By Ishmael Dumbuya
As it remains eleven (11) days to Sierra Leone’s general elections, there seems to be a tough political atmosphere, particularly orchestrated by a social media influencer, Adebayor.
For many, Adebayor is an attention-seeker, perhaps chasing more social media clicks and the attendant benefits it brings as an influencer. However, this is not the case. Social scientists and others have observed that online hate speech has the tendency of inspiring acts of violence.
Adebayor had since the accession of President Bio to power uses social media, particularly Whatsapp, to continually call on his followers to destabilize, and,if possible, overthrow the government of President Bio through a popular uprising.
On August 10th 2022, a violent protest was held by some Sierra Leoneans in the opposition strongholds, and it wasn’t unexpected, as there were social media messages sent by Adebayor, who resides in Holland, firstly, advising people to embark on a two-day sit at home strike, which eventually erupted into a chaotic protest on August 10. The so-called anti-hardship march was coordinated with the precision that contradicts the fact that it was organized by impoverished market women, housewives, and unemployed youth, most of whom are illiterate who hardly have the understanding of the negative and deceitful effects of social media. This led to the destruction of lives, both police and civilians and government property.
Although the plot had long been described by the government and the fourth estate as “faceless,” Adebayor was however used as a front by his well- heeled and wealthy host of collaborators and sponsors both allegedly within and outside the APC party and government.
On a daily basis, they availed him with classified information about a few major decisions of government which when disseminated to his listeners, underscored the credibility of host sources of information as he operates from the comforts of his current host- The Netherlands.
Furthermore, it has been rumored that Adebayor has sent another WhatsApp message for people to sit at home yesterday 12th June and protest today 13th June. As I walked through the streets of Freetown yesterday, his message seems to have impacted a lot of people to the degree that business people could not be seen at their spot of sale. Even transportation was very difficult to access, as I had to walk from Rokel to Jui, as a result of the unavailability of vehicles on the streets. The whole of Freetown seem to be impacted with his sit-at- home message. The streets are seen deserted. When I spoke to a few people around Kroo Town Road, they noted that they couldn’t open shops for fear of the protest Adebayor has called for.
In concluding, one of the failings of government that the alleged conspirators took advantage of is its rather weak communication wing. The Strategic Communication Unit hit the ground running in the early days of President Bio’s government by total and consistent engagement of both social and electronic media on that only the government duties, but on the pressing issues livelihood and government’s strides to ease the burden of the global economic shocks on the people.
Finally, the government Police Cyber Unit is perhaps even more culpable. They have always claimed to have the expertise to identify and apprehend cyber felons. Sitting down and doing nothing while Adebayor and his plotters spreading hate speeches beat my imagination.
We have made great strides in our march toward peace consolidation, upholding the tenets of democracy and the rule of law. The relative peace we have striven to maintain has helped strengthened our ailing economy by attracting direct foreign investment in our economic drive.