Thursday, October 18th would forever remain ingrained in the memory of Alhaja Kajola Sikirat Abdulganiy…
It is not lost on anyone the hustle and grind we go through to make ends meet daily. So it really is a breath of fresh air when you see a self-made entrepreneur, what is more, a small business that is thriving. Such was the case of Alhaja Kajola Sikirat Abdulganiy, a successful restaurant owner. Situated in Agbooba suburb of Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria; the restaurant was the talk of the town. Taking unique advantage of the business location, it was the one-stop destination for local delicacies during business hours. This was of course until the events that followed Thursday October 18, 2018.
At the 1100-hour, the winds of disinformation threatened to bring down the once promising business empire like a pack of cards. The display of rage and aggression displayed by the crowd was akin to the Salem Witch Trials. The people were resolute, their mission was clear. The intent, to burn down the restaurant. And on what account? Apparently “alleged rituals involving human body parts was discovered in the restaurant”. Their rationale: businesses of such magnitude and patronage must involve ritual practices. Hence, it must go down!
A Kwara based online platform, OrientMag reported the story. It would seem the magnitude of the uproar was predicated on recent events in the city of Ilorin. The police had just arrested and paraded some men who were caught with 11 human skulls. The stage was set. A rumour here, a gossip there. And, there you have your fuel and fire. So it follows, her restaurant was caught in the crosshairs.
And how do you control such a mammoth mob fuelled by bias and misinformation? Law enforcement had a hectic time doing just that. In an attempt to pacify the crowd, every nook and cranny of the restaurant was searched, yet nothing incriminating was found. But the damage had already been done. Hundreds of customers had heard about the incident and avowed never to set foot in her restaurant.
Alhaja Kajola, our once intrepid business owner was left with nothing but her fears and concerns springing from a box, Pandora’s box once opened never to be shut.
What more could go wrong, right? Well, as if to conclude unfinished business, fake news peddlers went on air for backup. They enlisted popular radio presenter, Soliu Olohun Lugo at the state-owned Harmony FM, to corroborate their claims, Iyao explains…
And like a sequel to the tragic film titled Thursday, the 18th, the crowd assembled. You see, going on air was the final nail in the coffin needed to bury her business. So, the next day a huge crowd gathered in front of her shop shouting the very same threats. I mean, they had their proof now, right? Social media ran wild with the news as different versions of the story emerged. And yes, our boys in blue, our police, seemed yet again helpless. Who wouldn’t be, because really, there is no handbook for dealing with scores of misinformed people acting on sheer ignorance.
Our protagonist, Iya Alao attempts to set the record straight while speaking to local newspaper, National Pilot.
“I was shocked and had to rush down to Ilorin. I instructed my workers to call the police to come to their rescue…” she exclaimed.
It was meant to be routine. She had probably done this a hundred times. It was simple inventory restocking, but not that day. Iya Alao’s purchase of yam from Odo-Oba, Oyo State was interrupted when she received a phone call regarding the outrageous claims.
It would take another two months for the police to conclude their investigations. But really, the damage was done. Two people were charged and convicted on three counts charge of criminal conspiracy, inciting disturbance and defamation of character… and at this point, what good was that for our once vibrant small business owner?
On visiting Iya, ten months after this incident, what our team witnessed was too gloomy to depict. The sharp contrast between the once praised establishment and the slithery shadow of what we experienced was surreal. We counted a little over five customers in the hour we were present.
Nonetheless, she persists. Nothing seems to matter to Iya Alao than to see customers patronizing her business again.
This single real-life incident underscores the impact of fake news, with the small business account serving as a microcosm of a large scale problem. If this happened on such a small scale, imagine it’s impact on a larger scale business or a federal authority. It may seem inconsequential on the surface posing no tangible threat to the average man. However, if left unchecked, the impact of disinformation is far reaching; leaving chaos and confusion in its wake.
So the question remains, how many more Iyas must suffer before we see the problem?