"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta

Saturday, September 26, 2020

Nigeria Won’t Break. It’d Evolve. Here’s How

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Nigeria will be 60 years old as a formally independent country next Thursday, but the divisibility and tiresomely endless feuding that have emerged as some of its defining features since its forced birth more than a century ago show no sign of abating.

The immobilizing factiousness of the past five years have particularly conduced to the growing sentiment that Nigeria won’t be around much longer.  Opinion leaders of major ethnic groups are plotting exit strategies from the Nigerian union.

But as much as I respect the rights of any people to dissociate from a toxic Nigerian union that seems to hold everybody back, I think that news of Nigeria’s imminent dismemberment is greatly exaggerated.

What I foresee happening—bits of which are actually already manifest—is that Nigeria would use its current ethnographic resources to evolve into a completely different country. And here’s my admittedly imperfect ethnographic forecast of an evolved Nigeria.

Let me begin from northern Nigeria, Lugardian northern Nigeria, that is. Home to more than half of Nigeria’s over 500 ethnic groups, northern Nigeria is Nigeria’s most diverse region. Even the two major ethnic groups from Southern Nigeria are represented in the North.

There are Yoruba people who are native to Kwara and Kogi states and there are Igbo people—of the Ezza, Izzi and Effium sub-groups, who are also found in Ebonyi State—who are native to at least four of Benue State’s 23 local governments. That makes northern Nigeria the microcosm of Nigeria.

But I prognosticate that an evolved northern Nigeria would be monolingual with a few holdouts. The Hausa language already predominates in 16 of northern Nigeria’s 19 states. Only Benue, Kogi and Kwara states have so far resisted the linguistic hegemony of the Hausa language.

Every subsequent generation in the 16 Hausaphone northern Nigerian states internalizes the logic and desirability of Hausa-inflected linguistic uniformity and a corresponding abandonment of the plethora of native languages that dot the region’s linguistic map.

Even Fulfulde (as the language Fulani people speak is called) is dying in such northeastern states as Adamawa, Taraba, Gombe and Bauchi, and the resistance to Hausa in Kanuri-speaking Borno and Yobe weakens every generation.

The relentless march of the Hausa language in Northern Nigeria will ensure that a somewhat unified mega identity, riven only by religion, would emerge, and memories of previous ethnic and linguistic identities would recede or disappear—in the same way that many Hausa-speaking communities in northwest Nigeria have no memory that their distant ancestors were not Hausa-speaking people.

So two dominant identities would emerge from northern Nigeria: Hausaphone Muslim northerners and Hausaphone Christian northerners. The Tiv, Idoma, Igede, Igbo, etc. people of Benue State who have historically resisted the Hausa language would share more in common with the emergent ethnic alchemies of southern Nigeria than they would with Hausaphone northern Christians.

The Yoruba-speaking people of Kwara and Kogi states would also fit more easily with their kith in the Southwest, with Ilorin Emirate being a holdout even though its sociolinguistic and geographic singularities would not permit its seamless fusion into the Hausaphone northern Muslim identity.

The people of what has been called Kwara North—the Baatonu and Boko people of Baruten and Kaiama local governments and the Nupe people of Pategi and Edu local governments— who are culturally more similar to other Muslim northerners than they are to the Yoruba-speaking parts of Kwara State would easily meld well into the Hausaphone Muslim identity. Both the Igala and the Ebira of Kogi have cultural and linguistic kith in southern Nigeria and are easily amenable to Hausaphone Muslim/Christian identities.

The former Eastern and Midwestern Nigeria are already witnessing the incipience of an alchemic ethnic fusion of disparate groups enabled largely by the enormous creolization of Nigerian Pidgin English and the Pentecostalization of the Christianity of the regions.

By creolization, I mean the transformation of Nigerian Pidgin English from an anarchic, emergency contact language for episodic encounters to a stable, rule-governed, self-sufficient native language that millions of people speak and identify with on an emotional and cultural level such as is the case with the Krio of Sierra Leone.

The creolization of Nigerian Pidgin English seems unstoppable and appears primed to play the role Hausa is playing in northern Nigeria as an ethnographic glue to coalesce otherwise historically disparate people. The shared Christian identity of the people of the regions, which is now increasingly Pentecostal Christianity, would accentuate this process.

As anyone who pays attention to Edo State would testify, the new identity formation among southern Nigerian minorities is already killing Islam in Edo North where it has existed for decades. There is a mass Christianization of Muslims in northern Edo, and this would only intensify in the coming generations.

As I’ve shown previously, Islam is a strong building block for identity formation in Northern Nigeria, so that “Hausa” and “Muslim” have become misleadingly synonymous in the Nigerian popular imagination. That is why people of northern Edo used to be erroneously called “Bendel Hausa” even though they speak an Edoid language that is almost mutually intelligible with the Bini language.

The association of Islam with Hausa—or, to use the trendiest hyphenated identity formation, Hausa-Fulani—is leading to its repudiation in even historically Muslim polities in southern Nigeria such as Yorubaland. Stories of Yoruba Imams who aren’t allowed to lead prayers in the North and of the distrust of the authenticity of the Islam of Yoruba people by Hausa Muslims help to solidify resistance to Islam. Today, overtly Muslim Yoruba people are seen by the non-Muslim Yoruba as perfidious toadies of the Muslim North.

If this attitude persists—and I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t—it means southern Nigeria would become wholly Christian a few generations from now.

It is not clear to me now if Pidgin English in the former Western Nigeria would be creolized like it is becoming among southern minorities because of the social prestige of the Yoruba language and the numerical power of its native speaker base, but there are already signs that this is happening among the Igbo people.

