"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Psychoanalyzing Dishonest, Low-IQ Buhari Apologists

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
It was Sigmund Freud who first put forward a psychological concept called “projection.” It’s an ego defense mechanism, which disposes certain people to attribute to others the unconscious negative (and sometimes positive) traits and emotions that dwell in them.
So people who are compulsive liars always suspect that others are lying. People who have no capacity for altruism, who are self-serving narcissists, can’t understand that anyone can criticize an incompetent, clueless, bungling, unprepared, lying, propagandistic government without ulterior motives. They project their immorality, ethical deficiencies, ethno-regional and religious anxieties onto others.

They project all of their inadequacies onto others because they lack the internal moral resources to appreciate truth, justice, and fair play without the burden of their own moral frailty. They are victims of what psychoanalysts call “projection of a severe conscience,” which causes some people to, without evidence, make false accusations against others and to impute negative emotions to other people’s actions.
First, the morally bankrupt and psychologically insecure Buharist mob said I criticize Buhari because I’m pained that I didn’t get an appointment from him. I’ve denied this since 2015, but they never stop to repeat it.
I never desired a job with Buhari’s government. Not for a split second. I find complete fulfillment in what I do now, and want no other job. Nigerian elites’ ultimate goal in life is to visit the West for vacation, for medical tourism, and to send their children to school there. Our president is one great example. Well, I live there. At the risk of sounding arrogant, taking a job with a Nigerian government would represent a material demotion for me and my family.
In an April 14, 2015 column titled,“After the Euphoria, What President-Elect Buhari Needs to Know,” I wrote: “Columnists like me will excoriate [Buhari], not because we hate him, but because we care, and because we know that to perform well and be in touch with the masses of people who elected him, we need to help hold his feet to the fire.” No sane person who desired a job would put his prospective benefactor on notice that he would “excoriate” him.
Then they said my criticisms were inspired by an agenda to pave the way for a Bukola Saraki presidency in 2019. When I came down hard on Saraki in a recent column and called him the vilest anathema to afflict Kwara State, they were confused.
Then they said, “Oh, it is actually Atiku Abubakar who is sponsoring him.” That’s another classic projection. They are paid 250,000 monthly to slander government critics, and imagine that everyone else writes because they are paid to do so.
Well, let me say it here that Atiku, to me, is one of the most despicable politicians to ever walk the corridors of power in Nigeria. I would rather be dead than campaign for this barely literate man who delighted in mocking Nigeria’s public education that he helped to kill, and who is weighed down by numerous ponderous ethical burdens. An Atiku presidency would be like jumping out of the Buhari frying pan into the fire.
They also say I’m “sponsored” by the PDP. But which PDP? Makarfi’s PDP or Sherriff’s PDP? And did APC or its precursors also “sponsor” me when I consistently and brutally criticized PDP in my columns since 2005? It’s clear that severely low IQ and mind-numbing dimwittedness are qualifications to be a Buhari defender.
They also say I am a Shia who can’t forgive Buhari for countenancing the mass murder of Shia Muslims in Zaria. Again, that’s false. I’ve stated many times that I’m Sunni. I’m not Shia, although there is nothing wrong with being one. It’s a choice. No Shia Muslim I know denies being one. I condemned the barbarous mass slaughter of Shia Muslims because they are first of all human beings before they are anything else.
There is absolutely no ulterior motive behind my criticisms of Buhari’s inept, clannish, and directionless government. My only motives are truth, justice, fair play, the national interest, and the plight of weak, poor, vulnerable, voiceless, and defenseless Nigerians who are daily being crushed by the government. No more, no less.
No one in the world is rich enough to buy my conscience. None at all! It’s not because I am rich; it’s because I treasure my independence and cherish integrity.
What Buhari Should Learn from Osinbajo
In a tragic irony, it took Buhari’s sickness for Nigeria to get a chance at some health. It also took his absence for the country to feel some presence of leadership. Why did it take the ascendancy of Osinbajo to the acting presidency for this to happen? The answer is simple: symbolic presence.

Buhari lacked symbolic presence in the 20 months he was in charge. His presence was barely felt in the country. Nor was his voice heard. It took him six months to appoint ministers. Attahiru Jega notified him of the impending expiration of his tenure months in advance, but the president didn’t act, and caused a needless bureaucratic kerfuffle at INEC. A minister died in a car crash several months ago, and he hasn’t been replaced up to now. Another minister resigned to take up an international job. She hasn’t been replaced up to now. The Supreme Court had an acting Chief Justice for months. It took Osinbajo’s acting presidency to forward his name to the Senate for confirmation.

Boards of several government agencies haven’t been constituted up to now, meaning government agencies, which are the engine rooms of government, can’t take decisions since they can’t constitutionally bypass their boards in their decision making. I can go on, but the point is that the problem of Buhari’s government isn’t so much misgovernance as it is ungovernance. He simply isn’t there.

In online pedagogy, there’s a concept called social presence. It’s the idea that when you teach people with whom you don’t share physical co-presence you need to simulate some sort of presence through periodic electronic communication (such as an active online profile, comments, emails, instructor-learner interactions, etc.) to compensate for physical absence.

In government, leaders also need constant symbolic presence to reassure the people they govern that they are there, that they care, that they are working—in addition to actually working. Buhari visited more countries in the world than he visited states in Nigeria. He spoke to more foreign media outlets and journalists than he spoke to the Nigerian news media and journalists. He comes across as exceedingly contemptuous of Nigerians, the very people that put him in power, and obsequious to, even desperately desirous of the approval of, foreigners. That is why his presence in and absence from Nigeria are practically indistinguishable.

Osinbajo reversed this. He had social, symbolic, and political presence. I hope Buhari learns from this. It isn’t “16 years of PDP misrule” that is responsible for the stagnation, hopelessness, and worsening of living conditions in Nigeria now; it is largely Buhari’s lack of interest—or capacity— in governance, even symbolic governance. The needless drama of Magu’s confirmation as substantive head of the EFCC is the latest example.


Sunday, March 12, 2017

“An advice,” “a good news”: Errors of Pluralization in Nigerian English

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Many people called my attention to a tweet by Abike Dabiri-Erewa, President Muhammadu Buhari’s Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, who wrote that her travel warning to Nigerians to not travel to the US was just “an advice.”

