such that sometimes it is a huge task distinguishing it from reality.
I stand corrected. It is not so new. We have always lived with fakeness engaging reality as co-contestants for the trust of human beings. There have always been fake prophets in all religions. Indeed, the scriptures warn the faithful to be aware of them in the latter days. Fortunately, those with the grace of discernment escape being conned.
But now is different. Fakeness has upped his game while many of his victims have lowered their gear. If you fall short of the grace of the Almighty, you are more than likely to become the subject of fakeness in his kingdom. Victim-hood is real, not only in the realm of the physical, but also in the abode of the spirit where we battle powers and principalities.
Having just celebrated Father’s Day last Sunday and Mother’s Day last month, it is fitting to begin our journey into the kingdom of fakeness where it hurts most. Bringing children into the world is perhaps the most gracious blessing that a human being can experience. It is by no means assured. Many are not given the privilege, which is a good reason for anyone fortunate to be so blessed to take it seriously.
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In its program honoring mothers and fathers this year, both the Men Missionary Union and Women Missionary Union of the Nigerian Baptist Convention highlighted the evil of absent parenting when fathers and/or mothers have no time for their children. Such parents are not necessarily evil. They are not irresponsible.
The mother in the play loves God so much that she keeps her vow to serve the Lord 24/7, leaving her children to His care. On his part, the father works so hard to take care of his children but has no time for them, even when they have matters bothering them that need his attention. The consequence in both cases is tragic. But there are worse cases of fake parenting. Can a genuine father have carnal knowledge of his daughter? Only a fake mother would volunteer to sell her baby no matter the price and no matter her situation. But it is now a daily occurrence in most parts of the kingdom of fakeness.
Next to parents in order of importance and trust are clerics of our various faiths. We respect them as spiritual fathers and mothers, approaching them with our challenges and relying on their spiritual counseling in trying times. In the days of yore, many of them behaved true to type. But times are changing, and there are now many goats in the attire of sheep. Adulterous pastors sleeping with members’ wives, raping minors, and faking kidnapping! How such depraved human beings face their congregation pretending to be anything but fake is mind boggling. But it’s a new world of fakeness.
How about fake police of which there are many? And I am not referencing impersonators. The police force recently informed the public that a person arrested along with kidnappers was an ‘impersonator’. Such criminal cases are common and deserve the vigilance of the unsuspecting public.
However, my focus is not on impersonators. I am concerned about regular members of the force who are nonetheless fake. They voluntarily enlist in the force knowing its requirements. As officers entrusted with the safety of the public, they know that they may be required to sacrifice what matters most to them, including their lives. That is the norm. But many fake officers take at will the lives they are mandated to protect. Many others abandon their stations in the face of serious disturbance or threat to the public. Officers take off their uniforms, so they are not identified as police when it puts them in jeopardy. There are cases of heroic members of the public running to dangerous situations to save lives while officers stand by unperturbed. Are they real or fake?
Perhaps, all the above are mere symptoms of a more serious malady, which is the fakeness of our governance structures. At least for more than fifty years since 1966, ours has been a fake federalism. We know what a genuine federal system requires. We know that the state and central governments are co-equal, with each responsible for specific functions. That is not what we now operate. Now we have an overbearing Leviathan at the center with states as appendages that need its patronage.
The fake identity of our structure has its consequence for good governance. Wages and salaries of workers are dictated from the center. Many states have no internal resources to bear the burden of such expenditure, but they have no choice in the matter. They are not allowed to cut their coats according to their sizes. So, we have the sad phenomena of unpaid salaries and abandoned infrastructural projects.
When the structure is wobbly, human beings devise their own ways of letting out frustration. And our people are unfortunately deceptively and negatively ingenious. Chased to the corner of existence, they are quite clever in negotiating their exit. They invent the art of fake news.
Democracy thrives on the sharing of information. We must know what is going on in our governments for us to intelligently evaluate elected officials and their appointees. Successful elections depend on effective communication by contestants. Electorates access various sources for information on prospective candidates before they make up their minds who to support for different offices. At least, that’s the hope.
In the pre-social media world, much of the information we relied on came from newspapers and television, and words of mouth. None of this is foolproof, of course. To booster sale, newspapers embellish their stories. Television stations have their sponsors, be it federal, state, or private corporations, with their agenda. And, as we also know, news passed on by word of mouth are only as reliable as the memory of the informant. Therefore, we have always had to be cautious about the veracity of news from these sources.
However, this time is different. Social media has revolutionized our understanding of and reliability of news reporting. In the era of cut and paste WhatsApp platforms, Twitter handles, and Facebook friends, news are tainted by the bias of their purveyors.
Recent reports of kidnappings across the country have brought this last point to the fore. A story circulated about the travesty of Fulani kidnappers along a road in the Southwest. It came with pictures of the atrocity. Shortly after, on the same platform, another member had seen the same picture and story, but it occurred in Zamfara, not the Southwest.
There was the case of a mentally sick woman whose husband and brother-in-law were driving to the hospital for treatment. The woman raised an alarm, accusing her husband of being a kidnapper who had killed two of their children. Without waiting for the police, the men were treated to jungle justice by a crowd. Social media went to town with the news. It was much later that the police investigation confirmed the truth.
Finally, on this score, a Breaking News flashed on my WhatsApp a month ago and has received wide circulation since. It is about the revocation of gun license by President Buhari. The wording and signing of the “breaking news” looked suspicious to me. But I thought that reporting such a consequential issue cannot be faked. Supposedly signed by Amed Bello, Media Center, Abuja, this news releases bear all the elements of suspicion.
However, it didn’t take long before the story became conventional. The House of Representatives even reacted to the story calling on the President to reverse his decision. Though the Police declared that it was not aware of the ban, the Presidency has neither affirmed nor denied the story. So, who knows, this may be a case of truth looking fake. In which case, not all that appears so is fake even in the current reign of fakeness. It is well.
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