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Saturday, July 11, 2020

Historicizing the Soft Racism in Campbell’s Pro-Buhari Image Laundering

Today's back-page column in the Saturday Tribune features my short take on the Malami/Magu drama and a sumptuous, thought-provoking guest column by Professor Moses Ochonu of Vanderbilt University on Dr. John Campbell's rhetoric on Nigeria. Enjoy:

By Moses E. Ochonu, Guest columnist

Last week, Farooq Kperogi’s Saturday Tribune column compellingly debunked Ambassador John Campbell’s coy defense of President Buhari and his inner circle against credible allegations of corruption. Kperogi demonstrated that, contrary to Campbell’s claims, neither Buhari nor members of his inner circle are free of the stain of corruption.

I do not intend to re-litigate what Kperogi has analyzed persuasively. Instead I’d like to extend his analysis by establishing that there is a historical pattern to Ambassador Campbell’s pro-Buhari treatise, and that the man has a history of using his platform and perch at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to propagate a pro-Buhari agenda rooted in a deeper discourse tradition.

Take Campbell’s recent claim on Buhari’s austerity and the absence of a credible allegation of corruption against Buhari, for instance. This is a recycling of a claim Campbell made in a CFR video posted to YouTube on June 1, 2015, in which he stated that Buhari “has never been tarred by credible allegations of corruption.”

In the same video, Campbell claims that prior to 2015, Buhari lost elections in questionable circumstances, insinuating that in the previous elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011, Buhari could and should have won. This, of course, betrays Campbell’s ignorance of Nigeria’s recent presidential electoral dynamics, which, prior to 2015, marooned Buhari to his northern Muslim base as an unviable provincial candidate incapable of winning national electoral contests. 

This pro-Buhari disposition has now morphed into pro-regime activism, activating in Campbell an impulse to attack and discredit Buhari’s critics. This, in turn, is grounded in a paternalistic zeal to protect and defend the regime from what he sees as the criticism of traducers.

One thing is discernible in Campbell’s writings on Nigeria: He believes that southern Nigerians are out to get Buhari, the allegedly honest, austere Muslim president. That’s the context in which he made the recent claim that widespread corruption in Buhari’s inner circle “is a widely held trope in Southern Nigeria.” 
 
There is a method and a pattern to Campbell’s proverbial madness.

The former ambassador projects himself as a friend of the Northern ruling class, of which Buhari is the present embodiment, and advances himself as a paternal defender of the North. 

In a March 2015 lecture, he attempted to answer the question of “where did Boko Haram come from?” by repeating the discredited claim that Boko Haram was a Northern protest against bad governance and corruption!

Similarly, in 2014, he signed a letter to then US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, urging her not to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization, a move now widely considered ill-advised at best and catastrophic at worst.

At the heart of Campbell’s commentaries on Nigerian affairs then is a pro-regime loyalty that is part of a broader public intellectual profile that purports to protect the North from allegedly unfair Southern Nigerian and international actions and narratives. 

Accordingly, Campbell seeks to delegitimize criticisms of Buhari’s incompetence, corruption, nepotism, and provincialism by ascribing malicious and primordial motives to them. In Campbell’s simplistic terms, a critique of Buhari’s failures is a plot by “Christian” Southern Nigerians and their Western sympathizers to get at the Muslim North through Buhari.

Every opportunity he gets he burnishes this public persona of defender of Buhari and the North. Writing in The Atlantic in June 2011, Campbell and Asch Harwood claimed that then President Goodluck Jonathan’s “outreach to the North has so far been disappointing.” 

They were suggesting that Jonathan had been unfair to the North in appointments, a dangerous rhetoric that stoked the grievances of the North against Jonathan, a Southerner, and exacerbated Nigeria’s regional and religious fissures. What’s more, it was not even factual, given how inclusive Jonathan’s administration was in comparison to Buhari’s clannish and unprecedentedly nepotistic regime.

If Campbell’s hypotheses about Southern Nigerian assault on the North and a Northern president sounds conspiratorial, that’s because it is. Not only are Northerners now fed up with Buhari’s failures and not only are they some of his most vocal critics, the idea that there is a Southern Nigerian trope of Buhari’s corruption and incompetence flies in the face of the mess that Buhari has made of Nigeria, a fact which enjoys pan-Nigerian currency and provenance.

Campbell has always postured as a “friend” of the North, but northerners do not need those who condescendingly defend the current corruption and incompetence, of which they are the primary victims. 

Either Campbell harbors animus against Southern Nigeria or his is an incorrigible impulse to defend a North that can and does defend itself robustly. The last thing the North needs at this time is some foreign “expert” telling them that Buhari, who has failed to protect their lives and treasure, is an honest, austere leader who is being maligned by Southern Nigerians.

What are the historical and ideological antecedents of this pro-Northern pretensions?

For those of us who study Northern Nigerian history for a living, Campbell’s attitude and commentaries reveal and recall the British colonial attitude of patronizingly extolling the "authentic Islamic and African" virtues of northerners while denigrating southerners as troublesome, rabble-rousing radicals who were allegedly corrupted and separated from the restraining influence of African culture by Western education and worldly ambitions. Campbell is still operating in that avuncular colonial racist frame.

In colonial times, Frederick Lugard and other British colonial officials barred Christian missionaries from setting up schools in the Muslim North. They regularly discussed the need to protect northern Muslims from the alleged dangers of unbridled Western education and from the contagion and criticism of the Southern Nigerian intelligentsia. They were determined to protect the North, a region they “loved” because they claimed it had order, authority, and hierarchy.

Their alliance with Northern emirs and aristocrats further intensified this determination to protect the North from both Western modernity and Western-educated Southerners. The effect of that policy and that colonial attitude exists today in the Western educational gap between North and South.

Colonial officials would lash out at Southern Nigerians who criticized the failures and rapaciousness of the Northern aristocratic and political classes. They would in turn venerate the North and its aristocracy. 

This was a paternalistic racism that infantilized Northern Nigerians, making them out to be naïve, impressionable, vulnerable, and contaminable children who should be protected from the influence and attacks of Southern Nigerians. 

Colonialists were not “protecting” Northern Nigerians because they were less racist towards them but because the North’s sharply stratified society was more amenable to their rule than the South.

This is the historical colonial discourse that Ambassador Campbell is resurrecting. Campbell’s pro-North and pro-Buhari pronouncements are the postcolonial iteration of this colonial avuncular racism. 

Today, this project grows out of several impulses. One of them is white liberal guilt and the accompanying desire to protect supposed Muslim victims of an alleged Western and local Christian Islamophobic conspiracy. 

The other motivation is what scholars of Africa call the white savior complex, a phenomenon in which liberal white “experts” feigning sympathy and empathy for Africans are always looking for vulnerable African groups to “save” and “protect” as a do-good, feel-good endeavor to assuage their conscience. 

The third motivation is what is called the soft bigotry of low expectations, a benign, sometimes well-intentioned, racism in which a Western actor considers African interlocutors to be so incapable that he/she believes that it is better to hold them to a lower standard of leadership, ability, and performance than one would impose on a white person or a black person considered “white” in character, skill, and learning.

Campbell’s insistence on defending Buhari’s incompetent and corrupt regime and on ignoring Northerners who have demonstrated the ability to fight their own battles and hold their kinsman president accountable shows clearly that he is operating in this patronizing neocolonial mode.

Ochonu, Professor of African History and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in History at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, can be reached at meochonu@gmail.com 

Malami/Magu Drama Isn’t Worth My Time

By Farooq A. Kperogi

People have asked for my thoughts on the ongoing drama between Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and suspended EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu. My opinion it is isn’t worth anybody’s time.