The Igbo language is the only Nigerian language with millions of native speakers which is nonetheless classified as an “endangered language” because of the tendency toward what Professor Chukuwma Azuonye has called “the fetishization of English” among the Igbo, including code-mixing and  code switching, assimilation of Pidgin English into the Igbo language, among other factors he identified in his article titled “Igbo as an Endangered Language.”

I have a personal encounter with this. In 2000 when news filtered through that there were retaliatory mass slaughters of northerners in the southeast, the editor-in-chief of Weekly Trust where I worked requested that I travel there to cover it.

He said I could easily pass for an Igbo man and that my linguistic handicap in the Igbo language wouldn’t be an issue since Igbo people actually revere their kith who are monolingual in English. What he said turned out to be accurate. Throughout the five days I traveled all over the region, not once was I suspected to be anything but an Igbo.

I got along with a mixture of Pidgin English, Standard English, and a strategic sprinkling of “nna” and other popular Igbo intensifiers in my speech. In fact, when I was returning to Kaduna, someone in Onitsha actually asked why I was going to “where they are killing our people.” “Nna, na my business,” I said.

In other words, generations from now, the fissiparity that drives Nigeria’s current ethnic tensions will dissipate and the fresh contradictions of an evolved Nigeria would frustrate its dismemberment.

For instance, Hausaphone northern Christians, who are a huge chunk, would be invested in a united Nigeria for their self-survival. Although they would share linguistic affinities with the Hausaphone Muslim North, their apprehensions about religious domination would connect them to a creolized Christian South.

More than that, though, Nigeria has generated an enormous repertoire of collective national identity symbols that the upcoming generations, who won’t be moored to the same identities as us, would find hard to throw away.

Of course, as the example of Somalia shows, nations don’t endure merely because of the similarities and shared memories of the people that constitute it. That was why Steve Goodier once said, “We don't get harmony when everybody sings the same note. Only notes that are different can harmonize. The same is true with people.” 

Oshiomhole and His Lizard and Lion Hyperbole

I watched a video clip of Oshiomhole's interview with ChannnelsTV a day before the Edo governorship election where he characterized Obaseki's promise to extirpate his "godfatherly" tentacles in Edo as the threats of a "lizard" to a "lion." (Obaseki is the "lizard" and he is the "lion.")

That's an unusually over-dramatic hyperbole, which aggrandizes the enormity of Oshiomhole's defeat--and the deep psychic rupture he must be nursing now. 

The defeat of a lion by a lizard is the stuff of legends. The Bible's "David and Goliath" story pales miserably in comparison!

Related Article:

Obaseki’s Win, Tinubu, and the Power of American Threats

Sunday, September 20, 2020

Obaseki’s Win, Tinubu, and the Power of American Threats

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Godwin Obaseki’s humiliating trouncing of Adams Oshiomhole (who infamously said for democracy to thrive people must learn to accept the “pain of rigging”) isn’t just a victory over Ize-Iyamu, Oshiomhole’s wide-eyed flunkey; it is also a repudiation of Bola Tinubu who recorded an impudent, cringy, error-ridden broadcast days ago urging the people of Edo State to vote for another slavish stooge he was propping up in cahoots with Oshiomhole.

But more than that, it’s a victory for the power of international pressures on Nigeria’s election riggers. The single most important reason the election wasn’t manipulated was that the US State Department announced a visa ban on APC riggers in previous elections and threatened to impose another ban on future election riggers. The UK and the EU also threatened visa bans on election riggers.

I observed in previous columns that Nigerian leaders have an infantile thirst for a paternal dictatorship, and see the United States as that all-knowing, all-sufficient father-figure to whom they bow in duteous awe.

As WikiLeaks’ 2011 expose of troves US diplomatic cables show, Nigeria’s compulsively mendacious and crooked politicians suddenly become honest, truthful, and straight-talking people when they talk to Americans. You would think they were standing before their Creator—or at least before a stern, omniscient, no-nonsense dad who ruthlessly clobbers his kids for the littlest lie they tell.

Well, if the infantilization of Nigerian leaders by the US is the only thing that forces them to do the right thing, it is sadly welcome. Congratulations to Godwin Obaseki!

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sadism as a Governing Philosophy in Buhari’s Nigeria

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Responsible and morally sensitive governments all over the world toil day and night to invent novel ways to make life a little better for their citizens and to assuage the inevitable existential injuries that life episodically inflicts on people.  But not the Buhari regime.

The regime's single-minded obsession and raison d'ĂȘtre, it would seem, is to make life a little more miserable than it already is for everyday folks every day. One of its core governing philosophies is sadism, which is the perverse pleasure derived from the suffering of others.

(Someone who knows Buhari at a close range told me sometime ago that Buhari is himself a sadistic narcissist who derives pain from the success of people close to him but who’re not his relatives. He said Buhari resents people who wear expensive clothes and drive nice cars (like he does) and that people who want to be in his good graces have to learn to pretend to be poor even if they’re rich because he derives joy from thinking people aren’t doing well.  So there’s a convergence between his personal disposition and his regime’s governing philosophy).

His regime’s entire policy thrust almost from inception has been centered around tactics and strategies for tormenting Nigerians. In 2016, the regime precipitously hiked petrol prices and instigated a devastating recessionary spiral that catapulted Nigeria to the position of the world’s poverty capital. It again increased petrol prices this year at a time of global slump in the prices of petrol.

