"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Problem of ASUU and the Way Forward

 There’s probably no more pressing issue that imperils the collective destinies of Nigeria’s aspirational middle-class youth than the naggingly disruptive violence of never-ending ASUU strikes. This week, I’ve decided to invite Professor Moses Ochonu, my friend of nearly three decades who has invested tremendous emotional energy on this issue, to write a guest column on the just suspended ASUU strike. I hope his dispassionate diagnosis of the issues and his thoughtful counsel to ASUU will ignite a soul-searching conversation about pedagogical accountability in our universities and about productive alternatives to strikes. Enjoy:

By Moses E. Ochonu

ASUU has called off its strike. The strike will predictably be spun as a success, but it was largely a failure. It cost the union an enormous amount of societal symbolic and perceptual capital while yielding few returns.

ASUU won a few modest concessions, but most of them were in the form of government promises. We know how these promises usually turn out. The government reneges on them, leading to another strike, and another poorly implemented “agreement.” And on and on it goes in a rinse and repeat cycle that torments and shortchanges students and their parents. 

What’s more, the latest “resolution” does not break any new ground and is largely premised on the old MOU and the entitlements enshrined therein. The strike essentially reaffirmed the status quo.

What this means is that ASUU has not achieved much from the strike and merely cut its losses when it realized that it had no leverage and was losing the PR battle in the public domain. 

Speaking of losing support, ASUU loses a large slice of public opinion with each strike.

It shouldn’t be so because, all things considered, ASUU has been a net benefit to the Nigerian university sector. 

The problem is that it is a union moored to an outdated method of struggle, rigidly unwilling to acknowledge the limitations and diminished public appeal of its actions and rhetoric. For good or bad, most Nigerians now blame strikes as much as they blame government inaction for the problems in Nigerian universities. They no longer see strikes as a solution but as part of the problem. 

More tellingly, most Nigerians consider lecturers to be self-absorbed, tone-deaf, insensitive, and navel-gazing operatives who are incapable of seeing how they have become part of the problem and how they’ve become the primary culprits for the absence of moral and instructional accountability and the decline of academic quality control in the system.

Unless lecturers look inward, become self-critical, and begin to live up to their familiar claim that they are saviors of a comatose university system, they will continue to lose public support and will eventually become irreverent objects of scorn with no moral sway and only the power to blackmail and take hostages, the hostages being students.

Where is ASUU when Nigerians discuss the problems of poor and non-existent teaching; rampant sexual harassment; poor supervision and mentorship; corruption and ethical violations; plagiarism; a flawed academic staff recruitment process; lax and politicized academic staff promotion requirements; the absence of merit pay for productive and exemplary lecturers; tyranny towards students; and pedagogical poverty?

Not only is ASUU often missing from and uninterested in such discussions, it usually supports and provides refuge for its members accused of failing in these areas. The union is happy to be an incubator for and rewarder of mediocrity and nonchalance among its members.

And yet, to neutrals and independent stakeholders, the aforementioned issues, for which lecturers are culpable, and which are directly within their purview, are as responsible for the decline of university education in Nigeria as the funding and infrastructure issues often privileged in ASUU propaganda.

If you ask the question of why standards are falling, research quality and quantity declining, and graduates getting worse despite ASUU “winning” significant salary and funding increases over the last three decades, ASUU deflects by blaming the poor quality of admitted students; that is when its goons are not attacking you for daring to pose such a “sacrilegious” question. ASUU never takes responsibility or accepts blame.

It is no longer enough for ASUU people to deflect these issues by saying that these are policy and governance issues under the remit of regulators and universities management and that ASUU is a trade union that is only concerned with the pecuniary interests and institutional comforts of its members. 

If that claim is true then why does ASUU preface and bookend its statements and rhetorical expressions with the claim that it is fighting to save the university system for the benefits of everyone—students, parents, and society? 

Why not stick to the rhetorical script of members-only priorities? Why pivot self-interestedly and strategically to the mantra of bringing salvation to university education for the benefit of all?

ASUU cannot have it both ways. If they’re only a trade union then they should stop assaulting us with claims of caring about and trying to save our universities from ruin. 

ASUU people cannot insist on being judged as a trade union with a members-focused mandate when matters of ethics, abuses, and dereliction of duties are mentioned but then turn around, when they desire support for their strike, to claim that they are fighting for all stakeholders and trying to save the university. 

Clearly, ASUU is plagued by a crisis of identity and rhetorical confusion that it needs to resolve.

If ASUU people are truly concerned about the salvation of our universities, they have to start addressing the failings of their members and commit to helping to hold failing and erring members accountable. 

Only then will they win back the support of Nigerians who have become disillusioned with ASUU’s rhetorical claims and its increasingly counterproductive and fruitless industrial actions.

Let me sketch out what ASUU needs to do to win back public support and reacquire lost social capital.

ASUU needs to articulate a clear, unequivocal opposition to the problems of sexual harassment in Nigerian universities. For starters, it should drop its opposition to the sexual harassment bill being considered in the National Assembly and work with the bill’s sponsors to refine it. ASUU should articulate an equally clear opposition to plagiarism among its members. 

In both the plagiarism and sexual harassment domains, ASUU should abandon its odious practice of defending and protecting the accused and in some cases even threatening to go on strike on their behalf when they are punished.

The union should take the lead in stemming the problem of poor class attendance, nonchalant teaching, and poor research supervision, which are common practices among its members. 

The union should stop standing in the way of disciplining lecturers who fall short in these areas. 

ASUU should protest the irregular and corrupt recruitment of academic staff with as much fervor as it protests the nonpayment of earned allowances, and the union should insist on the implementation of rigorous academic promotion criteria, which would help rid their ranks of ineffectual and uncommitted lecturers. 

ASUU should support the implementation of merit pay, a system in which, in addition to base pay set uniformly by rank, lecturers who distinguish themselves through their teaching and research outcomes/output are given salary increases as a reward and as an incentive to catalyze excellence in teaching/supervision and research. 

ASUU should support and help develop the modalities for the implementation of student teaching evaluations in all universities.

Finally, ASUU should support and help champion the development of what I call a Students Bill of Rights (SBOR), which would outline the rights and protections students enjoy in their academic relationships with lecturers, and which would protect students against abuses, tyranny, unethical exactions, exploitation, and vindictiveness.

Doing all these would buttress ASUU’s claim that it is not only concerned with the welfare of its members but also with saving a collapsing higher education system.

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


Saturday, January 9, 2021

Kukah, Pantami, and Self-Interested Government Critics

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Bishop Matthew Kukah’s Christmas message, which called attention to the deepening depths of death and despair that Nigeria has been dangerously degenerating into in the last few years, attracted the commendations of critics of the Buhari regime and invited the condemnation of regime honchos and defenders.

The impassioned, partisan responses the bishop’s message provoked was predictable, which explained why I didn’t think it was worth commenting on it even though several of my readers asked for my opinion.

However, Professor Jibrin “Jibo” Ibrahim’s January 1, 2021 Daily Trust column titled “Bishop Matthew Kukah: Can a Partisan Tell Truth to Power?” inspired this intervention. Ibrahim, who is a Christian (or at least a non-Muslim) from Kano (and an apologist for the Buhari regime, I should add), argued that Kukah’s criticism of Buhari’s incompetence isn’t disinterested since he not only didn’t criticize PDP governments that were headed by Christians, he also condemned people who did exactly what he is doing to Buhari now.

To back up his claim, Ibrahim reproduced a 2014 exculpatory and excusatory Kukah quote about the Goodluck Jonathan regime’s incompetence in securing the county. The quote uncannily mirrors what Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu, or any Buhari regime propagandist would say today in defense of Buhari’s own incompetence.

 “Nigerians love to criticize their country perhaps far more than any nation I know of in the world,” Kukah was reported to have said during Professor Wole Soyinka’s 80th birthday lecture in 2014. “The President and the security agencies have become the objects of attacks and vilification and yet, there is very little that is being done to point at the way forward. I know that as day follows night, we shall pull out of this tragedy that we face as a nation. But the least we can do is to stand in the comforts of highways and homes that someone else constructed and thrown stones at ourselves and our people simply because we are living off someone else’s sweat.”

In other words, when Kukah’s co-religionists are in power, he chafes at social criticism of governments, but when people he doesn’t share the same religious faith with are in power he not only countenances criticisms of governments, he actually uses his pulpit to censure them in the severest forms possible. That’s not disinterested criticism; it’s self-interested criticism.

Bishop Kukah is my friend, and I had always assumed that he was an equal-opportunity critic of all bad governments, but now that I think about it, I frankly don't recall him being as severely censorious of Jonathan—or even Obasanjo— as he has been of Buhari even though Jonathan was the absolute worst president we had had until Buhari came to beat his record.