 When a fundamentally dishonest and morally tainted dissembler like Malami is tormenting a dizzyingly featherbrained fraudster like Magu who pretends to be fighting corruption but who is actually steeped in unimaginable sleaze, why should that bother me? I have no dog in the dog-eat-dog food fight between two dogged scammers.

Anyone who takes a moment to listen to Magu would know that the man has neither the intellectual preparedness nor the moral stamina to understand, much less police, corruption. He is no more than a remote-controllable poodle of his benefactors. He barks only when his remote controllers command him to— and looks away when he’s told to.

 In other words, Magu is a classic metaphoric police dog whose loyalty is only to his handlers. When police dogs are old, unhelpful, or injured, they’re retired and replaced with another one. It is supremely symbolic that all EFCC honchos are, by law, police officers.

 The next EFCC police dog won’t be different from the previous one. So don’t expect Mohammed Umar, the new acting EFCC chairman—or whoever replaces him— to be different from Magu.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Leaving the Diaspora to Take a Gov’t Job is No “Sacrifice”

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

It has now become customary for Nigerians in the diaspora who leave their exilic locations to take government jobs at home to emotionally blackmail the nation into seeing them as irreproachable demigods whose “sacrifice” in leaving their diasporic comfort zones should inoculate them against scrutiny. Here are 6 reasons why this is boneheaded.

1. No Nigerian who benefited from the free or highly subsidized education in the country can ever fully pay back the debt he or she owes to Nigeria. Thanks to my Nigerian undergraduate degree, which I couldn’t afford if it wasn’t subsidized, I am debt-free and doing financially well in my diasporic location. 

My American colleagues aren’t that lucky. Most of them are still paying their student loans.

Obama finished paying his student loan debts just a few months before he became president. Had he not made a fortune from his well-received autobiography, he would have been paying his student loans well into his presidency.

So going back to work in Nigeria after staying in the diaspora is, properly speaking, “giving back”; it is NOT a sacrifice. Sacrifice entails an undeserved loss as a result of giving up something more valuable. 

Since most diasporans won’t even have the opportunity of their exilic comfort zones if they didn’t benefit from Nigeria’s free or subsidized education, they aren’t “sacrificing” by going back to the country that nurtured them when they were helpless.

2. Return to Nigeria after a sojourn in the diaspora often comes with the sorts of perks that people don’t usually get in their erstwhile diasporic locations.

 Being head of a government agency, a minister, a special adviser, etc. comes with humongous allowances, a retinue of aides, access to the power structure, etc.

Returnee diasporans who want you to give them credit for taking a pay cut to accept a government job in Nigeria are being intentionally deceitful. I earn more than two times what the Nigerian president officially earns, but everyone knows the president doesn’t even need his or her salary.

3. There is really little that people in the diaspora bring back to Nigeria that doesn’t already exist in superfluity in Nigeria. There are literally thousands of people who can be, and even better than, whatever any diasporan Nigerian does, but they’re passed over because they don’t have access to people who make appointments— and because they don’t have the social and symbolic capital that living abroad confers. So it’s actually a privilege, not a sacrifice, to serve.

4. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. Most people won’t leave their diasporic locations if it would exert a strain on them and their families. I am an example. Professor Attahiru Jega invited me to work with him at INEC sometime ago, but I politely declined because it wasn’t in the interest of my young children to relocate to Nigeria. I’ve also spurned many other offers since then for the same reason.

Should I decide at some point to relocate to Nigeria, it won’t be a “sacrifice.” At worst, it would be “giving back” and at best a privilege. There are thousands of people with my skillset in Nigeria.

5. A diasporan who worked as a contract staff in a country where he was neither a citizen nor even a legal permanent resident is actually enjoying an upgrade if he gets a visible, consequential position in government. 

Instead of arrogantly saying they are "sacrificing" for the country, they should be grateful for the opportunity to do a job that thousands of Nigerians at home are capable of doing.

6. If coming back to work in Nigeria after working abroad for a few years, often as a precarious contract staff, is "sacrifice," what would the returnee diasporans call working in countries they are not citizens of and that never invested in their education? Self-immolation?

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Ambassador Campbell’s Curious Defense of Buhari’s Corrupt Aso Rock Cabal

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Dr. John Campbell, America’s former ambassador to Nigeria from May 2004 to July 2007, wrote a June 24 opinion article titled “Nigerian Media’s Unsubstantiated Claims that U.S. Agencies Investigating Corruption by Buhari's Inner Circle” for the  Council on Foreign Relations (where he works as a Senior Fellow for Africa policy studies) that was basically a puzzlingly evidence-free whitewashing of Buhari and his corrupt cabal.

Campbell impeached the credibility of a Pointblanknews report that said the US State Department is probing Sabiu 'Tunde' Yusuf, Sarki Abba, Mamman Daura, Ismaila Isa Funtua (and his son Abubakar Funtua) for money laundering in the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom by claiming that it is “rare for the Department of State or the Department of Justice to say that there is an investigation underway, and neither has done so publicly.”

Campbell is a veteran of the US Department of State, so I defer to his judgement on the credibility of the Pointblanknews report. But he went beyond questioning the authenticity of the money laundering report to doing outright image laundering for the cabal.

He said, “Sabiu 'Tunde' Yusuf is known to be very rich, and Nigerian money laundering in the Gulf and the United Kingdom is an old song. President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have little personal interest in money, lives simply, and is rarely accused of personal corruption. But that his inner circle is corrupt is a widely held trope in southern Nigeria.”

That’s a curiously tendentious assertion. First, Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf was, until 2015, a poor recharge card seller. How did he become “known to be very rich” just five years after being a personal assistant to Buhari, his mother’s uncle? Campbell left that part out and made it seem like Yusuf, who is only in his 30’s, had always been rich.

Yusuf unquestionably became rich from serving in Buhari’s government. Since his legitimate monthly earning is lower than 350,000 naira (which is less than $1,000), it is impossible for him to be “known to be very rich” through means other than corruption.

Second, it is inaccurate that Buhari has “little personal interest in money, lives simply, and is rarely accused of personal corruption.” Campbell is merely regurgitating the pre-2015 propaganda Buhari’s campaign caused to be circulated in Nigeria and abroad, but which is now the source of derision in Nigeria in light of what people now know of Buhari.

It’s wholly untrue that Buhari lives simply. The first major project Buhari executed upon becoming president in 2015 was to build a multi-million-naira vanity helipad for his exclusive use in his hometown of Daura, which would be useless after his presidency. Not even Goodluck Jonathan who got a lot of hell from civil society groups for corruption built a helipad for himself in his hometown of Otueke.

Additionally, Buhari’s penchant for going to London to treat even his littlest illnesses (including an ear infection that had already been treated in Nigeria), his high-priced sartorial excesses, and his fondness for extortionately elaborate red-carpet ceremonies each time he leaves the country and returns to it do not square with the profile of a person who “lives simply.”

 And contrary to Campbell’s claim, Buhari has been accused of personal corruption since the 1970s. He was the subject of a popular song by the iconic Fela Anikulapo Kuti because he couldn’t account for 2.8 billion naira of NNPC funds when he was petroleum minister in the 1970s. He was also accused of stealing billions of naira when he headed the Petroleum Trust Fund in the 1990s.

Of course, being accused of something isn’t synonymous with being guilty of it. Nevertheless, although all of Nigeria’s past presidents and heads of state have been accused of corruption, none has been convicted of it. Not even the late General Sani Abacha whom Buhari said never stole any money from Nigeria (but whose recovered “loot” is being perennially repatriated by foreign banks and governments to Nigerian governments, including to Buhari’s regime) has been convicted of corruption.

Buhari also has a history of personally lying in his official capacity to defend the corruption of members of his inner circle. In January 2017, for instance, Buhari signed a letter in his name to the Senate committee that investigated former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir David Lawal for fleecing defenseless people who were internally displaced by Boko Haram terrorists and exonerated him.

