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Fani-Kayode and his history teachers


Fani-Kayode and his history teachers
If by now, faux historian and professional agitator, Femi Fani-Kayode, has not responded to the rejoinders of Professors Banji Akintoye and Farooq Kperogi on his Yoruba identity flippancy, we can conclude he has nothing further to say and move on to drawing some lessons from the brouhaha of “Yoruba” and its etymology. In some ways, Fani-Kayode’s attention-seeking ways represent the flawed ethics of the present milieu. We live in a post-truth world; the traditional structures that regulated popular inanities have broken down and given way to the reign of alternative facts.
These days, “social media influencers” whose pedigree for igniting discussion is premised mainly on their ample following now lead debates on core social and national issues alongside intellectuals and informed analysts. In the spirit of democracy, anyone should be able to comment on any matter whatsoever. However, the structure of the new system turns clout chasers into authorities that – and while garbed in scant knowledge – frequently run into the digital village square shouting, “Eureka!”
There are two lessons that I took away from the Yoruba/Yariba episode. First is the role that the media played in helping Fani-Kayode brew his pot of mischief. There was no other apparent motive about his claim that the Fulani bequeathed the Yoruba their name other than troublemaking, and it fits into a larger pattern of his anti-Fulani sentiments. He did not cite any source for his discovery, and the way the more astute scholars dislodged his argument shows that there was no rigour invested in his ideas before he hit the streets. He just wanted to arouse the ethnic chauvinists permanently resident on social media as he is wont to do. Judging by how tribal irredentists crawled out of the woodwork to feast on his historical dabble, he pretty much succeeded.
In these present times, it would have been mere wishful thinking to expect the media to havl
Ignored him. Before, the maxim used to summarise media reporting was, “If it bleeds, it leads.” These days, what leads is what trends. Once some “gist” ignites on social media, it becomes newsy and gets reported in even serious newspapers. With digital technology, traditional media lost much of the primacy of its function as agenda-setters and instead plays reactionary roles to the agenda set from the social media networks. Coupled with the spectre of fake news, troll farms that skewer the realities of unsuspecting targeted populations, and the bewildering absurdity of deepfakes, the traditional press seems to have settled to the role of agenda-moderators instead. What they still cannot afford is to yield their advantage of a core of trained professionals who can source well-researched and edited news items to the mercenaries of social media.
By way of an example, we can borrow from the USA and their reporting of their President, Donald Trump. If there is something Trump is renowned for by now, it is his incredible capacity

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