That is, of course, grammatically incorrect. “Advice” is a non-count noun, which does not admit of the conventional singular and plural forms of regular nouns. In other words, there is neither “advices” nor “an advice.” The singular form of “advice” is expressed as “a piece of advice” (or just “advice”) and the plural form is expressed as “pieces of advice.”



Dabiri-Erewa, who is incidentally a graduate of English from the Obafemi Awolowo University, is not alone in the practice of unconventionally singularizing and pluralizing uncountable nouns.

In an April 14, 2010 article titled “Common Errors of Pluralization in Nigerian English,” I pointed out that, “One notable feature of Nigerian English is the predilection for adding plural forms to nouns that don’t normally admit of them in Standard English. This is certainly a consequence of the inability of many Nigerian speakers and writers of the English language to keep up with the quirky, illogical irregularities that are so annoyingly typical of the conventions of English grammar.”

How English Plurals Are Formed

It’s common knowledge that the plural form of most nouns in English is created by adding the letter “s” to the end of nouns. But sometimes it requires adding “es” to nouns that end in “ch,” “x,” “s,” or s-like sounds, such as “inches,” “axes,” “lashes,” etc. There are also, of course, irregular forms like “children” as the plural of “child,” “oxen as the plural of “ox,” etc.

Then you have uncountable—or, if you will, “non-count”— nouns, which cannot be modified or combined with the indefinite articles “a” or “an.” This is precisely where Nigerians fall foul of standard usage norms.

Irregular noun plurals

Most educated Nigerians generally know that nouns like equipment, furniture, information (except in the expression “criminal informations,” or “an information,” which is used in the US and Canada to mean formal accusation of a crime, akin to indictments), advice, news, luggage, baggage, faithful (i.e., loyal and steadfast following, as in, “millions of Christian and Muslim faithful”), offspring, personnel, etc. remain unchanged even when they are expressed in a plural sense. But few know of many other nouns that have this characteristic.

Unconventional noun singularizations in Nigerian English
Although most educated Nigerians would never say “newses” or “advices” or “informations” to express the plural forms of these nouns, they tend to burden the words with singular forms that are not grammatical. For instance, they would say something like “that’s a good news” or “it’s just an advice” or “it’s an information for you.”

Well, since these nouns don’t have a plural form, they also can’t have a singular variant, that is, they cannot be combined with the indefinite articles “a” or “an.” So the correct way to render the sentences above would be “that’s a good piece of news” (or simply “that’s good news”), “it’s just a piece of advice” (or “it’s just advice), and “it’s information for you.”

Other nouns that are habitually pluralized wrongly in Nigerian English are:

“Legislations.” Nigerians inflect the word “legislation” for grammatical number by adding “s” to it. The sense of the word that denotes “law” (such as was used in this Punch headline: “Nigerians need legislations that will ease their problems –Cleric”) does not take an “s” even if it’s used in the plural sense. In Standard English, the word’s plural form is usually expressed with the phrase “pieces of,” or such other “measure word” (as grammarians call such expressions).

 So the headline should correctly read: “Nigerians need pieces of legislation…” or simply “Nigerians need legislation….” However, the sense of the word that means “the act of making laws” may admit of an “s,” although it’s rare to encounter the world “legislations” in educated speech in Britain or America.

 “Rubbles.” Another noun that Nigerians commonly add “s” to in error is “rubble,” that is, the remains of something that has been destroyed or broken up. This word is never inflected for plural. It’s customary to indicate its plural form with the measure word “piles of,” as in, “piles of rubble.” (Grammarians call words that are invariably singular in form “singulare tantum”).

“Vermins.” Similarly, the word “vermin,” which means pests (e.g. cockroaches or rats) — or an irritating or obnoxious person— is invariably singular and therefore does not require an “s” or the indefinite article “a.” But in Nigerian English it’s common to encounter sentences like “they are vermins” or “he is a vermin.”

“Footages/aircrafts.” “Footage” and “aircraft” are also invariably singular. So it’s nonstandard to either say or write, as many Nigerian do, “a footage” or “footages,” “an aircraft” or “aircrafts.”  Dispense with the “s” at the end of the nouns and the indefinite articles “a” and “an” at the beginning.

“Heydays.” There is nothing like “heydays” in Standard English. It remains “heyday” even if the sense of the word is plural.

“Yesteryears.”  Yesteryear is also invariably singular and does not change form when it expresses a plural sense. Only Nigerian English speakers and perhaps other non-native English speakers pluralize “yesteryear.”

“Cutleries.” Cutlery always remains “cutlery” even if you’re talking of millions of eating utensils.

“An overkill.” In Standard English, “overkill” is usually uninflected for number. So, where Nigerian English speakers would say “it’s an overkill,” people who speak standard varieties of English simply say “it’s overkill.”

“Slangs.” Nigerian English speakers habitually pluralize slang as “slangs” and singularize it as “a slang.” That’s unconventional. The Standard English plural forms of “slang” can be just “slang” (as in, “he speaks a lot of slang”) or “slang words,” or “slang terms,” or “slang expressions.” The singular form is simply “slang” (as in, “that was slang”).

“Invectives.” The word’s plural form is expressed by saying “a stream of invective,” not “invectives.”

“Beehive of activities.” The expression “beehive of activities,” which is common in Nigerian English, is nonstandard. It is usually rendered as “a beehive of activity” (also “a hive of activity). Its plural form is “beehives of activity” (or “hives of activity”). When “activity” means a “situation in which something is happening or a lot of things are being done,” it is usually uncountable.

So, it should be “a lot of economic activity,” not “a lot of economic activities.” It should be “physical activity,” not “physical activities.”
The only sense of “activity” that is pluralized is the sense that means “a thing that you do for interest or pleasure, or in order to achieve a particular aim,” such as “outdoor activities,” “leisure activities,” “criminal activities,” etc.

 “Potentials.” It is usual in Nigerian English, even educated Nigerian English, to pluralize “potential” as “potentials,” particularly in the expression “Nigeria has great potentials.” In Standard English, however, “potential” is often uninflected for number, that is, it remains “potential” even if its sense is plural.