Petrol is Nigeria’s lifeblood and the engine of its economy in ways it is not anywhere else in the world. When the price of petrol goes up in Nigeria, everything else goes up—except, of course, the already measly salaries of common people. It incites a rise in the cost of transportation, which leads to increases in food prices, in rent, and in the cost of other necessities of life.

There is no other part of the world I know of where fluctuations in the price of petrol automatically activates across-the-board inflationary conflagration. So the regime knows that jacking up petrol prices under all kinds of idiotic guises is a surefire way to achieve its governing philosophy of mass pauperization of Nigerians.

 The Buhari regime is also one of only a few governments I know of in the world that charges its citizens “stamp duties” for every bank deposit they make—in addition to the exploitative charges that banks impose on their customers. (A relative of mine who lives in Ireland said the Irish government also charges a negligible “stamp duty” on bank deposits and ATM transactions, but the standard of living in Ireland is lightyears above Nigeria’s, not to mention that Ireland has one of the world’s best social welfare systems).

In other words, Nigeria is one of only a few countries where people lose money by keeping it in the bank.

Not done with stealing from the poor in the name of “stamp duty” on bank deposits, the regime, in July this year, “directed landlords and property agents to charge six per cent stamp duty on all tenancy and lease agreements to shore up its revenue sources,” according to the Guardian of July 29.

The regime’s goal in introducing a 6% stamp duty on tenancy and lease agreements appeared to be to expand the misery of already traumatized Nigerians by causing a rise in rent. In the aftermath of enormous nationwide indignation, it backed down, but it achieved its aim nonetheless by hiking petrol prices a few weeks later, which has led to rent increases.

In 2016, former Minister of Communication Adebayo Shittu sponsored a bill in the National Assembly for a 10-percent tax increase on phone calls, text messages, and Internet data plans. After popular outcries, the bill was “suspended until the conclusion of study to determine retail prices for broadband and data services in Nigeria.”

That same year, in November, Central Bank of Nigeria governor Godwin Emefiele proposed that all phone calls that lasted longer than 3 minutes should be taxed, saying, “government could earn about N100 billion per annum from this alone.”

Electricity tariffs have gone up more times in the past fives than at any time before, and each increase brings forth more darkness and despair. I don’t know anywhere else in the world where the government forces people to pay more for less and to subsidize ineptitude. But that’s what a governmental philosophy of sadism entails.

It also entails a thoughtless closure of the borders, a ban on food importation even when there’s a severe food shortage because people have abandoned farming all over Nigeria as a consequence of the escalating homicidal fury of Fulani herders on sedentary communities, which the government studiously avoids talking about much less finding a solution to.

After taxing everything that moves, stretching the elastic limits of price regimes, and imposing “stamp duties” on everything that catches their sterile fancies, regime honchos were running out of ideas on how to make Nigeria an even more treacherous snake pit than they've already made it.

Then one of them must have had an epiphany and thought: Oh, we can make Nigerian bank account holders re-register their bank accounts even though they already went through hell to get Bank Verification Numbers a few years ago. They decided to call that “re-certification.”

It's obviously pointless duplication, but that's not the point. The point is to inflict pain and misery on Nigerians, which is the Buhari regime’s reason for being. It is what gives it its highs and delectations. I hear the policy has been withdrawn now after a massive social media uproar.

But there's more on the way. Regime strategists and tacticians are perpetually brainstorming on the next sadistic agony to visit on Nigerians. When they are out of ideas, they might choose to tax the air Nigerians breathe, the land Nigerians walk on, and even the saliva they gulp.

This is all part of what I have called Buhari’s reverse Robin Hoodism, which I defined in a December 3, 2016 column titled “Reverse Robin Hoodism as Buhari’s Governing Philosophy” as “robbing the poor to enrich the rich.”

The increased taxes, stamp duties, and tariffs Nigerians have been paying in the last five years aren’t used to build or renew non-existent or crumbling infrastructure; they are used to subsidize the life of epicurean lavishness of Nigeria’s political elites. They are used to fund yearly brand-new cars, medical tourism, sitting and “hazard allowances,” and so on for politicians and their hangers-on.

Of course, the increased financial burden on poor Nigerians also helps to keep them in check and renders them more docile and controllable. The poorer people are the less strength they tend to have to resist oppression and the more likely they are to be esurient for crumps from their oppressors. So the regime’s governing philosophy of sadism is rooted in the desire to keep the vast majority of the people dirt poor, miserable, ignorant, and therefore more manipulatable.

At the rate things are going in Nigeria, as I pointed out in a recent social media update, the next logical step for APC would be to change its party symbol from a broom to a cutlass and to change its name from “All Progressives Congress” to “All People's Cutlass” (APC) since it has become a proud, equal-opportunity weapon for cutting down people's joy, hopes, and peace.

In true democracies, people run the government; in Nigeria, the government runs the people. In Buhari's regime, the government goes further than run the people; it runs them to the ground, incapacitates them, and ruins them. That’s the sum of its ruling philosophy.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Let’s Talk About the Subsidies for the Rich


By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The poor in Nigeria are continually stripped of subsidies that subside the existential hurt that comes with living in the poverty capital of the world.  Petrol subsidies are particularly enduring emotional blackmail weapons against the poor by people in government.

Since 1970 when Yakubu Gowon increased the pump price of petrol from 6 kobo to 8.45 kobo, subsequent Nigerian governments have always insisted that subsidies are unsustainable and must be removed for the “benefit” of the people it helps!

