"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

ICIR’s Sponsored Fake “Fact-Checking” About Fake News

By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Several weeks ago, someone from Lagos alerted me to what he said was a “hit piece” being hatched against me from Bola Tinubu’s media team in Lagos because of my consistently piercing scrutiny of the Buhari fascist monocracy and particularly because I’ve been in the forefront of efforts to call global attention to the unprecedented electoral fraud that birthed Buhari’s illegitimate “second term.” I told him I was already used to that. But he said, “This would be different.”

When, weeks later, a “Damilola” who said she was from “SaharaReporters” sent me a vacuous, grammatically challenged WhatsApp message about videos I shared on Twitter in February, I didn’t suspect anything. I should have. The questions weren’t just astonishingly illiterate, they were also curiously unprofessional. She wrote, “Sir, we would like to know how you got this information or maybe you even witnessed them.” Something told me the “reporter” was some two-bit mercenary scammer, so I sent a WhatsApp message to Sahara Reporters’ Omoyele Sowore to ask if he had any person by the name of “Damilola” in his reportorial corps.

I told him I was curious because Sahara Reporters built its fame on the strength of stories it wrote based on anonymous sources and on the protection of the confidentiality of its sources. Why would it have a reporter doing a story asking someone to reveal his sources? Sowore said he would find out who Damilola was and get back to me. He didn’t get round to doing that.

Weeks after this, a “Damilola Banjo,” along with a Shola Lawal, published a tendentious, poorly written, inaccurate screed on the “International Center for Investigative Reporting” (ICR) website that purports to be a “fact-check” of “social media influencers who shared fake news during the 2019 election.” All the pieces of the puzzles have now fallen into place. This is obviously the Tinubu media team hit piece that someone had alerted me to. By the way, how did a reporter for “SaharaReporters” end up on ICIR? Well, that’s irrelevant. Let’s look at the crying factual poverty and malicious ignorance in the “fact-check.”

So of the scores of videos I shared on Twitter during the 2019 election, the mercenary rube of a “reporter” that goes by the name “Damilola” found only two to be “fake.” The first so-called fake video I shared, which had already gone viral at the time I shared it, merely said INEC officials were mass thumb printing ballot papers. And that was precisely what happened in the video. I didn't mention the year this happened, and said nothing about what party was a beneficiary of the mass thumb printing because I couldn't tell that with any certainty, although other people who shared it before me said it was during the 2019 election.

The two “reporters’” needlessly tortuous analysis confirmed that the video indeed showed INEC officials thumb printing ballot papers except that they said it wasn't during the 2019 election. But I never said it was. I merely wrote: “See shameless rigging by INEC officials: Thumb printing on an industrial scale.” Nevertheless, the “reporters” said I "implied" it was during the 2019 election. Was sort of “fact checking” is that?

You can’t fact-check what’s on my mind. That’s babalawo (or is it mamalawo) journalism! I am capable of saying it was during the 2019 election, but I didn’t. Others did. The fact of INEC officials furiously thumb printing ballot papers on a mass scale in support of a party, irrespective of when it happened, is worth sharing, particularly in light of similar things that went on at the time, which the second video confirmed, as I’ll show shortly. So the video wasn’t fake by any definition of the term. If anything, it’s the analysis of it by the venal, uneducated philistines masquerading as “reporters” that is fake.

The second so-called fake video they said I shared was real even by their own analysis. They confessed that they “set out to debunk many videos we believed to be old or not related to the elections. We were not prepared to deal with actual, blatant rigging, not with the PVCs and not with the improved vigilance that was supposed to be a key feature of the 2019 polls.” If you ignore the atrocious grammar, you will see their bias seeping out like fetid pus. They were disappointed to find the video to be “a recent case.” All I said about the video was: “Why would anyone accept the outcome of an election like this? Democracy is supposed to be one person, one vote.”

They agreed that the video, which clearly showed rigging, was from the 2019 election. Although they claimed they were on a “fact-finding” mission, they conceded that they “cannot emphatically state that those stamping and thumb printing the ballot papers are INEC officials” and that they “could not distinctly make out the party being thumb-printed.” What sort of idiotic “fact-checking” is that? That’s blatant partisan claptrap. They could “fact-check” the thought-processes that resided in the inner recesses of my mind, which I didn’t verbalize, but they couldn’t fact-check an obvious fraud in a video. In any case, my tweet didn’t say INEC officials were thumb printing for APC, although that was what appeared to have happened in the video. So what was fake about my video and why was it the object of their “analysis”? Neither the video nor what I said about it was inaccurate by any stretch of the imagination.

So, although they agreed that the second video is authentic, they went ahead nonetheless to throw juvenile insults at me, such as calling me a “professor of falsehood” and then this: “High profile Twitter account holders such as Mr. Kperogi and Senator Melaye are still active on social media and it is conceivable they will share more fake news in the future. That makes us worry. What will they post next?” What the heck is that? Can’t Tinubu’s media team get smarter mercenaries for their hit jobs that these pitifully lowbrow vulgar buffoons?

They also claimed I shared the videos with my 30,000 plus followers, even though at the time I shared the videos, I didn't have that number of followers on Twitter. I had only a little over 20,000 then. You would think "fact-checkers" would know that😂. They also said I have 70,000 plus followers on social media. That's inaccurate as well. If you add my Facebook fan page and my Facebook “like” page, I have a little over 100,000 followers, but thousands of people have way more social media following than that. In any case, I shared the videos only on Twitter, which were first shared by thousands of other Twitter users before I did. So it's unclear why they chose to make reference to my social media following.

These nescient, mercenary ICIR “reporters” need an education more than anything else. Their sponsored hit piece purports to be a "fact-check," but it is gratuitously abusive and opinionated, and is unmoored to even the most basic requirements of journalistic integrity. It imputed motives to me and divined motivations for my action. Fact-checks are usually, well, factual. They present information in a neutral, unemotional tone.

The “reporters” were not even smart enough to conceal their pro-regime biases. The only "fake" videos and photos from the 2019 election they found worthy of "fact-checking" are those that disfavor the Buhari regime. There were no pro-Buhari "fake" videos and photos, apparently. These disreputably illiterate hustlers obviously set out to not just discredit me in hopes of blunting my critical searchlight on the honchos of the fascist regime that hired them, they also want to legitimize Buhari’s universally discredited electoral robbery. In the process, they’re polluting journalism. Such a shame!

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Borno’s New Boko Haram-Loving Governor

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

Babagana Umara Zulum, Borno State’s new governor, is shaping up to be a flippant, insensitive airhead, which is distressing given that the fact of his being a former professor had heightened expectations that he would be refreshingly different. In the midst of Boko Haram’s interminably murderous devastation of the state he has been elected to govern, he appealed to the federal government to not requite Boko Haram’s violence with violence.  

Even after admitting to State House correspondents on Wednesday that, “two, three days ago…about 40 people were killed [by Boko Haram] in Konduga,” he insisted that, “there is need for the Federal Government to also open other opportunities of bringing down the crisis rather than the kinetic force [sic]. It is also important for those people who have been forced to join the insurgency; if they are integrated into the society, I think this will be good.”