Why Native Speakers Don’t Pluralize These Nouns

As I’ve observed and chewed over these admittedly vexatious English plural forms over the years, I have been struck by the fact that I’ve never encountered any native speaker of the English language who has flouted these rules in speech or in writing. Not even my American college students who can be lax and slipshod with their grammar.

I think this is a consequence of the force of example. When people grow up not hearing older people say “an advice,” “a good news,” “legislations,” “vermins,” etc., they unconsciously internalize and make peace with the illogical irregularities that these exceptions truly are.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Why Government Is Losing the Propaganda War

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

No non-partisan Nigerian with even the littlest intelligence doubts that willful lies and propaganda are the Buhari government’s most potent tools of governance. That’s why I called the government a “propagandocracy” in last week’s column.

Of course, I knew the column would provoke an uptick in juvenile, libelous personal attacks against me by the barely literate but overpaid minions of the Buhari Media Center hiding under the pseudonymic cover that the Internet enables. I frankly didn’t read the sophomoric rants of the contemptible dolts at the BMC. I have better use for my time.

I am not the issue. The issue is that this government, through its spectacular incompetence, serial betrayals, and crying insensitivity, has made life in Nigeria a punishment for the vast majority of our people. Now, they want people on whom they inflict so much pain to not give expression to their grief. It’s like striking children with hard whips and asking them to not let out the inexorable wail of anguish that is sure to follow. That’s cruel.

But that’s the kernel of the government’s propaganda efforts: to stop people from giving vent to their misery. So all kinds of lies are fabricated to minimize or even outright deny the excruciating existential torment that people are contending with. But the problem with lies and propaganda is that they have a notoriously short shelf life. People’s material conditions, sooner or later, always remind them of the truth.

If you improve the material lot of the people you govern, you don’t need a propaganda unit to tell them what you are doing. Good works are their own PR, and the most sophisticated PR campaign can’t wash off failure and incompetence.

It’s true, though, that the more a government comes to terms with its ineptitude, the more it feels the need to up its lies to mask its failures. That’s why propaganda and lies are always in inverse proportion to governmental incompetence. That is, the more incompetent a government is, the more it uses propaganda as a tool of governance.

But the kind of propaganda the Buhari government dispenses is the intellectually deficient, scorn-worthy kind. It is crude, vulgar, illogical, abusive, and transparently mendacious. The problem with crude, abusive political public relations, however, is that it only excites and fires up supporters (who don’t need it because their loyalty is already in the bag), but repulses opponents and puts off people on the fence. The goal of intelligent PR is to convince people on the fence to join you and possibly also win over opponents.

The performance of Buhari’s unprecedentedly large media team in the defense of their boss and the demonization of their boss’ real and imagined political enemies is a classic example of the kind of primitive political public relations that holds sway in Nigeria. In this kind of political public relations, not only “political enemies” come under heavy fire; facts, truth, and logic also become casualties.

I have been a victim of this primitive public relations since I started public commentary on politics and society more than a decade ago. The practitioners of this brand of PR ignore the substance of your critique and try to muddy the water by making the critic, rather than the critique, the issue. 

For instance, in response to my biting critique of the way Femi Fani-Kayode physically prevented then Vice President Atiku Abubakar from attending a Federal Executive Council meeting in 2006, Fani-Kayode wrote that I was the son of a Fulani herder who washed plates in America for a living!

Similarly, in response to my article on then Vice President Namadi Sambo’s bigoted claim on national television that the PDP was Nigeria’s Muslim party, even when he couldn’t recite the most recited verse in his putative religion’s holy book, his media aides chose to launch laughably childish personal attacks against me under a false name.

Among several ridiculous claims, they said I was a “grammar journalist” (whatever the heck that means) who veered into political commentary because I wanted to be noticed by APC and rewarded with a political appointment if APC won the presidential election. An opportunity to persuade me—and several others— that the VP didn’t mean what I interpreted him to mean was wasted in puerile, uninformed abuse that ended up betraying the writer’s ignorance and hardening people’s opinion about the VP’s bigotry.

APC and BMC minions have taken the cake for illiterate, uncivilized PR. I have lost count of the list of infantile motives that they have imputed to me. Because they are so predictable and so easy to spot, I now squash them with the “block” button on social media. A popular Internet meme says, "The most common cause of stress nowadays is dealing with idiots." I can do without it.

The object of public relations, especially political public relations, as I’ve pointed out several times here, is to arm supporters with the ideational resources to defend you, to win over people who sit on the fence, to persuade opponents to see you as a reasonable person worthy of their respect, etc. This has been the core preoccupation of civilized political public relations since 64 BC when Quintus Tullius Cicero wrote Commentariolum Petitionis, regarded by many scholars as the “first publication on electioneering and political public relations.”

In the pamphlet, Cicero said the goal of what we call political public relations today is to “[secure] the support of your friends and [win] over the general public.” He advised people seeking elective offices to “take stock of the many advantages you possess,”  “cultivate relationships,” “secure supporters from a wide variety of backgrounds,” and so on. You don’t do this through easily refutable lies, deceit, insults, and smears.

Persuasion scholars also tell us that human attitudes toward persuasive messages often fall under one of three latitudes: latitude of acceptance, latitude of rejection, and latitude of non-commitment. Research has shown that when people judge a new message to be within their latitude of rejection (such as telling a poor, recession-ravaged Nigerian that Buhari has fulfilled all his campaign promises or that Buhari is “fighting” corruption even when demonstrably corrupt people in his government are having a field day  ), they are impossible to persuade.

Attempts to persuade them often leads to what social judgment theorists call the boomerang effect, where individuals are driven away from, rather than drawn to, the positions their persuaders want them to occupy.

Persuasion is often a gradual process, consisting of small changes at a time. Crude, unwarranted and uninformed insults don’t persuade; they only lead to a boomerang effect.

Public relations, real public relations, isn’t about bribing opinion page editors of newspapers and planting coarse, vulgar abuses against perceived political opponents, nor is it about writing immature smears against critics on fringe websites—all stock-in-trade of the Buhari propaganda machine.