 Just when you think they have finally removed the last “subsidies” and would now  grant the masses freedom from the emotional blackmail of being told that they are undeserving beneficiaries of government’s unjustifiable benevolence, they tell us again that they need to remove what they had told us they'd removed. They interminably guilt-trip an already distraught and beleaguered population.

But, as I did four years ago, it’s time we changed the conversation. Let’s turn our gaze to the walloping subsidies that pay for the hedonism of Nigeria’s notoriously self-indulgent elite, shall we?

While Buhari said “no kobo” of Nigeria’s foreign reserves would be used to import food and fertilizers for the country  in spite of food shortages that have necessitated Nigeria begging for maize from its neighbors, he and his family members routinely go abroad for medical treatment for their littlest ailments and use the planes in the presidential fleet for even non-official domestic and international travels.

The presidential air fleet needlessly and avoidably drains Nigeria’s national resources. According to a November 17, 2015 statement from the presidency, there were 10 aircraft in the presidential fleet, which cost more than 2 billion naira to maintain in just 6 months.

After public outcry in 2016, which I helped to amplify, the presidency said it had put two of the 10 presidential jets on sale to "cut down on waste." It turned out, as I correctly guessed then, that it was all a subterfuge. No jet was sold.

The British Prime Minister had no dedicated fleet of aircraft until 2016 when a plane was purchased for the Prime Minister (and “other ministers and senior members of the royal family when they travel on official engagements”) at the cost of $15 million. That’s about how much it cost to maintain Nigeria’s presidential fleet between May and November in 2016, according to the presidency.

Hundreds of billions are allocated every year to finance the feeding, travels, medical bills, brand new cars, and even sewage disposal of people in the presidency.

Now compare this to America, the world’s wealthiest nation. American presidents pay for their own food from their pocket. As Gary Walters, a former White House Chief of Staff, told the (London) Guardian, “All those things that are personal in nature that we all pay for, the first family pays for.”

“It’s just the tradition that it’s continued on through time that the president will pay for their own food and, I guess, if they needed something for the house that was personal. Toothpaste, cologne or whatever,” William Bushong, a White House historian, told the Guardian.

Wife of President Ronald Reagan was shocked when she discovered that she and her husband had to pay for all their personal needs. “Nobody had told us that the president and his wife are charged for every meal, as well as for such incidentals as dry cleaning, toothpaste and other toiletries,” she was reported to have said in 1981, according to the Guardian.

If the world’s wealthiest country doesn’t subsidize the personal expenditures of its first families, why do Nigerian budgets earmark billions for the convenience of the first family but talk of “sacrifice” and being “broke” when it comes to giving subsidies to the poor?

The Presidency isn’t the only usurper of subsidies, of course. The crooked, ineffectual, and rubber-stamp National Assembly routinely allocates billions of naira to itself for renovations, wardrobe allowances, and even what it calls “hazard allowances”!

State governments also spend billions every year to buy brand new cars and other objects usurious vanity for governors, deputy governors, commissioners, and state houses of assembly members.

Nigeria’s subsidy regime is a classic case of taking coals to Newcastle, that is, giving assistance to people who don't need it and depriving it of people who desperately need it to survive.

As I pointed out more than four years ago, in Nigeria, there is a concentric circle of privilege and subsidy regimes. At the core of this circle are elected and appointed government officials—the president, vice president, ministers, numberless coterie of aides and hangers-on, and so on; members of the National Assembly and their aides; governors, their deputies, commissioners, members of state legislatures, etc.; and local council officials.

 At the second layer of the circle are a whole host of private sector intermediaries, including fuel subsidy scammers nicely known as fuel importers, who act in cahoots with key elements (or their representatives) in the core circle to swindle the nation to pay for their privileges.

The next layer is composed of middle-class elements of various stripes who are reasonably buffered from the blows of the political and intermediary classes and whose sympathies vacillate between the oppressors and the oppressed depending on their mood.

 At the peripheral layer of the circle are the masses, the great unwashed, who perpetually writhe in the misery inflicted upon them by people in the first two layers of the circle.

People in the first two layers of the circle have historically been jealously protective of their subsidies. They consume a disproportionate percentage of Nigeria’s resources, and leave only the remnants to people at the lower end of the circle.

When you hear “Nigeria is broke,” it usually means the subsidies that finance the inordinately lavish lifestyles of people at the core of the concentric circle of subsidy regime are financially threatened. It means, in essence, that remnants that keep the masses in check in the form of salaries are drying up, which might instigate a revolt.

 So what to do? They tax the poor to pay the poor. They rip them off to fund the remnants that keep them in check! That’s why only the poor are called upon to “sacrifice” in moments of economic distress, and why they are perpetually told “subsidies” must be removed from them.

The truth, of course, is that if the toads ensconced in the inner sanctum of the concentric circle of subsidy regime give up just a little bit of their privileges, there would be no need for the steep fuel price increase being rammed down the throats of people already condemned to the margins of society.
 
If members of the Nigeria political class are serious about “sacrificing,” in light of the fact that the country is “broke,” they should first give up their own “subsidies.”

It was Mahatma Gandhi who once said, “The world has enough for everyone's need, but not enough for everyone's greed.” Nigeria has enough for everyone’s need but not enough for the political elites’ greed.

Related Article:
4 Reasons It’s Stupid to Compare Nigeria’s Petrol Prices with Other Countries

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

4 Reasons It’s Stupid to Compare Nigeria’s Petrol Prices with Other Countries

By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In trying to justify Buhari's latest callous hike in the price of petrol (amid a pandemic, no less), Buhari’s supporters increasingly sound like noisome idiots straining hard to be low-grade morons. Here are 4 reasons it’s stupid to compare Nigeria’s petrol prices with others:

1. Nigeria is the undisputed poverty capital of the world, thanks entirely to Buhari’s inept “leadership.” That means, on average, most countries on earth have a higher standard of living than
Nigeria.


