One of the dark sides of how the internet and social media has democratised freedom of expression has been the rise of online trolls and fake news sites. It is not uncommon to find news sites and social media accounts which specialise in the spread of unsubstantiated or even outright false news; the effects of this has been so much that it is thought to have had an outsized influence on the last US presidential elections.
It was in response to such fake news earlier in the week that has led to spokespersons for the Presidency acting in a manner that lowered the esteem of their offices.
It was apparent that this tweet was false considering the fact that neither was there no evidence to support the claim nor was the person a spokesman for the former President, it will be against diplomatic norms for a former president to be invited to represent a country over its incumbent, democratically elected leader.
Yet, despite the obvious falsehood of this news, two members of the president’s media team proceeded to comment on it – one in a satirical fashion and the other in a tone that ended up mocking the former president.
In doing so, they dragged the Presidency into an unnecessary controversy, showed themselves as petty-minded by responding to an online troll and demeaned their office.
If this was the first time this had happened, we would have been less bothered. But members of the media team have consistently shown a penchant to make statements that mock sections of Nigerians who did not vote for the President at the last general elections.
It needs to be pointed out to the president’s aides that as long as they are in office, there are no distinctions between the actions and statements as private citizens and as public office holders. Not only that, every action and statement of theirs reflects on their principal and can cause unnecessary scandals for the Presidency.
It is one thing if these actions of theirs are genuine slip-ups; but it is quite another when they are born out of mockery, condescension, and triumphalism. No matter their political affiliations, it bears reminding them that they work for the President of Nigeria, who has pledged and is expected to be a president for all Nigerians irrespective of their support for him.
The Presidential Media Team should act in a way that the offices they hold do not lose their value; even worse, that their actions do not taint the whole Presidency. Sensitive positions as these require their occupiers to be mature and tactful.
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