In other words, this government sucks at even its most potent tool of government—propaganda. That’s a double whammy of cluelessness at governance and incompetence at propaganda.


Sunday, March 5, 2017

“Naming Ceremony,” “Turbaning,” “Disvirgin”: Q and A on Nigerian English Usage

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Question:
I want to say a BIG THANK YOU for your essays. I personally have gained a lot from them. I have a question for you. In one of your essays, you wrote that there is no such thing as naming ceremony in both American and British English. I googled "naming ceremony" and found that there is naming ceremony even in Wikipedia and BBC. There is an English course book (advanced) called Innovations by Hugh Dellar and Andrew Walkley, and I found in one of the units the term “naming ceremony.” Could you help on this as I am a bit confused?


 Answer:
You are right that there is such a thing as “naming ceremony.” However, the expression has no currency in contemporary American English and means a slightly different thing in British English. Note that Americans and Britons don’t celebrate the christening (that’s the more usual word for “naming” in American and British English) of their children as elaborately as we do in Nigeria.

The fact that a word or an expression can be found on a website or in a book does not in and of itself provide evidence that its usage is universal. I have been living in America for quite some time now, but have never heard any native-born American refer to the christening of their children as a “naming ceremony.” My British friends also tell me they don’t use that expression now. They probably did in the dim past.

What I have learned, though, after writing the article you referred to, is that Orthodox Jews also call the christening of their children a “naming ceremony”—like we do in (Muslim) Nigeria. So, clearly, the expression is not uniquely Nigerian. It probably survived in Nigerian English from old-fashioned British English.

Interestingly, in recent time, British secular humanists have embraced and popularized what they call “naming ceremony.” It is a non-religious alternative to Christian “christening” or “baptism.” In fact, the Macmillan Dictionary now defines “naming ceremony” as “a non-religious ceremony for naming a child,” and adds that, “A religious ceremony for naming a child is a baptism or christening.” This is certainly not the case in Nigeria. In Nigeria, especially in Muslim Nigeria, naming ceremonies are decidedly religious, and are celebrated on the 7th day of a child’s birth.

My wife had a baby on February 25 this year. None of my American friends asked about my daughter’s “naming ceremony” because it’s not part of their cultural reality. In fact, they wanted to know her name months before she was born, which kind of jarred me. My Muslim cultural upbringing has habituated me to expect to know—or be asked— a child’s name only after it has been publicly announced during the “naming ceremony.”

I announced my daughter’s name to my Facebook friends and followers on the day she was born because that's the norm in America, and there would be no “naming ceremony.” There are no rams to slaughter and no “Malams” to invite. But my mom did a naming ceremony in absentia for my daughter in Nigeria.

Question:
 Is the expression 'Congratulations on your turbaning ceremony' correct? I ask because I searched for the word 'turbaning' and couldn't find it in any dictionary.

Answer:
All English dictionaries recognize “turban” as a noun that meansa long piece of cloth wrapped around the head, worn especially by Sikh, Hindu, and Muslim men.” But it’s only Nigerian English that uses “turban” as a verb.

But I won't discourage you from using the verb form of “turban” (such as “turbaned,”  “turbaning,” etc.) just because it is nonstandard or exclusively Nigerian. It is understood in Nigeria and expresses our unique socio-cultural reality, and that is what matters.

I’ve read people suggest that “coronation” is the proper English word for what we call “turbaning” in Nigerian English. That’s inaccurate. Coronation only applies when someone is made a monarch, that is, a sovereign or quasi-sovereign king or queen.  But “turbaning” encapsulates more than that; it can also mean the conferment of traditional titles on individuals who may not be from the royal family, which would be equivalent to “knighthood” in British English.

So an approximate British equivalent to Nigerian “turbaning” (if it means to confer a title on an illustrious individual) would be “knighting.” So where Nigerian English speakers would say, “He was turbaned as the Waziri of Gwandu,” a British English speaker might say, “He was knighted as the Waziri of Gwandu.” But where Nigerian English speakers would say, “I attended the turbaning ceremony of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Emir of Kano,” British English speakers would say, “I attended the coronation of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi as the Emir of Kano.”

Question:
In one of your columns you pointed out that “disvirgin” is a uniquely Nigerian English coinage. You said “deflower” is the word that native English speakers use. But "deflower" is labelled “old-fashioned” in some dictionaries. What is the replacement? Or does that mean it can no longer serve any semantic purpose in native-speaker areas?

 Answer:
"Deflower" is old-fashioned because it is no longer culturally acceptable among native English speakers, at least in the mainstream, to gaze at women’s sexuality from such a supercilious patriarchal prism. By today's standards, it’s considered insufferably sexist to think of a woman as a flower whose verdancy is invariably vitiated by sex with a man, especially because a man’s own loss of sexual innocence isn’t even lexicalized.

If a woman is considered “deflowered” for having sex with a man for the first time, what can be said to have happened to a man who has sex with a woman for the first time? Uprooted? You get the point? So it isn't the word “deflowered” that is old-fashioned in and of itself; it is the meaning it expresses. I would guess that because patriarchal arrogance is still countenanced in the Nigerian society, the word still has some currency and semantic utility in our everyday usage. Language always reflects people’s extant material and cultural realities.

Another example is the word “bastard,” which is a culturally loaded insult in Anglophone Africa and elsewhere, but which is now old-fashioned in the West because there is no longer any stigma attached to being born outside wedlock. Bastard now simply means a stupid, annoying person. The notion of a “bastard” as an illegitimate child is now dated in the West.

Question:
What is the correct way to answer a question that begins with, “Do you mind”? For instance, how do I respond to a question that says, “Do you mind a cup of tea?”

Answer:
Let me start by saying this question confounds even native English speakers. But it helps to know that “do you mind” is simply a polite way to say “do you have a problem with….” To apply it to your question, it means, "Would you have a problem if I give you a cup of tea?"

If you don’t have a problem with being given a cup of tea, then your answer should correctly be, "No, I don't. Thank you." That means you would like to have a cup of tea. Note, however, that the negativity that “no” conveys can jar some people. So, although it’s the grammatically correct way to answer the question (since you want to communicate the fact that you don’t have a problem with the polite request), some people prefer affirmative responses like, “Sure. Thank you,” or, better still, “I’d like a cup of tea. Thank you.” The latter avoids the question, but it also avoids confusion and adds a dash of courtesy to clarity.