 In the letter, Buhari told three demonstrably obvious and easily falsifiable lies to defend his appointee. In the midst of undeniable evidence against Lawal, Buhari was later forced to eat humble pie and fire Lawal. But, although he was fired, he hasn’t been convicted to this day. He was, in fact, chairman of Buhari’s reelection campaign in Adamawa State.

Buhari also recalled, reinstated, and promoted a man by the name of Abdulrasheed Maina who had been accused of embezzling billions of naira belonging to pensioners for which he fled the country.  After news of this scandal caused national outrage, Buhari reversed it and pretended to be shocked by what had happened.

But a leaked memo to the late Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to Buhari, by then Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, showed that Buhari was in on the fraud. 

“I sought audience with His Excellency, Mr. President on Wednesday, 11th October, 2017 after the FEC meeting where I briefed His Excellency verbally on the wide-ranging implications of the reinstatement of Mr. A. A. Maina, especially the damaging impact on the anti-corruption stance of this administration,” the HoS’s memo said.

Finally, Campbell’s claim that notions of the eyewatering corruption in Buhari’s inner circle are shared only by people in “southern Nigeria” is both astonishingly mendacious and gratuitously divisive.

I am not a southern Nigerian, but I have called attention to the corruption in Buhari’s inner circle in countless columns and social media posts. Buba Galadima, another northerner and former Buhari protégé, has made series of credible allegations of corruption against Buhari and his inner circle.

Junaid Mohammed, a well-regarded Second Republic federal legislator from Kano, has made numerous convincing accusations of corruption against the Buhari regime and its honchos.

 Even former Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II said in an August 24, 2016 lecture that the Buhari regime created a situation where influential people could sit in their “garden and make billions through forex market without sweat”—precisely the sort of charge being made against the Aso Rock cabal that Campbell has chosen to defend without counter facts.

 A vast multitude of northerners on and off social media chatter endlessly about the stratospheric corruption currently taking place in the Buhari regime.  So to suggest that accusations of corruption against members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet are animated only by unthinking southern regional animus against northerners is outrageous prevarication that is beneath contempt.

More than southerners, northerners see previously dirt-poor people from their region building glitzy mansions and living large after getting appointments in— or being closely aligned to people in— Buhari’s inner circle. They know legitimate earnings from government jobs are not sufficient to fund and sustain the sybaritic lavishness of Buhari’s appointees.

Campbell obviously knows very little about northern Nigeria. For instance, in a March 27, 2020 article for the CFR, he wrote that Abba Kyari was an “Islamic scholar” because the title “Mallam” is often prefixed to his name!

Campbell doesn’t know enough about northern Nigeria to know that “Mallam” has evolved to a mere courtesy title for a man, any man, and functions as an alternative for “Mr.” Perhaps, it is too much to expect a person who thinks people who prefix “Mallam” to their names are Islamic clerics to know that northern Nigerians also rail against the endemic corruption in Buhari’s inner circle.

It is troubling that Campbell used the possible inauthenticity of the claim that members of Buhari’s inner circle are being probed by the State Department to weaken or dismiss the credible allegations of corruption against Buhari and his cabal.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Why the Kwara State Governor is Third-Rate

By Farooq Kperogi

Kwara State governor Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq appears be a third-rate governor because he is yoked to the number 3. 

He came third in the APC governorship primaries but, through naked pecuniary inducement of the APC national leadership, went ahead to be his party’s standard-bearer. 


And his cabinet is filled with third-rate people who have no capacity to dramatize his intellectual inadequacy (he only attended secondary school whose certificate he hasn’t been able to produce) and feelings of inferiority complex.

But his association with “third” is even more intriguing. He is the third child in his family and the third Ilorin person to be elected governor of Kwara State. 

Maybe when a man is defined by “third” at every facet of his life, he can’t help being third-rate and in love with “third.”😂 OK, this part is a joke: birth order has no bearing on what people become.

Related Articles:

Monday, June 29, 2020

Buhari Has Also Been "Accused of Corruption"

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.

The article below first appeared as a Facebook post on January 29, 2018. It is republished here for archival purposes.

The minions at the Buhari Media Center have caused this factually inaccurate, propagandistic photo on the left to circulate on Nigerian cyberspace in the past few hours. They are pushing the rhetorical boundaries of the false but unravelling narrative of Buhari’s putative “integrity” preparatory to the 2019 elections. We should never allow ourselves to be suckered again by the rhetorical duplicity of the well-oiled Buhari lying machine.

So, let’s start. Accusation is not conviction. Being accused of something isn’t synonymous with being guilty of it. No past Nigerian president or head of state has ever been convicted of corruption. Not even the late General Sani Abacha whom Buhari said never stole any money from Nigeria (but whose recovered “loot” is being perennially repatriated by the Swiss government to Nigerian governments, including to Buhari’s government) has been convicted of corruption. 

But this man of “integrity” who wants you to vote for him again in 2019 had said that the accusation that Abacha stole money was “baseless.” “Ten years after Abacha, those allegations remain unproven because of lack of facts,” he said during a “special prayer session” in honor of Abacha on June 8, 2008 in Kano. (Note that the Swiss government started repatriating Abacha loot to Nigeria in 2007. A year later, “Mr. Integrity” said there were no “facts” to substantiate the accusation that Abacha stole Nigeria’s money.

Maybe lying is part of the definition of “integrity” in Buharism. Recall the lies he told last year to defend corrupt Babachir David Lawal whom he was later compelled to fire but whom he has not prosecuted up to now?)

Well, Buhari, too, has been accused of corruption. He was accused of stealing 2.8 billion naira of NNPC funds when he was petroleum minister in the 1970s. Go to Nigeria's newspaper archives for evidence. The late Fela Anikulapo Kuti even sang about it. I personally don’t believe the accusation was credible, but we’re talking of “accusation,” not conviction.

Buhari was also accused of corruption when he headed the PTF, as this Newswatch cover story above testifies. Of course, it doesn't mean he was guilty, although his multi-million-naira house in Abuja (according to his partial public declaration of assets) and his failure to fully and transparently declare his assets like the late Yar'adua did and as he said he would call several things about him into question.

To say that he had never been "accused of corruption" is factually inaccurate. It’s also immature, easily falsifiable propaganda. But I think what kills a nation faster than "corruption" is incompetence and bigotry, which sadly define Buhari's presidency.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

I Warned Bola Tinubu That This Day Would Come

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The political coalition between Muhammadu Buhari’s CPC and Bola Tinubu’s ACN has all but collapsed. There was nothing even remotely surprising about it. In previous columns, media interviews, and social media updates, I predicted that this would happen.

For example, in my June 23, 2018 column titled “Buhari’s June 12 Pandering and Naivety of Yoruba Elite,” I wrote:

“Buhari may well get a second term with the help of votes from the Southwest. But one thing is as certain as tomorrow’s date: he will spectacularly fall out with the Yoruba elite whose support he’s bending over backwards to court now. He’d no longer have a need for them after 2019 and might even remember that they betrayed him in 2011.

“These same people would then turn against not just Buhari but the entire North. If we’re alive till then, we’d remind them that they are complicit in their own fate. An Italian proverb says, 'When a man deceives me once, it is his fault; when twice, it is mine.'"

In a January 26, 2019 column titled “Bola Tinubu’s Costly 2023 Political Gamble,” I wrote the following, among other things that have come to pass:

“Tinubu is going into another alliance with Buhari in hopes that Buhari and his supporters will reward him with a presidential ticket in 2023. That’s a costly miscalculation for a whole host of reasons.