In other words, even though Boko has made it clear that it wants to conquer and dissolve the Nigerian state through the indiscriminate mass slaughter of everyone in its path, Governor Zulum nonetheless wants the federal government to mollycoddle its members and “integrate them into the society.” The downright callousness and buffoonery that that sort of reasoning betrays, especially from the governor of a Boko Haram-ravaged state, is unsettling.

In any case, that has been the strategy of the Buhari regime in the last four years. Buhari, who had said during Goodluck Jonathan’s administration that the sustained military offensives against Boko Haram were “attacks” on the “North,” instructed that captured Boko Haram terrorists be “de-radicalized” and “reintegrated” into the society. Several of them were, in fact, recruited into the same military that has been fighting them.

The result of this perversely wrongheaded policy has been predictable: “deradicalized” Boko Haram members have infiltrated the military and have continually divulged military secrets to their still “underadicalized” members. That’s why it came as no surprise to me when it came to light that more soldiers have been murdered by Boko Haram during Buhari’s regime than at any time since the insurgency started. By many international estimates, in 2018 alone, more than 2,000 Nigerian soldiers were murdered by Boko Haram.

The statistics are getting even grimmer this year. No day passes without the mass murder of Nigerian soldiers on the front lines, which has prompted Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai to concede that Boko Haram is winning the war, although he coldheartedly attributed this to “insufficient commitment to a common national and military cause by those at the frontlines.”

Recall that honchos of the Buhari regime routinely claim, even in the face of manifestly contrary evidence, to have “defeated” Boko Haram. At other times, they insist that Boko Haram has now been so “degraded” that it now just attacks “soft targets.”  “Soft targets,” of course, is a stone-cold euphemism for poor people who, in the estimation of the Buhari regime, are inconsequential and worthless. To call victims of murderous terrorist brutality “soft targets” is to dehumanize them even in death.

Perhaps the worst insult to the memories of the thousands of soldiers and civilians who were slaughtered by Boko Haram in the last four years came from Buhari himself who told his cabinet members on May 22 that they should be “Proud [they] were part of a government that ended Boko Haram.” Ended Boko Haram? In which universe? That was sky-high presidential mendacity that was outrivaled in its perverseness only by its rank hard-heartedness.

A commander-in-chief on whose watch more soldiers are being killed than at any time in peacetime Nigeria, as a consequence of his obstinately boneheaded policy to pamper the enemy, went ahead to declare empty triumphalism even in the face of humiliating defeat, and a clueless rookie governor wants  even more of the same policies that have rendered Nigerian soldiers sitting ducks on the battle front. Why is there no outrage?

Zulum should be told that you can’t fight violent nihilists with “integration.” Buhari has already been doing that, and it has been disastrous. As I pointed out in a May 25, 2013 column, until the Nigerian government militarily conquers and contains Boko Haram, talks of giving them amnesty and reintegrating them into the society are not only premature but smack of cowardice. You have to speak the language of the enemy to communicate and reach an understanding with him. I once called this “Malcolm Xian logic.”

 On February 14, 1965 in Detroit, Michigan, Malcolm X addressed a crowd of supporters about the ironic communicative and dialogic utility of retaliatory violence. He was talking about the best way to confront the persistent violence of the Ku Klux Klan, a white supremacist, negrophobic group that used terrorist tactics (including lynching and other kinds of extra-judicial murders) to intimidate and overawe American blacks. During the speech, he said:

“You can't ever reach a man if you don't speak his language. If a man speaks the language of brute force, you can't come to him with peace. Why, good night! He'll break you in two, as he has been doing all along. If a man speaks French, you can't speak to him in German. If he speaks Swahili, you can't communicate with him in Chinese. You have to find out what does this man speak. And once you know his language, learn how to speak his language, and he'll get the point. There'll be some dialogue, some communication, and some understanding will be developed.”

The only language Boko Haram terrorists speak and understand is the language of violence, and you can’t speak or dialogue with them with the language of peace and integration. It will never work. There will be a communication breakdown—the kind that would result if you speak Mandarin Chinese to a farmer in the jungles of Papua New Guinea. We have already seen evidence of that in the last four years.

Retaliatory or preventive violence doesn’t always eliminate violence, but it sometimes provides a, if not the, basis for the negotiation of the cessation of violence. That’s why Gandhi’s oft-quoted aphorism that “an eye for an eye will only leave the whole world blind” is not entirely accurate. It unduly pampers the aggressor, unfairly restrains the victim, and defeats the logic of proportionality of justice.

 A potential eye “plucker” may hold himself in check if he discovers that one eye “plucker” nearby has had his own eye plucked in retaliation. Freedom from the consequences of our action can encourage a repeat of the action. Boko Haram terrorists know that more than anyone does.

Plus, you can’t offer to forgive and “integrate” a vicious enemy who has—or thinks he has—an upper hand in a confrontation with you and who has not asked for and is certainly not interested in your offers. The federal government should first militarily subdue Boko Haram before it would be in a position to “deradicalize” and “reintegrate” its penitent members. To paraphrase Malcolm X, the Nigerian state has to understand and speak the language of Boko Haram. Then, there will be some dialogue, some communication, and hopefully some understanding.

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Three “Misspellers” that Mystify Me

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Three types of “misspellers” that mystify me on social media are:
1. People who attended a grammar school for 5 or 6 years and still misspell grammar as “grammer.” I attended a grammar school and see alumni of my school write the name of our secondary school as “Baptist Grammer [sic] School” on Facebook. Why would people who consistently saw the word “grammar” in the name of their school for years on end--and still probably see it in their certificates--- continually misspell it as “grammer”? I can forgive people who didn’t attend a school with “grammar” in its name. Do people who attended a grammar school but misspell grammar as "grammer" deserve their certificates?

2. People who spell “college” as “collage,” as in, “collage of education.” Collage [pronounced like kolaazh, not kolij] means a collection of different things. That means a “collage of education” is a collection of different types of education, which frankly makes no sense as the name of an institution. How can you attend a college, any kind of college, for years and not know how “college” is spelled?

3. Graduates of Bayero University who spell Bayero as “Bayaro.” I've seen many of them here on Facebook. Bayero is a Fulfulde word (whose meaning I don't know) and “ba yaro [ba]” is a Hausa phrase, which roughly translates as “not a child.” One of my cousins chose to study at Bayero University (which is also my alma mater) because he thought the school’s name was Bayaro University, which meant, in his reasoning, that it was a university for serious adults, not children. He was disappointed when he discovered that “Bayero” is a Fulfude word that has not the remotest lexical or semantic relationship with the Hausa “ba yaro”! We still laugh over this.

But why would anyone get one of their most important educational qualifications from an institution and not know how to spell the institution’s name? Have scientists identified the cognitive deficiency that explains this?

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Politics of Grammar Column

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Slavish Parliament and the Road to Buhari’s Life Presidency

By Farooq A. Kperogi, PhD

On June 11, 2019, Nigeria inaugurated what promises to be the most servile and least independent National Assembly in Nigeria’s entire history. The new Senate President and the new Speaker of the House of Representatives, whose ascendancy to their positions was enabled by nakedly transparent executive manipulation, are unabashedly obsequious grovelers to the presidency.

