By Samuel Ogundipe
“I have a list of names of people who have been receiving money from President Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari at the same time. Your days are numbered.” Mukhtar Dan’Iyan (a.k.a: @MrAyeDee), a U.S.-based Nigerian political analyst cum social media expert, thundered on his Twitter page Tuesday night.
Whatever its nature, the notification promises to be a bombshell given the impact generated by Dan’Iyan’s previous exposé.
Over the past 3 months, Dan’Iyan has become the de-facto spokesman of the Jonathan administration on the Nigerian blogosphere, putting the opposition on perpetual defensive while shredding ad hominem attacks on the president into pieces
General Buhari’s week-long visit to London has become the latest red meat for Nigerians on the Internet as supporters of both parties sparred over the true state of health of the presidential candidate.
Even though the APC has maintained that its candidate is in London on a working visit, the PDP skeptics, egged-on by Ekiti State Governor Ayo Fayose, have remained married to their position that the presidential candidate is receiving treatment in an undisclosed hospital in London. “I still believe Buhari is receiving treatment in a London hospital,” Fayose said in a statement Wednesday.
On Monday, some major newspapers (Not WP) were forced to print apologies after they ran a picture that purportedly showed General Buhari being interviewed as part of what his party says is a working visit to London.
The picture purportedly showed General Buhari being interviewed by Ms. Kemi Fadojutimi, a U.S.-based journalist, in London.
“General Muhammadu Buhari with CEO, All Eyes on Africa TV Show, Kemi Fadojutimi, During Buhari’s working visit to the United Kingdom,” reads the caption of the picture as tweeted by former Minister of Federal Capital Territory and APC governorship candidate in Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. “In Fayose ambulance,” he added in an apparent rebuttal to Governor Fayose, who said Buhari was flown out of the country in an ambulance because he’d failed to grant interview to aviation correspondents before he flew out of Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Soon afterwards, Mr. Dan’Iyan debunked the authenticity of the picture in a series of posts on his Twitter account, describing it as “another fraud from a party of those who specialize in blatant lies.” He illustrated how the interview was actually conducted in a “King Ambassador Suite” at Transcorp Hilton Hotels, Abuja, as against the London location originally claimed.
The Internet swiftly went berserk, prompting Governor Fayose to go in search of the suite at Transcorp Hilton in company of media cameras. That night, NTA ‘Network News’ reeled images of Fayose in a room identical to the one widely circulated by APC operatives.
This prompted many curious individuals to question the identity and motive of Dan’Iyan who maintains he’s not a paid PDP operative.
“I’ve spent considerable time and money doing research and sourcing materials to push the narrative forward,” he told WESTERN POST in a telephone interview from his office in New York City, “but I’ve never sought nor received a dime from anyone, I do it because I believe GEJ is truly the better choice at this point in time, and whatever I can do to ensure he gets elected, I shall.”
Those who question the identity of Dan’Iyan will be surprised to learn that he’d been a part of the Nigerian civil disourse for over two decades.
Writing in his 2007 memoir “You Must Set Forth at Down,” renowned Professor Wole Soyinka describes Dan’Iyan as “a self-hating Igbira, a minority tribe from the Nigerian hinterland, whose yearning to be mistaken for a Fulani aristocratic scion had resulted in his changing his name from Daniyan to Dan’Iyan.”
But Dan’Iyan said he respectfully disagrees with the Professor’s description of him. He explained that he is Nupe/Fulani from Bida, Niger State and in fact Dan’Iyan, his family name is a title that can be found in most Northern Emirates. ”
On why he was harshly criticised by Mr. Soyinka, Dan’Iyan explained that he became a victim of the Professors “campaign of calumny” after he refused to compromise on principle when he was a part of a group that was devising a means of setting up a parallel Nigerian government in exile following the annulment of the June 12, 1993 elections.
“I was a member of the United Democratic Front of Nigeria, a group that was planning to set up a government in exile after the annulment of the 1993 elections. Wole Soyinka was the convener of the group,” he said.
“I left the United States and travelled to Dakar, Senegal, to hold a secret meeting there with representatives of other pro democracy groups so as to fashion out a way of setting up a government in exile. We had an agreement about what to do. But soon after we left Senegal , Professor Soyinka took an approach that was totally at variance with what we’ve all agreed to at Senegal.”
“Many of us, said we will not go with the path of Soyinka. We refused to compromise on our principle. That was when Soyinka began a campaign of calumny against us. He did a lot to malign us then because he couldn’t believe we could stand up to him.”
But he said he doesn’t have anything any against the Professor and not on any mission to avenge what he suffered in his hands.
“I remain a very committed fan of Mr. Soyinka. We both wanted to save Nigeria then but we had different approach which is normal. Everything is history now,” he said.
Dan’Iyan’s biggest scalp came when he convinced Google to take down Nigeria’s biggest entertainment Website, Linda Ikeji’s Blog. His request that Google shut down the blog on allegation of copyright infringement put discussions of copyright infringement, which many Nigerians were hitherto unaware of, on the front burner at many Nigerian online forums as well as in the mainstream media. Ms. Ikeji’s blog was reinstated 24 hours later, but it was long enough for her to describe it as the “most traumatic event of my life.”