Was Bishop Kukah benign to Jonathan because he benefited from his government in either symbolic or material terms? I don’t know, but it’s entirely legitimate to be suspicious of the intent of his very accurate and unassailable assessment of the Buhari regime. If he wasn't nearly as critical of Jonathan when he also supervised Nigeria's descent into anarchy and precarity, which made Buhari’s emergence possible, his motivation can't be attributed entirely to telling truth to power.

Anyone who defended—or, worse, still defends—Jonathan has no moral right to criticize Buhari and expect to not invite ridicule or a questioning of their motives.

Nothing in Goodluck Jonathan's temperaments and comportment suggests that he is different from Buhari. Like Buhari, he fiddled and engaged in crackpot conspiracy ideations while the country burned. Boko Haram’s fury not only raged in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, and so on, bombs periodically went off in places like Kano, Kaduna, and even the federal capital territory.

Instead of confronting the widening insecurity that engulfed the country, Jonathan sulked—and sucked. He said the insecurity was a plot by the elites of the North to get him out of power, a silly conspiracy ideation that has been undermined by the escalation of the same insecurity—and its intensification in the North— on the watch of a northerner.

"Some of them [Boko Haram members] are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government, while some of them are even in the judiciary,” Jonathan said on January 8, 2012 at the interdenominational church service to mark Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Abuja. "Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won't even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house." 

That was an astonishingly astounding level of presidential cluelessness and irresponsibility that Kukah ignored, defended, or excused.  

 Recall that Jonathan also defended the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) when it carried out a terrorist attack in Abuja that it owned up to and even forewarned—similar to Buhari's defense of Fulani murderers and mollycoddling of Boko Haram terrorists.

As I pointed out in my October 16, 2010 column titled “A MENDacious President!” MEND had bombed the venue of a two-day “post- amnesty” dialogue organized by Vanguard Newspapers in Warri and even Jonathan’s own home in his hometown of Otuoke on May 16, 2007 after he was appointed Vice President. Why did he insist they didn’t bomb Abuja on October 1, 2010 when they—and even British intelligence agencies—warned that they would strike?

Does anyone who either ignored or defended Jonathan's disaster of an administration, which has been made only more tolerable in hindsight when compared with Buhari's, deserve to be shielded from having their motive questioned when they criticize Buhari?

In other words, if Buhari's successor turns out to be even worse than he is (the one thing no one can say with certainty about Nigeria's leadership is that it won't get worse than it is now), should people who ignored or defended Buhari be allowed to criticize his successor without having their motives questioned? I don't think so.

Bishop Kukah’s defense of Jonathan in 2014 isn’t different from current Buhari apologists’ defense of Buhari’s incompetence. He shouldn't be allowed to get away with selective outrage.

The truth is that every previous administration often benefits from a kind of cognitive bias that psychologists call rosy retrospection, which is the tendency to remember past times more positively as they recede into distant memories. Even Buhari will benefit from rosy retrospection years after his tenure. Should people who defend or ignore him now be given a pass if they come down hard on his successor?

But Kukah is not alone. My good friend Sheikh Dr. Ali Isa Pantami is now the object of Twitter attacks by young educated northerners who remind him that his cold detachment from the horrors that afflict northern Muslims today is such a disconcerting contrast from his erstwhile persistent, shrill, and lachrymose attacks on former President Goodluck Jonathan from his pulpit.

 In a widely circulated audio tape, he tearfully told Jonathan that, as president and commander-in-chief, he should take responsibility for the daily mass murders of Muslims in the North.

Today, more Northern Muslims are dying and being violently kidnapped than at any time in Nigeria’s entire history, but Sheikh Pantami hasn’t placed the blame for this on Buhari in whose government he served as DG of NITDA and serves as minister of Communication and Digital Economy.

Like Kukah, Pantami’s criticism of Jonathan wasn’t disinterested; it was self-interested. Although they have a right to their religiously tinged selective outrage against governments, those of us whose chronicling and censures of missteps in governance isn't animated by partisan or primordial impulses also have an obligation to call them out.  

Yes, Buhari is worse than Jonathan, but that doesn't erase the fact that Jonathan was also terrible president. No one who defended—or defends—Jonathan has moral superiority over current Buhari defenders.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Why Abba Kyari’s Death Was 2020's Most Momentous Moment

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The year 2020 was a year of incalculable disasters for the whole world, but it was even more disastrous for Nigeria because it was the year all pretenses to governance ceased with the death of Abba Kyari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff who functioned as the actual president of Nigeria.

In this week’s column, I will bring together some of my published thoughts and predictions on Abba Kyari before and after his death.

People who follow my column know I have insisted time and again that Abba Kyari was Nigeria’s de facto president. For instance, in my February 22, 2020 column titled “The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,” I wrote:

“Premium Times’ February 17 unmasking of National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno’s secret memo, which revealed that Abba Kyari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff, exercises presidential powers on Buhari’s behalf, is only the official confirmation of what I have written in many columns and social media updates in the past two years.

“The truth is that Buhari has no cognitive, emotional, physical, not to mention intellectual, capacity to be president. And, since nature abhors a vacuum, Abba Kyari has filled the void that Buhari’s emptiness has created.

“Sometime in the midpoint of last year, a northern retired general told me Abba Kyari said in private that people who vilify him don’t realize that without him Nigeria would be rudderless and descend into chaos.

“He is probably right. When a man who fancies himself as ‘president’ is so wracked by dementia and cognitive decline that he can’t hold a meeting for more than 10 minutes, has lost the ability to follow conversations in a meeting, and has zero short-term memory, someone needs to act on his behalf.

“That Buhari is almost wholly emotionally and intellectually dependent on Abba Kyari is no secret in Aso Villa, but it came out in the open when Buhari himself publicly told his newly appointed ministers that Abba Kyari is the only way to him. In any case, most of the ministers were appointed by Abba Kyari.

“Kyari also made—and continues to make— some of the most consequential appointments of the last five years. For instance, he singlehandedly appointed INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu, DG of DSS Yusuf Magaji Bichi, and CJN Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, among others too numerous to mention.

“That was why Kyari could summon INEC chairman Yakubu to the Presidential Villa on October 26, 2018 to instruct him on how to conduct the forthcoming elections. As I wrote in my January 5, 2019 column titled, ‘INEC’s Troubling Missteps Amid Aso Rock’s Desperation,’ what happened on October 26, 2018 had no precedent.

“‘The Chief of Staff to the President is not a constitutionally recognized position,’ I wrote. ‘He has no legal powers to summon the INEC boss for a meeting’” Of course, I knew that Yakubu was beholden to Kyari because he owes his position to him.

“Kyari rode to his current cushy surrogate presidency through Mamman Daura, Buhari’s nephew, who has been Buhari’s link to the northern political mafia and to transnational financial transactions since 1983.”…

“In his surrogate presidency, Kyari is redefining the limits of audacious impunity and primitive acquisitiveness. For instance, in an unprecedented move in July 2016, he appointed himself a member of the NNPC Board and got insentient Buhari to sign off on it!

“When Air Vice Marshall Mukhtar Muhammed, Buhari’s close friend who died on October 1, 2017, read about Kyari’s appointment to the NNPC Board, he was concerned because there was no precedent for it. So he called Buhari to let him know that the optics of the appointment were bad, but he was shocked when Buhari told him it wasn’t true that he had appointed his Chief of Staff as a member of the NNPC Board, even though he actually signed off on the appointment.

“It turned out that Buhari didn’t know what he signed off on. Someone close to the late AVM Mukhtar Mohammed told me this story a few months after it happened. That was the moment I began to suspect that Buhari was held hostage by dementia. No one knows this more than Abba Kyari, who is taking advantage of it to the maximum.”

And in my April 18, 2020 article titled “Abba Kyari's Death, End of a Surrogate Presidency, and the Coming Chaos,” I wrote the following, most of which is materializing:

“With Kyari's death, Nigeria is now truly leaderless. Buhari is practically in the land of the living dead. He's a breathing mannequin whose only reason for living is to prove he isn't dead in order to justify the continuity of the rule in his name.

“Abba Kyari ruled the country on Buhari's behalf. In my viral February 22, 2020 column titled, ‘The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,’ this line appeared: ‘Sometime in the midpoint of last year, a northern retired general told me Abba Kyari said in private that people who vilify him don’t realize that without him Nigeria would be rudderless and descend into chaos.’

“Now, he is gone, and the chaos he talked about would start in the coming days and weeks. Mamman Daura, Buhari's nephew who introduced Kyari to Buhari, isn't only old (he is now in his early 80's) he is also now isolated from Buhari thanks to Kyari….

