By Sunny Ikhioya
Theories are statements arrived at after consistent verifiable proofs, subjected to scientific analysis and found to be true and correct. We can, therefore, say that they are facts.
When you add conspiracy to theories, it becomes something else; shadowy, sinister, with a hidden motive.
You concoct a conspiracy theory when you deduce reasons outside the rational or officially given position; when you move into the realm of conjectures, suppositions and so, not factual.
All over the world, with the internet and its numerous media outlets, conspiracy theories have become a mainstay and the authorities are beginning to get worried. If the conspiracy theories are not real as we have stated above, why do people still rely on conspiracy theories?
According to a survey carried out by Eric Oliver and Thomas Wood of the University of Chicago, “50 per cent of Americans believe in at least one conspiracy theory “. The trend is the same all over the world, with Nigeria being a big player in the whole setup.
We have heard top intellectuals and men of God saying that the 5G technology roll out is the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic. We also heard that China deliberately released the pandemic to gain superiority over affairs of the world.
We also heard and read that our President is a clone and that the real Muhammadu Buhari is d**d. It is also on record that some conspiracy theorists separately claimed that President Buhari was engaged to marry another wife; that Bill Gates is promoting the production of vaccines to depopulate the Black race and nip in the bud, potential threats arising from Africa’s increasing population.
There are other more theories bordering on the fire that gutted the Accountant General’s office, that of INEC, Islam and Fulani agenda, Boko Haram and the Nigerian Army, palliative funds, the alleged death of Nnamdi Kanu of IPOB, including the claim that the Kano deaths represent a plot to eliminate Muslims.
In Nigeria we have three camps: those who are die-hard believers, those who are die-hards in the opposition and those who are indifferent. The indifferent are either borne out of the feeling of dejavu or illiteracy or both.
Kendra Cherry and Steven Gans writing on “Why people believe in conspiracy theories” pointed out that people believe in conspiracy theories when “they are on the losing side of a political issue; they have a lower social status due to income and ethnicity; they have experienced social ostracism; they are prejudiced against ‘enemy’ groups they perceive as powerful.” They went further to warn that:
“As you encounter information from various sources, it is important to be able to distinguish between false conspiracy theories and real threats to personal security. While it may be tempting to dismiss conspiracy believers, remember that such beliefs are actually pretty common you probably even believe some of them.
In a world where people feel the real effects of power imbalances and distrust in leadership, conspiracy theories will naturally flourish, which means, discouraging this type of thinking is not always easy.”
I have quoted extensively for us to get the picture. To them, “negative feelings contribute to the belief in conspiracies, yet the belief in conspiracies result in negative feelings”.
The question, therefore, is: how do we eliminate these negative feelings? Conspiracy theories, like other crimes, did not start today and will never end as long as life continues and man is in the picture of things; but we can reduce it to the barest minimal level.
You cannot compare what is happening in America, Africa, to countries like Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands or even Taiwan. Theories will be concocted but, there are the positive ones and the destructive ones.
The one that is happening between the US and China now is destructive. The one that is happening in Nigeria is tending towards that direction and when you look into the common trend in all of these, you will discover that there is a disconnect, a lack of effective communication between the leaders and the people.
The easier the communication between the rulers and the ruled, the lesser the possibilities of conspiracy theories. Where people are treated equally and given basic human rights to express themselves, you hardly see conspiracy theories manifest in such societies.
It is common with politicians, with the do-or-die game but, even after electioneering, we now see the trend increasing. As it is with Trump, so it is with Buhari. Some people say that to keep quiet in the face of conspiracy theories is a virtue.
That was before, in days when people were not easily reached. In today’s world, a leader who cannot easily reach out to his people through proper communication will leave a bad legacy.
In the kind of societies that we are referring to as success today, every information is in public records: the incomes and expenditures, corporate and individual tax records; who gets what and why, plans for development, who takes responsibility.
They have gone beyond female rights issues and others. So when a conspiracy theorist attempts to make a stand, he is easily shutdown.
It is very straightforward, run an honest and open government. If you treat the people with equal respect, with no ethnic group favoured over others, citizens and communal existence assured, there will be security for everyone.
Government should ensure that criminals are quickly brought to book, no matter their standings in society or ethnic backgrounds; and everyone is carried along in the development plan, everyone allowed to air his or her own views.
This is because you never can tell where solution to problems will come from. Above all, everyone should have faith in our indigenous technologies- scientists, engineers, doctors, and others.
If we produce the vaccines ourselves, there will be no room for such conspiracy theories as Bill Gates and others. The ball is in our court; our leaders must lead the way.