Within the last two weeks or so, the Nigerian ‘internetosphere’ has been rife with happenings in the Big Brother Nigeria reality TV show as it concerns Kemen, and the ‘private’ life of Apostle Johnson Suleman. This isn’t the type of topic I would typically discuss especially as the Big Brother show isn’t my thing and because I have always regarded Suleman with some scepticism from the very first time I saw him preach.
A lot has been said and written about Kemen and Suleman already, but these have either been to report the stories, or defend/support the accused; therefore, I am not going down those routes. Today, however, I will beam the light on those Nigerians who hold and have shared rather strong opinions about these men.
I remember logging into Facebook two weeks ago and my timeline feeds were mainly about Big Brother’s Kemen taking advantage of TBoss and his eventual eviction. Most of the posts were accusatory saying he had touched TBoss inappropriately...some even went as far as saying he fingered her (please pardon me). Kemen was called all sorts of derogatory names and was derided as being a disgrace to the menfolk. Thankfully, there were also clips of what Kemen had done, but they were roughly 40 seconds long and nothing was explicit. Out of curiosity, I went on Youtube to check for longer, more revealing videos, I found none. All I saw was a man and a lady in bed, both almost completely under the duvet. So why did people have such strong opinions that Kemen must have done something sinister under the covers? Were they TBoss whose body was touched? Or do they have x-ray visions capable of seeing through covers even on digital images? Even the ‘victim’ - TBoss, only went as far as saying that “in the video, IT LOOKED LIKE he was fingering me”. So if the supposed victim has not explicitly accused Kemen, why would you do so? If Big Brother had not evicted Kemen because of whatever happened under those covers, I can swear that these hypocrites would not have seen anything wrong with that clip even if they replayed it a hundred times. The truth is that only Kemen and TBoss can tell exactly what happened under the duvet...nobody else, not even Big Brother.
Now, to Suleman...first time I saw him, my spirit never accepted him as a man of God- I saw pride and arrogance. Curiously, Apostle Suleman himself has been the subject of most of his own preachings; the issuance of bogus threats is also typical of his sermons. But nothing fortified my perception of him as an arrogant being like when he boasted that if he spends a day under arrest by the DSS, the resultant damage to Nigeria will take a year to repair...and this was coming after Governor Fayose saved him from being whisked away. So...when I read the story about him and Stephanie Otobo, I was not surprised; indeed, I felt it was something he could do. However, as usual, the story of what actually transpired between him and Stephanie has been hijacked by both hypocrites who must have ‘witnessed the affair’, and ardent clergy-worshipers to whom a Priest or a Pastor can do no wrong.
My wall has been rife with different videos of Stephanie relaying her experience as Suleman’s mistress; I have also seen the purported screen grabs of their snapchat sessions. These have left me wondering where my people have forgotten their common sense...there is barely anything in what the lady has said or shown that should give one the confidence to accuse Suleman without reservation. Stephanie’s stories have been a bit incoherent especially as it concerns her Dad’s role in the saga and the reason she has no other proof of correspondence between herself and Suleman apart from the said snapchat-grab, which, by the way, can easily be doctored on Microsoft Word not to talk of Photoshop. Just as with Kemen and TBoss, the truth about what transpired between Suleman and Stephanie lies between them, and until a substantive evidence is shown by either party to back up his/her claim, you should be a mere onlooker who may only have a TENTATIVE opinion or bias.
As much as I do not trust Suleman, I would not accuse him without having substantive facts. On the other hand, I would not support him simply because he is a ‘clergy’; he is only human and is fallible. We have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God...so if your ‘man of God’ makes you think he is an epitome of perfection, or if you find yourself beginning to worship the holiness and perfection of your ‘man of God’, abeg find another church.
So, where am I going with all these? With the ubiquity of social media, we -both the learned and not-so-learned, the experts and the lay - have become both suppliers and consumers of what I call “weinformation”. There is a rapid increase in citizen-journalism, and journalism as we knew it has changed: a lot of what we read and consume are posted by individuals who are not bound by professional ethics. Consequently, we are seeing more gossips and rumours that actual news, and plagiarism (copy, paste and share) of same rubbish has become the order of the day. On Facebook, we see multiple mushroom news platforms being run by untrained individuals, for instance Report9aija.com, IgbereTV, etc. We have also seen fake pages created with the names of established news companies, for instance, the www.metro-uk.com which claimed that Buhari was dead is a fake version of www.metro.co.uk.
In essence, People can easily type and post pieces of weinformation for fun (satire, jokes, pranks), to generate traffic to their sites, for sinister reasons (discredit or tarnish other people’s image, to stir civil unrest, etc), or to educate and inform. Most of this weinformation are without explicit caveats and would not state the writer’s intent, therefore, the readers are left to make of them what they will. It is left for the readers/consumers to sieve through the weinformation and decide what constitutes misinformation or information. Unfortunately, most often, people have treated every weinformation as information; for example, the satirical weinformation on bathing with salt to prevent Ebola was taken very seriously with people never querying the source or veracity. I have also seen learned people sharing news from questionable sources on the internet. And because we are so digitally connected and inter-connected, weinformation can spread like wildfire; such spread presents an illusion of authenticity to the ignorant and gullible, and it is quite unfortunate.
As a kid, a picture was said to be worth a thousand words. However, in this present era of close-to-perfect digital manipulations (photoshopping and videoshopping), it is rather foolish for one not to question the authenticity of images s/he sees on the internet. Apart from the fact that pictures and videos can be doctored to represent a lie, true pictures and videos of past events can be re-presented as proof of totally different events. For instance, videos and pictures of extreme violence from years ago and from remote parts of the world have been presented as proof of xenophobic attacks in South Africa, thereby distorting the narrative. My friends would usually accuse me of being very sceptical about everything, but I tell you...scepticism is a virtue in this time and age; question everything, give it a second look and thought. I, therefore, urge you, to use the Kemen/TBoss and Suleman/Stephanie issues as an eye opener to how we have often and wrongly held strong opinions about events that we have very little information about. Tomorrow, it may be you that your neighbours would accuse of having sex with an unknown lady just because they HEARD you moaning...and no one believes you have just survived a terrible stomach ache. Things really are not as they seem...it’s all weinformation, look twice.