With a $77 per month minimum wage, Nigeria has one of the lowest minimum wages in the world. In other words, everyday Nigerians are worse off than most people in the world and don’t have the same economic vitality as citizens of other countries.

2. Nigeria is an oil-producing country. It’s unreasonable to deny Nigerians the expectation of cheaper prices for petrol. It’s like asking people to hold cream on their hands while their faces and bodies are dry. That’s cruelty. Most Nigerians would be at peace with high petrol prices if their country doesn’t produce oil.

A wealthy parent who starves his children and justifies his cruelty by pointing to the starvation of the children of his poor neighbors is an irresponsible parent who doesn’t deserve his children.

Buhari and his gang of buccaneers are irresponsible to invoke the petrol prices in neighboring African countries (that are not oil producers) as a justification for increasing domestic petrol prices.

3. Oil is the engine of the Nigerian economy in ways it is not elsewhere. When the price of petrol goes up in Nigeria, everything else goes up—except, of course, the already measly salaries of everyday people. This is not the case in many countries.

In the US, Benin Republic, even Saudi Arabia, etc., fluctuations in the price of petrol doesn’t automatically activate across-the-board inflation. So you can’t just arbitrarily jack up petrol prices and ignore its other unsettling effects on other facets of the Nigerian society.

4. A way bigger waste than the “waste” of petrol “subsidy” that people aren’t talking about is the extortionate amounts Nigeria expends to subsidize the obscene opulence of its political elite—from the president down to a ward councilor.

If the subsidies that finance the luxuries of the political class (such as billions budgeted to buy new cars in the presidency every year) are directed towards everyday Nigerians, Nigeria can afford way cheaper petrol than it currently does.

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Buhari’s Growing Cruelty Reflects the Wishes of Nigerians

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

The All Progressives Congress (APC) subsists on lies and deceit, like its twin the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but the party told a fundamental truth on September 2 when it said in a statement, according to the Sun, that Buhari’s “hiked petrol price, electricity tariff reflect [the] wishes of [the] citizenry.”

This may come across as a bit counter-intuitive, but there is no greater testimonial endorsement of the claim that Buhari’s steep, sudden hikes in the prices of commodities, which have made Nigeria a snake pit of infernal cruelty, reflect the wishes of Nigerians than the fact that there have been no protests against the policies.


From the 1960s until Buhari ascended to the presidency, every hike in petrol price had been greeted with massive protests. But not only have there been no protests against Buhari’s punishing petrol price hikes, a whole lot of people in the North actually came out in 2016 to stage demonstrations in support of Buhari’s first petrol price increment and against opposition to it!

In 2012 when the Goodluck Jonathan administration arbitrarily hiked the pump price of petrol, I was the first to suggest an “Occupy Nigeria” strategy to force the government to reverse the hike. I didn’t anticipate that my suggestion would fly. But it did. It meshed with the self-interested political agendas of people who are now in government and ignited a massive social convulsion.

Four years later in 2016, I made the same appeal. But as I pointed out in my May 14, 2016 column titled, “Petrol Price Hike: Time to Occupy Nigeria Again,” the people and circumstances that conduced to the 2012 Occupy Nigeria protests had changed.

“But I doubt that my appeal will resonate with many people this time around; President Buhari’s tight emotional grip on the northern and southwestern middle class would likely frustrate the formation of the kind of remarkably unexampled pan-Nigerian solidarity that confronted former President Jonathan,” I wrote.

Well, sheepish acquiescence in the face of Buhari’s plot to transform Nigeria into one massive mass grave through thoughtless and callous hikes in the prices of everything that is essential to survival is proof that the APC is right to insist that Buhari’s morally objectionable suffocation of Nigeria reflects the wishes of Nigerians.

I made these points four years ago, and I will repeat them because the circumstances warrant their repetition: Every responsible, socially sensitive government subsidizes essential commodities for its citizens. It is only Nigerian governments that interminably tell their citizens that they have no responsibility to make life a little easier for the people they govern.

According to a January 3, 2012 TIME Magazine story titled “Petrol Politics: Why Nigerians Are Enraged Over the Rising Price of Gasoline,” America’s 50 states collectively spend $10 billion a year to subsidize the fuel consumption of their citizens.

 In America, with all its vast material prosperity, the surest way for any government to collapse irretrievably is to encourage any policy that causes the price of petrol to go up.  As TIME put it beautifully, “One of the fastest ways to alienate voters is to be seen supporting anything that intensifies pain in the pump.” 

It said, “politicians’ refusal to increase gas taxes in line with inflation and construction costs starves needed infrastructure of funding.” Sounds familiar? The recurrent excuse governments in Nigeria advance to increase fuel prices is that the government needs money for “infrastructural development.”

 But no sensible government starves its people to death because it wants to build infrastructure. Only the living use infrastructure.

There is an instructive example in the Midwestern state of Iowa of how a caring government, faced with a cash crunch, responded to recommendations for an increase in petrol prices to raise money. I will reproduce parts of the story, which is from TIME, without authorial intervention:

“In Iowa, which hasn’t raised its tax in 22 years, a citizen advisory panel recommended an 8 cent to 10 cent bump per gallon in November. Republican Gov. Terry Branstad quickly took any increase off the table, instead asking his Department of Transportation to look for savings.

