by Wobia Akani
Much as I tried to avoid delving into this discourse, I simply could not resist. Perhaps this article would stop the Bayelsa State Governor, Seriake Dickson from inaugurating another unnecessary committee assuming he he has not already done so.
Last week, The Scoop reported that Governor Seriake Dickson has decided to set up a high powered committee to address the ugly trend of rumour mongering and that the committee would be saddled with the responsibility of proffering a permanent solution to this problem, as well as fish out perpetrators of rumour mongering and gossips.
My first reaction was to laugh at the obviously ill conceived idea and I am certain that not a few people will agree with me. In the face of the right to free speech and expression, this is a clear step in the wrong direction – backward into the military era of gagging the press and stifling individuals from voicing their opinions or thoughts.
Simply put, a rumour is information, usually a mix of some truth and untruth passed around by word of mouth (verbally). Realistically, every individual has or will at some point be the subject of rumours or gossip. Conversely, every individual has or will at some point transmit information he/she is not certain of to someone else. The onus then lies on the subject of the discourse to either confirm or dispel such rumours, or to simply ignore them.
Why then is Gov. Dickson so worried about the government being at the receiving end of rumours, when it only shows that the government exists in a vibrant society which is alive to the goings on around it? Is he worried that the truth in the rumours would be confirmed or is there something that the Bayelsa State government would not want its populace to know about?
Nigeria has gone well beyond the days when citizens swallowed everything hook, line and sinker without asking questions, whether the questions were appropriate or not. While the world is saying information is power, can we possibly be seen to be hoarding information which is largely a rumour because the government of the day has not come out to dispel? What would the terms of reference of the committee be and for how long would the committee be expected to be in existence?
Dear Gov. Dickson, do not waste the resources of Bayelsa State on constituting yet another improper committee to consume the resources available. Do not drown out the voices of the people just because they are not given to praise singing and falsehood. In the developed society, the government of the day is accountable to the people. We, on the other hand appear to be shying away from accountability.
But there is no magic to it. The governor’s advisers have not advised him well. Where the governor is grossly aggrieved by the spread of so called rumours, the governor may seek redress in court alleging libel or slander and prove his case there. The laws are in existence and ought to be maximally utilised.
However, anyone who cannot live with the idea of being the subject of rumours every now and then, moreso as a public figure always in the eye of the brouhaha would be better off dead. My parting shot then would be this: if you can’t stand the heat, don’t get in the kitchen. If you do not want to be talked about, go into hiding permanently, sir… But even that will not grant you immunity from rumours.