 New Deputy Senate President Obarisi Ovie Omo-Agege’s cringe-worthily sycophantic genuflection to Muhammadu Buhari in the Presidential Villa on June 11 is perhaps the most symbolic affirmation yet of the loss of any pretense to legislative autonomy in the coming months and years. The National Assembly will no longer be an independent arm of government; it will now be an extension of the presidency and an assemblage of fawning factotums of fascism.

Senate President Ahmed Lawan has been transparent about his desire to transform the Senate into a congregation of slavish yes-men (and women) to Buhari. He lived up to this desire on June 13 when he rudely stopped Senator Istifanus Gyang’s motion to debate the substance of Buhari’s uninspiring and uninspired “Democracy Day” speech, which signposts many dangers ahead, as I will show shortly.

Similarly, when Senator Lawrence Ewhrudjakpo pointed out that former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Boss Mustapha should not be formally addressed as the SGF in official communications from the Senate since his tenure has expired and he hasn’t been reappointed to his position, Lawan rejected his suggestion and said, “the Senate must do everything within its powers to nurture a good working relationship with the Executive arm of government.”

So it’s obvious that Lawan wants no one to cherish any illusion that he will be anything but a fawning lapdog of the executive. There is no indication that House of Representatives Speaker Femi Gbajabiamila, who owes his position to the support he received from the minions of the executive, also won’t be a servile poodle of the presidency.

That means that, for the first time since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999, Nigeria will have a leadership of the national legislature that will be indistinguishable from the executive and that has no self-awareness of its constitutional obligation to be independent and to provide an institutional check to other arms of government. It is the presence of an independent legislature that marks the difference between democracies and dictatorships. Under Lawan and Gbajabiamila, the legislative branch will be as good as non-existent.

Here is why that is dangerous. If Buhari survives his current stolen mandate, all indications point to the possibility that he won’t give up power to anybody for as long as he is alive. Buhari exults in the glories and perks of power and can no longer imagine life outside it. He will most likely instigate a constitutional amendment to extend his tenure beyond four years. With the unprecedentedly malleable and bribable National Assembly we have now, this would be a cakewalk.

This may come across as an ill-willed, off-the-wall prognostication, especially for people who have not developed a heightened appreciation of Buhari’s persona. When I told a senior retired military officer that Buhari would lose the 2019 election, would never hand over to the person he lost to, and would instruct INEC to announce him the winner of the election and nothing would happen thereafter, he thought I was being hyperbolic. He later called to say my predictions had materialized.

Nearly four months after the presidential election, INEC has not given a breakdown of the vote count. Atiku Abubakar’s team, meanwhile, has made available to the world the raw data of the election that it said it got from INEC’s server, which shows that Buhari lost the election by nearly two million votes. APC’s henchmen initially scorned this claim. However, after they found the evidence to be incontrovertible, their scorn turned to panic. They charged the Atiku team with “hacking” into INEC’s server and demanded that they be prosecuted.

Nevertheless, INEC, which spent hundreds of millions of naira for a server and even trained its staff on how to transmit the results of the election to the server, now says it has no server—and has refused to make the results of the election available to Atiku’s legal team in spite of court orders asking it to do so. So, if INEC has no server, which server did APC accuse the Atiku team of “hacking”? This is the most damningly self-evident proof that the results of the presidential election that INEC announced have no association with the actual votes cast on Election Day. In spite of this knowledge, however, there is no outrage anywhere. Even many previously critical people have moved on.

Buhari has caused the nation to be in a state of suspended animation in ways never seen before. He will walk to a life presidency in this state. He has already given broad hints of this in his so-called Democracy Day speech, which Senator Istifanus Gyang wanted the Senate to discuss. In the speech, Buhari extolled China’s and Indonesia’s progress “under authoritarian regimes.” Of course, he tempered this with a tepid reference to India, which also “succeeded in a democratic setting.”

Now, why would a supposedly democratic leader eulogize totalitarian regimes in a “Democracy Day” speech? It wasn’t an innocent, unintended miscue. It was intentional. He was flying a kite. I study presidential rhetoric and know that presidents habitually deploy the symbolic and discursive powers of formal speeches to frame, reframe, define, and redefine national conversations.

Buhari didn’t stop at glorifying authoritarian regimes and subliminally linking them with development (while craftily mentioning a lone democratic example just to blunt potential criticism), he also said, “With leadership and a sense of purpose, we can lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in 10 years.” His current stolen mandate has a four-year duration. Why did he make a 10-year projection?

People who haven’t come to terms with Buhari’s plans to rule for as long as he is alive would say governments traditionally make projections way beyond their tenures since governance is supposed to be a continuity. Well, we know that governance isn’t a continuity in Nigeria. Governments in Nigeria derive the notional basis of their legitimacy and independence by instinctually opposing and upending the programs and policies of their predecessors—even when they are from the same political party. The Yar’adua administration, for instance, defined itself in opposition to the Obasanjo administration even though both belong to the same party and Obasanjo, in fact, made Yar’adua’s emergence possible.

Plus, fulsome praise for authoritarianism from a power-obsessed man who is also making projections into the future that exceed the limits of his constitutionally guaranteed tenure should, at the very least, invite curiosity and a search for clarity. Now, why would the leadership of a branch of government that works through deliberation squelch a conversation about this?

Former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s bid for a third term was thwarted by a virile, independent National Assembly. Now that the National Assembly has been fused with the presidency, there will no resistance to executive tyranny.

Buhari’s self-perpetuation bid, when it does finally unravel, will be unchallenged in the National Assembly. With a compromised legacy and digital-native news media formation, a decapitated judiciary, a purchasable civil society, and hordes of homeland and diasporan mercenary intellectuals for hire, Nigeria is sleepwalking to self-annihilation.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Buhari Bares His Fascist Fangs at AIT and RayPower

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The Muhammadu Buhari regime, in a fit of fascist rage, shut down the African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM for electing to not be an appendage of the Presidential Villa like NTA , FRCN, and other broadcast stations are; for not being a willing tool in an illegitimate government’s fascist, self-serving propaganda; and for providing an outlet for the ventilation of democratic anxieties about Nigeria’s descent into unimaginable depths of hopelessness.

This didn’t come to me as a surprise because I had warned about it several times. In fact, in last week’s column titled “Formal Enthronement of Buhari’s Fascist Rigocracy,” I said, “Because he lacks legitimacy to rule again, expect the official inauguration of fascist totalitarianism in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. All illegitimate regimes brutally suffocate their citizens who stand up to them.  That is why François-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, famously said, ‘It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.’”

Several decades ago, African-American abolitionist and newspaper editor Frederick Douglas eloquently prefigured the unfolding take-over of the right to public expression by Buhari’s fascist tyranny when he said, “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down.”

The broadcast licenses of AIT and RayPower FM were withdrawn because the stations reputedly "embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts and media propaganda against the government and the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria," among other silly, asinine reasons invented by the NBC to mask its willful, preplanned strike against Daar Communications’ constitutionally guaranteed liberty of expression.

