About 5G, Coronavirus And Conspiracy Theories

If people and organisations so highly informed and widely read as Pastor Oyakhilome, one of the high profile pastors in Nigeria, and the NUJ can believe the falsity, it is clear why so many others can easily fall for it.

In Nigeria, the persistent misinformation that is extremely worrying has been the 5G one / Photo credit: techspot.com
In Nigeria, the persistent misinformation that is extremely worrying has been the 5G one / Photo credit: techspot.com

Delete, delete, delete.

That’s what I have found myself doing a lot of lately, since coronavirus started being linked to 5G technology.

The preponderance of fake and often preposterous suggestions about fast Internet technology as the root cause of COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, on social media has created the task of removing annoying messages frequently.

I have been very surprised by the transmitters of such gullible messages.

They include the least expected – family members, friends, classmates, colleagues – mostly well-educated and thoughtful.

That is why this one is so disappointing that I had to write about it.

Anxieties surrounding the pandemic appear to have caused intelligent people to lose their composure, forwarding without questioning spurious content.

One of the materials, delivered in Yoruba, incredulously claimed that Nigerians would begin to receive insertions of chipsets in their arms, taking the oft-repeated 666 end-time theory to a whole new level.

At first, I took it just as bad an annoyance as the 4-1-9 scam email messages, until I began to read that the theory had begun to fuel arson in the United Kingdom as defeated minds destroyed 5G towers in parts of the country.

The uninformed not only destroyed what may have been part of the 5G roll-out, they took down all the Gs – 2G, 3G and 4G.

A country that is in the direst need of the technology is destroying what it needs the most

A report in the United States indicated that at least one-third of Americans believed in one form of conspiracy theory about the origins of COVID-19 or the other.

Around the world, there was a lot of misinformation, but most were related to where the virus started, until recently.

In Nigeria, the persistent misinformation that is extremely worrying has been the 5G one.

A country that is in the direst need of the technology is destroying what it needs the most.

It could not have been a surprise that the distortion quickly spread to the church.

Senior Pastor of the Christ Embassy Church, Pastor Chris Oyakhilome, alleged that the Federal overnment ordered the lockdown of Lagos and Abuja in order to install the controversial 5G network.

He spoke from the angle of end-time prophecy, claiming that it was meant to pave way for the anti-Christ.

Pastor Oyakhilome met opposition within the Christendom swiftly, with a rebuke from Pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, the Founder of Kingsway International Christian Centre, who described teachings linking the 5G network to coronavirus and the anti-Christ as “foolish theories.”

Ashimolowo wrote, “The church should be more concerned about preparing their members for the Second Coming of the Lord instead of condemning a major technological breakthrough. It’s fake news to associate 5G to coronavirus.”

The battle of the pulpits was welcome.

Pastors rarely sort out their differences in the open, but didn’t we need it this time?

While the clergy was wrestling over the issue, journalists were also head-butting.

The Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) threw caution to the wind, when it bent to the unverified news in a statement, asking the federal government to disclose if it was true that Nigeria was interested in the “dangerous” 5G technology. President Muhammadu Buhari endorsed 5G installations on MTN since November, 2019.

The NUJ should have googled.

Challenging the NUJ was the respected editorialist, Mr. Owei Lakemfa, who chastised the leadership of the NUJ, remarking that “purveyors of fake news on C OVID-19 and 5G are pathetic victims of imperialist propaganda; mere repeater stations of foreign half-truths and falsehood.”

Lakemfa advised the NUJ to focus on how faster Internet would impact their profession and the livelihood of their members.

“The 5G will not be decided by rancorous debates, rumors or fake news. It is the logic of science, the pull of technology, demands of knowledge and commerce and the inevitability of an idea whose time has come.

It should be clear to all that 5G is global and not a Chinese invention.”

Those propagating fake news against 5G should first educate themselves before striving to educate others

If people and organisations so highly informed and widely read as Pastor Oyakhilome, one of the high profile pastors in Nigeria, and the NUJ can believe the falsity, it is clear why so many others can easily fall for it.

Too many people were uninformed about 5G technology, as they tried to make sense of what they were reading.

You cannot absorb new information without laying a foundation for it.

The information that most of the clueless propagators lacked is that 5G has been out for a few years and has been in use in countries such as the US, South Korea, Japan, Singapore, China, Germany and France.

The technology of 5G is just a natural improvement over the previous Gs, although it is a lot more powerful because it could provide speeds above 100 times faster than what we have today, either through mobile or broadband.

The most massive investment in 5G, according to Visual Capitalist, is in the US, followed by China.

That alone puts to rest the assertion that China is far ahead of the US, a logic of conspirators for why COVID-19 started in Wuhan, China.

Even if China dominates the hardware race, it cannot dominate the software and services side of 5G. The US owns that race.

Why would anyone be worried about a faster Internet?

We have to learn from history. Every time man is about to make a giant leap, people with weird ideology always emerge.

I am reminded of Theodore Kaczynski, the Unabomber, a US mathematics professor who, believing that technology has a destabilizing effect on society, became a fugitive in his bid to stop the spread of modern technology. Before he could be captured, the Unabomber had killed three Americans.

My one delight is that some Nigerians have started demolishing the mountain of misinformation about 5G with an ammunition of facts and logic.

One of refuters asked why there were fewer instances of COVID-19 cases in places with a high concentration of 5G installations such as the other 49 cities in China and South Korea as well as in Lesotho that has not recorded any infection; when Nigeria, with no 5G installations, is on a lockdown.

The conspiracy theories about 5G have been traced to a Belgian doctor, who was interviewed by a national newspaper. Internet trolls seized upon that interview, even after the newspaper withdrew the article as being false.

We cannot let online trolls rule our lives and our future. Not in Nigeria, with a need to be more competitive in the global economy.

Nigeria cannot wait.

The younger generation will not wait. Nigeria needs the 5G technology now.

The absence of high-speed Internet will further slow down Nigeria’s entrance into the tech economy.

I know people who design websites and develop applications in Nigeria.

Without the sheer ingenuity of a Nigerian, they would not get any job done.

Their peers in other parts of the world are delivering better results because of comparatively better infrastructure.

Hardly can Nigerians work productively from home, with the dragging wireless Internet that most people contend with.

The Internet is too slow, unreliable, unpredictable and expensive.

In fact, most Nigerians have never really experienced what it means to work from home – simply because working from home requires a fast Internet to start with.

That is where 5G changes the game.

5G will disrupt many services and alter the meaning of work. Nigerians should be the least of all people to embrace a theory that sets them back further from nations that are ambitiously exploring the edges of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, a future which includes self-driving cars, real-time streaming, Internet of Things, robotics and Artificial Intelligence.

The 21st Century economy will be magically fast, requiring 5G or even faster Internet.

The wealth of nations will be intrinsically linked to the technology that enable them to move at the pace of other countries.

Those propagating fake news against 5G should first educate themselves before striving to educate others.

That’s how they can become asymptomatic to the Wuhan-5G conspiracy infection.

Written by Tunde Chris Odediran

Tunde Chris Odediran studied and practiced journalism in Nigeria. He is now a Technical Communications and Information Technology professional in the United States.

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