If you don't like the cup of tea offered to you, then you might say, "Yes, I do." But that would be impolite, even confusing, and most native English speakers don't say that. They rather say things like, "Thanks, but I'm OK." Or "I’ve just had some tea. Thanks.”

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Propagandocracy and the Buhari Media Center

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The Buhari government is an absolute propagandocracy, that is, a government conducted by intentionally false and manipulative information. And this is so because the very foundation of the government is fraud.

When you defraud people into electing you and you have no substance to justify the trust they invested in you, you either apologize and be penitent (if you are honorable) or you perpetually churn out lie after lie to cover up earlier lies since you have no truth to tell. That’s the profile of this government in a nutshell.
Most members of the Buhari Media Center propagandists-in-residence are in this photo. They transitioned from APC presidential media campaigners to BMC propagandists. Can you identify anyone from this photo?
The fraud started when, shortly after being sworn in as president, President Buhari went to Chatham House in London (where else?) to repudiate the “One Hundred Things Buhari Will Do in 100 Days” and the “My Covenant With Nigerians” campaign documents, two of the signature documents that helped propel APC to an unlikely electoral triumph, and that caused many of us hitherto nonpartisan commentators to identify with and support Buhari in 2015.

Buhari called the documents a “fraud.” He was right. But what was an even bigger fraud was that he knew these documents to be fraudulent but conveniently chose not to repudiate them during the campaigns. His strategic silence caused people to elect him on the basis of fraud.

New York mayor Mario Cuomo once famously said that politicians campaign in poetry but govern in prose. APC “changed” this: they campaigned with fraud and now govern with unimaginative lies and mindless propaganda to cover up the fraud that got them into power. It’s the biggest, most audacious con game in Nigeria’s entire political history.

After renouncing the documents that got him elected, everything went downhill from there. He renounced all the campaign promises he made, including his promise to publicly and fully declare his assets and make public declaration of assets a precondition for appointment into his government. So APC basically became a party of fraud with no programs—just like the PDP it upstaged.

In the absence of anything to show for its existence, since fraud is its very foundation, the Buhari government has elevated sterile propaganda, mindless mind-management, and thoughtless, unintelligent mendacity to an art.

For starters, as I pointed out in my Facebook status update, which went viral and shaped national discourse on the Buhari government, the president has 9 media aides. Yes, 9, not 6 as previously thought!

They are Femi Adesina (Special Adviser, Media & Publicity); Garba Shehu (Senior Special Assistant, Media & Publicity); Tolu Ogunlesi (Special Assistant, Digital & New Media); Lauretta Onochie (Personal Assistant, Social Media); Bashir Ahmad (Personal Assistant, New media); Sha’aban Sharada (Personal Assistant, Broadcast Media); Naziru Muhammed (Personal Assistant, TV Documentary); Sunday Aghaeze (Personal Assistant, Photography); and Bayo Omoboriowo (Personal Assistant/ President’s Photographer).

All of these aides also have a retinue of other aides. For instance, the president’s PA on Broadcast Media recently appointed a “Media Assistant 1 on Social Media.” The numeral “1” indicates that there are other personal aides to the president’s PA that we don’t know about yet. This absurdity used to exist only in the realm of implausible humor.

But it gets worse: the president also has a clandestine hate and propaganda factory called the Buhari Media Center (BMC), which has nearly 40 paid propagandists whose mandate is to smear, demonize, and troll government critics with thousands of fake, foul social media handles. They also flood the comment sections of news websites with false handles and calculatedly duplicitous information, in addition to producing propagandistic social media memes (often with southern Nigerian-sounding names) that appear to come from everyday Buhari fans. The 40 odd propagandists-in-residence at the BMC are paid N250,000 per month.

Modeled after the Atiku Media Center (a reason its head calls it the Buhari Media Center, although it goes by other names), it is located on Okonjo-Iweala Drive (close to CBN quarters) in Jabi, Abuja.

When I first exposed this shadowy, sinister propaganda outfit that operates outside the orbit of the formal structures of government, its existence was denied. Now some character by the name of Muhammad Labbo who describes himself as “Chairman/ Co-ordinator [sic]” of the “Buhari Media Support Group” admitted to the existence of the propaganda center, but says it isn’t called the Buhari Media Center, and that it is funded by a private individual.

But who is this private individual who is funding a viciously malicious presidential propaganda outfit? What is his interest? Is this a pay-to-play scam? Is it a payback for a favor from the Buhari government? Or is it a favor in anticipation of a reward? Why should a shadowy individual fund a pro-government, extralegal propaganda and mind-management unit?

And what about the N100 million Lai Mohammed’s Ministry of Information has allocated for “interaction with bloggers” in the 2017 budget? Who are these bloggers government will be “interacting” with for N100 million in a time of recession?

Most importantly, though, the minions that make up the Buhari Media Center propagandists aren’t even the brightest bulbs in the box. Most of them should sue their brains for non-support. First, they can’t string together a sentence in English that isn’t a riotous travesty of the language. Nor do they seem to have any basic familiarity with elementary logic. Their stock-in-trade is unrestrained verbal primitivism, vulgar abuse, smears, innuendoes, and outright libel.

They, for instance, have been on full attack mode against my person since I exposed them. One Muhammad Labbo, who would do well to take elementary lessons in grammar and logic, said I too belonged to a BMC-like unit during Obasanjo’s administration. Lie. The unit I was recruited to be a part of, about which I wrote several times in my column, was called the Presidential Research and Communications Unit (later renamed Public Communications Unit) and projected Nigeria to the international community. The unit’s website was indicatively www.nigeriafirst.org, and it never got involved in domestic media interventions.

Unlike the PRCU, BMC is Buhari first (and Nigeria last), as the name of the group suggests. It operates outside the structures of government and even claims to be funded by a sinister outsider to slander critics of the president. Only a mind held hostage by illogic and defective intellect will make a false equivalence between working for a unit of government that disseminated information about Nigeria to a global audience and a baleful, extralegal propaganda unit that defames and attacks an incompetent president’s critics using fake handles.