One of AIT’s professional infractions, according to the NBC, was that, on January 18, 2019, its presenter for a program called Kakaaki Social “Read out a tweet from @Gold Rush: ‘…Aticulated FC consolidated its position at the top of the table with a huge away win in America…while lifeless FC is battling with relegation at Ogboru Presidential Stadium, Warri. Presenter just laughed.”

This is unnerving pettiness. For people who are not clued in on Nigerian social media lingo, this tweet merely said Atiku (represented as “Aticulated FC”) scored an enormous political capital by traveling to the United States in January even when Buhari’s propagandists had said he couldn’t travel to the country because he would be arrested and prosecuted for an alleged transnational money-laundering crime.

The tweet contrasted the political capital that the US visit conferred on Atiku with the political diminution Buhari (represented as “Lifeless FC”) suffered in Delta State during the same time when, in a fleeting moment of senile dementia, he declared Delta State’s APC governorship candidate Great Ogboru as APC’s presidential candidate.

The NBC was peeved not only because the tweet was read out on air in a program where trending tweets are read out, but also because the presenter laughed when he read it out!  How does one even engage with that sort of despotic, overweening juvenility? Well, scholars of fascism have long found that in fascist tyrannies, even humor, especially transgressive humor, is a threat that must be eliminated. Buhari’s tyranny, like most tyrannies, is not only humorless and artless; it is also afflicted by a cripplingly lumbering intellectual deficit, which ensures that it doesn’t even understand the codes it purports to enforce.

Nevertheless, transgressive humor is crucial to critical democratic citizenship and to the sustenance of a healthy state, and there is no greater evidence of Nigeria’s tragic descent into the atrocious pits of totalitarian suffocation of the discursive space than the fact that even oppositional political humor is now treason.

Buhari and his malevolent puppeteers have found a dutifully alacritous minion of fascist monocracy in the morally impaired and explicitly politically partisan Ishaq Modibbo Kawu who, as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, vied for the governorship of his home state of Kwara on the platform of the ruling APC.

A man who didn’t have the common decency to resign his position as the non-partisan arbiter of the broadcast industry before running for a partisan political position and, even worse, who returned to the same position after losing his partisan political bid has no moral authority to sit in judgment over professionalism and political partisanship.

As I mentioned in a previous two-part column titled “Ilorin is an Ethnogenesis: Response to Kawu’s Anti-Saraki Ilorin Purism,” Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, whom I knew as Olanrewaju “Lanre” Kawu in the 1990s, is someone I’ve called a friend and a brother for years, not because we come from the same state but because I thought we shared the same passion for a juster, fairer, more progressive society.

I now realize that I didn’t know him. Access to power has exposed the rotten underbelly he had artfully hidden for years. Former US First Lady Michelle Obama, who should know, once said power doesn’t change people; it divulges who they really are.  It lays bare their inner core. Kawu is a fawning, servile enforcer of the fascist strangulation of the broadcast industry on behalf of Buhari and Abba Kyari, his equally ethically stained benefactor, because he was never true to the ideals he professed.

As I write this column, he is being tried by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on 12-count charges, including a N25 billion naira fraud. A man who flouted the provisions of the Nigerian constitution that requires public servants to resign their positions 30 days before standing for elections, who is an unabashed political partisan, and who is on trial for colossal financial fraud against the nation and the organization he heads has no moral power to regulate any institution.

But this is Buhari’s Nigeria where people buy immunity with political loyalty, where people evade the legal consequences of their moral indiscretions by not only showing loyalty to the president but by performing it with exhibitionistic glee.

For instance, just a day after he met with Buhari, withdrew his candidature for the position of senate president, and endorsed the president’s candidate for senate president, the EFCC withdrew its N25 billion fraud case against Danjuma Goje and transferred it to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which is now the euphemism for discontinuation of prosecutorial pursuit of malefactors with whom the government is now pleased.

Kawu knows that the only way to earn himself reprieve from his N25 billion fraud trial is to, like Goje and others, perform spectacular partisan loyalty to Buhari. In the coming days and weeks, expect the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to take over his case from the ICPC. This is a thoroughly corrupt, lawless, and fascist totalitarianism that does not even pretend to spare a split second’s worth of thought for moral propriety and sense of shame. The Buhari regime, as I’ve repeatedly said, will be the undoing of Nigeria.

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Saturday, June 1, 2019

Formal Enthronement of Buhari’s Illegitimate Rigocracy

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

May 29, 2019 will go in the record books as the day Nigeria formally adopted, institutionalized, and inaugurated rigocracy as a system of government. In my March 2, 2019 column titled “This is Rigocracy, Not Democracy,”I defined a rigocracy as a system of government which owes its existence not to the votes of the electorates of a country, but to audaciously violent, in-your-face, state-sponsored rigging.

 The new Buhari regime isn’t just a rigocracy; it’s a rigocracy wrapped in multiple layers of brazen-faced illegitimacy. An illegitimate, ethically stained Chief Justice of Nigeria inaugurated an illegitimate president who unashamedly stole someone else’s electoral mandate in broad daylight.  This reality puts Nigeria’s democracy in double jeopardy.

Buhari (whom people on social media now call “Buharig” because of the unprecedentedly crude electoral heist he perpetrated in February) and the cabal of corrupt, indolent, and unconscionable provincials who rule on his behalf instructed their minions to rig the last presidential election because they knew Buhari had not a snowball’s chance in hell of winning.

The assault on the integrity of the electoral process actually started way before the election took place. The president was told to decline assent to a revised electoral bill that would have made rigging impossible. Then the president’s villainous fixers circumvented the law, and even the conventions of basic decency, to remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria and replace him with a malleable, compromised dissembler from his geo-cultural backyard so that any judicial challenge to their planned rigging would be ineffectual.

In spite of their rigging, however, Buhari still came up short on Election Day. He lost to Atiku by nearly 2 million votes, according to figures on INEC’s own server, which they have been unable to refute with the resources of logic and evidence. So Buhari ordered INEC to invent arbitrary figures and proclaim him “winner.” And degenerate, unprincipled, and morally compromised Mahmood Yakubu who has gone down in the annals as the absolute worst and most detestable INEC chairman Nigeria has ever had obliged dutifully.

 That’s why more than three months after the election, INEC has not had the courage to share the raw data of the election with the public. It’s because the numbers won’t add up. The numbers won’t add up because they are not even remotely faithful to the outcome of the votes cast on Election Day. Mahmood Yakubu’s venal, purchasable INEC is still frantically fudging the figures to justify the fraudulent figures they assigned to presidential candidates.

To be sure, this isn’t the first time elections were rigged in Nigeria. In fact, all previous elections have been rigged. Nevertheless, in past rigged presidential elections, the winners would still have won even if the elections were free and fair. It was often overzealousness and the absence of restraining mechanisms—and legal consequences— against electoral manipulation that enabled their rigging.

For example, in 1999 Olusegun Obasanjo enjoyed the support of every electoral bloc except the Southwest. His minders didn’t need to rig to win. In 2003, he had the support of every voting bloc except the Northwest and the Northeast. That was enough to hand him a handy victory.