“I am familiar enough with members of Buhari’s inner circle to know that they deeply despise Tinubu. They snigger at his presidential ambition and are amused by his expectation that they would support him. Tinubu himself knows this. That’s why I am shocked that he appears irresistibly and dangerously drawn to people who will throw him like he is hot after the February election. Maybe he is gripped by the sort of deathly attraction that causes a moth to embrace a flame.

“During a TV appearance on Television Continental on February 20, 2018, Tinubu’s wife, Remi, said Tinubu was 'trashed' by Buhari’s northern political machine after the 2015 election. People who 'trashed' you after an electoral triumph to which you’re central will certainly go the whole hog and incinerate or bury you in the aftermath of another victory that will ensure that they will no longer need you.

“Apart from the certain betrayal that will surely come from the Buhari camp in the event that Tinubu helps them to win or rig the 2019 election, a Tinubu presidential candidacy will be beset by a lot of problems. Given the heightened sensitivity of religion in Nigeria now, which is made even more so by Buhari’s unexampled, in-your-face bigotry, Tinubu would be required to have a northern Christian as a running mate to earn the support of the South and the Christian North. That would, however, automatically alienate Buhari’s northern Muslim supporters. So his ambition is dead before it’s even born.

“Most importantly, though, as Tinubu himself knows only too well, a vote for APC in the coming presidential election won't be a vote for Buhari; it would be a vote for an evil, greedy, corrupt, provincial, and reactionary cabal and their minions who are currently perpetrating a stratospheric theft of the nation's resources in ways that would make an angel of Abacha. President Buhari is an insentient human vegetable who is barely aware of his own existence.”

In a September 21, 2019 column, titled “Why Bola Tinubu Can Never Be Nigeria’s President,” I pointed out that “Before the 2019 election, a friend of mine who is close to Abba Kyari confided in me that after the election they would ‘deal with Tinubu and his people.’ He bragged that by the time they are done with him and his underlings, he would be so damaged that he won’t even be an option for the 2023 presidency. It’s already starting.”

In a December 22, 2019 social media status update titled “Tinubu’s Dangerous Dance with the Cabal,” I wrote:

“The cabal is toying with Bola Tinubu like a yo-yo—and he is naively, if gingerly, playing along— in readiness for his eventual political incineration by or before 2023. And the cabal is being ruthlessly Machiavellian about it.

“Tinubu has been given a fake promissory note that he’ll be APC’s presidential torchbearer in 2023. On the strength of this worthless promissory note, they’ve sought his permission to destroy some of his most trusted foot soldiers.

“With his consent, they’ve consigned Yemi Osinbajo to symbolic Aso Rock prison. Tinubu endorsed Tunde Fowler’s replacement at the FIRS and is in on his impending trial for corruption. He also stamped his imprimatur to Muiz Banire’s unceremonious ouster from AMCON. He’s giddily approving everything the cabal tells him it wants to do to his 'constituents' and foot soldiers.

“He has now fallen out of favor with almost all Southwest governors except his dutiful stooge in Lagos and his nephew in Osun. Of course, he is a bête noire to Afenifere. At this rate, Tinubu would divorce his wife and disown his children if the cabal tells him to do so—just because he’s told that he’d be president.

“This is a strategic, Machiavellian demobilization of his base, but one in which he is a willing participant, using the illusory promise of APC presidential nomination. When he is eventually denied the APC presidential slot, he would have no one of political consequence in his natal region to fall back to for counterattack other than his battering rams in the Lagos media.

“Before his eventual political annihilation, he would be thoroughly unpopular in the Southwest. His fate would elicit no mass sympathy from the region when the cabal finally bares its fangs publicly and devours him.”

And in a December 8, 2019 interview with The Interview magazine’s Azubuike Ishiekwene, I said the following in response to the question, “If you were to make a prediction about the political landscape in 2020, what would it be?”

“I have no—nor do I believe anyone has—oracular powers, but I think 2020 would witness the incipience of the alignment of political forces preparatory to the 2023 election.

“The Buhari/Tinubu alliance would crack more noticeably. The people who prop Buhari in power don’t want Tinubu—or anyone outside their primordial constituency—to succeed them. That’s my prediction.”

What hasn’t started to happen yet is the fight I predicted between paid Buhari and Tinubu loyalists on social media. In an October 5, 2018 social media post titled “Contest of Idiocy Between Buharists and Tinubuists,” I said, among other things:

“It’s no surprise that Buharists and Tinubuists are in a coalition of buffoonery to reelect a lifeless Buhari in 2019. When pigheaded Buhari fanaticism collides with sheepish Tinubu loyalty, it sparks the sort of combustible admixture of idiocy we’re seeing today, which disposes otherwise normal people to lend unthinking support to transparently incompetent people for political office. Thankfully, the rank of the Tinubuists is dwindling dramatically.

“Buharists and Tinubuists certainly share the same slavish, uncritical, freakish mentality, but wait to see what will happen in 2023 (if Buhari wins a second term) when Buhari disappoints Tinubu by not 'handing over' power to him--as he expects Buhari would. You'd be entertained by the fight that would break out between the two idiotic camps that are friends today. Save this somewhere.”

So Tinubu had lots of warning that the fate that has befallen him now was a foregone conclusion. He ignored it and chose instead to legitimize the worst civilian regime in Nigeria’s history. He deserves his fate.

Well, the next predictable phase in the unfolding drama is for Tinubu to turn the Lagos news media against the Buhari regime— and for his mindless loyalists to clash with Buharists in a contest of idiocy. That would be an entertaining spectacle to watch.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Sabiu Yusuf's Fat Bank Accounts that Shocked CBN Governor

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Someone told me CBN governor Godwin Emefiele was so alarmed by the hundreds of billions of naira that Sabiu "Tunde" Yusuf has in his name in personal bank accounts that he advised Sabiu to mask some of the bank accounts and to divvy up the amounts in them to save his neck in a post-Buhari dispensation. 

Sabiu reportedly said the billions in his accounts are "gifts" from people. But why didn't he get such "gifts" when he was a recharge card seller? Accepting "gifts" for favors done while occupying a privileged government position (he's Buhari's Private Secretary and de facto Chief of Staff) is against the law.

Aisha Buhari, who is herself neck-deep in unimaginable corruption, has commissioned people to take photos of Sabiu's multi-billion naira properties all over Nigeria. You may soon start seeing them on social media.

The stench bomb of fetid corruption that will explode after Buhari leaves office would be so unprecedentedly malodorous it would deaden Nigeria's collective nasal sensibility for a long time.

Buhari is Aware of Sabiu's Fat Bank Accounts

After I published the above update on how CBN governor Emefiele was so alarmed by the unusually large sums Sabiu "Tunde" Yusuf has salted away in his name in many bank accounts, an insider sent the following to me:

"Re: Your post about Sabiu & Emefiele. Buhari himself was alarmed & when he confronted Sabiu about the source of the money, he made the same 'gift' claim. Buhari ordered the money be returned to the treasury but Mamman Daura reportedly intervened (although I haven't been able to confirm the authenticity of that part). Buhari, as usual, could only grumble."

Buhari does his own stealing by proxy, which makes it impossible for anyone to trace anything to him. That was the evidence that came out from the probe of PTF.

He was probably only aghast that Sabiu is too stupid to have that much money squirreled away in bank accounts in his name, not that he has stolen that much money.

Sabiu's friends tell me he has up to one TRILLION naira in CASH in various bank accounts in his own name, properties worth billions in many parts of Nigeria, and up to N7 billion worth of shares in AA Rano Oil.

Apart from his own primitive acquisitiveness, he is also probably fronting for someone. I suspect that he is fronting for Mamman Daura since Mamman Daura allegedly overruled Buhari's instruction for Sabiu to return the money he has in his bank accounts to the national treasury.