“There is a yawning, potentially disorienting power vacuum in the presidential villa now, which actually emerged really visibly since Kyari went out of circulation before his eventual death.

“Watch out for Aisha Buhari to assert herself more aggressively and to work to grab power in the fashion that Turai Yar'adua did. In fact, she already started this the moment Kyari took ill.

“One of the first things Aisha did was to cause Jalal Arabi, Permanent Secretary of the State House and Kyari's dutiful protege, to be redeployed from the Villa.

“The remnants of the cabal will, of course, fight back. But the fight between Aisha and members of the cabal, who are merely Kyari's proteges, would be a fight in the dark because Buhari who is supposed to intervene is an insentient being who's barely aware he's alive.

“The in-fighting will create noticeable cracks in the Buhari group that Osinbajo, Tinubu, and other interest groups would exploit to feather their nests and advance their interests. In other words, in the coming days and months, expect the cessation of any pretense to governance and an unprecedentedly factious, dog-eat-dog, recriminatory fight between competing power blocs.”

In 2021 Journalists Should Not Help in the Cover-Up of Buhari’s Dementia

If Nigerian journalists do their job and properly attribute stories to Buhari’s spokesmen—and to ministers and heads of government agencies— instead of to “Buhari,” Buhari’s dementia-inspired physical and symbolic absence from governance would be dramatized, and perhaps Nigerians can appreciate the depth of his disaffiliation from the country.

Buhari NEVER says or does most of the things that are often attributed to him. He doesn’t even know about the deaths he is always quoted as condemning or being shocked about—or about the appointments he is often alleged to make or terminate. 

For instance, according to Jaafar Jaafar, publisher of the Daily Nigerian, Buhari was made aware of Sam Nda-Isaiah’s death only when he read Femi Adesina’s press statement in the newspapers where Buhari was reported to have commiserated with Nda-Isaiah’s family!

Headline casters should adopt the universal journalistic practice of news attribution by attributing stories to people who actually originate them.

Examples: “Spokesman says Buhari condemned killings in Zamfara,” “Minister says Buhari fired NDDC board,” “Spokesman says Buhari shocked by kidnap of schoolchildren,” “Buhari’s Twitter handle says Nigeria will rebound,” etc. 

Don’t attribute anything to Buhari unless you actually see him saying or doing it. Maybe a memo with his signature can be attributed to him. Note, however, that his signature is often manipulated or forced by dodgy aides.

That’s the only way to dramatize the absurdity of a “president” who never talks directly to citizens, who never grants interviews to journalists, who never addresses news conferences, who never gives live broadcasts even in momentous moments, who is perpetually babysat and mollycoddled like a toddler, and who physically and metaphorically picks his teeth while the country he supposedly presides over burns and falls apart.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

Bakare Didn’t Defend Tinubu; He Defanged Him

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Pastor Tunde Bakare’s trending video on Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for which he is receiving caustic flak from the Nigerian online commentariat, isn’t the deodorization of Tinubu’s smelly underbelly that many people say it is. It is, on the contrary, an effective denunciation of Tinubu and a deep, lasting, strategic delegitimization of his “omo Eko” bona fides. 

In the video, Bakare essentially mainstreamed reputationally deleterious information about Tinubu that had flourished on the fringes of Yoruba society, that people avoided to talk about openly in polite company, and that most people outside Yorubaland didn’t have the faintest familiarity with.

That information is that everything about Tinubu— from his very name to his claims of being from Lagos State, from his source of income to his parentage and many things in-between— is an elaborately fraudulent scheme. 

Let me narrate an anecdote to illustrate what I mean. In the over two years that my column has appeared on the back page of the Saturday Tribune, I have cultivated a vast, engaged readership in the Southwest who reach out to me to share ideas with— and confide in— me.

One of the persistent requests I’ve received from readers of my column in the Southwest has been the invitation to delve into Tinubu’s well-layered, labyrinthine network of duplicity about his origins and identity. 

A few people from his hometown of Iragbiji in Osun State offered to provide me with evidence that he is not from Lagos, that he is not from the Tinubu family in Lagos, that he was never named Bola Ahmed at birth, that he has avoided public association with his natal family in Iragbiji to sustain the fraud that he is from Lagos, and so on.

I told a particularly persistent interlocutor who wanted me to publicize what he thought was a scoop on Tinubu that I was already familiar with the information he had shared with me because I’d read most of it in Yinka Odumakin’s March 19, 2019 column titled “Dear Chief Tinubu.” Although the article went viral last year, the Iragbiji man said he hadn’t read it.

There were clearly several angles to explore about Tinubu’s vast and varied deception following Odumakin’s column, but I didn’t hop on it because, being a media law teacher, I knew it was a slippery legal slope. Although people of Iragbiji said Tinubu was born and raised in their town and has no connection with either Lagos or the Tinubu family, I can’t prove this in a court.

Similarly, although many people who knew Tinubu when he grew up in Iragbiji said he was known as Amoda Lamidi Sangodele, I can’t prove this in court. (Amoda is the Yoruba Muslim domestication of Ahmad and Lamidi is the Yoruba Muslim domestication of Abdulhamid.) And even though the current governor of Osun State, Gboyega Oyetola, is the son of Tinubu’s older sister—which calls into question Tinubu’s claims to being 69 years old since Oyetola is 67 years old—I have no DNA evidence to prove anything.

 Of course, Tinubu can’t sue anyone who brings up his forfeiture of hundreds of thousands of dollars to the US government in the early 1990s in the aftermath of circumstantial evidence that he amassed tremendous wealth from trafficking in drugs. The court document of the forfeiture is in the public domain in the U.S. and was published by Sahara Reporters on September 15, 2008.

Nor can he sue anyone for saying that all the schools he claimed to have attended in his INEC form in 1999—from primary school to university—are false because the late Gani Fawehinmi proved that in court and risked the social ostracism of the hegemonic political elites of the Southwest who now hypocritically valorize him posthumously. 

Tunde Bakare has helped to not only centralize these and other odious aspects of Tinubu’s personality; he has also (unwittingly) granted public commentators the latitude to discuss them without fear of legal consequences. In media law, opinion writers have legal cover to comment on otherwise libelous subject matters if the subject matters are in the news and are of public interest. It’s called the fair comment privilege.

In Bakare’s political homily, he basically affirmed all the hitherto fringy whispers about Tinubu: that he is from Iragbiji in Osun State; that his current name is not his original name; that he has disowned his biological parents and “adopted” the Tinubu family of Lagos with whom he has zero consanguineal affiliation; that the late legendary Alhaja Abibat Mogaji of Lagos is not Tinubu’s biological mother; that he has an odious “past”; that he is corruptly “making money from taxation” by “exploiting the system to his advantage”; and that he is “transparently corrupt.”

These are not the sorts of issues Tinubu wants Nigerians to be discussing about him as he stealthily campaigns to be Nigeria’s next president and works to fend off ferocious, multifarious challenges to his grip on Lagos and Southwest politics.

He would much rather that people think of him as a Lagosian who is a scion of the famous Tinubu family, who has always been known as Bola Ahmed, and whose biological mother was the late Alhaja Abibat Mogaji.

Even though Bakare appears to be wracked by a dissociative identity disorder (which probably explains why he evinces and embodies mutually contradictory positions), megalomania (recall his boast that he would succeed Buhari because he is “number 16” while Buhari is “number 15”), delusion (anyone who claims God communicates with him is delusional), and compulsive mendacity, he is also a skilled rhetorician who is artfully defanging Tinubu, his political opponent, using a clever rhetorical tactic. 

In rhetorical studies, there is a technique we call synchoresis, which is the intentional concession of an alternate point of view for the sake of refuting it. As rhetorical scholar Miles Coleman put it, synchoresis is the art of “conceding one point for the sake of another.”

Bakare intentionally disclosed and popularized unflattering facts about Tinubu’s life putatively to undermine them but, in reality, to mainstream them so they can be invoked to delegitimize him.

Notice that Bakare was stronger in channeling anonymous people’s claims that Tinubu is a fraud than in defending Tinubu’s fraud. For instance, his only defense against Tinubu’s fraudulent Lagos identity claim is that the truth of the claim won’t “put food on the table of the hungry or create jobs for the unemployed or the unemployable.”

 That’s a weak strawman argument. No one said it would. The self-evident implication of that fraud, of course, is that if Tinubu isn’t straight with something as basic as his origins— and even his name and ancestral pedigree— why should he be trusted with something as grave as the presidency of a country of 200 million people? Anyone who can disown his parents, his name, his hometown, etc. for power and influence can sell anyone.