In 2007, the late Musa Umaru Yar’adua, whom I refused to address as “president” because of the intolerable magnitude of rigging that brought him to power, would have easily defeated Buhari without the need to rig. Buhari, after all, only campaigned in the Muslim north, which was also Yar’adua’s natal region. The rest of the country saw Buhari for what he was (and is): a violent, closed-minded, malicious religious and ethnic bigot. So no one outside his primordial cocoon wanted to touch him with a barge pole.

Buhari’s public perception as the personification of spiteful religious and ethnic bigotry was unaltered in 2011 when he ran against Goodluck Jonathan. Jonathan also didn’t need to rig to defeat him. In an October 10, 2010 article, even Nasir El-Rufai, who later became his most important political asset, rightly characterized him as “perpetually unelectable because his record as military head of state and [his]insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity and his parochial focus.”

In 2014, Buhari had a total makeover, thanks to the same Nasir El-Rufai who reached out to his allies in the southwest. He was dressed in borrowed robes—both metaphorically and literally. Jonathan’s own unacceptable incompetence, which we thought was the worst we had witnessed until Buhari came and shattered his record, made Buhari an option. In other words, unvarnished, un-deodorized Buhari was no electoral threat to anyone, so rigging to defeat him was purposeless overkill.  

 It is also true that Atiku rigged in his strongholds in the last election. I’ve also seen firm videographic evidence to suggest that Atiku’s supporters in the southeast and in the deep south rigged on his behalf, although Atiku’s rigging in his strongholds couldn’t cancel out the magnitude of Buhari’s rigging in the Northwest, the Northeast, and in Lagos.

 Nevertheless, the rigging that ultimately determined the outcome of the presidential election this year wasn’t the rigging that took place at polling booths. If it had been limited to that, Buhari would have lost. INEC outright ignored the record of the election stored in its system and plucked grotesque, fantastical numbers out of thin air. It is the first time since 1999 that a presidential candidate who lost an election by a massive margin, even after rigging, has been declared winner. It’s an outrage.

From May 29, I took a decision to stop calling Buhari Nigeria’s president because he is NOT. He is a shameless mandate thief, the face of a fascist rigocracy, and a dreadful reminder of the collapse of all pretenses to democracy in Nigeria. Even the president’s minders know this. That is why they couldn’t summon the courage to write an inaugural address for him, making him probably the first president in the world to ever be inaugurated without an inaugural address.

It’s also telling that no past living head of state or president, except the uncommonly genial Yakubu Gowon, honored the illegitimate, discreditable charade called inauguration. They all withheld their symbolic stamps of approval from the disgraceful travesty. That’s a first.

Because he lacks legitimacy to rule again, expect the official inauguration of fascist totalitarianism in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. All illegitimate regimes brutally suffocate their citizens who stand up to them.  That is why François-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, famously said, “It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”

This is by far the darkest period in the history of Nigeria's democracy. I commiserate with Nigerians who are witnessing the brutal annihilation of the faintest vestiges of democracy in their country by an inept, illegitimate fraud who is, in addition, held hostage by an irreversible mental and cognitive decline as evidenced, yet again, in the tediously rambling disaster of an interview he gave a few days ago where he couldn’t tell Nigerians who he is.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Obasanjo’s “Fulanization,” Diasporan Intellectual Impostors

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

Two important issues competed for my attention this week: Obasanjo’s uncharacteristically explosive public statement on Boko Haram and Fulani herders and the dissimulation of two US-based pro-regime apologists who are misleading the Nigerian public into believing that they are representatives of “Nigerian scholars in the diaspora.”

The news media reported former president Olusegun Obasanjo to have said that Boko Haram’s enduring homicidal fury was a manifestation of “West African Fulanization” and that the relentlessly broadening menace of murderous Fulani herders all over the country was being done in the service of “African Islamization.”

When people called my attention to these statements, I immediately dismissed them as improbable claims Obasanjo would make. Whatever you may say about Obasanjo, I said, you can’t deny that he is probably Nigeria’s most academically inquisitive former president who is also not given to flippancy. So how could he equate Boko Haram with “Fulanization” when, in fact, Boko Haram and “Fulanization” are almost mutually exclusive?

Boko Haram is a predominantly Kanuri phenomenon. Anyone who has even a faint familiarity with northern Nigerian history would know that Kanuri and Fulani people are historical adversaries, although the passage of time, colonial and post-colonial northernization policy, and semi-ritualized “joking relationship” (Kanuri and Fulani people now playfully make fun of each other, such as calling each other “slaves”) have eased the historical tensile stress between the two groups.

Many scholars place the incipience of the historical animosity between the Kanuri and the Fulani to the time of Usman Dan Fodiyo’s jihad. The Kanuri, who have been Muslims since at least the 9th century (making them probably the first ethnic group to embrace Islam in West Africa), froze off Dan Fodiyo’s jihad, whose goal was to “reform” Islam where it already existed and to replace traditional power structures with Dan Fodiyo’s protĂ©gĂ©s who were invariably Fulani.

Although Dan Fodiyo failed in his bid to take over Kanuri land, his version of Islam and the political structure he established predominate in contemporary northern Nigeria, as exemplified, for example, by the fact that the Sultan of Sokoto, a descendant of Dan Fodio, is higher in rank in the hierarchy of northern Nigerian traditional rulers than the Shehu of Borno. So, if anything, Boko Haram would actually love to “de-Fulanize” Nigeria and West Africa.

It is also problematic to say that the activities of nihilistic Fulani predators all over Nigeria are inspired by a “West African Islamization” agenda. Perhaps the greatest challenge to that narrative is the fact that Muslims are also victims of the wildly murderous rage of these anarchic brutes. In fact, at the moment, northern Muslims are disproportionate victims of their sanguinary brutalities. It doesn’t make sense to advance an Islamization agenda by killing other Muslims.

Obasanjo, more than any past president or head of state, should know this. Fortunately, it has turned out that the news media mischaracterized what Obasanjo actually said.

This was the statement that instigated the misleading headlines: “It is no longer an issue of lack of education and lack of employment for our youths in Nigeria which it began as; it is now West African Fulanization, African Islamization and global organized crimes of human trafficking, money laundering, drug trafficking, gun trafficking, illegal mining and regime change.”

In this quote, Obasanjo didn’t equate Boko Haram with Fulanization and murderous herders with Islamization. After reading the entire speech, it became clear that he only said Boko Haram’s ultimate goal was the Islamization of West Africa, which is accurate especially because the group has transmogrified from a ragtag of Kanuri holy terrors to the “West African” branch of ISIS with territorial expansionist ambitions.

It is also difficult to sustain a logical defense against the charge that the Fulani nihilists who are on a murdering spree all over the nation aren’t on a “Fulanization” agenda because they are dispossessing people of their lands and reterritorializing places that are uninhabited as a result of their pogroms. This is as true in Benue as it is in Zamfara.