Remember that Sabiu's mother, the late Hajia Halima (more popularly known as "Hajja Madam" in Daura) is Mamman Daura's full blood sister. Hajia Halima and Mamman Daura are Buhari’s niece and nephew respectively.

When the curtain closes on the Buhari regime, I can guarantee you that it will go in the records as the most corrupt regime in Nigeria's entire history. This is no hyperbole.

There is no greater enabler of corruption than the knowledge that there is no consequence for it. There is zero fear of consequence for stealing in Buhari's regime.  That is why everyone who can, is stealing to his or her heart's content. What passes for governance in this regime is a raucous stealing bazaar!

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Crazy Things a Mallam’s Son Got Away With: Reflections on My Dad’s Parenting

By Farooq A. Kperogi

My father, who died on December 31, 2016 aged 92, was an Arabic and Islamic Studies teacher who had a reputation as a kind-hearted but tough, no-nonsense disciplinarian. But he allowed me to get away with some indulgences that puzzled and angered his Islamic scholar colleagues— and that only made sense to me much later in life.

When I was a preteen, I fell in love with Michael Jackson and his disco dance moves. My friends and classmates who didn’t have strict fathers like I used to practice disco dancing in party halls at night. But I couldn’t join them because I went to Quranic school from 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.— or even later sometimes— every day except on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

One day I decided I would use my “free” evenings on Wednesdays and Thursdays to learn disco dancing. I wasn’t sure how my dad would react to it, so I didn’t ask him for permission. I just sneaked into disco halls and danced away. One day, someone caught me and said he was going to tell on me. 

But, although the man told on me, my dad never asked me why I went to disco halls on Wednesdays and Thursdays. Nor did he discourage me. I was pleasantly shocked.

Then, I started mimicking Michael Jackson’s sartorial choices: military-style jackets, slim-fitting, cropped trousers that showed white socks, etc. I also saved money to buy MC Hammer’s baggy trousers and so-called parachute pants made by American clothing company Bugle Boy. 

My dad’s friends thought an Islamic scholar’s son shouldn’t be dressing like I did, so they encouraged him to stop me from dressing “like unbelievers.” He ignored them.

I also used to have crazy hairstyles. I had dexterity with scissors, which I used to give myself wild hairstyles. My Islamic studies teacher in high school, who was my father’s friend, had had enough of my exuberance, so he came to our house one evening to complain to my dad.

My dad’s response to my teacher who had more certificates than my dad both enlightened and humbled me. He told the man that I was a teenager and that adolescence is “temporary madness” that must find outlets for expression.

 He said if the expression of the “temporary madness” was benign, parents would do well to ignore it. Suppressing it, he said, risked delaying it to a stage in life when its expression would be truly embarrassing. Dad said he’d rather see me wear bunglesome baggy trousers and wild hairstyles now than later.

What was important to him, he added, was that I was doing well at school, had no behavioral problems, never failed to attend Quranic school 5 days a week ( I completed my recitation of the whole Qur’an at 13), was obedient, never drank alcohol, didn’t have a girlfriend, etc. 

He assured his friend that the youthful ebullience that fueled my benign wildness would peter out as I got older.

By the time I went to the university, I no longer had any interest in hairstyles, trendy dressing, partying, and dancing. One day, I came home for holidays from Kano without my hairstyles, and my dad playfully asked what had happened to my hair. We both laughed.

It was in the university that I read about teenage years as the period of “storm and stress”— and about how hormonal changes activate the exuberance of that stage of our lives. My dad didn’t have much formal western education, but he knew this.

Yesterday, my 10-year-old son, whom I named after my dad, told me he wanted me to give him a Mohawk haircut. (I’m still a barber and give my son—and myself—haircuts). I said the Mohawk hairstyle was wild and ugly, but I immediately retracted what I said and promised I’d give him the style he wanted. I remembered that my dad allowed me to get away with any hairstyle I wanted. 

My son hasn’t started experiencing his “temporary madness,” but I’ll always remember my dad’s toleration of my adolescent excesses when the expression of my son’s teenage exuberance finds a benign, harmless but perhaps awkward outlet in wild hairstyles and strange sartorial choices. 

Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers and father figures out there!

Professor Haruna Wikili's Death

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The death today of Bayero University Kano's Deputy Vice Chancellor (Administration) and professor of history Haruna Wakili is one death too many, especially coming after the deaths of many other BUK professors these past few months.

Although Professor Wakili didn't teach me when I was an undergraduate at BUK, I was familiar with his work through my friend Professor Moses Ochonu whom Wakili taught-- and through Professor Ibrahim Bello-Kano, his close friend at BUK in the 1990s.

When I met him in his hometown of Hadejia in 2010 during my visit to Nigeria after my wife died in a car crash, he was Jigawa State's Commissioner of Education. He was exceedingly gracious and kind to me. I was flattered that he recognized me from BUK and was even more flattered when he told me he read my newspaper columns.

I met him in Hadejia through my friend Adagbo Onoja who was Governor Sule Lamido's Media Adviser at the time. Thereafter, Professor Wakili and I became Facebook friends.

Just two weeks ago, for some reason, I thought of him and wondered why he was no longer active here on Facebook. I checked his page and found no recent activity. Then I woke to the news of his death on June 20 at the age of 60.

The Kano Focus online news site reported that he died at the National Hospital in Abuja after a battle with cancer. 

This is truly distressing. May Allah admit him in aljannah firdaus and comfort the loved ones he left behind.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Backstory Behind Aisha Buhari’s Gunfight with Sabiu Yusuf

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

By now, most people have read the story of the scuffle that occurred between Mrs. Aisha Buhari, her children, and her security aides on one hand and Sabi’u “Tunde” Yusuf, son of Buhari’s niece who also works as his private secretary, on the other hand, which caused Aisha’s ADC to shoot at Sabiu inside the Presidential Villa, narrowly missing him.

Recall that I was the first to publicly publish the names of Muhammadu Buhari’s close relatives working for him in the Presidential Villa, including Sabiu Yusuf. At the time I published the names, the regime activated its online troll factory to call my revelation “fake news.”

Daily Trust even refused to publish a column by Sonala Olumhense that repurposed my revelations of Buhari’s close relatives working in the Villa. Now most of the names are in the open, and official communications from the presidency mentions them.

Well, Aisha’s attempt on the life of Sabi’u “Tunde” Yusuf, a 30-something-year-old former recharge card seller in Daura who is now the third most powerful Nigerian after Buhari and Mamman Daura was a consequence of her frustration at not being able to take over power after Abba Kyari’s death.

Abba Kyari was the face of the cabal made up of Mamman Daura, Samaila Isa Funtua, Babagana Kingibe, and former DSS boss Lawal Musa Daura. Kyari was almost literally Buhari’s babysitter, which, as you would expect, made him Aisha’s sworn enemy, although Aisha got a heck of a lot of placatory concessions and favors from him.

When Abba Kyari contracted the coronavirus, Aisha and her children were ecstatic. The prospect of the cessation of Kyari’s grip on Buhari gladdened them to no end. They were so thrilled at the thought of his death that they couldn’t contain it.

For instance, on March 24, shortly after news of Abba Kyari’s coronavirus infection became public knowledge, Zahra Buhari Indimi rejoiced on Instagram. “Earth is cleansing itself and it’s [sic] inhabitants,” she wrote. A few minutes later, she added: “Karma is the most patient gangster ever.”

Several social media users— and even some traditional news organizations— noticed. PM News’ headline was, “Zahra Buhari reacts to coronavirus after Abba Kyari tested positive.” Others called it what it was: perverse mockery of Kyari for testing positive for the coronavirus.