“‘Everyone realizes that we need more funding for roads and bridges,’ said Tim Albrecht, a spokesman for Branstad. ‘I don’t think the legislature was especially willing to put a burden on Iowa’s taxpayers at this time.’”

Governments don’t save in Nigeria. All they do is raid the national treasury to subsidize their lavish lifestyles (and those of their cronies) and tell the masses of the people that they don’t deserve any subsidy. Nigeria isn’t poor because of the need of its people; it is in dire straits because of the greed of its elites.

But everyday Nigerians who feel the pinch of the cruelty of their elites would rather expend their energies to fight for God than fight for themselves. The same Nigerians who fly into a tempestuous holy rage and demand the blood of their fellow humans when their God is “blasphemed” are asking for their God’s intervention— instead of acting— now that Buhari is determined to kill them piecemeal through cruel hikes in the prices of everything essential to their existence.

They kill fellow humans in defense of their God but ask God to defend them against an oppressor who is killing them by other means—and looking the other way while kidnappers and terrorists periodically murder them in the hundreds.

If you have the capacity to defend God, shouldn’t you have an even greater capacity to defend yourself against murderous oppressors since self-preservation is said to be the first law of nature? Or is “God-preservation” and self-annihilation the first law of nature in Nigeria?

If God, with his omnipotent powers, can’t deal with blasphemers on his own but needs your defense, why and how do you think he can defend you against a man who is—-or people who are— smoldering you?

Nigerians aren’t victims of Buhari; they’re willing participants in and enablers of his vicious asphyxiation of Nigeria. There’s nothing that he’s doing now that he hasn’t been doing since at least 2016. Read my past columns: you’d think they were written in response to Nigeria’s current existential torments.

For instance, on December 6, 2016, I wrote: “I used to say that it was impossible for any Nigerian president to be worse than Jonathan…. So in May 2015, I started out investing enormous hopes in Buhari to transform Nigeria and to build enduring institutions.

“After waiting 6 months to appoint a predictable, lackluster cabinet, it became clear to me that my hopes were misplaced, that Buhari wasn’t prepared to be president, so I scaled backed my expectations and hoped that Buhari would at least be minimally better than Jonathan.

“But when Buhari hiked fuel prices, reversed the few crumbling subsidies that sustained the poor, and became a prisoner of the ‘Washington Consensus,’ I scaled back my expectations again and hoped that Buhari would be just as bad as Jonathan was.

“When his government’s incredibly inept husbandry of the economy continued to deepen the recession it instigated in the first place with its wrongheaded policies, I hoped that Buhari would just be slightly worse than Jonathan for the sake of Nigeria’s survival.

“Now with the unceasing rash of counter-intuitive, mutually contradictory, insanely irrational, and thoughtless policy prescriptions from this government, the very foundation of the country is tanking before our very eyes, and I just hope Buhari never does anything again till 2019 when his tenure will expire—and with it the torment he is inflicting on Nigeria. A stagnant, do-nothing Buhari is now better for the country than this madness we’re witnessing! Nigeria is fast sinking to the nadir of despair and ruination.”

Nothing has changed. Nigerians can only show that their plight isn’t a reflection of their wishes if they damn the consequences and fight the source of their misery.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Aso Rock Cabal’s Judicial Cabal on Election Petitions


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

I’ve always had a sneaky suspicion that judgments on election petitions in Nigeria are influenced by political pressures from the presidency, but a conscientious judge who is familiar with the issues and who is deeply concerned about the brazenness of the politicization of election tribunal judgements confirmed my suspicions last week.

One of the thrills and burdens of public commentary is that it connects you with every strand of the society— and with all sorts of information. When I received communication from someone who initially just identified themselves [the use of the singular plural pronoun is deliberate] as a “senior member of the judiciary” who wanted to confide in me, I was a little hesitant.

But being IT savvy— and security conscious—I was able to uncover their identity without letting them know. In time, they sensed that I knew whom they were, so they came clean. They called because they read my columns and have read my opinions on election tribunal judgements.

In September 2019, for instance, I wrote on Twitter that members of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal who delivered a predictably questionable judgement in favor of Buhari would be rewarded.
“Let me give you guys a little homework. From now till 2023, observe what happens to the judges that delivered the laughably tendentious & predetermined #PEPTJudgement,” I wrote on Twitter on September 11, 2019.

 “Buhari will reward them and/or their children. He already rewarded INEC's Mrs. Amina Zakari by appointing her biological son as his SA on Infrastructure. Recall that Buhari has openly admitted that he appointed 84-year-old retired Justice Sylvanus Nsofor as Nigeria's ambassador to the US because he wrote a dissenting judgment at the Court of Appeal in his favor. He rewarded many others.

“The PEPT judges are salivating right now in anticipation of their rewards. The already universally reviled and corrupt INEC boss and his minions are waiting for their rewards. Some have already been rewarded. Supreme Court justices are waiting in the wings….”

As if to prove me right, just one month after their judgement in favor of Buhari, Justices Mohammed Garba and Abdul Aboki were recommended for promotion to the Supreme Court. It took the protest of opposition political parties and of senior judicial officers for the National Judicial Council to withdraw their promotion to the Supreme Court.

But on Friday, August 14, Buhari elevated the same people yet again to the Supreme Court. Justice Mohammed Garba, in case you didn’t know, headed the patently prejudiced Presidential Election Petition Tribunal in 2019 that gave legal imprimatur to Buhari’s electoral heist. Justice Abdul Aboki was also a member of the Presidential Election Petition Tribunal.