But it isn’t the fact that Obasanjo is right that should trouble us; it is the fact that, of all people, it is Obasanjo who is saying this. As a retired northern Nigerian military general told me on the phone a few days ago when we discussed this, that Obasanjo, a defiantly pan-Nigerian enthusiast who had never been publicly associated with sub-nationalist proclivities, would talk of “Fulanization” and “Islamization” in any context is the biggest indication of how much Buhari has destroyed faith in the desirability of Nigeria’s continuity as a country.

From proclaiming IPOB a “terrorist” organization and instructing the mass slaughters of its unarmed members while overprotecting murderous Fulani brigands who have been called “the fourth deadliest known terrorist group” in the world by the Global Terrorism Index, to appointing a security council that is almost exclusively Muslim and northern, to his unprecedented levels of nepotism and small-mindedness, etc. Buhari has shown that he doesn’t care if Nigeria collapses under the weight of his thoughtlessness, toxic sub-nationalism, and incompetence.

Diasporan Intellectual Imposters
Several people on Twitter called my attention to the existence of a politically partisan, pro-government association that calls itself the “Association of Nigerian Scholars in Diaspora [sic]." People wanted to know if I was a member of the association—or if I had any familiarity with its existence and work.

People reached out to me because the association issued a tendentious press statement on May 20 commending the reappointment of CBN governor Godwin Emefiele and urging Buhari to retain his incompetent service chiefs even in the face of the escalating loss of lives and the deepening and widening of the theater of insecurity throughout Nigeria.

I had never heard of the association and have never met anyone who has, although the Vanguard described it as the “umbrella organisation of Nigerian scholars in the Diaspora.” It turned out that the statement was signed by Professor Bitrus Gwamna, whom I met last year in Columbia, Missouri, during the annual convention of the Zumunta Association, USA Inc., an association of northern Nigerians in the US.

A search of “Association of Nigerian Scholars in Diaspora” on Google yielded another disgracefully pro-regime propaganda signed by Professor Gwamna and Professor Pita Agbese (famous journalist Dan Agebese’s younger brother, whom I also met in Missouri) on behalf of the "Association of Nigerian Scholars in Diaspora [sic]."
Pita Agbese

Titled "Diasporan Nigerian Scholars Fault US Report on Corruption, Insecurity," the report quoted Gwamna and Agbese as describing the US State Department’s 2018 human rights report on Nigeria, which every sober Nigerian knows to be factual and accurate, as "legitimizing the criminal activities of terrorists and extremists in Nigeria," among other utterly ridiculous and indefensibly pedestrian, not to mention willfully mendacious, farrago of nonsense passed up as a press statement.

I initially thought the names of these gentlemen, for whom I had a lot of regard, were fraudulently used without their knowledge or permission by pro-regime propagandists in Nigeria. But my preliminary findings show that Professor Agbese, who lives in the same city with Professor Gwamna, has a record of pro-regime propaganda, particularly in support of the military.

For instance, in September 2018, six months after his vituperative press statement against the US State Department and in defense of the military’s horrendous human rights abuses against innocent civilians, he organized a “conference” in Minnesota where he invited Nigerian military generals to come “educate” Americans on the military’s “successes” in fighting terrorism and other forms of insecurity.

His public participation in Facebook forums, particularly Idoma-themed Facebook groups, also shows that he is an unabashed apologist for the Buhari regime—and for the Nigerian military. I have no idea what Professor Agbese’s connection is to the Buhari regime and to the military in particular, nor do I care.

Nevertheless, I want to alert the Nigerian public to the fact that the "Association of Nigerian Scholars in Diaspora" does not represent all Nigerian scholars who live abroad. It is a two-man association that isn’t even formally registered in the US—or anywhere in the world.

Many of us who have a heightened moral conscience, whose intellect isn't for sale, who cherish decency, who aren’t two-bit mercenary intellectuals, and who are intensely aware of the avoidable abyss Buhari is obstinately leading Nigeria to won’t ever be part of such an association.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

There are No Progressives in Nigeria

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Nigerian political lexicon is filled with glib and facile labels such as “liberal,” “progressive,” “conservative,” etc. It’s obvious, nevertheless, that neither the political class nor, in fact, the cultural elites have any informed understanding of the conceptual limits of these terms.

In Nigeria, for the most part, “progressive” has become the all-purpose term of esteem to deodorize filthy, crooked, and loud-mouthed politicians who nonetheless have untrammeled access to the news media. “Conservative” has also emerged as the choicest term of disesteem to slur politicians who are as reactionary, filthy, and corrupt as self-described “progressives” but who have no access to the media—or who have no capacity for, or interest in, shaping media narratives in their favor.

Let’s start by conceptualizing who a progressive or a liberal is. French philosopher Voltaire once said, “If you must converse with me, first define your terms”—or something to that effect.

Although there is no ironclad definitional unanimity in the conception of what constitutes a liberal or a progressive, no one disagrees that it refers to someone who is not limited to or by established, conventional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; who is free from, or at least self-consciously recognizes the unacceptability of, bigotry.

The term is also used to denote a person who is amenable to proposals for reform, new ideas for progress, and is tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others. Generally speaking, it means one who is broad-minded, who is not invidiously wedded to his or her primordial identity to the detriment of others, and who is not held in check by the tyranny of received, often outmoded, wisdom.

Very few politicians in Nigeria come even remotely close to these ideals. Take, for instance, the corrupt, conscienceless clowns in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) who are a study in narrow-mindedness, ethnic insularity, religious bigotry, retrograde politics—and worse—but who fancy themselves as “progressives” and who tag others like them but who happen to be outside their fold as “conservatives.”

For instance, Bola Tinubu, Tunde Fashola, Yemi Osinbajo, and others, whose easy access to the media causes them to be seen as the poster boys of progressivism in contemporary Nigeria, are just as reactionary as any politician in the country. In several media interviews, they have made no pretenses about being ethnic bigots and about why they are self-interested enablers of Buhari’s fascist monocracy.

In October 2018, for example, Fashola told Yoruba voters to ignore Buhari’s incompetence and the corruption he enables and protects because, “A vote for Buhari in 2019 means a return of power to the South-West in 2023. I am sure you will vote wisely.” That’s backward, Stone-Age ethnic politics often associated with “conservatives.” Fashola did not even attempt to make the slightest pretense to cosmopolitanism and broad-mindedness, which are central to notions of progressive politics.

In the United States, too, it’s traditional to draw a distinction between liberals and conservatives in every national debate. But unlike in Nigeria where everybody avoids the label “conservative” like a plague, here people who think they are conservative not only accept the label but flaunt it.

A conservative is generally understood to be a person who is impervious to change, who conforms to the standards and conventions of the power structure, who finds joy only in his or her ethnic, religious, and racial comfort zone, who is resistant to accepting others who are different from him or her,  and who is exclusivist and inward-looking.

In policy terms, the conceptions of progressivism and conservatism will most definitely differ from country to country. In the US, progressives champion universal health care, racial tolerance, renewable energy, acceptance of cultural, religious, and sexual minorities, etc. That explains why the liberal camp is the natural attraction for racial and religious minorities in the country.