Bakare’s defense for Tinubu’s false claim to being the late Abibat Mogaji’s biological son (Bakare insisted on calling him her “adopted son”) was simply to state that no one is a “self-made” man and that given what the woman did for Tinubu, it was “not only proper, it is also honorable” for Tinubu to call her his mother. “Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu did not and could not choose his biological parents, yet no one can forbid him from choosing his role models or stop him from changing his name,” he added for emphasis.

Then Bakare brought Tinubu’s legendary corruption to the center of his congregants’—and, by implication, Nigerians’-- consciousness but feebly “defended” him by quoting him as saying he learned how to be “transparently corrupt” from Olusegun Obasanjo. How is that a defense, especially given that Tinubu and Obasanjo are not political associates, and Obasanjo, being a retired two-term president, isn’t hurt by any association with corruption? 

In sum, every indication points to the conclusion that Bakare wanted to put Tinubu’s sordid deception about his origins—which people talked about in hushed tones in Yorubaland and about which most people outside Yorubaland are ignorant— in the forefront of the prevailing current of thought about him in Nigeria. The best way to do that without backlash was to appear to be censorious of the narrative while giving it publicity and currency.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Six Queries on the Kidnap and Release of the Kankara Schoolboys

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

When it emerged on Thursday that the hundreds of schoolboys that were abducted from Government Science Secondary School, Kankara, were released, I was so relieved that I gave the Buhari regime an unusual pat in the back in my social media updates.

“The release of the #KankaraBoys—I don't care at what cost—is one of the few bright spots of the Buhari regime,” I wrote. “It shows at least that the regime has learned from GEJ's lethargy and callousness when the Chibok kidnap happened. Instead of rescuing the girls, Jonathan and his officials quibbled over whether the kidnap actually took place—and helped fertilize unhealthy and unhelpful conspiracy theories. Some of the girls are still missing.”

But after my euphoria, I’ve been grappling with several troubling questions. I will highlight just six here:

1. Who really kidnapped the boys? Was it Boko Haram or so-called Fulani bandits? The initial suspicion was that they were kidnapped by the ever-present, nihilistic, and mercenary “bandits” who have been tormenting the northwest in the last few years—and who don’t seem to be animated by any overt religious ideology.

But Boko Haram, whose operations had been mostly limited to the northeast in the last five years, claimed responsibility for the kidnap. As Boko Haram experts have pointed out, it is rare for the group to claim responsibility for acts it didn’t commit. In fact, Boko Haram actually takes umbrage at being falsely associated with acts it didn’t commit.

The fact that the schoolkids appeared in a video pleading with the government to not deploy the military to find them and to discourage western education redounded to the evidence that they were in Boko Haram’s captivity, although some of the boys later told newsmen that “bandits” had told them to lie on camera that they were in Boko Haram’s captivity in order to aggrandize the abduction.

Or have “Fulani bandits” and “Kanuri Boko Haramists” merged? If so, that would be at once frighteningly ominous and socio-historically curious. It’s ominous because it would mean that the northwest and the northeast—and perhaps even parts of the northcentral—would be overwhelmed by unexampled terrorism in the coming months and years.

It would be socio-historically curious because the Kanuri and the Fulani are not only completely different people, they are—or used to be— “historical enemies.” Kanuris resisted Usman Dan Fodio's 19th-century Jihad because they said there was nothing about their Islam, which they'd embraced since at least the 9th century before even the Fulani, that needed Dan Fodio's "reform."

The tensile stress that the Kanem-Borno Empire’s repudiation of Dan Fodio’s jihad actuated has been somewhat resolved through a ritualized joking relationship between the Kanuri and the Fulani who now call each other "slaves" in lighthearted jest. 

But although Muslim northern Nigeria is emerging as an ethnogenesis, i.e., a new ethnic identity forged from a mishmash of multiple identities, Kanuri people still take pride in having a political identity that is independent of the Fulani-inflected caliphate. A fusion of “bandits” and Boko Haram would unleash a game-changing terroristic blitz on Nigeria.

2. How many students were kidnapped? News stories about the release of the boys quoted Governor Bello Masari as saying that 344 boys had been released. But earlier reports had said the abducted students numbered a little over 500. One of the students who escaped from his captors also said more than 500 of them had been captured. He even said some of them had been murdered by their captors. So what’s the truth?

3. Who rescued the boys? The Katsina State government said their rescue was facilitated by Miyetti Allah. But the Nigerian military on Friday contradicted the Katsina State government and insisted that the Defence Headquarters’ “Operation Hadarin Daji” was singularly responsible for the release of the boys. Since both claims can’t be simultaneously true, one is a lie.

But note that Miyetti Allah appears have officially accepted that its members are responsible for the progressive deterioration of security in the country, according to the Vanguard of December 15, which quoted the group’s president, Muhammadu Kirowa, as saying, “We cannot continue to wallow in denial when it is a fact that majority of criminals arrested across the country are from within us, our kith and kin [who] have gone into this circle because of our sheer negligence.”

If the abductors are “Fulani bandits,” it would make sense that Miyetti Allah would be more helpful in facilitating the release of the boys than the military, which is notorious for being harder on peaceful protesters than on terrorists.

4. Was ransom paid before the boys were released? The Katsina State government said no ransom was paid. It said it used moral suasion to persuade the kidnappers to release the boys. But in a rare moment of clarity on NTA on December 18, Muhammadu Buhari talked of the “settlement of the abductors.” 

We all know that “settlement” means under-the-table payment in Nigerian English. I have read online rumor mills that said the abductors were “settled” with up to $4 million. While the figure may not be accurate, the government has a history of giving enormous financial war chests to terrorists. 

On May 6, 2017, for instance, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Buhari regime delivered “a black duffel bag containing €2 million in plastic-wrapped cash” to Boko Haram for the release of 82 of the Chibok girls that were abducted in 2014.

Since ransom payment is a counterproductive and unsustainable security strategy, what is the government doing to ensure that this doesn’t happen again?  

5. If the government can identify, negotiate with, and pay abductors, why can’t it apprehend them? If Miyetti Allah has admitted that its members are responsible for the mounting insecurity in the country and has even assisted with negotiations for the release of the abducted schoolboys, why is the group not treated, at the very least, like a “group of interest” by security forces?

 Why are #EndSARS protesters, supporters, organizers, and financiers the victims of murder, bank account freezes, and continual harassment by the government while terrorists, abductors, and a self-identified association that facilitates the work of abductors featherbedded? 

6. Finally, in the Kankara abduction saga, agents of government emerged as the most vicious purveyors of transparently fake news. Garba Shehu, Buhari’s spokesman, said on December 15 that “contrary to all the fake rumors [so even rumors can be “fake”?] flying around, only 10 students were kidnapped from the school in Kankara.” 

Abike Dabiri also prematurely said on her verified Twitter handle that the kidnapped boys had been released. When she was called out, she lied that her Twitter and Instagram handles had been hacked, implying that it was a hacker who posted the false update.

But anyone who is malicious enough to hack anyone’s social media account won’t post from the same device and location as the original account owner and would post something more vicious than sterile government propaganda. 

Since the regime, particularly its chief lying officer Lai Mohammed, is obsessed with stamping out “fake news,” what is the punishment for its agents that shared literal fake news, although Garba Shehu has apologized for his? 

The absence of unambiguous answers to these queries is the biggest driver of conspiracy theories about the abduction. People who disagreed with my initial social media update claimed that the abduction was contrived to lend unearned veneer of competence to the Buhari regime.

This is, of course, silly conspiratorial reasoning. Had the regime been unable to rescue the boys, Buhari would have been justifiably excoriated for incompetence and insensitivity, which are his trademarks. In fact, he was accused precisely of that in the six days that the boys were in captivity. But having rescued them, the regime is now being accused of staging the kidnap. 

Praiseworthy as the saving of the boys from captivity is—from the perspective of a parent—the fact that questions and mutually contradictory claims from the same government linger on after their rescue is more evidence of incompetence than a conspiracy. 

Postscript

A commenter on this blog by the name of Mohammed Bello called my attention to the fact I misheard Buhari when I transcribed what he said in his NTA interview as "settlement." He insisted that what Buhari actually said was "encirclement."

 I watched the video again and listened more attentively and found out that he was right. I think I was predisposed to hear "settlement" instead of "encirclement" for two reasons. One, "encirclement" is an unusual word for Buhari given his well-known limited vocabulary. Second, the story I linked to in the article, which quoted him as saying "settled," primed me to hear "settlement."

Saturday, December 12, 2020

To Secure Northern Lives, First Secure Northern Brains

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

More northern Muslims are suddenly concerned about the unending carnage and kidnapping in the region than has ever been the case in the last five years. Many people have reached out to me to request that I lend my voice to the #SecureNorth social media campaign. But what would my voice or even the social media campaign do to change anything?

