In the wake of the forthcoming elections of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), the online and social media landscapes have had their share of fake stories and misinformation by troll armies or from the camp of the troll armies. 

Smear campaigns and coordinated attacks are usually synonymous to election years, with the sole purpose of creating fake trends thereby spreading misinformation about a credible candidate.  The online space and other platforms such as Whatsapp have had their share of “fake news” and complicated topics that are baseless. This wrong information gets spread on social media and respected news blogs and gets amplified by noble personalities in the profession.

Let’s bear in mind that misinformation and smear campaigns are age-old propaganda techniques, and common occurrences in political campaigns. The NBA as a professional body is not immune to this. Even if this is a usual practice, it should not be embraced by lawyers as a tactic to distract supporters of one candidate and hopefully lure them into their camp.

Acknowledging the fact that humans by nature are susceptible to violating the laws, hence the numerous rules and regulations (laws) put in place to guide and curb excesses. Even in the holy books (the Bible and the Quran), there are laid down guidelines by God meant to be followed strictly by man if he must make eternity.

In the guidelines of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) 2018 Elections of National Officers,   Paragraph C (2) on disqualification from holding national office is clear on acts that lead to smear campaigns; “That he/she sponsors or is associated with sponsoring a newspaper or magazine article or any electronic or social media broadcast vilifying other candidates”. The above rightly addresses our subject of discussion on smear campaigns. But the onus rests on the ECNBA to ensure that all aspirants and their supporters are well guided so they don’t truncate their chances of making it into the executive positions of the NBA.

One thing history has shown, which I believe as far as electioneering campaigns are concerned is, no amount of smear campaigns can mar the chances of the right candidate or the people’s mandate. Barrack Obama, the former President of the USA was a victim of smear campaigns even from high profile citizens; still he made it to the White House.

Bringing it home to the NBA, in previous elections, most past presidents and even the current president, AB Mahmoud, SAN were all victims of smear campaigns.  Despite the attempts made by distractors; their pedigree, intelligence and character stood them out and they came out victorious in their respective elections. Barrack Obama and AB Mahmoud, SAN were not hampered by smear campaigns because they were judged based on their leadership qualities.

In every society or organisation, leadership is very important. As we look forward to electing a new President and other executive members, be mindful that there will be distractions in many forms. Every lawyer should make conscious effort to look beyond smear campaigns and judge the presidential aspirants by their leadership qualities; experience in corporate governance, intelligence, honesty, patriotism, commitment, decision-making capabilities, accountability, creativity, Innovation, among others.

The take out for me is that those who troll misinformation and lies via online publications and social media platforms are mere distractors of the good course. My singular advice to members of the Bar is that everyone should be well guided. It is important to make the distinction between genuine information and dubious blog posts, fake social media threads and coordinated smear campaigns that spread false information targeting an individual or a group of people. Lawyers should exhibit the nobility of their profession.

Ogbonnaya Modestus