As Nigerians go to the polls in February and March, they are faced with a flood of false political information on social media.
An exposé by BBC Africa, on Wednesday, revealed that certain political parties and politicians pay online influencers to release fake reports.
In an interview with an anonymous insider politician, it was revealed that as much as N20 million has been paid to influencers in the past to achieve certain results.
The anonymous insider said, “We’ve paid an influencer up to 20 million naira ($45,000) for delivering a certain result.
“I think that’s the highest where I’ve seen someone being paid for being an influencer.”
An example of such false reports would be that of the Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, endorsing the presidential candidate of the Labor Party, Peter Obi.
In the video Musk was seen saying, “… with regards to his work on Peter Obi’s campaign, someone I have great respect for and will be working with him in the future by next year.”
The publication further revealed that, political parties are secretly paying influencers to spread false information to sway voters.
An anonymous politician said, “We use images that may not even be relevant to the story we are trying to spin. We can take pictures from East Africa in the 90s in war zones.”
A politician and influencer, Ilemona Onoja, said, “Anybody who denies it, anybody who says that there isn’t a dark, shadowy aspect of political influencing using social media platforms will not be telling the truth.”
While, it may not be illegal to hire influencers as politicians, it is illegal to spread disinformation through any means for any purpose.
Experts are already forecasting a threat to the Nigerian democracy with such tactics in use by politicians.
An anonymous political expert said, “It’s a form of electoral interference also, because at the end of every election, it is very difficult to sort facts from fiction.”
Another revealed, “It’s a game, somebody has to win, and God help me, I will not be on the losing side. What gives me concern really is the fact that people are willing to set the country on fire. People want to win an election.”