Even before Abba Kyari died on April 17, Aisha Buhari exploited the vacuum created by his absence to exert some influence and “cleanse” (to use her daughter’s words) the Presidential Villa of the bureaucratic vestiges of Abba Kyari. She caused Jalal Arabi, Permanent Secretary of the State House and Kyari's slavish underling, to be redeployed from the Villa.

In my April 18 social media intervention titled  “Abba Kyari's Death, End of a Surrogate Presidency, and the Coming Chaos”  in the immediate aftermath of Kyari’s death, I told people to “Watch out for Aisha Buhari to assert herself more aggressively and to work to grab power in the fashion that Turai Yar'adua did.”

She hasn’t disappointed. After Kyari’s death, she immediately got to work to get Buba Marwa appointed Chief of Staff to Buhari. Had that happened, she would have effectively taken over as president. Mamman Daura on whom Buhari has been emotionally and intellectually dependent for decades would never countenance that.

Babagana Kingibe, a member of the cabal who wanted to replace Abba Kyari as Buhari’s Chief of Staff, is a notoriously treacherous wretch with whom Mamman Daura was uncomfortable. Ibrahim Agboola Gambari emerged almost fortuitously as a compromise.

But Aisha Buhari was more enthusiastic about Gambari than Mamman Daura was. Gambari’s candidacy was almost entirely pushed by Maiduguri multibillionaire Muhammadu Indimi whose son is married to Aisha’s daughter, Zahra, who celebrated Abba Kyari’s coronavirus infection.

Of course, Gambari is known to Buhari. Apart from serving as his minister of external affairs when he was a military dictator in the 1980s, possibly on the recommendation of Tunde Idiagbon with whom Gambari shared Ilorin identity, Gambari was drafted to speak to presidents and international bodies to lend legitimacy and credibility to Buhari in the aftermath of his in-your-face electoral heist in 2019.

Nonetheless, had Indimi not pleaded with Buhari to consider Gambari for the Chief of Staff position, he wouldn’t have stood a chance. It turned out, however, that Buhari and, most importantly, Mamman Daura had not yet been totally sold on the Gambari candidacy when news of his appointment littered social media.

A close friend to Aisha Buhari’s media consultant told me that it was Aisha Buhari who commissioned his consultant to reach out to social media influencers to spread the story of Gambari’s appointment. At the time I learned of this, it didn’t make sense to me because I knew she wanted Buba Marwa to succeed Abba Kyari.

Then, in an unusual move, the emir of Ilorin issued a public statement thanking Buhari for appointing Ibrahim Gambari, his uncle, as Chief of Staff to the President even though Gambari had not formally been announced by the presidency as Buhari’s Chief of Staff.

When I read the emir’s statement, I called an older friend of mine who is close to power brokers in the north and asked if he knew what was happening. He said some opinion leaders there had called Gambari after they read the emir’s statement and asked him if he had been formally appointed.

My friend reported Gambari to have told them that he had not been formally informed that he had been appointed Chief of Staff. I was confused. Exactly three hours later, my friend called back to say Gambari had just spoken with one of the leaders and said he had just then received word from the Villa that he had been appointed Chief of Staff to Buhari.

Apparently, realizing that her candidate wouldn’t make the cut—and in order to forestall the possibility of Mamman Daura imposing a candidate on her husband— Aisha decided to compel Buhari into appointing her daughter's father-in-law’s candidate through artful social media manipulation.

I don’t know if she coordinated with the emir of Ilorin, but at the time the emir thanked Buhari for appointing his uncle, Buhari and Mamman Daura had not made up their minds on whom they wanted to be Buhari’s Chief of Staff.

So Buhari and Daura were dealing with three simultaneous pressures: social media chatter that Gambari had been appointed Chief of Staff when he hadn’t, the emir of Ilorin’s letter of gratitude for an appointment that had not been made, and Muhammadu Indimi’s push on behalf of Gambari. It was too much to resist, so they caved in at the last minute.

Why is this background important to the Aso Rock gunfight? Well, it’s because Daura, having been beaten by Aisha in the choice of Gambari, decided to make Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf, the son of his sister, the real Chief of Staff and a bulwark against Aisha’s encroachment into Buhari’s politics and policies.

As I noted in my May 30, 2020 column titled, “Gambari: Embrace and Alienation of an Outsider on the Inside,” “unlike Abba Kyari who had a direct access to Buhari and whom Buhari said all ministers should meet if they wanted anything from him, Gambari has an intermediary between him and Buhari. And it isn’t just any intermediary; the intermediary is Buhari’s blood relative whom my November 23, 2019 column titled ‘Government of Buhari’s Family, By His Family, and For His Family’ exposed.”

In other words, Gambari has turned out to be not the Abba Kyari replacement Aisha had hoped he would be. Instead, Sabi’u “Tunde” Yusuf, her nemesis’ nephew, is the new Abba Kyari. Since the “Earth” hasn’t “cleansed” itself of the man like it did with Abba Kyari, she and her children wanted to do it themselves.

 Sabi’u’s refusal to self-quarantine after potentially exposing himself to the coronavirus is, of course, a legitimate reason for Aisha Buhari to be antsy, but naked power grab is the real motive force for the animus against him.

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Buhari Regime Respects Only Murderous Thugs

By Farooq A. Kperogi

The arrest and detention of Nastura Sharif who led a PEACEFUL protest in Katsina to call attention to the serial, unpunished mass murders of his people by nihilistic "bandits" is yet another proof that the Buhari regime only takes people seriously when they are murderous.

The regime punishes people who dare to cry in response to the torment its incompetence unleashes on them but rewards and celebrates homicidal outlaws. 

Since 2015, the regime has “rehabilitated” and “reintegrated” hundreds of “repentant” Boko Haram terrorists who have slaughtered thousands of men, women and children.

So-called bandits who indiscriminately murder innocents in towns and villages in the North are invited for “negotiations” and offered “amnesty” deals involving large sums of money.

But dare to “insult” Buhari and the incompetent, illiterate governors in the region or, worse, engage in a peaceful protest that calls attention to the incompetence of the government and you will be arrested and jailed.

On May 5, a 70-something-year-old Katsina man by the name of Lawal Izala whose emotions were inflamed after so-called bandits murdered his relatives and stole his cows was arrested and detained for “insulting” Buhari and Katsina State governor Bello Masari in a moment of anguish and frustration.

Recall that months earlier, Masari, who admitted this week that he has “failed” in his duty to protect his people, held “negotiations” with and gave millions of naira to the very people who murdered Izala’s relatives and stole his cattle.

And now leaders of a peaceful protest against the same “bandits” that the governor “negotiated” with at the cost of millions of naira are being arrested and detained. Are the “bandits” and the government in bed?

Government’s message is clear: if you want us to take you seriously, be a mass murderer. 
If the victims of the unceasing ravages of “bandits” take the laws into their own hands and start retaliatory mass murders instead of “insults” and protests, watch to see the government invite them for “negotiations.” 

They might even be “rehabilitated” and “reintegrated” into the military and other security forces—as is being done to Boko Haram terrorists now.  

There can be no peace if government punishes peaceful agitators but incentivizes the bloodletting of mass slaughterers.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Arewa Anti-Buhari Protests and the Squeaky Wheel Theory

By Farooq Kperogi

For the first time since Buhari has pretended to be in power, scores of people in Buhari’s home state of Katsina have been protesting his blithe unconcern as hundreds of men, women, and children are senselessly murdered every week in the North.

People who had said Buhari was an irreproachable demi-god who could do no wrong suddenly see wisdom in protesting. People who once protested in SUPPORT of Buhari’s petrol price hike that smolders them and AGAINST people who opposed it are suddenly waking up to the realization Buhari has nothing but stone-cold disdain for them.

