The information age, especially with the growing sophistication of the digital inventions, has long changed the concept of reality. It’s even more difficult for those whose gullibility seems beyond redemption. Even for a somewhat experienced and cautious media practitioner, there are still chances of vulnerability to masterly crafted photographs and videos. This is why I take pictures published online or shared on social media with a pinch of salt and even take videos with a bowl of salt.
Ever since running the first part of my Op-Ed series on the Emir of Kano, Muhammadu Sanusi II, in April 2017, I’ve become a subject of a war between two powerful forces. Of course, there were those who were quick to make assumptions, attributing reasons and coming up with flawed theories to explain the motive of that assessment of my Emir’s management of affairs under him.
But I was quick to detect those with dubious intentions when they reached out to me, seeking what seemed like an alliance to wage “personal vendetta” against the Emir. Aside from those with an axe to grind, wanting the inferno to linger and consume him, there were honest mediators (including two governors) who called to plead with me to stop the series. I found myself in a fix but, in retrospect, I was glad that I didn’t let the interveners influence my sense of judgment and purpose.
I’m even more proud that I refused to be used to settle any scores. As shared then, there were gratifications offered from certain quarters which I rejected for that defeated the essence of what I set out to do – holding our public figures to account. It’s only in a society as ours that such quest for accountability is interpreted as motivated by a third-party or perceived as an expression of enmity.
If I had allowed personal interest or sentiment override my cause, I would have fallen for the never-ending fake information and data brought to my intention while it lasted. I was careful, even suspicious, of the cache of images and videos of Emir in compromised positions sent to me then. I got to realise that for them, it’s not exactly about sticking to facts of the matter, but employing even the most obvious fabrications to bring him down.
Some pictures sent to me last year include those circulating on WhatsApp showing the Emir with a medical doctor, Halima Umar Sanda, from a famous Kano family. But further findings led us to what appeared the original pictures (attached herewith).
I experienced this déjà vu in following reactions to the recent images (and even videos) in circulation. He’s seen snuggling the lady, with even disturbing videos of faceless man said to be his. When they were sent to me, I paused to scrutinise the contents and then instructed our graphics expert to study and determine their absolute authenticity. He came up with the following conclusion: the pictures EXIF metadata may have been tampered with. Exchangeable Image File (EXIF) data comprises all the details about digital photo such as the date and time the photograph was taken, camera make and model, the shutter speed, lens type, focal length, white balance and more.
Although some of the pictures may appear real to lay men and even hasty professionals, but in journalism, the credo is that “when in doubt, leave it”. Against this background, spirit of fairness and many other reasons, we agreed to discard the content. We refuse to be a part of this fast-growing “fake news” industry while journalism is under attack as a result of the readers demanding greater responsibility in dealing with the backlash of yellow press.
My realisation, especially having led a media spotlight on the operations of the Kano Emirate under Emir Sanusi, is that he’s stepped on too many toes. The reality of the situation is that the enemies of the Emir are not some of us — the subjects — but his blood relations who are all out to smear him and gratify their lifelong ambition.
Only last week, a similar of such arrangements surfaced when I received another set of photographs of the Emir hugging a lady, which the sender said it was his girlfriend. I paused as usual to verify. I was disappointed, after reaching out to several contacts who should be in the know, to realise that the lady in the photograph was in fact his daughter (pictures attached). My network has made it easy to prevent an embarrassing backlash, with the court as an option for resolution.
The temptation to publish a false story or sensationalise half-truths isn’t easily resistible in a competitive space as ours. If those photographs and videos we have received had found their ways to the desk of journalists with no network for verification or those clickbait entrepreneurs, including celebrity bloggers, Emir Sanusi would’ve been in a wilder storm.
From roping the “abduction” of Ese Oruru on his neck to sharing of his pictures piggy-backing a woman (which turns out to be his wife) and the spread of the recent lurid pictures, the Emir is not a stranger to barrage of slandering vilifications and thousands of conspiracy theories.
But today he’s no longer that person who shouldn’t pay mind to such issue. One reason I have been giving him advice is that he’s an institution and a symbol of authority; and that should instigate caution in his dealings and wordings. If one becomes a target of too many attacks, it won’t be too much sacrifice to rethink his styles and mode of engagements. There are consequences that aren’t worth the price of being an audacious dissenter, and Emir Sanusi must come to terms with his existence as a cultural institution and ambassador.