This Obsession with Alternative Facts
By Simbo Olorunfemi
You might have seen this immensely silly story that has been making the rounds about Shina Peters spending N20 million to build a house in 1990 while Jim Ovia put his own N20 million into setting up Zenith Bank.
Of course, the information passed around is obviously not correct. Shina Peters could not have had N20 million in 1990 not to talk of building that house in Iju for that amount. N20 million was a lot of money. The performance fee for Shina Peters then was put at about N8,000 by someone who contracted him, while land at Opebi was going for about N200,000 then. So where did this thing about building a house at the back-town Iju for N20 million come from?
I doubt that even Jim Ovia had N20 million in 1990. All that was required to set up a bank then, in terms of capital base, was N10 million. A lot of money. Apart from Mr Ovia not being a ‘big’ man in the sense of putting N20 million on the table, the law, as it was, restricted individuals to only 5% of the shares in a bank. So obviously, his own contribution, among the initial 20 shareholders, could have only been N500,000, which itself was a lot of money then. In any case, the story of how Zenith Bank started is well-known to those who know.
One or two of my good friends shared that story for the ‘lessons’ therein but the moment I drew their attention to the inherent falsehood in the story, they pulled back. But some people, in spite of the contrary information I made available, chose to tenaciously hold on to this fake history, for some very strange reasons. Perhaps, because it validates some impression or assumption they will rather hold onto, in spite of facts and reality.
In fact, the story has even developed new wings, some predictably now framing it around our fault lines,giving a false story legs to validate faulty assumptions about some ethnic groups.
Fake news thrive because of the vulnerability and gullibility of some who swallow anything that immediately resonates with their prejudices and beliefs, irrespective how far away it might be from facts. Rejoinders never catch up with falsehood pushed out there. That is the reason why people continue to push around the claim that someone cut grass for N270 million in spite of the information out there on what the contract was for.
People cook up all sorts and serve them to the people. Since some will rather feed on alternative facts that keep them marooned in their own bubbles, they become susceptible to revisionism and fallacies. They are no longer able to make a distinction between truth and falsehood. It is a dangerous path to take for a people obsessed with emphasising their fault lines rather than the things they have in common.