In Nigeria, a progressive is someone who is able to transcend his or her ethnic and religious particularities and embrace others who are different from him or her, who defends and protects weak and vulnerable populations from the terror of the state, and who promotes justice, fairness, and equity for all.

In America, cultural conservatives resist racial equality, are in favor of excluding religious, cultural, and sexual minorities from mainstream society, are religious fundamentalists, want to control the choices women make with their bodies, and are generally ruthless, vulturistic capitalists who can suck the blood of a dead person if they are convinced that his blood has profit value.

I know of no politician in today’s Nigeria who isn’t a conservative by any definition of the term. Even so-called human rights activists, with a few exceptions, are ideologically indistinguishable from conservative politicians.

Conservatism is the easiest ideological disposition to gravitate to because it requires no effort. It comes from the human tendency to be at peace with the familiar and the predicable— and to be discomfited by the unknown and by the repudiation of settled certainties.

That is why although progressives are usually the drivers of innovation and of human progress, they are usually a minority who are never popular with mainstream society.  That was what Martin Luther King Jr meant when he once said, “The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”

In other words, conservatives are the “conforming majority” who defend tyranny when they are not personally affected by it, who do not want to jolt the habitual order of things. Progressives are the “nonconforming minority” whose “creative maladjustment” requires confronting and working to extirpate the established order and entrenched but ruinous attitudes, which is often done at the cost of social and cultural ostracism— and sometimes death.

In Nigeria’s First and Second republics, there were politicians and political parties that were truly progressive. Take the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU), for instance. At great personal risks, Aminu Kano led a disciplined rebellion against a ruthlessly backward feudal order in the North. NEPU also formed an alliance with the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) at a time regional insularity was the norm, particularly in the North. That was creative maladjustment.

In the Second Republic, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP), particularly in its first incarnation, was clearly Nigeria’s most progressive party of the time, not because it proclaimed itself so but because of its philosophy, politics, and governance style. For instance, Kano’s Abubakar Rimi instituted cosmopolitanism and ethnic inclusion as a deliberate governing philosophy.

Although he was governor of a predominantly Muslim and Hausa state, he appointed many non-Kano indigenes, including Christians from the South, into his government. He also intentionally weakened and demystified the traditional institutions that have historically oppressed and held the North back. No such radical reordering of society is taking place anywhere in Nigeria now.

All the major political players in today’s Nigeria are decidedly conservative. APC and PDP, in particular, are two peas in a pod. That is why politicians move in and out of both parties with painless ease— and with not a jot of compunction.

Saturday, May 11, 2019

The Revolution Won’t Start from the North—Or Anywhere

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

Northern Nigeria’s cascading descent into the abyss of anarchy, particularly with the ongoing indiscriminate abductions of moneyed aristocrats in the region, has stimulated a flurry of prognostications that “the revolution” will start from there; that it foretells the nascence of a revolt from below; that the forgotten, despised, and hungry almajirai are striking back. That’s wishful, erroneous thinking.

The emerging picture of the demographic profiles of the kidnappers that have been tormenting northern Nigeria does not square with the image of distraught, economically disaffiliated almajirai. They are former herders, from within and outside Nigeria, who have lost their cattle for any number of reasons, and who have taken to mindless, avaricious, and self-interested banditry. Anyone who expects the seeds of a revolution to sprout from the thoughtless brigandage of these sorts of insensate philistines must be clueless about what revolution entails.

Disparate strands of resentments might coalesce into a mass resistance, then blossom into a protest, and culminate in a rebellion without ever achieving the status of a revolution. In a revolution, a vanguard takes ownership of the rebellion and uses it as a ladder to climb to substantive power. The kidnappings in the far north are not a mass resistance. Nor are they a self-conscious, systematic protest, or even a rebellion. So they have not a snowball’s chance in hell of ever transforming into a revolution.

The northern hoi polloi who bear the real brunt of Buhari’s cruelly strangulating and escalating incompetence won’t resist, protest, rebel, much less revolt, because they have been socialized into accepting their economic suffering with equanimity. The only thing that rouses their passions, that animates them to mindless violence, is religion.

You can smolder the Northern masses with economic asphyxiation, as Buhari is doing now, and they would make peace with their fate with listless acquiescence, but blaspheme their religion, or even icons of their religion, and they would rise up in arms and murder indiscriminately.  Appeals to religion is the easiest way to ignite the raw emotions and solidarity of the northern masses. The region’s elite know that intimately and habitually exploit it to perpetuate themselves in power.

With a few honorable exceptions, the region’s clerical elites, known as the Ulama, are in bed with the political elites to keep the masses perpetually in a state of suspended animation. Amid the inexorably intensifying breakdown of security in the region, compromised clerical elites are also intensifying fraudulent theological rationalizations for the rise of kidnappings— and, of course, exculpating Buhari of responsibility for this.

Many people were scandalized when the Chief Imam of the Presidential Villa, Sheikh Abdulwaheed Sulaiman, was reported to have said, on May 8, that the widening and deepening of insecurity in the North was a “test from God.” The imam didn’t implore Buhari, who sat by him, to devise creative ways to contain the insecurity that has made people prisoners in their homes; he instead shifted the burden to the very people who are traumatized by a problem that is aggravated by the president’s incompetence. He beseeched beleaguered Northerners “for repentance and prayers to avert the current security challenges confronting the nation.”

The Aso Rock Imam’s exasperatingly bald-faced theological fraud is unfortunately the template the vast majority of the Ulama in Northern Nigeria deploy when they protect leaders who feather their nests. And it’s intended to keep the masses in check and to anesthetize them into not just accepting the incompetence of their leaders as an inescapable divine design but to bear responsibility for it.

In other words, Northern masses are fed the sterile, mendacious theological staple that the avoidable tragedies that befall them are not the consequence of the ineptitude of their leaders but a product of divine punishment for the iniquities of the masses. So in addition to the trauma of living with the disabling dysfunctions created by their elites, they are blackmailed by cold, calculating, conscienceless clerical aristocrats into internalizing moral guilt for their conditions.

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 now works as DG of NITDA. He defended his curious silence by pointing out that because he has access to the president, he routinely reminds him, in private, of his responsibility to secure the lives of people he swore to protect.

I don’t doubt the Sheikh whom I have known to be an embodiment of righteousness and honor. Nevertheless, he has rendered himself vulnerable to charges of weak convictions. It means, at best, that his earnest, impassioned harangues against Goodluck Jonathan were actuated by his lack of access to the man. In other words, if he had had access to Jonathan, as he does to Buhari now, he wouldn’t have expressed any public outrage over the mass murders of Muslims in the North.

While that reality diminishes his moral standing, I can understand it. Access to people in the corridors of power tends to blunt revulsion toward them. That is why people who want to stay true to their convictions should avoid dalliance with wielders of power. Power does not brook opposition within its reaches; it coopts, contaminates, or neutralizes.

Since 2016, at least three prominent people have arranged a meeting between Buhari and me, and I politely declined. I also refused to speak with Atiku Abubakar and spurned his emissary’s invitation to meet with him when he visited the United States in January 2019. I make no claims to being an unblemished, nonpareil moral superior, but nothing is more important to me than my independence of thought. When you gain privileged access to people in power whose feet you hold to the fire, you can’t sustain your independence because they will strategically coopt and silence you.