People who'd cursed and insulted us for calling out Buhari’s ineptitude and fraud have now become emergency social critics because the regime’s unrelieved incompetence now threatens their very existence.

I have no respect for people whose moral conscience is so feeble that they protest injustice and governmental ineptitude only when they’re personally affected, but their protests appear to be getting the attention of the government.

Premium Times reported today that Buhari has approved a “joint military and police operation specifically targeted at combing Niger, Kaduna, Katsina, Zamfara and Sokoto States to rid the areas of bandits.”

Americans say, “The squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In other words, if you don’t call attention to your problem, no one will know it exists much less help you solve it.

As African-American philosopher Fredrick Douglas famously said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

To not demand action and accountability from a government, any government, is to give that government a blank check to be irresponsible. I wish I could say this is the beginning of the awakening of the northern masses. Sadly, I can’t. Docility appears to be specially wired in our DNAs.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Why Nigeria’s Northcentral States Can’t be Renamed “Middle Belt”

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

A member of the House of Representatives from Benue State by the name of Kpam Sokpo was reported to have sponsored a bill this week titled "Geo-political Zones of the Federation Bill 2020,” which proposes that the North-Central states of Benue, Kogi, Kwara, Nasarawa, Niger, Plateau, and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, should be renamed the “Middle Belt Zone.”

This isn’t the first time this proposal has been made, but it’s probably the first time it has been formally presented as a bill. As someone who did extensive reporting on the contemporary manifestations and history of the Middle Belt identity in the early 2000s when I was a reporter, I think Sokpo’s bill has no chance of passing. Here’s why.

First, the term “Middle Belt” belongs in the category of what I once called cartographic genteelisms in a June 25, 2017 column titled “Geographic Genteelisms: How We Use Geography to Hide Our Prejudice.” I defined cartographic or geographic genteelisms as euphemistic labels we have invented to cover our prejudices or to help us make willfully opaque references to ethnic, racial, or religious identities.

Middle Belt isn’t a merely geographic concept. It’s actually more religio-cultural than it is geographic. That is why several prominent advocates for the Middle Belt are from states other than what is now known as the North-Central zone. For instance, the late Dr. Bala Takaya, with whom I related robustly in Jos in the early 2000s, was from Adamawa State but was one of the intellectual powerhouses of Middle Belt politics and identity. Dan Suleiman, a onetime chairman of the Middle Belt Forum, is also from Adamawa State.

So, in spite of appearances to the contrary, Middle Belters aren’t merely Nigerians who are caught in the mid-region of the country. Shorn of all pretenses, Middle Belt refers to Northern Nigerian Christians who are not ethnically Hausa. It excludes non-Hausa northern Muslims and Hausa Muslims in Nigeria’s central states.

It also excludes Hausa Christians, although they are more welcome to this identity marker than Hausa Muslims are. That’s why a non-Hausa Christian from southern Borno, or from southern Kebbi, which is as far north as you can get, is considered a “Middle Belter,” but Hausa Muslims like Abdulsalami Abubakar or Ibrahim Babangida from Niger State aren’t.

The Middle Belt, in other words, has historically referred to Christian ethnic minorities in all the six north-central states, the northeastern states of Bauchi, Gombe, Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, and Taraba, and the northwestern states of Kaduna and Kebbi.

Middle Belt intellectuals customarily talk of the “geographical Middle Belt” and the “cultural Middle Belt.” The cultural Middle Belt is indifferent to land borders. As I pointed out in my 2017 article, this is merely a tediously roundabout way to say a Middle Belter is a Christian (or at least a non-Muslim), non-Hausa person whom colonial cartography had labelled a “northerner.”

Andrew Barnes, a professor of history at Arizona State University, made this point eloquently in his 2007 academic article titled “The Middle Belt Movement and the Formation of Christian Consciousness in Colonial Northern Nigeria” published in the Church History journal.

He pointed out that when what is now known as the Middle Belt Movement was formed in 1949, it was initially called the “Non-Muslim League,” which he said was a “reflection of the shared perception on the part of the participants that what they had in common was a desire to be free of the Muslim political control that was to be implemented throughout the northern region as a prelude to decolonization.”

I know it’s easy for northern Muslims in the northcentral states to feel alienated by this history—and for Muslims in the northwest and the northeast to smell an anti-Muslim conspiracy. But that’s both simplistic and insensitive.

Religion is northern Nigeria’s dominant contradiction. Identities are defined by it and excluded on the basis of it. It is inevitable that when people are shut out because of their religious identity, they will unite and organize on the basis of the reason for their exclusion.

I recall a conversation I had with a Fulani Christian from Kano by the name of Bulus Karaye in the early 1990s about the systematic exclusion of northern Christians in politics and quotidian life in even their home states. He told me although I was a non-Hausa person from Kwara State, I stood a better chance to be governor of Kano than he who was native to the state.

He was right. In 1992, a Muslim, culturally Hausa man with an Igbo father and a Hausa mother almost became the governor of Kano State. From 2007 to 2011, Ibrahim Shekarau, who is ethnically Babur from southern Borno, became governor of Kano State. Interestingly, Christians from Southern Borno historically regard themselves as belonging to the “Middle Belt.”

In other words, the assertion of a Middle Belt identity is legitimate and justified because it is a response to the overt exclusion of Christian ethnic minorities in the North because of their religious identity. The late Bala Takaya introduced me to what Middle Belt intellectuals call the concentric circle of power and influence in Northern Nigeria.

There are different variations of the concentric circle, but the one I remember has Hausa and Fulani Muslims at the core of the circle and non-Hausa Christian northerners at the outer edges of the circle. All other northern identity categories fit somewhere in-between.

Like white people who deny the existence of white privilege, many in the far north had dismissed the accuracy of the concentric circle of power and privilege in the region. However, since at least the year 2000, in response to President Obasanjo’s apparent preferential treatment of non-Hausa, non-Muslim Northerners in political appointments between 1999 and 2007, many people in the subregion have now embraced the label “core north.”

Since the existence of a core necessarily implies the existence of a periphery, the implication is that parts of the North that aren’t “core” are peripheral and insignificant, which basically affirms the accuracy of the concentric circle of power and influence that Middle Belt intellectuals had called attention to many years ago but which Hausa Muslims had dismissed as mistaken.

However, the agitation for a Middle Belt geo-political identity is another attempt to create a new “core” (I’ve also heard the expression “core Middle Belt”!) with its own new periphery. In other words, just like “core north” is a geographic genteelism for “Hausa Muslim North,” “Middle Belt” is a geographic genteelism for a Christian ethnic minority region out of what colonial cartographers designated as the “North” since the early 1900s.

Kwara, Niger, and most of Kogi states don’t fit this identity. Kwara, for instance, is predominantly Muslim. What is more, central and southern Kwara are linguistically Yoruba, which gives them more cultural affinity with the Southwest than with the North or the “Middle Belt.” Kwara North is peopled by Baatonu, Nupe, and Bokobaru people who share more cultural and religious affinities with people from, say, Sokoto than they do with people from Plateau. They would be lost in a Middle Belt zone.

Everyone knows most of Niger State used to be part of the Sokoto Province. It is culturally indistinguishable from states in the far north. Kogi is a confluence of so many cultural, ethnic, and religious influences and doesn’t fit quite easily in a Middle Belt Zone.

 The Ebira in the state are predominantly Muslim. The Okun people are linguistically and culturally closer to Ekiti State than they are to any state in the North or the “Middle Belt,” although the late Bello Ijumu from there was prominent in the Middle Belt movement. The Igala are so spread out that they can be found even in the Southeast and in Edo and Delta States. And so on.

Most importantly, though, Muslims in Kwara, Niger, Kogi, and even Nassarawa states are unlikely to accept being part of a region whose name owes etymological debts to a 1940s movement called the Non-Muslim League.