There's nothing that's happening today in the region that hasn't been happening since at least 2017, which northern victims ignored, excused, explained away, or defended. I used to be one of the few northern voices that called attention to the sanguinary insecurity that drenches the region in oceans of blood, but I always got aggressed by the same northerners I thought I was fighting for.

The emotional dislocation I feel over Boko Haram’s relentless mass slaughters in Borno isn’t merely roused by humanitarian concerns; it is also personal. As I’ve pointed out in many columns and social media posts, part of my mother’s distant ancestry is traceable to Borno.

When she went to Mecca on Hajj in 2012, she was overcome with tender emotions for having the privilege to go through the Maiduguri international airport in spite of the risks. Going to Maiduguri was a consequential pre-Mecca, domestic, emotional pilgrimage for her. Although she couldn’t get out of the hotel to enjoy the sights, sounds, and vibes of a city whose ancestral reminiscences she nourishes through the folk songs handed down to her by her grandmother and her mother, she was fulfilled.

She expended outsized spiritual energies praying for the end of the carnage in Borno while in Mecca and always wanted to know if there had been any improvements in the state’s security situation. Sometimes, she would hear of mind-numbing mass slaughters that would leave her crying. Each time she called and cried on the phone because of news of savage slaughters of innocents, I was always distressed.

I wished I could just lie to her that peace had returned to Borno. Then the Buhari regime came, claimed to have “defeated” or “ended” Boko Haram in six months, muzzled the press, and threatened everyday folks with dire consequences for publicizing news of Boko Haram mass slaughters.

To be frank, I was relieved because the absence of news of Boko Haram’s spectacular homicidal furies gave my mother some peace. She no longer called to cry on the phone over the terrorist group’s mass murders. But I also have friends and relatives in Borno who shared worrying news of Boko Haram’s escalating but unreported ferocity.

Although I never shared this news with my mother, I occasionally shared them on social media just so that people weren’t comforted into a delusive sense of safety. I also hoped that it would jolt the government to act. But I became the object of attacks from northerners—and even from people in Borno. Protecting Buhari’s image—and sustaining the delusory narrative that he had “ended” Boko Haram— was more important to them than saving their lives.

My February 24, 2018 column titled "Bursting the Myth of Buhari’s Boko Haram 'Success'," for instance, got the hackles of many northern Muslims up, and I was used for target practice by headless twerps who wanted to bolster their Buharist bona fides. 

They delegitimized my concerns by calling attention to my American location. They insisted Buhari was an impeccably guiltless saint who had secured the North like no one had ever done in Nigeria’s entire history and that only hypercritical, geographically dislocated diasporans like me didn’t see that.

The government, of course, also actively bought the silence of the news media and intimidated those it couldn't buy. Now their fraud, ineptitude, and lack of compassion are unravelling once again.

Scores of people in the North, even in Buhari’s home state of Katsina, have been protesting his blithe unconcern as hundreds of men, women, and children are senselessly murdered or kidnapped for ransom every week in the region.

People who had said Buhari was an irreproachable demi-god who could do no wrong suddenly now see wisdom in protesting physically or on social media. People who once protested in SUPPORT of Buhari’s petrol price hikes that smolder them and AGAINST people who opposed it are suddenly waking up to the realization that 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 survival.

As I’ve repeatedly said, 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. Martin Luther King famously said injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. If it happens there, it can happen here.

Even the best-intentioned governments need the periodic nudges of a critical democratic citizenry. 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. As I pointed out in June this year, docility appears to be specially wired in our DNAs. 

And Borno State governor Babagana Zulum, who came within a hair's breadth of losing his life to Boko Haram’s attacks several times, is leading the charge to once again exculpate Buhari of any responsibility for the insecurity in his state—and the region— and to go back to the same escapism and denialism that allowed Buhari to get away with murder since 2015.

He is doing this by callously hierarchizing killings in his state and suggesting that more people died before Buhari became “president” than after. Even if this were true (it is not), what purpose does it serve in the face of the mass deaths that is the fate of many everyday folks in the region? What comfort does that give to people who are grieving the loss of their loved ones?

Sadly, I haven’t seen a robust pushback against Zulum from northerners campaigning for #SecureNorth over his casual insensitivity and rhetorical downplaying of the mass slaughters in the region.

I have also not seen any response to Lai Mohammed’s continued repetition of the odious description of the latest victims of Boko Haram’s mass massacres as mere “soft targets.” We all know that if it were Lai’s children who were murdered by Boko Haram, he not only would not have called them “soft targets” (or even “hard targets”), he’d go to war with anyone who does. His children are human, but other people are just “soft targets.”

 The description of victims of Boko Haram victims as “soft targets,” as I pointed out in October 2018, is a distastefully deceitful rhetorical strategy of the Buhari regime to minimize the horrors of Boko Haram’s atrocities against ordinary people. “Soft target” is a euphemism for poor people who, in the estimation of the regime, are inconsequential and worthless.

To call victims of murderous terrorist brutality mere “soft targets” is to dehumanize them even in death. That’s why no one even bothers to know the names of the victims of Boko Haram massacres. Unfortunately, many people, particularly from the northeast, have accepted this linguistic dehumanization of people at the bottom of the social ladder.

Before we secure the North, we need to secure the brains of its people so that when they don’t invest unrequited love in deodorized frauds like Buhari to the point of living in self-destructive denial about his dreadful ineptitude. Or sing the praises of people like Zulum who mesmerizes them with showy but empty symbolism while being indistinguishable from other callous, out-of-touch elites. 

Related Articles:

Borno’s New Boko Haram-Loving Governor

The Boko Haram “Technical Defeat” Ruse is Unraveling

Why Buhari Can’t and Won’t Solve the North’s Growing Security Crisis


Saturday, December 5, 2020

Ganduje and Fraudulent American “Professorships” for Nigerian Politicians

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

On December 1, many Nigerian newspapers published the story of East Carolina University’s appointment of Kano State’s dollar-stuffing governor Abdullahi “Gandollar” Ganduje “as a visiting full professor of e-governance and international affairs” purportedly as an affirmation of his “accomplishment in good governance and genuine investment in human capital development.” 

Ganduje’s Press Secretary by the name of Abba Anwar said in a press statement that the formal offer of a “full visiting professor” to Ganduje was signed by a Victor Mbarika on behalf of East Carolina University in the United States.

Mbarika’s letter to Ganduje said he would “provide mentorship for Ph.D. students and junior lecturers of the institution.” “Looking at your academic, administrative, and overall leadership record in Nigeria and Africa, you fit perfectly in East Carolina University’s goal to remain a leading research and teaching institution in the United States and beyond,” Mbarika’s statement reportedly said.

This is straight-up dupery. And there are many telltale red flags for this. The first thing I did when I read the story was to search the website of East Carolina University. There was no story of Ganduje’s appointment anywhere on the site. 

I chalked it up to this last paragraph in Ganduje’s so-called letter of appointment: “It is our fervent hope, Sir, that you will accept this offer. Your appointment will be posted at …ECU-ICITD’s website…once we get your acceptance.” Perhaps, it will take some time between Ganduje’s acceptance and the publication of the appointment on the university’s website.

The second red flag, though, was the language of the letter. As someone who studies— and writes on— Nigerian English and its deviations from native-speaker English varieties, I whiffed several Nigerianisms in the letter.

For instance, the letter says, “You have been a source of motivation to the Nigerian youths both at home and in the diaspora at large. We are amazed at your accomplishments both as the Executive Governor of Kano State, Nigeria, Fellow National Association of Educational Administration and Planning, Nigeria, and your investment in Human Capital Development.”

Apart from the extravagantly exaggerated flattery and the gushing nothingness of the language, which isn’t typical of the bureaucratic language of American English, that paragraph features expressions that no American university administrator would use: “the Nigerian youths,” “executive governor,” “diaspora at large.”

 An American would say “the Nigerian youth” (since “youth” is pluralized with the “s” morpheme only when it refers to young men, and remains unchanged when it refers to young people of both sexes); “governor” (because Americans don’t prefix “executive” to “governor” since it’s a given that governors have executive, not ceremonial, powers); and just “the diaspora” (since the addition of “at large” to “diaspora” is a little superfluous).

Most importantly, though, the appointment the letter says Ganduje has been given—and the duties he is expected to perform— at East Carolina University aren’t conventional. I should know. I have been in the US university system for nearly two decades.

A “visiting full professorship” at an American university to a politician who is a full-time governor of a state in a foreign country is unheard of. It’s the stuff of comedy. What is even stranger still is that Ganduje, according to his letter of appointment, is expected to “provide mentorship for Ph.D. students and junior lecturers” at East Carolina University.

OK, I get that Ganduje has a PhD in Public Administration from the University of Ibadan, but that alone doesn’t qualify him to mentor PhD students at a US university. First, American doctoral education involves coursework. His didn’t. And he hasn’t taught or supervised any PhD student since he got his PhD in 1993.