Now, if the revolution can’t come from the North because the masses of the people there are under the grip of a corrupt clerical establishment, is there hope from other parts of the country? None that I can see. Much of the rest of Nigeria is beset by a different iteration of the same problem in the North.

The deeper the nation descends into the nadir of despair, the more fatalistic, superstitious, and pre-scientific many people tend to become. Nigerian Christian Pentecostalism has particularly predisposed many people in the South to believe that they can “pray” all their problems away, that they don’t need to take their destinies into their own hands. It’s akin to what anthropologists call cargo cult mentality, that is, the superstitious belief, first recorded among pre-modern tribes in Melanesia, that all the goodies of this world will magically and effortlessly appear because people wish it into existence through staid rituals.

That’s not the way the world works. Any society where the vast majority of the people recoil in fatalistic resignation while their oppressors have a field day will be stuck in protracted infancy. Revolutionary tremors are good for every society every once in a while.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Nigeria Needs History and a Name Change

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

My last week’s column that exploded Natasha H. Akpoti’s wildly unfounded conspiracy theories about Nigeria highlights the imperative for a radical, systemic curricular overhaul of Nigeria’s education system to make history compulsory from primary school to university. It also dramatizes the truism that you can’t build something on nothing.

Aristotle popularized the idea that nature abhors a vacuum. I would add that even the mind abhors a vacuum. Most human beings are intrinsically inquisitive and have an abiding yearning to learn about their past. If no systematic, empirical, and veridical body of historical knowledge exists to satisfy this longing, they will either invent it themselves or fall prey to the crackpot conspiracies of charlatans.

The enthusiasm with which people shared—and believed—Akpoti’s conspiratorial, logically impoverished, and chronologically impossible history of Nigeria is proof of this. So is the unnerving ignorance displayed by Buhari’s lawyers on Atiku Abubakar’s citizenship and the position of British northern Cameroon in the formation of Nigeria.

Plus, it’s impossible to fashion a functional country out of a disparate fragment of people such as Nigeria without a deliberate, well-thought-out collective history as a part of formal pedagogy in schools. Nations, as Anglo-Irish political scientist Benedict Anderson points out, are imagined communities. History is an important part of the imagination that brings forth nations out of aggregates of dissimilar people. That is why in the United States, to give an example I am intimately familiar with, history is mandatory from elementary school to university irrespective of course of study.

The result is that in spite of their own peculiar fissures, Americans have a fair grasp of their history—even if it’s only the sanitized, officially sanctioned version of their history. My my 9-year-old son knows more about American history than most Nigerian university graduates who didn’t study history know about Nigerian history.

In the last few years, the claim that the Nigerian government “banned history” from the national curriculum has become a hackneyed, predictable refrain. It’s often uttered in moments of glaring display of historical ignorance, especially by young people. But this refrain is both dishonest and inaccurate. History was never a mandatory subject at any point in Nigeria’s history. It was always optional before it was discontinued because of progressively dwindling student enrollment.

When I started secondary school more than three decades ago, history and government were offered as alternatives to each other for students in the humanities and social sciences concentration. That is, you enrolled in either history or government but not both. In my secondary school, no one chose history. Apparently, this is a national phenomenon, which caused the ministry of education to discontinue offering the subject.

Nevertheless, even the secondary school history curriculum that students were taught (with which I am familiar because I studied it on my own) is deficient, poorly focused, and incapable of nurturing the sort of historical knowledge that is indispensable to national self-fashioning. At some point, the curricula of history and government were indistinguishable.

 So people who advocate the return of history to the national secondary school curriculum should go beyond merely advocacy for its return; they should also insist that professional historians radically reorder the history curriculum and then compel the government to make it compulsory, not merely an option, for all secondary school students. A history curriculum appropriate for primary schools should also be designed and made mandatory. Finally, every higher education student, irrespective of disciplinary orientation, should be made to take at least two semesters’ worth of history courses as part of general education.

I ended my August 10, 2013 column titled “A Know Nothing Nation” by observing that, “Until our educational system and national orientation are reformed to deepen and broaden our knowledge about ourselves, our quest for nationhood will continue to be stuck in prolonged infancy.” History is the vehicle to reach that goal.

History bridges our past, our present, and our future. That was what Irish-British philosopher Edmund Burke meant when he said, “History is a pact between the dead, the living and the yet unborn.” We ignore history at own peril. And this leads me to why Nigeria needs to change its name.

Why Nigeria Needs a New Name
I have written copiously on the need to change our colonial name. After formal independence from British colonialism, we changed our constitution, our national anthem, and our national currency, but we are still burdened with the name and national colors handed down to us by colonialism. Whenever Nigeria gets a thinking, self-respecting leadership, we need to throw away these avoidably odious holdovers of colonialism.

Nigeria is one of only a few previously colonized countries in the world that still bear the name imposed on them by their historical oppressors. As I showed last week, the name Nigeria was invented by Flora Shaw, Lugard’s wife, from the term “Niger-area,” and she intended for the name to refer only to what is now northern Nigeria. She didn’t have southern Nigeria in mind when she came up with the name. In fact, part of the reasons she invented the name was to differentiate the north from the south.

Well, that’s now an insignificant point. What is significant is that the name “Nigeria” traces lexical descent from the River Niger, which has symbolic significance for most communities in what is now Nigeria. However, as I showed last week, even “Niger” is a foreign word—whether you think it’s derived from the Latin niger or the Berber ger-n-ger.

I pointed out in my February 25, 2017 column titled “A Vote for ‘Naija’ and Against ‘Nigeria’”— in response to the misguided campaign by the National Orientation Agency to ban the use of the affectionate diminutive term Naija in place of Nigeria—that, “If we must name our country after the longest river in our land, why not adopt one or all of its local names? Yoruba people call Rive Niger ‘Oya,’ the Baatonu people call it ‘Kora,’ Hausa people call it ‘Kwara,’ Igbo people call it ‘Orimiri,’ etc.”

If you blend the local names for River Niger from our country’s three major ethnic groups, you may come up with something like “Kwoyamiri.” Or, perhaps, “Oyakwamiri.” That’s an infinitely better, more authentic name than “Nigeria.”

If that doesn’t work, what stops us from adopting the as yet unclaimed name of a powerful precolonial West African empire called Songhai—on the model of Ghana, Benin, Mali, etc.? I pointed out in a previous column that, “it was actually an Igbo man from Ohafia by the name of Dr. Kalu Ezera who first suggested, in 1960, that Nigeria’s name should be changed to the United Republic of Songhai. But the reactionary colonial lackeys who formed the core of Nigeria’s early ‘nationalists’ ignored him. So the campaign to change Nigeria’s name to Songhai is neither new nor informed by ethnic or religious loyalties.”

A lot of the resistance to changing Nigeria’s name is often predicated on the notion that it’s too late. Well, the southern African country of Swaziland recently changed its name to Eswatini, and the entire world now refers to it by that name. In any case, it’s never too late to do the right thing.

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