Nigeria: Fake Viral News about Buhari’s ICC Secret “Integrity” Dossier By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

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Nigeria: Fake Viral News about Buhari’s ICC Secret “Integrity” Dossier By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

There is a viral message making the rounds in Nigerian social media circles about an alleged secret document from the International Criminal Court at the Hague, which shows that, “A top secret background check on global leaders, past and present,” found President Muhammadu Buhari to be “the only leader rated XXX1 on integrity, the highest rating globally.” Please don’t laugh. The message adds: “That’s why he is the only world leader on the ICC floor to address them.”

The message emanated from Abdulmumin Jibrin, a member of the House of Representatives from Kano, who, I understand, granted an interview to Channels TV. One version of the message quoted Jibrin as saying, “Buhari showed me a document he brought back from ICC, Hague.” Another version quoted him as saying he asked “a top member of the ICC on why PMB was invited to the ICC” and that the top ICC member told Jibrin it was because “a top secret background check on global leaders” found Buhari to be the most highly rated.

This is one the dumbest lies I’ve heard in a long while. I would never have humored it with a rebuttal in my column if many otherwise intelligent people didn’t believe it— and even help spread it. The first indication that this is an unintelligent fabrication comes from the fact that secretly rating the “integrity” of world leaders (whatever in the world that means) is not part of the mandate of the International Criminal Court.

According to the UN Chronicle, “The core mandate of the ICC is to act as a court of last resort with the capacity to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes when national jurisdictions for any reason are unable or unwilling to do so.” (Ironically, the coldblooded, extra-judicial mass murder of Shias and Biafra agitators by Buhari’s government makes Buhari a candidate for the ICC after his tenure.)

At no point in the Court’s history has it ever undertaken a rating of the “integrity” of word leaders, whether openly or secretly. What purpose would such a rating serve, anyway? It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to know that this is a prevarication.

Now, if the document that contains the “rating” of world leaders’ “integrity” is “top secret,” why was Buhari allegedly given a copy of it? And why did he share it with Jibrin? Doesn’t it betray a lack of integrity to share with Jibrin “a top secret document” that Buhari himself wasn’t supposed to see?

Even if we take the second version of the story, that is, that it was an ICC official who confided in Jibrin that Buhari was invited to ICC because he was the best-rated world leader in “integrity,” we are still left to wonder why an ICC official would share with a Nigerian politician contents of a document that is “top secret.”

Perhaps the deadest giveaway that Jibrin is an inane fabricator is that he shared the contents of this “top secret document” with Nigerians on Nigerian national television. If it were truly a top-secret document, as he wants Nigerians to believe, disclosing its content on national television and causing it to be circulated widely on social media would be a criminal betrayal of the ICC official’s confidences. It should cause the “top ICC official” to lose his job.

The truth is that, for its 20th anniversary celebration of the Rome Statute, the ICC invited many presidents and heads of state. All invited presidents, except Buhari, sent their foreign ministers or other representatives. “The President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as well as other high-level representatives of States, including representatives of national Senates and Parliaments, Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Justice, international and regional organisations, civil society and academia will gather for two days to reflect on the enduring value of the Rome Statute to humanity,” a statement on ICC’s website reads.

Many Nigerians were actually embarrassed by this and took to Twitter to express this. Our president chose to personally show up at an inconsequential international event where other presidents sent representatives. It’s particularly embarrassing because the ICC has drawn the ire of many Africans for its disproportionate trial and conviction of Africans even though there are war criminals from all over the world.

No one knows why Buhari personally attended the ICC event instead of sending his foreign affairs minister, as other presidents did, but a Reuters news report from a year ago said Buhari often used foreign travels as a cover to meet with his UK doctors.

This “top-secret” rating lie, if you think deeply about it, is actually a strategic, if unintelligent, lie to deflect attention from the embarrassment of Buhari being the only invited president who personally attended this insignificant international event. A recent Oxford University study has found that governments are the biggest purveyors of fake news in the world. This is a good example of state-sponsored fake news.

This isn’t the first time Abdulmumin Jibrin has been used to peddle fake news on behalf of Buhari. He was one of the people who shared the hilariously error-ridden fake pro-Buhari Trump quote that Buhari’s social media aide by the name of Lauretta Onochie fabricated: “I stand with you the number one African president. I support you my fellow president. Your integrity is second to none. I am at your back in spirit, physical and in faith. Go on with your anti corruption fight against crooks in your country. I support you President Muhammadu Buhari. God is also with you.”

As I wrote in my May 13, 2018 grammar column titled, “Nigerian and American English Clash in Fake Pro-Buhari Trump Quotes,” “The quote is so staggeringly comical in its fakeness it provoked a burst of deep, loud, hearty laughter in me when I first read it. First, the cadence of the sentence is unmistakably Nigerian. So is the syntax. But the lexis was the giveaway. ‘I am at your back’ is a calque formation (as linguists call direct, unidiomatic translation from one language to another) from almost all Nigerian languages I am familiar with. It means, ‘I support you.’”

I called Jibrin’s attention on Twitter, where we follow each other, to the fakeness of the quote he shared. Three months later, he is the conduit for another fake story. Apparently, the man traffics in mendacity and fabrications.

But why are Buhari apologists obsessed with convincing people that Buhari has “integrity” even when overwhelming evidence points to the contrary? Plus, it’s frankly getting tiring. What Nigeria needs in a leader, at the very minimum, are competence, empathy, foresight, cosmopolitanism, broadmindedness, people skills, managerial acumen, and transaction-orientation, all of which Buhari sorely lacks and can’t ever have again.

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