 Second, East Carolina University doesn’t have a Ph.D. in Public Administration. Nor does it even have a PhD in Political Science. It only has a master’s in public administration. 

So which “Ph.D. students” is he going to mentor—even if he’s qualified to do so? And “mentor junior lecturers”? About what? About stuffing stolen dollars in their pockets without being caught?

 By the way, the term is “junior faculty” in American academe. “Lecturer” is the generic term for university teachers in the UK and the Commonwealth. The term has a specific, slightly different meaning in American academe. 

There are two dominant senses of the term “lecturer” in America, as I pointed out in a December 13, 2015 column titled, “A Comparison of Everyday University Vocabularies in Nigeria, America, and Britain (I).” The first is a public speaker at certain universities. The second sense is an inferior-rank university teacher who either does not possess a Ph.D. or who has a Ph.D. but doesn’t have a tenured or tenure-track job.

Lecturers are overworked and underpaid, only teach undergraduates, are not expected to be researchers, and are often abandoned to vegetate on the fringes of academic departments in American universities. Are those the people Ganduje will mentor? Or is the person who wrote his letter of appointment simply not smart enough to replace “junior lecturers” with “junior faculty”?

Well, it turns out that Ganduje isn’t the only Nigerian politician who has courted this sort of fraudulent “visiting professorship” from an American university. This has been going on longer than most people are aware of. 

For instance, Ike Ekweremadu, the former deputy senate president, was appointed a "full visiting professor" at a historically black university in New Orleans, Louisiana, called Southern University. The university still carries information about this fraudulent appointment on its website at the time of writing this column on Friday. The language used to appoint Ganduje as “visiting full professor” is eerily similar to the language used for Ekweremadu.

“Professor Ike Ekweremadu will mentor PhD students, junior lecturers, as well as take a lead in advising our University’s research center on academic issues related to E-Governance and Strategic Government Studies,” the appointment says. Have you already seen the similarities between this and the language used in Ganduje’s letter?

But that’s not all. Ekweremadu was appointed by “The Southern University International Center for Information Technology and Development (ICITD).” Ganduje was appointed by “East Carolina University International Center for Information Technology and Development ECU-ICITD.”

Most importantly, both centers are managed by someone called Victor Mbarika, a Donald Trump-loving Anglophone Cameroonian academic who taught Information Technology at Southern University from 2004 to 2020 and who started teaching the same course at Eastern Carolina University from August this year.

I am still researching what Ekweremadu and Ganduje gave Mbarika in exchange for the meaningless and worthless titles he conferred on them— and whether the authorities in Southern University and East Carolina University are aware of Mbarika’s unconventional professorial conferrals on foreign politicians. [After sending this column, Premium Times found that authorities at East Carolina University did not approve of Ganduje's fraudulent appointment].

In June 2019, a senior, far-famed Nigerian-American professor here in the US told me about similar dubious schemes. “Some of our friends in the US set up an agency to be recruiting failed Nigerian politicians into US campuses for ‘sabbatical leave.’ Saraki has gotten a position in Georgetown with my friend…” he said. 

He continued: “The guy and his collaborators want to recruit my university to join in what they call a ‘network.’ The politician will pay the professor who recruits and creates a spot for him as a Visiting Distinguished Professor. He sent an impressive brochure which I just read. It can never occur to me that things will degenerate to this level. Maybe it has been going on, and I am not aware.”

You see, bought honorary doctorates have lost their gravitas and the "Dr." title has now lost its sheen among Nigerian politicians, so they are moving to the next level, which is bought “professorships” in foreign universities.

Two-bit diasporan scholars exploit and abuse the social capital of their education and location in America to humor cognitively vacant politicians with fragile but vaunted egos. For a couple of million dollars, which is chicken feed to our crooked politicians, many universities here will humor them with worthless titles—until they are shamed. Watch out for more.

Related Articles:

Complicity of Nigerian Media in Intellectual 419 of Academics

Our image as a nation of scammers (I)

Our image as a nation of scammers (II)

Intellectual 419: Philip Emeagwali and Gabriel Oyibo Compared

Gabriel Oyibo and Philip Emeagwali: A Clarification

Ndi Okereke-Onyiuke’s Fake Doctorate and Professorship

Bait-and-Switch Publishing: New Face of Academic Fraud

Print-on-demand Book Scams and Nigerian Universities

Re: Print-on-demand Book Scams and Nigerian Universities

On Bauchi’s Fake Lecturer—and What Should be Done

Andy Uba and the Epidemic of Fakery in Nigeria

On Fowler’s Fake Doctorate and Integrity Deficit

“Mathematical” Enoch Opeyemi and the Making of Another Nigerian Intellectual 419er

Remember Enoch Opeyemi Who Claimed to have Solved the Riemann Hypothesis?

Saturday, November 28, 2020

Where’s Buhari? Is That a Body Double in Aso Rock?

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The last few weeks have seen a curious resurgence of the preposterous conspiracy theory that Muhammadu Buhari has been dead and that it’s his body double that lives in Aso Rock. Readers of my column have invaded my email and social media inboxes with persistent requests for me to illuminate the ambiguities surrounding the existence—or lack thereof—of Buhari. 

I frankly thought the silliness and infantilism of the conspiracy theory of Buhari’s putative death was too apparent to deserve the attention of any serious person. In any case, I’d addressed this in a December 8, 2018 column titled, “Buhari: Not a Clone but a Clown” where I described it as an “insanely absurd IPOB whispering campaign” and as “so ludicrous, so off-the-wall, and so patently illogical that even acknowledging it would be an exercise in the legitimization of stupidity.”

I pointed out that the conspiracy theory gained some traction at the time “because it captures the vast disconnect between the Buhari Nigerians thought they elected in 2015 and the bungling, wimpy, aloof, unjust, and inept Buhari that we have as president now.

“Buhari had an unearned reputation as a firm, fearless, just, disciplined leader who was animated by a restless thirst to transform Nigeria, to build enduring institutions, to wipe out or at least minimize corruption, and to bequeath a legacy of justice, fair play, and national cohesion.

 “But he has turned out to be an infirm leader who looks the other way when injustice is committed by his close associates, who disdains the poor, who defends and praises corruption when it’s committed by people who are loyal to him, who lies interminably, who has not a clue how to glue the nation and transform lives, and who is consumed by a monomaniacal obsession to perpetuate himself in power.

“For people who invested hopes in an idealized Buhari that never existed, the Buhari they see now is figuratively a clone. Even his wife, Aisha Buhari, casts him as a helpless, ineffective, and isolated leader who is held prisoner by an evil, sneaky, corrupt, vulturous, and conniving two-man cabal.”

What is driving the revival and intensifying mainstreaming of the notion that Buhari is dead and that a body double lives in Aso Rock to give cover to a cabal of larcenous rogues to plunder Nigeria’s wealth? I have two answers—three actually.

The first is what I adverted to in my December 2018 column, which is that Buhari isn’t in charge, merely holds the horns of the cow while others milk it, and is cognitively, symbolically, and politically absent. That is as good as being dead.

The second reason is that in the last few months, in momentous moments when even the most lethargic and disaffiliated leaders of nations are compelled to demonstrate that they are in charge, Buhari has always been missing.

When the new coronavirus officially became a pandemic in March and everyone in the world was spooked and wanted reassurance from their countries’ leaders, Buhari was missing. After enormous public pressure, his minders caused him to informally address the nation on March 22.

But although his speech was pre-recorded and lasted only a couple of seconds, he mispronounced COVID-19 as "Kovik one nine"! As I pointed out at the time, there was no sentient, living being on this earth— and certainly no world leader—who didn’t know that there was a global pandemic tipping over the world that was called the new coronavirus or COVID-19.

Again, during the #EndSARS revolt, which convulsed the foundations of Nigeria, Buhari was absent. Then on October 13, a video surfaced on the Internet of Lagos State governor Jide Sanwo-Olu briefing Buhari on what the Inspector General of Police was doing about the EndSARS protests. Buhari stood like a breathing, insentient mannequin and intermittently laughed vacuously. 

More disturbingly, when Sanwo-Olu said the IGP recommended that governors set up commissions of inquiry into SARS brutality, Buhari interrupted him. “I said that,” he said and looked at Ibrahim Gambari, his Chief of Staff, for assurance. “I said that in my speech.” He hadn’t given any speech at the time.

 But Ibrahim Gambari flashed a sheepish, fawning grin of dishonest, sycophantic approval of Buhari’s dementia-inflected mendacity. The video dramatized yet again the reality that Buhari is disconnected from reality and is barely aware of his own existence.