Saturday, June 6, 2020

Adesina and Trump’s America: A Case of Corruption Fighting Corruption?

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

I’m instinctively suspicious of overly self-promotional people who actively seek the limelight. That is why, although African Development Bank head Akinwumi Adesina has been reputed to be a smart, go-getting, and transaction-oriented leader, I’ve been reluctant to jump on the bandwagon of his praisefest in Nigeria.

 I’m also aware, of course, that my instinctual aversion to exhibitionistic people— and my suspicion that their preening is often informed by a desire to hide something untoward— isn’t always justified by evidence. There are showy, attention-seeking people who are genuine. Akinwumi may perpetually bask in the smug glow of self-congratulation and still be a decent, ethical leader.

I have tried to understand why the United States government wants him out as the head of the African Development Bank, but most of the bits of information I’ve encountered seem to be befogged by exaggerated patriotic fervor and knee-jerk racial solidarity. And the US government’s complaints against him are neither persuasive nor watertight.

Well, the Bureau of the Board of Governors of the African Development Bank agreed, after its June 4 meeting, that it would accede to the demand of the United States government to authorize an independent review of an earlier internal ethics committee report that’d absolved Akinwumi of allegations of corruption and conflict of interest against him.

I think it’s fair to await the outcome of the independent review. But while we do that, I can’t help but wonder why, of all governments, it is Donald Trump’s government that is obsessed with ethical conduct and transparency in an African bank—or, for that matter, anywhere.

Trump’s government is far and away the shadiest, most corrupt, and least transparent government in modern American history. It’s impossible to capture all of the government’s unprecedentedly fragrant ethical—and even legal— infractions in a column, so I’ll just share a few.

In February this year, a US government watchdog by the name of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (or CREW) found “an astonishing rate of corruption” in the Trump administration. It discovered that Trump had recorded 3,000 conflicts of interest since he took office in January 2017, which adds up to “the equivalent of two conflicts of interest per day.”

"Every one of the more than 3,000 conflicts of interest that President Trump has incurred through his businesses raises new questions about whether he is making decisions in the interest of the American people or his own bottom line," CREW’s Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. "Not only does he appear to be profiting from the presidency daily, but he is constantly facing new temptations to use his office for his own benefit."

In America, people traditionally get poorer when they become president; but they later leverage the symbolic and political power they earned from their presidency to get rich after their tenures. But not Trump. Unlike presidents before him, he has refused to divest from his businesses and uses his privileged position as president to make money for his businesses.

Here are a few instances CREW called attention to.  Up to 55 members of the US Senate and House of Representatives members visited Trump in his resorts about 78 times. They paid pricey hotel bills during the visits, which added up to a lot of money for him.

Trump’s cabinet members, equivalent to what Nigerians call ministers, attended events with lobbyists, obviously with his implicit or explicit prompting, “at least 30 times” in his hotels since he has been president. Foreign governments—or entities associated with them—have also patronized Trump properties by holding events in them in order to curry favor with him at least 13 times from 2017 to February 2020.

And no fewer than 134 officials of foreign governments have used Trump properties for events since 2017. The list is long, but this violates the Emoluments Clause in the US Constitution, according to CREW.

Another government watchdog called Public Citizen found out, through a Freedom of Information Act request, that since 2017, Trump has charged secret service agents who protect him up to $628,000 for staying in his property while protecting him.

Similarly, in a September 2019 letter to Vice President Mike Pence’s office, the House Oversight Committee revealed that Trump compelled his Vice President to stay in his Doonbeg hotel in Ireland, which had “failed to turn a profit in years,” at the cost of $3.6 million to American taxpayers!

It was also revealed that crew members in the Air Force “stayed overnight in a Trump hotel in Scotland in March 2019 during a routine mission,” which violates the US constitution.

But it isn’t only Trump that is sullied by corruption and conflicts of interest; many of his cabinet members engage in “Third World-level” corruption, conflicts of interest, and evasion of basic transparency. For instance, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo caused a State Department inspector general by the name of Steve Linick to be fired by Trump for investigating him over “allegations of misuse of government resources.”

In the United States, the position of inspector general is “an independent, non-partisan organization established within each executive branch agency assigned to audit the agency’s operation in order to discover and investigate cases of misconduct, waste, fraud and other abuse of government procedures occurring within the agency,” according to Robert Longley, a US government and history expert.

Since Trump came to power, he has been waging self-interested wars against America’s inspectors general. As the Politico newspaper of June 3, 2020 pointed out, “Linick’s ouster came amid a series of moves by Trump to oust inspectors general he viewed as insufficiently loyal and had attacked for investigations that cast him or his administration in a bad light. Trump also ousted the intelligence community inspector general, Michael Atkinson, whom he blamed for igniting the House’s impeachment inquiry by revealing the existence of a whistleblower complaint against him.”

I have lived in America for more than 15 years, but this is the first time an American government has felt like a banana republic. In many ways, frankly, Trump and his government evoke mild, less crude, but nonetheless potent echoes of Abacha—corruption in broad day light, intolerance of dissent, resistance to transparency and, of course, bigotry as an official policy.

The rise of Trump to the American presidency and his sustained and systematic decimation of the values that had made America a beacon to the world is perhaps the best argument against the oft-repeated notion that “strong institutions” are the safeguards against the violence of “strongmen.”

In his July 2009 speech to the Ghanaian Parliament, former US president Barack Obama famously told us that “Africa doesn’t need strongmen; it needs strong institutions.” Well, an American strongman has emerged who is destroying in just three years the strong institutions the country built over centuries.

I am not in a position to determine whether Akinwumi is guilty or innocent of the allegations against him, but it is curious that he is being tormented by the most corrupt government in America’s modern history, by a government that is defined by a mystifying web of conflicts of interest, and that chafes at— and even punishes— the littlest attempt to invite transparency from it from its own institutions.

Friday, June 5, 2020

Trump, Chauvin, and English Morphology of Vileness

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.

The two major people who are the triggers for the upheavals of the last few days in America—Derek Chauvin and Donald Trump— have last names that translate to vileness if you add a suffix to them.

1. The Minnesota police officer who killed George Floyd is called Derek Chauvin. If you add “ism” to Chauvin, you get “chauvinism.” Etymologists say when the word came to English via French in 1840 where it occurs as “chauvinisme,” it exclusively meant "exaggerated, blind nationalism; patriotism degenerated into a vice.”

But from the late 19th century, its meaning mutated to "excessive belief in the superiority of one's race." In other words, one of the word’s meanings is “racism.” From the accounts we have read of Derek Chauvin, he appears to be a racist. How fitting that his last name is Chauvin!

Chauvinism is an eponym (as words formed from the name of a person are called) derived from Nicholas Chauvin, a French soldier who so venerated Napoleon Bonaparte that he continued to be sentimentally wedded to him and to the Republic he led years after Napoleon fell from power and the Republic he led collapsed.

2. If you add the suffix “ery” to Donald Trump’s last name you get “trumpery,” which means “statements or beliefs that are untrue or make no sense.” The word has been attested in English since at least the mid-15th century where it meant "deceit, trickery."

It came to English from the 14th century French word tromperie where it meant “to deceive.” In the 16th century, its meaning expanded to capture the notion of "showy but worthless finery."

The word is obviously not an eponym and is certainly unrelated to Donald Trump, but it nonetheless captures his life so brilliantly. Trump is by far the most mendacious president in America’s entire history.

According to the Washington Post, which keeps a record of Trump's intentional lies, as of May 29, 2020, “President Trump has made 19,127 false or misleading claims” in 1,226 days! I’d rephrase that to, Trump has made 19,127 trumperies in 1,226 days as of May 29, 2020!

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