The PDP has found a new bride in Mr. Dan’Iyan, as officials of the party shower praises on him daily. The PDP National Chairman, former Governor Adamu Mu’Azu, ministerial-nominee, Senator Musiliu Obanikoro, National Youth Leader of the part and presidential aide, Reno Omokri, are amongst the few who have publicly acknowledged his “invaluable contribution” to the party’s new media efforts.
“Mr. Dan’Iyan is a loyal and dogged comrade,” gushed Mr. Demola Olanrewaju, the Coordinator of KoroNation, a political action committee affiliated to Senator Obanikoro. “He rarely backs down even when outnumbered, he is ever confident in the knowledge that the truth he holds on to will prevail over falsehood. I also sense he likes to operate alone so as to be clearheaded and avoid herd mentality.”
“We’re glad to have him on our side,” a sanguined Olanrewaju added.
His political activities have earned him criticism from those who find his antics repugnant, which he said is hardly surprising.
“Mr. Dan’Iyan is a man who has earned a nefarious career in Internet terrorism, cyber squatting and Internet fraud,” said Mr. Gbenga Olorunpomi, a media assistant to Professor Yemi Osinbajo, the vice presidential candidate of the APC. “He’d become infamous for his blackmailing tactics. He tried it with Asiwaju Tinubu but failed. He also tried it with Linda but also failed. He’s been paid to attack people which is why 80% of what he pushes is easily disputable.”
Mr. Olorunpomi also told WESTERN POST that Mr. Dan’Iyan is of Eastern European origin, as against the Nupe/Fulani origin he currently claims.
“He doesn’t have an identity,” said Olorunpomi. “I am not going to dignify the attitudes of anyone who is not even a Nigerian but claiming to be a Nigerian with a response. He’s someone of Eastern European origin who has continued to make career for himself by bamboozling gullible Nigerians on the Internet because we refused to let him work for us after he made several attempts.”
But Mr. Dan’Iyan said the allegations are “baseless and spurious.”
“I have no single website registered to my name. So how can I be a squatter? Cyber terrorism and fraud are both criminal offenses, no one has ever charged me with a crime,” he said
Responding to allegations of how he attempted to blackmail Tinubu and Ms. Ikeji, Dan’Iyan said he has been a friend of the blogger for many years and that they’re still friend as can be witnessed on Twitter where they both still follow each other. But he acknowledged going after Tinubu.
“I and Linda are still friends and we both still follow each other on Twitter. We had a disagreement,resolved it and have moved on”
“But I am not surprised that these Tinubu supporters are coming after me, because I’ve been fighting their principal for 20 years,” he said. “I called Tinubu out on his hypocrisy of dealing with Shell Corporation while publicly attacking Shell and Abacha Government during NADECO and Ken Saro Wiwa standoff as well as his history with the US justice system, So I am not surprised they’re coming after me.”
He also said all the efforts APC has made to have him work with them, he has turned down, and if any of them has evidence to the contrary, the person should shame him by making it public.
“If I made applications to work with them several times, they should have evidence to ridicule me. Tell them to come out with such evidence because I will continue to dismantle their online narrative and I expect them to shame me.”
“These people have maintained monopoly of the narrative on social media for long, I expect them to fight back now that they could see their dominion falling down like a house of cards right in their presence,” he added.
Despite all the accolades he receives daily from teeming PDP supporters on the Internet, Mr. Dan’Iyan acknowledges his limitations. He also said he’s not doing anything special, but the environment in which he’s doing it is what makes it appear special.
“These stuff are right there on the Internet, so all it takes is a click away and people will find them,” he quipped. “I am not doing anything special, but in the land of the blind, a one-eyed man is king.”
No one within the PDP has done anything official with Dan’Iyan, but the situation is likely to change anytime soon, said a PDP chieftain at the party’s headquarters in Abuja.
“No, we don’t have anything with him yet, but we’ve been studying the activities of Mr. Dan’Iyan and we have never seen someone as charitable towards us. He’d done things to us that even those who are paid have not been able to do,” said the source.
On why the party has not done anything with him in official capacity, the source said the party leaders are trying to be very careful because of the perilous situation of the Internet.
“We want him with us, but we’re taking a careful approach with anything that can officially link us with him. He’s a good asset, but one can’t be too careful with someone of Mr. Dan’Iyan expertise.”
But Mr. Dan’Iyan said he’s not helping the PDP in anticipation of an appointment or any reward.
“I’ll continue to help both the administration and the party whichever way I can, but I’m not looking for a job or any political appointment,” he said.
A presidential source told WESTERN POST that Mr. Dan’Iyan will be moderating an event with President Jonathan on March 1. This will be the first time Mr. Dan’Iyan will be publicly doing anything official with the PDP or Jonathan administration.
Dan’Iyan isn’t all powerful, but 2015 election is shaping up as a race in which the use of the media has continued to prove unprecedentedly vital. Just this week, Mr. President acknowledged he and his party have underrated the need to deploy media essentials for their campaign and said it’s part of why he’s now ensnared in an increasingly narrow race with General Buhari. That Mr. Dan’Iyan is on the side of the president gives him a semblance of respite as far as his online media battle is concerned.
Established media consultants and even Mr. President’s media aides are likely to feel threatened by Mr. Dan’Iyan’s uncommon approach to online electioneering and they’ll devise a strategy on how to deal with him. That is likely to be where Mr. Dan’Iyan will ultimately acquire his real influence.