Politics and Policy

A Nigerian Billionaire Paid Cambridge Analytica To Make Sure Buhari Lost In 2015. Why Was It A Bad Thing?

The US data analysis and political consulting firm, Cambridge Analytica (CA), who have been in the news for illegally using facebook profiles to help elect Donald Trump in 2016 was contracted by a “rich Nigerian” to ensure the re-election of Goodluck Jonathan in the last general elections.

Reports say the billionaire hired SCL group, which owns CA, because he was “panicking at the idea of a change of government” and “[wanted] to spend big to make sure that doesn’t happen”.

Well, change happened, and judging from the palpable sense of disenchantment with the reality of the change three years on, there were perhaps good reasons for the panics at the time.

However, the catch in the stories involving CA at the moment relate more to the unauthorized and somewhat cynical means by which they sought to achieve their aims. The BBC Channel 4 revealed a video of an undercover investigation it had done over the past months in which Alexander Nix, the now suspended executive of the company, was filmed bragging about entrapping political opponents of clients in compromising situations such as receiving bribes or flirting with sex workers. Cambridge Analytica’s account on Facebook has been suspended pending an investigation which Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg says will be thorough to review the data company’s level of penetration and access to users’ data.

CA’s work on behalf of the Jonathan apologist may have involved the hacking of emails, including that of Muhammadu Buhari, based on the revelations of seven individuals who had close knowledge of CA’s work in Nigeria and spoke to the UK paper, The Observer who first broke the story of CA’s data mining with the New York Times. CA denies having accessed Buhari private information but admitted to doing advertising and marketing for Jonathan’s campaign.

The billionaire apparently spent £2 million on this venture, within a period of merely 8 weeks before the elections were to begin on February 14, 2015 (the initial date before the subsequent postponement to March 28). The campaign ads against Buhari spoke of the coming of “Dark. Scary. And very uncertain” times, with the imposition of Sharia and macheting of unveiled women, if he were elected.

Those fears have not materialized, even if deaths have been occurring in other forms under the Buhari administration with the unrelenting herders-farmers clashes. However, the revelation of the reasonably perverse campaign strategy to prevent his election presents a warning signal as to the extent to which certain entities would be willing to go to ensure their interests. There have been other examples of governments or individuals hiring firms to spin narratives, sometimes with sinister approaches, like with former President Jonathan’s use of PR firm Levick to counter the #BringBackOurGirls campaign in July 2014, as well as Bell Pottinger’s “white economic apartheid” campaign in South Africa. Critics of such campaigns have faulted the potential disruption to democracy and order which could ensue from such extreme measures.

Read the full story from the Guardian UK here:

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