As I pointed out in a 2015 article, Nigeria’s brand of political public relations, for the most part, does no more than appeal to the base, attract enemies, scare away potential converts, and ossify negative opinions about the people that are putatively being defended. It consists in barbarous, impulsive, sophomoric insults against real and imagined political opponents—and cloying, hagiographic defense of principals. It lacks nuance, is childish, and seems unconcerned with logic and persuasion.


The BMC is a full realization of this peculiar primitive propaganda that defines Nigeria’s public communication. It gets worse when the government it defends is founded and subsists on fraud and lies.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Black American Vernacular English Expressions You Should Know

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In the spirit of America’s Black History Month, which is observed every February, I have decided to share with my readers African-American English expressions that I’ve learned in the course of my stay in America. While many of the expressions are southernisms (i.e., the distinctive English usage of southern United States irrespective of race), several are unique to American blacks irrespective of the region of the United States they may be. Of course, for historical reasons, there are more blacks in southern United States than anywhere else in the country. That is why “Black English” and “Southern English” are often alike.


Somehow, most African-Americans that I have met here don’t immediately realize that I am African until my Nigerian accent betrays me. So some of them speak to me in Ebonics (as African-American Vernacular English is now called), which used to throw me off. Over the years, however, I have come to understand many of these phrases. I thought it would help relations between Africans on the continent and American blacks if I highlight some of the phrases.

1. “Finnin to.” This expression is used to state a desire to do something, as in, “I’m finnin to slap him,” “He’s finnin to eat some food,” etc. The expression is a corruption of “I’m fixing to,” which is a Southern United States expression that means exactly the same thing as “finnin to.” I became familiar with “finnin to” when the soundbite of a rural, uneducated Mississippi black man by the name of Erick Hubbard went viral in April 2011. He was complaining about a devastating tornado that took away his burger. “I was finnin to eat my hamburger; it took it!” he said. I didn’t think he was speaking English until someone broke it down for me.

2. “Bourgie (pronounced boo-zhee). It is a corruption of the Marxist term “bourgeoisie.” American blacks use the word to describe someone who has pretentious airs and taste, who is fake. It is also used to describe black people whose politeness, cultivated manners, and courtesy are considered contrived, excessive, and unnatural. “She bourgie” is a common putdown for girls that are considered pretentious. 

3. “Uncle Tom.” This old expression for a servile black man who is excessively deferential to white people is still active in the idiolect of African Americans. The expression was particularly popular in the 1960s thanks largely to Malcolm X’s constant demeaning references to Civil Rights leaders as Uncle Toms.

4. “Dip.” It means to leave suddenly, as in, “I gotta dip.” 

5. “Ma Boo.” It means “my boyfriend” or “my girlfriend” in Black English. It’s a corruption of the French word beau (pronounced “bow”), which means boyfriend. 

6. “Booty” (pronounced something like boo-di). It is a Black American English word for a woman’s buttocks. The word’s Standard English meaning is, of course, loot or money/goods obtained illegally. When a woman is described as having “lotta booty,” (that is, “a lot of booty”) don’t for a moment think she has lots of loot to share with you.

7. “Bootylicious.” A woman with a lot of “booty” is called “bootylicious.” It’s a blend of “booty” and “delicious.” The word was popularized, but by no means invented, by Destiny’s Child (the music group that BeyoncĂ© was a part of). One of the songs in the group’s 2001 album is titled “bootylicious.” The Oxford English Dictionary recognized “bootylicious” as a legitimate English word three years after its appearance in Destiny’s Child album. It defines it as: "(of a woman) sexually attractive."

8. “Big ol’.” It’s the shortening of “big old,” but it often sounds like “big-o.” It’s an adjectival phrase often used to modify just about any noun: “he is a big ol’ idiot,” “that’s a big ol’ car,” “my big ol’ dad,” etc.  The nouns the phrase modifies may be neither big nor old. As I think about it, it seems to me that the phrase should more correctly be described as an intensifier, which is defined as a word or phrase that has no meaning except to heighten or deepen the meaning of the word or phrase it modifies. I should add that “big ol’” isn’t an exclusively African-American expression; it’s a southern American English expression, which now enjoys currency in other parts of the United States.

9. “Baad/baddest.” In Black American English, “bad,” or, more correctly, “baad,” isn’t the opposite of “good; it is, on the contrary, the superabundance of good. You should feel flattered, not offended, when a Black American says to you: “men, you baad.” It means “you’re really good.” The comparative and superlative forms of “bad” aren’t “worse” and “worst,” as they are in Standard English; they are “badder” and “baddest.” The “baddest guy” in town isn’t the worst guy in town; he is the coolest, most fashionable, and most socially adept guy in town. “Badass” also means “brilliant; very good.”

10. “My bad.” This phrase is used to offer apologies for a wrongdoing. If someone hits a person in error, for instance, they would say something like: “Oops, my bad.” It means: “I apologize; it was my mistake. Forgive me.” Many etymologists say the phrase was initially restricted to Black American basketball players in the 1970s and the 1980s, but it’s now part of general informal American English.

11. “Dry begging.” In Black American English, this phrase means asking for something in a vague, circuitous way. For instance, instead of saying “I’m hungry. Could you kindly share your food with me?” a dry beggar would say something like: “That food looks really good. I haven’t eaten all day.” We call this “fine bara” in Nigerian Pidgin English. (Bara is the Hausa word for begging.)

12. “Finger-lickin’ good.” The phrase is used of food to mean it’s so good you would lick it with your fingers. It is actually not a uniquely Black American English expression; it was popularized by Kentucky Fried Chicken, an American fast-food chain, whose motto, until 2011, was “finger-lickin’ good.” I’ve included it in the list because I’ve heard the phrase mostly among African Americans here.

13. “We straight.” In Black American English, “straight” can mean “all right.” So “we straight” [we’re straight] means “That’s OK. No worries. We are all right.” President Barack Obama brought this expression to national limelight in 2009 when he visited a black-owned restaurant in Washington, DC called Ben’s Chili Bowl. After paying for his meal, a cashier, who is black, asked him if he wanted his change back. “Nah, we straight,” Obama said. If the cashier were white, Obama would probably have said something like: “No, it’s OK. You can keep it.”