Well, the judge who reached out to me last week told me “there is a judicial cabal at the Court of Appeals of Nigeria that writes judgments for election petition tribunals.” They said it was the cabal that wrote “the recent ludicrous judgment of the Bayelsa State Governorship Election Petition Tribunal, which the legal community and commentators have unanimously condemned for daring to overrule the Supreme Court.”

I am unable to share the details they shared with me about the Bayelsa tribunal judgement because doing so will ruin many lives. As a demonstration of the confidence in the authenticity of their information, the judge gave me the contact details of other judges who were in the know of the wiles and pressures that preceded the Bayelsa judgment.   

The judge said, “Indeed, the judicial cabal in the Court of Appeal was created by the late Chief of Staff to President Buhari, the late Abba Kyari” with the help of a senior judicial officer whose name I have chosen to omit for legal reasons.

I learned that judges who resent the overt politicization of election petition judgements were ecstatic when Justice Monica Dongbam-Mensem was appointed President of the Court of Appeal through external pressures, particularly the open letter Colonel Dangiwa Umar wrote on her behalf when it became apparent that she was going to be passed over by the Buhari regime.

Justice Dongbam-Mensem was thought to be independent-minded, scrupulous, opposed to politically motivated judicial activism, and capable of dismantling the judicial cabal.  “However, there are indications that she lacks the courage to do so and, may have compromised her integrity,” the judge said.

Apparently, this issue is well-known to most lawyers. Most of them know of this cabal that works in cahoots with the Aso Rock cabal to subvert justice. “The actual writing of the judgments is usually done by a consortium of justices and legal practitioners,” I was told. This subversion of justice by a conclave is a low-risk-high-reward undertaking.  Members of the judicial cabal are routinely compensated with promotion and financial reward.

I know that most people won’t be shocked by this revelation. I wasn’t. But I am sharing it nonetheless for just two reasons. The first reason is archival or, as my late friend Pius Adesanmi put it, “archaeological.” I want it to be noted somewhere in the records that a civilian junta that initially came to power through a popular election later thoroughly subverted the judiciary and made election tribunal judgements predictable charades.

The second reason for publicizing this is that it just might spur decent and ethical people in the judiciary to resist the cabal and their sponsors— and possibly inspire a reform.

It’s entirely possible that previous civilian administrations had their own judicial cabals. I have no evidence to make this case. I hope that the conversations that this will provoke would address that.

But no one disputes the fact that no civilian administration in Nigeria’s history has ever arbitrarily removed the Chief Justice of Nigeria because it fears he won’t give a judicial stamp of approval of its electoral malfeasance.

How Many Nigerias Does Tinubu Believe In?
A screenshot of an April 13, 1997 interview Bola Tinubu granted ThisDay with the headline “I Don’t Believe in One Nigeria” trended on social media this week.

In my social media commentary on the headline, I pointed out that, “Nigerian politicians are shamelessly situational ‘patriots.’ They're irredentists when they're outside the orbit of power and exaggerated ‘patriots’ when they have access to the public till. A man who didn't believe in Nigeria when he didn't have his way now wants to lead it. Ha!”

Tinubu’s defenders said his repudiation of Nigeria was informed by Sani Abacha’s brutal dictatorship, which disillusioned even the most optimistic patriots at the time. Well, Abacha wasn’t Nigeria. You could—and people actually did—condemn Abacha’s villainy without losing faith in Nigeria. To conflate Abacha and Nigeria was shortsighted.

Olusegun Obasanjo was jailed by Abacha, but I don’t recall him ever saying he no longer believed in Nigeria because of Abacha’s ill-treatment of him. In fact, it was precisely his unbending faith in Nigeria in spite of what he suffered under Abacha that inspired northern leaders at the time to support his presidential bid in 1999.

Of course, as I’ve always said, there’s nothing inviolable about Nigeria, and no one should be ostracized for questioning the desirability of its existence.  But it is legitimate to wonder if Tinubu, who wants to be president in 2023, now believes in Nigeria and what has caused him to change his opinion.

The government he is a part of now is, in many ways, worse than Abacha’s. Abacha’s fascistic excesses are being replicated many folds. Only that he is not at the receiving end this time. Is he an opportunistic, fair-weather patriot?

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Fani-Kayode: All Great Journalists Are “Rude”

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

I really didn’t want to comment on Femi Fani-Kayode’s viral communicative primitivism toward Daily Trust’s Calabar correspondent by the name of Eyo Charles because of my knowledge of the state of Fani-Kayode’s mental health, but I’ve read senior Nigerian journalists on social media rail against the Daily Trust reporter for asking a “rude question," and feel an obligation to intervene.

Rude question? Well, there’s no such thing as a “rude question” in journalism. A Chicago journalist and humorist by the name of Finley Peter Dunne once said, more than a century ago, that, “the job of the newspaper is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” In other words, journalists have no obligation to comfort the comfortable. Their duty is to afflict the comfortable or, if you like, to be “rude” to the comfortable.

Asking questions that get a politician’s dander up, that inflame a politician’s passions, is a prized skill in journalism. Here's why: Politicians reveal the most headline-worthy information when reporters cause them to lose control of their emotions. Loss of emotional control forces them to depart from their scripted, predictable, choreographed, and often mendacious and boring performances.

 It’s precisely because the Daily Trust reporter asked a “rude question” (which is a charlatan’s term for a great question) that an otherwise unremarkable news conference is now grist for social media and editorial mills.

Journalists who think the Daily Trust reporter’s question to Fani-Kayode was “rude” and worthy of censure should go look for another job. They’d do well as publicists. 

