Chiagozie Nwonwu, Fauziyya Tukur and Olaronke Alo could not have bargained for what they got served on social media by a sizeable number of the members of the political group, Obidients, since Wednesday, 11 October when they released a report that did not go down well with the group. As members of the BBC’s Disinformation Team, the three journalists released their report on the controversy generated by the legal proceedings instituted by Mr Atiku Abubakar of the PDP around President Tinubu’s Chicago State University diploma. As far as these Obidients were concerned, the report titled, ‘Bola Tinubu diploma: No evidence Nigeria’s president forged college record’, should never have seen the light of day. Because it did not fit into their expectations and biases.
These BBC journalists aren’t their first victims. This has been the norm since 2022, local and foreign journalists have been hounded, defamed, trolled and harassed on twitter especially. Some, like the three journalists above, had to lock their accounts. Others had to exit twitter altogether. A particular writer for The Economist magazine faced what one wouldn’t wish on even an enemy from this group. The supposedly rational members of the group often look away at times like this. Because to condemn these barbaric acts is to get harassed and trolled themselves. It is in essence a way to keep not just members of the public in check, also their own members. People like myself cannot get kept in check, we are the ones who must keep irrationality at bay. It is the least we owe society.
In his November 2022 article, “History Beckons and I Will not be Silent (Part 1)”, Prof Charles Soludo, the Governor of Anambra used the word, “mob” about eight times to describe this group. Offering an understanding of what the attacks against the aforementioned journalists must have been about, he stated in that article, “this exhibition of desperation, intolerance and attempt to bully everyone who expresses the slightest of dissent is reprehensible… Someone reminded me that a mob has no head and hence cannot reason”. Touche! One can understand why this article reverberated across the country at the time. The Governor had put people’s thoughts into words.
I have been on the receiving end of their vitriol. I get threatened by them almost every day, even on days I am not online. My wife received threats in her Instagram inbox, whilst various anonymous accounts set up by the group have repeatedly defamed my person. Some of the things published by members of this group cannot be repeated here. Their modus operandi hardly changes. One of them takes cover under an anonymous account, then writing in abysmal English, they draw up a target list of people they intend to defame, then come up with everything and anything to excite the rest of the group. Nothing is off-limits to this virtual mob. The only good thing here is that they often end up feasting over this harvest of hate and evil alone. Those who aren’t smart enough not to engage the inanity often end up regretting their attempt to reason with the mob.
A seemingly funny side to this is that members of the group are not spared either. If you exhibit any sign of appearing to think, yet alone voice your thoughts, without considering whether it slots into the group-think, you are setting yourself to be insulted and abused. Depending on your ethnic group, you could be in for words like “bigot”, irrespective of the fact that your only “sin” was to dare think outside of the norms of the group.
One person who has been at the receiving end of such a treatment is Akin Olaoye — Akintollgate. Akin wakes up on most days as an Obidient, however, there are days he goes to bed stripped of his membership on account of asking for order and respect or some other form of call that does not align with the ways and acts of the mob. He often finds his loyalty repeatedly questioned. An outlier in such a setting, one must wonder how rational people like him manage to retain their sanity and sense of Independence in such a closed system bereft of Independent thinking, or in fact any form of thinking.
For a group that claims to want better for Nigeria, one has been left wondering the sort of Nigeria we’d get in their hands. A Nigeria where disagreeing with them as a group leaves one feeling endangered. One, as in my case, where I had to institute new security measures just to ensure my safety. One where bonafide adults wake up on a work morning to “celebrate” the big victory of one of their own, albeit in anonymous cloak, spew hate and defame others. Thank the Heavens, that’s a Nigeria we will not find ourselves in.
There is certainly one useful lesson to learn from this group. Hate them or love them, they live in their La-La land. A state of mind that puts them in a permanent state of expectations of what will never happen. However, because their expectations often travel in perpetuity, there is no chance of it being cut off. Because as soon as one dream gets cut off, they dream again another one. Combined with their ability to make up scenarios in their heads and then go on to celebrate these scenarios, they have developed a method that most definitely ensures that at least as a group, they have something new to aspire to every day. Each desire may prove futile in the end but with an endless list of desires, it is an endless chain of futility.
Life is tough, so if you are able to live like this — irrespective of your reality — congratulations. Because outside of this group, you cannot achieve this state of mind without a sustained use of drugs. That said, it is a state that leaves you with zero progress. Because it is a state that keeps you in permanent denial of reality. That’s what we mostly get for an opposition these days. Trust me, I am not complaining.