By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Throughout history, inferno are usually caused by mere sparks from passing trains or a strike of match. This may not be an exception to what is described as the most deadly forest fire in the history of the United States that engulfed the dry Woodlands of Northeastern Wisconsin in early October 1871. As the fire raged on, the flames and intense heat killed more than 1,200 people and consumed some two billion trees. The above illustartion is apt to James classical imagery in James 3:6″The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell”.The point here is that like fire, our speech has the potential for causing great harm. Akin to this is the admonition in Proverbs 18:21″ The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit”. Like James 3:6 rightly pointed out, rumours are inimical to society’s progress. They undermine good human relations. They generate tension, chaos, and panic, and can cause a city to vacate, even when a single bullet has not been shot. They are stories or statements in general circulation without confirmation or certainty as to facts. Rumours may or may not contain elements of truth, but their veracity is anyone’s guess-rumors carry no factual certainty. Recently, rumours were widely circulated in Abia and other South East state about alleged forced vaccination of pupils by soldiers and the outbreak of the “Monkey pox” virus. The rumour further alleged that the troops, in their numbers, were visiting schools to force pupils to accept injections considered to be dangerous to their health. The rumour alleged that the exercise claimed the lives of some students.The rumour did not only create tension, panic and confusion in the state but forced parents to storm schools to withdraw their wards. Pandemonium was let loose inthe 27 local councils in Imo State on the rumour that there was an outbreak of the disease in the state.The rumoured outbreak of the disease in Imo created pandemonium in all 27 local councils of the state. This created a panic movement as parents rushed to pick wards from schools at same time resulted in stampede and heavy traffic in Owerri and its environs, forcing commuters to trek long distances. Unfortunately, despite the reaction from the Army Deputy Director, Public Relations, 82 Division, Col. Musa Sagir, who urged the public to regard the development as rumour, and stressed that soldiers were not visiting schools anywhere but were in Ozubulu, Anambra State, for free medical exercise, stressed that “soldiers are not visiting schools anywhere, and a statement by the Anambra State issued by Prof. Solo Chukwulobelu, who noted that the medical exercise was part of the army’s social responsibility to members of the public, and added the activity had been called off until the residents are fully sensitised, the rumour peddlers were not satisfied but continued in their illicit trade in order to cause mayhem in the society. On this note, the efforts of Abia State Government in containing this fro going out of hand should be immensely commended. The state through the various agencies deployed various forms of public communications machineries to douse the tension. It is worthy to note here that the social media have become veritable tools in the hands of mischief makers to unleash mayhem on the society. An obvious instance was the recent face-off between members of Indigeneous People of Biafra (IPOB) and soldiders on Operation Python Dance assignment in the state. Various social media platforms were deployed maximally to dish out pieces of information and photographs that grossly misrepresented the true situation. What will continue to agitate the minds well-meaning Abians is what the mastermind of these mischievous practices stand to gain. They have deployed the roles of the media of carrying of ideas; presenting representative pictures of the society; classifying the values and goals of the society; monitoring the government and making it accountable to the people; informing, educating and entertaining the people; promoting the concepts of accountability, integrity, honesty, fairness and equity, giving voice to the voiceless in the society; agenda setting;fostering national unity and integration; promoting society’s culture and the moral value system; and promoting the sustainable national interests at all times, to the contrary and to the detriment of humanity. If the these rumour mongers should heed to the following biblical injunctions:Exodus 23:1 “You must not pass along false rumors. You must not cooperate with evil people by lying on the witness stand.Leviticus 19:16 “You must not go around spreading false stories against other people. Don’t do anything that would put your neighbor’s life in danger. I am the Lord”

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