14. Put your foot in it.” In Black American English, this phrase is used to compliment excellent cooking. It means a meal is remarkably cooked. My first encounter with the phrase some years back wasn’t pretty. I complimented the cooking of an African-American friend of mine. In response to my compliment, she said, “yeah, I put my foot in it.” I immediately became nauseous. I was about to throw up when she told me it was just an expression. I thought she meant she literally put her foot in the food. I didn’t realize it was a self-praise of her culinary exploits. 

It should be noted that the phrase has a completely different meaning in (old-fashioned) British English. It means to embarrass oneself by acceding to an agreement that places one in danger or at a disadvantage.

15. “Show me your guns.” “Guns” is an American English slang term for upper-arm muscles or biceps, so “show me your guns” means “flex your muscles.” It isn’t a uniquely Black English expression, but it’s popular among African Americans.

16. “Open a can of whoop ass.” This expression is used humorously to say you will give somebody a good beating, as in “I’ll open a can of whoop ass on you!” Like the previous expression, it isn’t exclusively Black American, but it’s very popular among speakers of Black American Vernacular English. Other written variations of the expression are, “open a can of whup ass” and “open a can of whoop-ass.” “Whoop” is the alternative spelling of “whip” (i.e., to beat severely with a whip or rod) in informal American English.

17. “Oowee!” This is a uniquely Black American English exclamatory expression. It is used in moments of intense and excitatory passions. It’s similar in many respects to the Nigerian Pidgin English exclamation “chei!”

 I became aware of the expression in Louisiana years ago when a respectable African-American actor almost yelled it on national television in a moment of unguarded excitation. My friend, who is African-American, told me the actor quickly suppressed the exclamation because mainstream America disdains it as ghetto grunt, ghetto being the economically depressed parts of cities where poor black people live. So he said it out loud for me. He claimed that every African American, irrespective of education and social status, says “oowee!” on their home grounds. That’s clearly an exaggeration.

18. “Shawty ” or “Shorty.” The word originally meant young man, as in “Sup, shawty!” [What’s up, man!] Over the years, however, rap musicians have changed the word’s meaning to a young sexy woman. The Urban Dictionary, a user-generated online dictionary, says the word started life in Atlanta’s Black community as a slang term for a short person before morphing into a term of endearment for just about anybody. Now, hip-hop music has appropriated it as a term for an attractive young lady.

 The etymology of “shawty” reminds me of the semantic evolution of the word “girl.” When the word first appeared in the English language, it used to mean a young person of any gender. Now it means a young woman.

19. “Where you ats?” It means “where are you now?” I should quickly point out that this expression isn’t common among older African Americans, many of whom actually find it unbearably irritating. A similar expression that cuts across the generational divide in the Black community is “who dat is?” which stands for “who is that?” Note that I am referring to informal Black vernacular English. Upper middle-class, “bourgie” blacks don’t speak like that—unless they want to identify with black masses.

20. “What’s good?” It’s an alternative expression for “what’s up?” “How are you?” “What’s new?” “What’s happening?” etc.

21. “God don’t like ugly.” This old African-American colloquialism is the non-standard form of “God doesn’t like injustice.” It is often said when a bad, morally depraved or ungrateful person gets poetic justice; when they, as it were, get their just deserts. If, for instance, someone takes advantage of other people’s generosity and help to climb to the high end of the social scale but turns around to betray the people who helped him, or refuses to pay the favor forward, and ends up crashing after what seemed like a perfect life, African Americans would say: “God don’t like ugly!” It’s an exclusively Black American homespun witticism that has endured several generations.

22. “Who dat?” It means “who is that?” Black American English, in common with West African Pidgin English, usually either dispenses with the verb to be (such as in the expression “who dat?” instead of “who is that?”) or leaves it unconjugated (such as in the sentence “she be nice” instead of “she is nice”).   

But the phrase “who dat” has a cultural significance in America that goes beyond its semantic properties. It is popularly associated with the New Orleans Saints, an American football team located in the southern US state of Louisiana. During games, fans of the team always chant: "Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?" [Who is that? Who is that? Who is it that says they will beat the Saints?] 

As the reader can see, there are interesting echoes of West African Pidgin English in the syntactic structure of this quintessentially Black American English mantra. As I promised in a previous article, I will someday compare Black American Vernacular English with West African Pidgin English based on my familiarity with both languages.

23. “Black don’t crack.” It literally means “black doesn’t crack,” but it’s used in Black English to mean that the black skin is ageless, that black people don’t look their age, especially when they’re compared with members of other races. I heard the expression for the first time when I lived in Louisiana. A white American classmate of mine thought he and I were either age mates or that he was older than I was by a few years because of my youngish looks. When he discovered that I was 7 years older than he was, he exclaimed, “Damn, it’s really true that black don’t crack!”

I had no clue what in the world he meant, more so that the expression sounded ungrammatical to me. It was through my white friend that I learned that “black don’t crack” is an African-American expression to indicate that the black skin doesn’t crack, that is, it doesn't wrinkle. I immediately noticed that “black” and “crack” rhyme.

24. “Skin folk.” This is a Black English expression for members of one’s race. It’s modeled on the Standard English expression “kinfolk,” which means members of one’s nuclear and extended family. The phrase was popularized by Zora Neale Hurston, an African-American folklorist and author who once famously said “All my skinfolk ain't kinfolk.” It is a witty and creative way to say “not all people who share the same racial identity as me are my family.” In other words, there is more to friendship and affinity than mere racial similarity. African Americans say this when they are betrayed by fellow blacks.

25. “True that.” It means “that is true.”

26. “She/he is good people.” This means “she/he is a good person.” This is one of the most puzzling expressions I’ve ever heard in the English language, and I heard it first  from African Americans. But, apparently, saying “he is good people” to convey the sense that someone is a nice, reliable person isn’t exclusive to African American Vernacular English. It’s also common in informal southern and Appalachian English.

