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Ochanja Road, Fake News and Dangers of a Single Story

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By Christian ABURIME 

In 2009, the world-esteemed, multiple-award-winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie delivered a poignant TED Talk titled “The Danger of a Single Story”. 

In it, she cautioned against the perils of viewing individuals or communities through narrow, one-dimensional lenses. 

Chimamanda astutely highlighted how this limited perspective fosters misunderstandings, perpetuates stereotypes and distorts reality. 

Her words resonate powerfully today, as we continue to confront the pervasive threat of fake news in Nigeria. A single story, as Chimamanda eloquently described, becomes the lens through which we perceive the world. 

It shapes our judgments, colours our interactions, and restricts our understanding of complex issues. When we succumb to the allure of a single narrative, we forsake the richness of objectivity and embrace a distorted version of reality. This often breeds jaundiced perceptions, campaigns of calumny and discord in society, which can lead to anarchy.  

Nowhere is this danger more evident than in the epidemic of fake news sweeping through Nigeria in general and Anambra State especially. With the rise of social media and digital communication, citizen journalism has multiplied and with it, mischief has grown too. 

Misinformation now spreads like wildfire, unchecked and unverified. In our eagerness to consume sensationalised content, we forfeit our critical thinking skills and succumb to the allure of the single story. 

Consider the recent viral video depicting a purportedly washed-out road in Ochanja, Anambra State after a downpour and resultant flooding. Upon the reckless circulation of the video by the mischief-maker, hasty conclusions were drawn, assumptions were made, and condemnations were unleashed on the Anambra State Governor, Professor Chukwuma Soludo, and his government. 

The online mob, fueled by incomplete information and unchecked biases, launched into a frenzy of outrage. Yet, as the dust settled, the truth emerged: the video was misleading footage that captured half-truths and misrepresentations. 

What transpired was not an exposure of government negligence or incompetence, but rather a proof of the dangers of a single story. 

The road in question was neither poorly constructed nor has it been commissioned as alleged. It was a case of misinterpretation, fueled by the insidious spread of fake news because the road is still undergoing construction.  

In reality, the alleged damage to the road was a mere consequence of inclement rainfall and construction procedures. 

Patch of asphalt on the Ochanja road undergoing construction

According to professional explanations by both the contracting firm and the Commissioner for Works in Anambra State, what happened was that the construction engineers were laying the last bit of asphalt on the paver when it started to rain on Monday 25, March 2024, and the base course on which the asphalt was laid was wet. 

When the engineers noticed that the base course was wet, they cut off the portion that was laid on the wet surface and used it to fill the adjoining street, which the mischief-maker’s video captured as part of the roads commissioned.  

The cut-off section of the road was less than 600mm. This cutting of asphalt laid on wet surfaces is in line with industry best practices and also shows compliance with international standards in road construction. Besides, it is crucial to state that the flood occasioned by the downpour and the flooding from the blocked culvert did not affect the road pavement of the road as laid. 

Thus, the trending video deliberately included misleading footage of a different, already existing road that is not under construction; yet, unsuspecting Nigerians online saw the video and typically started rambling “See the road Soludo just commissioned.” What a mob of ignoramuses and fake news traffickers fill cyberspace! Even mainstream mass media carelessly carried the video and fake news without verification. 

This incident serves as a sobering reminder of the importance of critical thinking and responsible journalism. In an era where information is disseminated at the speed of light, we must exercise caution and discernment. 

We cannot afford to be passive consumers and spreaders of information, blindly accepting the narratives thrust upon us. As Nigerians, we are responsible for combating the scourge of fake news. 

We must question the sources of videos, scrutinise the validity of claims, and demand accountability from those who seek to deceive us. We must resist the allure of the single story and embrace the objectivity of the world around us. 

This also applies to political rivals in Anambra State who are subjective single-storytellers, intentionally reinforcing false narratives against the leadership of Governor Soludo just to score cheap points.  

The dangers of a single story are manifold, but so too are the opportunities for enlightenment and understanding. 

Let Ndi Anambra heed the wisdom of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and reject the seduction of simplistic, one-sided narratives. Let us embrace the wholeness of perspectives and strive for a more nuanced understanding of issues and our leaders. 

In doing so, we safeguard the truth and integrity of our democracy and societal peace. Please let’s avoid the dangers of a Single-story!

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