 It wasn’t until October 22, after sustained public outrage, that Buhari was compelled to appear in a heavily edited, pre-recorded broadcast to talk about the EndSARS revolt, but the speech sidestepped the October 20 military-executed Lekki Massacre, the most distressing tragedy that had befallen the nation two days prior. Apparently, the speech had been recorded and edited days before it was broadcast, which explained why it wasn’t current.

Most importantly, unlike any president or head of state Nigeria ever had, Buhari studiously avoids the press. Or, more correctly, his minders studiously keep him away from the press. And they do so because any question-and-answer session with the press exposes Buhari’s irreversible mental degeneration.

For instance, an August 1 video of Buhari answering a question from a journalist about the revelations of colossal corruption at the Niger Delta Development Commission and the EFCC showed a man who was in the land of the living dead. 

Instead of answering the question, Buhari went on an irrelevant rant about “TSA, Treasury Single Account where all the monies are taken, and I said that assets should be sold and the money be put through TSA Treasury Single Account so that it can be identified at any level, and I’ll see who will take it back again to those who misappropriate public funds.”

Buhari’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, was so embarrassed by the interview that he was caught on camera frantically telling the reporter to abruptly cut the video and stop the interview. That’s not the picture of a man who has control over his cognitive faculties. 

The final reason the Buhari body double conspiracy has endured in spite of its implausibility is that there are actual historical cases of presidential body doubles in the world. For example, in British author W. Hugh Thomas’s 1996 book titled “Doppelgangers,” we learn that Adolf Hitler had a body double by the name of Gustav Weler who occasionally served as his decoy for security reasons. 

The striking resemblance between Hitler and Weler ensured that the general population didn’t suspect when Weler represented Hitler at meetings and at formal occasions.

USSR leader Josef Stalin has also been recorded to have used body doubles to represent him at formal occasions. In 2008, then 88-year-old Russian man by the name of Felix Dadaev wrote a book in which he disclosed that he had acted as a body double for Stalin. He and Stalin shared a striking physical resemblance.

Saddam Hussein, Boris Yeltsin, and other world leaders had been said to have had body doubles merely as a decoy. But there is no record anywhere in the world that I know of where leaders die and are replaced by body doubles.

The truth is that even if they wanted to, Buhari’s inner circle is too incompetent to pull off putting a body double in Aso Rock to replace a supposedly dead Buhari. Incompetence is supposed to be the strong suit of the Buhari regime, but they've shown time and again that they are incredibly incompetent at even being incompetent!

Buhari appears to be dead and replaced by a body double because he is wracked by the ravages of dementia. His continued stay in Aso Rock in spite of his cognitive incapacities is the biggest con game in Nigeria’s political history.

Related Articles:

Buhari’s Physical and Mental Health is Now a National Emergency

Buhari Doesn’t Rule Nigeria. His Wife Confirms It

Saturday, November 21, 2020

My 2018 Prediction About Buhari’s “NextLevel” is Materializing

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

It’s now two years since the Buhari regime launched its “NexlLevel” agenda. In a November 24, 2018 column titled “APC’s ‘NextLevel’ of Fraud, Incompetence, and Sorrow,” I predicted most of what is unfolding now. Read it below:

APC’s embarrassing “NextLevel” reelection campaign has erased all lingering doubts that the Buhari presidency is a veritable graveyard of creativity, intelligence, and basic decency. The campaign’s logo and slogan, as most people know by now, are unoriginal. They are also the product of willful intellectual theft. More than that, though, its symbolism portends a frightening future for Nigeria.

Let’s start with the logo that President Buhari shared on his verified Twitter handle on November 19. The creativity deficit in the graphic is truly unsettling, but it powerfully encapsulates, without intending to, the terrifyingly escalating sense of foreboding that a Buhari second term would mean for Nigeria.

 It shows Buhari and Osinbajo insouciantly detached from the people they are leading. Buhari appears as a clumsy, clueless leader who can’t even get his steps right: unlike Osinbajo, he skips a step on the staircase as he leads Nigerians to what seems like bottomless perdition.

Both the leaders and the led wear sheepish, vacuous grins—except Buhari who looks stiff-backed and joyless— as they head to their damnation like moths to a flame. The photo shows them climbing up the edge of a cliff from where they'd fall into the cruel, unforgiving blue ocean that surrounds them. It’s a contagiously depressing graphic, but I give it credit for its fidelity in capturing the ruination that Buhari is inexorably leading Nigeria to.

The “NextLevel” slogan is also a powerful linguistic affirmation of the depressing future the graphic evokes. There’s no question that Buhari’s record as president these past three years has been an unrelieved disaster. Nigeria now leads the world from the bottom in almost everything. For the first time in Nigeria’s history, we now have the unenviable notoriety of being the poverty capital of the world.

According to the most recent World Internal Security and Police Index (WISPI) released by the International Police Science Association (IPSA) and the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP), Nigeria’s police service is now the absolute last in the entire world.

The only quality Buhari proclaims to possess is an inscrutable “integrity” that no existing English dictionary in the world has a definition for, yet his government was ranked the second worst in the world in “government integrity” in 2018 by the US-based Heritage Foundation. It is only better than Venezuela’s government.

In Oxfam’s and Development Finance International (DFI)’s 2018 global ranking of “Commitment to Reducing Inequality Index,” Nigeria was ranked 157 out of 157 countries. And, in spite of the president’s tiresomely sanctimonious noises and holier-than-thou “anti-corruption” grandstanding, Nigeria has consistently regressed in Transparency International’s corruption perception index since Buhari became president. We are currently ranked 148 out of 180 countries.

Similarly, according the BBC of July 25, 2017, “Nigeria has largest number of children out-of-school in the world.” So, in Buhari’s more than three years in government, Nigeria has been in an unexampled free fall in every imaginable index of human development. To be sure, we weren’t first before, but we were never at the bottom.

These damning global assessments of Buhari’s excruciatingly biting incompetence are painfully familiar to everyday Nigerians. We know, for instance, that nearly 8 million people lost their jobs between January 2016 and September 30, 2017, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, which is a federal government agency.  

Youth unemployment also more than doubled during Buhari’s presidency. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, when Buhari ascended to the presidency in May 2015, youth unemployment was 13.7 percent. By July 2017, it climbed to 33.1 percent.

Current statistics are grimmer and scarier than the 2017 ones, which explains why the government has chosen to starve the National Bureau of Statistics of funds, which has prevented it from bringing to light more embarrassing statistical testimonials of Buhari’s frightful incompetence.

But even without official statistics, we know Nigerians are enduring unparalleled existential torments. Prices of goods and services have gone through the roof. Insecurity used to be limited to the northeast, but it has now become democratized nationally. Governance has ceased. Governing boards of several federal agencies are still not constituted, which means the nation is literally at a standstill. 

The economy has tanked, and everyday folks are writhing in unspeakable agony, but the president bragged about never being in “a hurry to do anything.” Corruption by the criminally favored few in government is ignored, defended, celebrated, and rewarded (remember Abdullah Ganduje AKA Abdollar Gandollar).

Imagine what the “NextLevel” of this grim reality would be. That’s what the Buhari campaign is warning Nigerians about, and that’s why critics have rechristened the campaign slogan as the “NextDevil.”

APC's NextLevel campaign isn't just deficient in creativity; it's also a shameless theft of an organization's intellectual property. The logo that the president shared on his verified Twitter handle was stolen from Winthrop University in the US.

 I was one of the first people to call attention to this on social media. How can the government afford not to be original in something as consequential as its campaign logo and slogan? What level of cognitive indolence can activate that sort of intellectual dishonesty?

Remember that the “Change Begins With Me” campaign was also a brazen intellectual theft. According to the Premium Times of September 11, 2016, one Akin Fadeyi, identified as “a creative artist and former head of communications at Airtel Nigeria,” said he sent a proposal about the campaign to Lai Mohammed, who rejected it but later used it without the originator’s permission. 

But Premium Times found out that the slogan “Change Begins with Me” actually came from a public campaign in India. Interestingly, President Buhari’s speech at the official launching of the “Change Begins with Me” campaign plagiarized passages from Obama’s previous speeches!

What has become agonizingly obvious about the Buhari presidency is that everyone there from top to bottom is lazy and dishonest in even the little things. That’s why Buhari's government has been one giant, hypocritical criminal enterprise. No one thinks in that government. They are all intellectually low-grade malefactors.

Should Winthrop University decide to sue the Buhari campaign, it would inflict incalculable reputational damage on Nigeria.  Although it’s unlikely that Winthrop University has trademarked the NextLevel logo, it can still win a copyright infringement suit. Nigeria is a signatory to the Berne Convention, the international copyright treaty.