The 2008 edition of The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English defines “good people” as “a person who can be trusted and counted on,” and says the expression has been attested in American English since 1891.

So, “good people” isn’t a plural noun in American regional English; it’s a singular noun, and “is good people” is a fixed expression.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Vote for “Naija” and Against “Nigeria”

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The National Orientation Agency is relaunching a pointless and misguided campaign to preserve the appellative “originality” of “Nigeria”—and to save it from voguish diminutive terms of endearment such as “Naija.”

Recall that late Information Minister Dora Akunyili was viciously scorned to no end when she started the campaign against “Naija” nearly 7 years ago. "It is very offensive to call Nigeria ‘Naija’,” she said on November 4, 2010. “We are making plans to write companies to stop using the word Naija. I have heard that name Naija in adverts. I want them to go back and remove that word. If anybody says this is Naija, ask the person, 'Where is Naija?' We have to stop this word because it is catching up with the young. If we don't put a stop to its usage now, it will continue to project us wrongly.”

After a steady torrent of piercing taunts from a broad spectrum of Nigerians, Akunyili was compelled to see the folly of her campaign and to discontinue it.

Now, NOA’s Director General, Dr. Garba Abari, is reviving the quixotic anti-Naija campaign that Akunyili abandoned years ago. He told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on February 21 that the news media, schools, and parents should insist that Nigeria be called “Nigeria,” not “Naija.” “That the more we use these misnomers referring to our country, the fallout of it is that, a significant percentage of our younger ones will not even remember that Nigeria is the original name of our country,” he said.

Dr. Abari is an accomplished political science professor whose intellectual temperaments are nurtured by the critical social scientific scholarly tradition. I have tremendous respect for his scholarship and his keen insights into political economy. But I totally disagree with his renewed crusade against “Naija.” There at least three reasons why he should quit this futile, intellectually impoverished campaign forthwith.

First, it isn’t unusual for citizens to invent humorous, endearing diminutives for the names of their countries. Americans, for instance, sometimes humorously call their country “‘Merica” or “‘Murica.” Its origins are traceable to the way rural, uneducated Americans call “America.”

Australians fondly call their country “Oz,” and it’s derived from the shortening of “Australia.” They also informally call themselves “Aussies” instead of “Australians.”

Closer home, Sierra Leoneans call their country “Salone” (or “Sweet Salone”), and it’s formed from the elision of sounds from the name “Sierra Leone,” possibly from the way uneducated Sierra Leoneans pronounce “Sierra Leone.” In Nigeria’s southwest, early Sierra Leonean immigrants and their descendants were called “Saros.”

I can give more examples, but the point I want to make is that the intentional phonological contortion of the name of a country by its citizens for humorous, emotional, or socio-linguistic reasons isn’t unique to Nigeria. Nor is it disrespectful. And it certainly isn’t something to get bent out of shape about.

Second, as I pointed out in my April 19, 2014 column titled, “Republic of Songhai Formerly Known as Nigeria,” the name “Nigeria,” which Abari—and Akunyili before him—want to protect and preserve, is a product of outmoded, nineteenth-century European obsession with race and skin color.
“Nigeria” isn’t native to us; it’s an anglicized Latin word that denotes blackness. It traces lexical descent from the Latin “niger,” which means “black” or “dark,” and shares etymological affinities with the obnoxiously negrophobic racial slur, “Nigger.”

River Niger, the longest and most important river in Nigeria from which our country’s name is derived, is named after our skin color. Why should we in the 21st century still be stuck with a name that has fallen into disrepute and that, in the first place, invidiously and needlessly calls attention to our skin color?

If we must name our country after the longest river in our land, why not adopt one or all of its local names? Yoruba people call Rive Niger “Oya,” the Baatonu people call it “Kora,” Hausa people call it “Kwara,” Igbo people call it “Orimiri,” etc. I’m aware, though, that adopting any local name for Nigeria might ignite unwarranted ethnic jealousies. So why not rename it after an ancient African polity like Songhai— on the model of Ghana, Mali, etc.?

In a March 20, 2016 column titled, “Why Nigeria Can’t Pronounce ‘Nigeria’ Correctly,” I wrote: “When it came time to name the polity that British colonizers cobbled together, they decided to name it ‘Niger area,’ in honor of River Niger. ‘Niger area’ was later shortened to ‘Nigeria.’ In essence, Nigeria means ‘dark area.’ With such a name, is it any wonder that constant, reliable electricity has eluded Nigeria since independence? We are writhing under a primal appellative curse!

“Well, that was a joke! A country’s name has no bearing on the incompetence of its leaders.”

This leads me to the third reason why the campaign for the lexical preservation of “Nigeria” is misguided. Most Nigerians can’t even correctly pronounce “Nigeria,” which is a testament to its foreignness—and the unnaturalness of its phonological properties in Nigeria’s socio-linguistic universe.

In a March 31, 2013 article titled, “More Words Nigerians Commonly Mispronounce,” I wrote: “It is perhaps the biggest irony of our ‘nationhood’ that almost no Nigerian pronounces the name of our country ‘correctly.’ Last year, I’d planned to write an article on the imperative to change Nigeria’s name to something other than Nigeria, and part of the argument I wanted to advance was that the name ‘Nigeria’ is so foreign to us that almost no Nigerian pronounces it correctly….

“Well, there are regional and ethnic variations in the way ‘Nigeria’ is pronounced in Nigeria. While Hausa people pronounce Nigeria as ‘naa-jey-riya,’ the rest of the country pronounces it like ‘nan-ji-ria.’ Many language groups in southern and central Nigeria that don’t have the ‘j’ sound in their languages either pronounce it as ‘nan-ye-ria’ or ‘nan-gey-ria.’ The British people who imposed the name on us pronounce it as ‘nai-jee-ree-a.’ So do Americans and other native English speakers.”


So, “Naija” is at once a diminutive of endearment, a practical, phonological short-cut to “Nigeria,” and a silent socio-linguistic resistance to a racist, antiquated colonial exonym. What Dr. Abari and the NOA should be championing isn’t the puritanical lexical preservation of an odious name but its replacement with a suitable, indigenous, more dignifying endonym. Before then, I vote for “Naija.”

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