Copyright protection applies to “original works of authorship” that are “fixed in any tangible medium of expression.” In the US, creators of original works don’t have to formally apply to the US Copyright Office; their works are already automatically copyrighted.  Besides, the Berne Convention protects copyrighted materials from unauthorized “adaptations and arrangements of the work.” Changing the colors of the original logo, as the Buhari campaign did, is unauthorized adaptation.

How can the Buhari government take you to any level when it can't even come up with an original slogan and logo for its reelection campaign?

What is probably worse than APC’s intellectual theft is its insultingly inept attempt to cover its fraud with easily refutable lies. After our exposure of their mortifying intellectual theft, the Buhari campaign first blamed its supporters for it. 

Then Buhari campaign spokesman Festus Keyamo (who has been caught and exposed for stealing stock photos from the internet to bolster the Buhari regime’s habitual lies of infrastructural upgrades) took the lie a notch higher: he said on AIT that that the logo was actually designed by PDP to embarrass the Buhari government! But it was President Buhari who first tweeted it from his verified Twitter handle!

There’s little doubt at this point that the “NextLevel” that the Buhari reelection campaign is promising Nigerians is unmentionably unprecedented lying, ineptitude, fraud, and anguish.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Trump-Loving Buhari Critics are Bigoted Christofascists. Here’s Why

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The stubborn, pigheaded, and religion-inspired support for Donald Trump by large swathes of Nigerian Christians (who also happen to be virulent critics of Muhammadu Buhari) is the clearest evidence that their criticisms of Buhari isn’t informed by Buhari’s tragic missteps in governance but by the mere fact of his being a Muslim.

Buhari and Trump have a lot of things in common. They both live in alternate realities. They both lack empathy. They are both bigots who exploit the primordial loyalties of their natal constituents to divide their countries. They both supervise the most corrupt regimes in their countries’ histories. And they both deploy state-sanctioned violence to squelch dissent that rattles them.

But Nigerian Trump supporters criticize in Buhari what they praise in Trump. For instance, when Trump ordered the military to crack down on peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, Nigerian Trumptards praised it. They are even ferocious opponents of Black Lives Matter and repeat racist rightwing propaganda against it. They say it’s a coordinated stratagem to dislodge Trump from power, not to protest and seek systemic redress against police brutality.

Interestingly, Nigerian Trumptards are enthusiasts of the #EndSARS revolt against police brutality who resent Buhari’s brutal military action against protesters. They resist the government’s narrative that #EndSARS is a well-planned civil insurrection to unseat the Buhari regime.

Nigerian Trumptards defend Trump’s white supremacist bigotry. They see no wrong in Trump characterizing African countries as “shitholes”; in  limiting visa issuance to Africans; in halting immigration from African countries; in preferring only immigrants “from countries like Norway”; in appointing only white judges; in having the whitest, least diverse cabinet in recent American history; and in defending negrophobic, white supremacist, domestic terrorist groups such as the Proud Boys (whom he told to “stand back and stand by”).

They also see no big deal in Trump’s habitual preferential treatment to “red” Republican states that voted for him and his antagonism to “blue” Democratic states that voted against him.

But they impotently rail against Buhari’s Arewacentric appointments, his inveterate defense of his Fulani kinfolk, his mollycoddling of Boko Haram terrorists, and his systematic exclusion of states that he said gave him only “5 percent” of their votes.

Nigerian Trumptards also defend Trump’s unprecedented nepotism and exploitation of the presidency for personal gains—in contravention of the U.S. Constitution. Trump’s employment of his daughter and her husband as his senior advisers with undeserved national security clearance has no precedent in recent American history. As I showed in a recent column, several watchdog groups have found Trump guilty of corrupt enrichment. Nigerian Trumptards said it was small potatoes.

But my revelations about the unprecedented number of Buhari’s family members who work in his government drew the fury of these same defenders of Trump’s nepotism and corruption. Apparently, for them, only Trump has the right to be nepotistic and corrupt.

When Buhari lost previous elections and perpetually complained that he was “rigged out” even though he never even campaigned outside the Muslim North and therefore couldn’t possibly have won a national mandate, he was dismissed as a sore loser by the same Nigerian Trumptards who are now defending Trump’s infantile, mendacious claims that he lost because he was cheated.

Buhari lost his second term election in 2019 but used the power of incumbency to steal it. He was roundly condemned by the same Nigerian Trumptards who are excited that Trump is refusing to concede an election he has clearly lost.

In 1985, Buhari was accused of betraying Nigeria by supporting a Hausa-speaking diplomat from Niger Republic to become Secretary General of the Organization of African Unity at the expense of a Nigerian by the name of Peter Onu.

Well, largely because of his racial animus toward Black people, Trump has also voted against Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to become Director General of the World Trade Organization even though Okonjo-Iweala became a US citizen in 2019.

Nigerian Trumptards’ defense is that Barack Obama also denied Okonjo-Iweala the headship of the World Bank in 2012. Well, at the time she vied for the headship of the World Bank, Okonjo-Iweala wasn’t a U.S. citizen.

As I pointed out in my April 27, 2012 column titled, “Nigeria’s Failed World Bank Presidency Bid,” “Historically, Europeans lead the IMF and Americans lead the World Bank. That's how it has been from the beginning. While it makes sense to demand that this undemocratic practice be stopped, it is unreasonable to let Europe lead the IMF but insist that America give up its own hold on the World Bank.”

The similarities between Trump and Buhari are almost endless. But it’s amazing what kind of self-indulgent cognitive bias causes people to condemn a vice in one person but praise it as a virtue in another.

This isn’t altogether surprising, though. Nigerian Trumptards also tend to be knee-jerk Goodluck Jonathan partisans who defended Jonathan for exactly what they criticize Buhari for. For instance, they attacked Bring Back Our Girls activists who demanded that the government rescue schoolgirls abducted by Boko Haram in April 2014. They even said the abduction never happened—or that it was staged to bring down Jonathan’s government.

But they are the most strident in condemning Buhari for Boko Haram’s February 19, 2018 abduction of more than 100 schoolgirls in Dapchi, Yobe State on Buhari’s watch.

When Jonathan signed a draconian anti-social media law before he left power in 2015, which is now being used to muzzle and try activists like Omoyele Sowore, Jonathanian-Trumptards-turned-Buhari-critics praised it as a necessity to guarantee “national security.” Now they are up in arms against the series of duplicative anti-social media bills the Buhari regime is planning on unleashing shortly.

(Jonathan’s Cybercrime Act, which he signed into law in 2015, prescribes a three-year jail term or a fine of 7 million naira or both for anyone convicted of “causing annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred, ill will or needless anxiety to another.”)

The Jonathanians-turned-Nigerian-Trumptards also opposed the #OccupyNigeria protest, saw it as a coup against Jonathan, and had not the feeblest compunction that the Jonathan government murdered at least 12 #OccupyNigeria protesters. Now they criticize Buhari’s strong-arm tactics against protesters and even gaslight Nigerians by falsely claiming that Jonathan gave Nigerians “total freedom” and never murdered anyone for protesting.

What has become apparent is that Trump-supporting Buhari critics don’t criticize Buhari because of his disastrous policies; they do so because of his religious, ethnic, and regional identity. They aren’t animated by the imperatives of critical democratic citizenship; they are simply two-bit religious and ethnic bigots who hate Buhari for who he is and not for what he does or doesn’t do.

They support Trump because, in their twisted, infantile, and impoverished minds, he is the Christian messiah who has come to establish a Talibangelical theocracy in America and the rest of the world. Never mind that Trump isn’t a Christian and has deep-seated contempt for believing Christians.

In other words, Trump-loving Nigerians are Christofascists. Like Islamofascists, their only goal in life is to impose their religious beliefs on others, to merge religion and everyday life, and to close off secular spaces.

In the last few years, because of my consistently searing critiques of the Buhari regime’s frightful ineptitude, I’ve become popular with Nigerian Trumptards. But I block them on social media now because I share nothing in common with them. I criticize Buhari, as I criticized his predecessors, out of a civic obligation to hold the government accountable.

 If I were as bigoted as they are, I would either ignore or vigorously defend Buhari because he and I share the same religious and regional identity. Plus, I had related personally with Buhari in the past and have personal relationships with many people who serve at the highest levels of his government.

I can’t stand Nigerian Trumptards the same way I can’t stand Buharists. They are two sides of the same sordid, bigoted coin. Buharists also criticize Trump for the same things they defend in Buhari—just like they gave Jonathan hell for the exact same things they are defending Buhari for. I was also their hero when Jonathan was in power, but they can’t stand me now.

The redemption of our world from ruin will come not from bigoted, self-interested, and situational critics of leaders but from people who transcend cheap emotions and show willingness for dispassionate examination of the ills that ail us.

Related Articles:

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