Malcolm Muggeridge once said, “News is anything anybody wants to suppress; everything else is public relations.” Many Nigerian “journalists” are actually public relations practitioners polluting a noble craft. 

That’s why some of them apologized to an emotionally disturbed mental midget for asking him a legitimate, probing question. One of them even said to the Daily Trust reporter, “You see your life?”

I, like every journalism teacher worth the name, teach my journalism students the skill to ask politicians trenchant questions that have the capacity to cause the politicians to throw tantrums because politicians, in a state of meltdown, such as we saw in Fani-Kayode's news conference histrionics, let their guards down and involuntarily divulge the truth.

Smart politicians know this. Instead of allowing themselves to be immobilized by impotent anger, they respond to high-pressure, “embarrassing” questions with poise, and disarm adversarial reporters with humility, grace, and gentleness.

Related Article:

Fani-Kayode: Ministerial Rascality Taken Too Far!

Saturday, August 22, 2020

El-Rufai’s Humiliation and Mamman Daura’s Curious London Trip

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The rescission of the invitation extended to Governor Nasir El-Rufai to speak at the annual conference of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) as a consequence of sustained social media pressures from people who are discomfited by his history of intolerance and verbal terrorism against his own people will inflict tremendous violence on the governor’s psychic well-being.

You see, there is nothing El-Rufai hankers after more than the approval of the intellectual, media, and cultural elites of Nigeria’s Southwest. He lives for and basks in their plaudits and strives excessively hard to avoid inviting their disapprobation.

I had always known this, but I developed a heightened awareness of it when a fellow northern Nigerian Muslim called my attention to it in his disagreement with a social media update I wrote on August 18 about El-Rufai’s visceral anti-Southern Kaduna bigotry.

“Why does El-Rufai hate and despise the people of Southern Kaduna with such unnaturally infernal intensity?” I wrote. “He strains hard, often too hard, to be seen as ‘cosmopolitan’ when he relates with Southern Christians. Why can't he even pretend to be prepared to get along with the people of Southern Kaduna? I don't get it.”

My interlocutor said El-Rufai’s stone-cold derision and loathing of the people of Southern Kaduna broadly represents his attitude toward most northerners, whether they are Christian or Muslim, Hausa-Fulani or ethnic minorities. His disdain for and murderous rage toward the people of Southern Kaduna is on a par with, or even less vicious than, his attitude toward Shiites with whom he shares the same religion.

 He added that El-Rufai’s contempt for the people of Southern Kaduna may be magnified by his self-conscious nurturing of the historical memory of the enslavement of the ancestors of the people of Southern Kaduna by his ancestors but that he is an equal-opportunity rhetorical pisser on everyday northern Nigerians.

El-Rufai cherishes the illusion that he is the undisputed champion of the North. He thinks he is the region’s nonpareil center fielder and regards most northerners as beneath him. The only people who humble him and whose approbation he perpetually seeks—obviously for transactional and opportunistic reasons—are the elites of Nigeria’s Southwest.

On the surface, this sounds like a cheap, conspiratorial whispering campaign until you step back and gaze at the facts. Let’s start from the obvious. El-Rufai’s Special Adviser on Media and Communication who issues press statements on his behalf is some guy called Muyiwa Adekeye, although there are scores of competent media personalities from Kaduna who can do that job.

Ordinarily, I would have applauded El-Rufai’s cosmopolitanism in appointing a “non-indigene” to be his spokesperson, but he didn’t appoint Adekeye as his spokesperson as a testament to his broadmindedness; he did so because the only constituency whose opinions of him he truly cares about are those of the elites of the Southwest, and only an Adekeye can effectively communicate his self-presentation to that constituency.

El-Rufai also has a slew of well-paid “social media influencers” as his “social media consultants” (which is a polite term for visceral and vicious social media attack dogs), all of whom are from the Southwest. He, of course, also throws a few miserly crumbs to hordes of hungry northern Nigerian social media users to defend him, but he really doesn’t care what the North, or even Kaduna State, thinks of him.

Recall, too, that the annual Kaduna Book and Arts Festival, also informally known as KABAFEST or KADAFEST, which El-Rufai finances, is largely powered by the Lagos literary elite, even though, on paper, it is supposed to be a “celebration and promotion of creatives in the Northern region of Nigeria.”

When he ventured into newspaper publishing in 2004 by founding NEXT, El-Rufai hired members of the Lagos media elite. The paper was also headquartered in Lagos, not Kaduna or Abuja. And he has a substantial financial stake in a prominent digital-native newspaper that is also run by members of the Lagos media elite.

I am not saying this to disparage or begrudge the media, intellectual, and cultural elites of Southwest Nigeria but to show that El-Rufai’s politics of ethnic and religious supremacy isn’t blind and unbridled. It is carefully circumscribed. It is nurtured by his warrantless contempt for northern Nigerians and delimited by the profound inferiority complex he feels before the elites of Southwest Nigeria whose admiration he lives for.

That is precisely why his humiliation by the NBA has rankled him intensely and torn his self-esteem into shreds. The greatest gift in this saga for northern Nigerian victims of El-Rufai’s bigotry and disdain is that they now know where to go when they want to get at him.

Mamman Daura’s Curious London Trip

International flights are supposed to be suspended until August 29. But Mamman Daura was allowed to fly to London on August 19 for medical treatment, according to Sahara Reporters. But LEADERSHIP newspaper, the unbearably illiterate propaganda rag of the Buhari regime, said Daura traveled to London only for a "scheduled business trip"!

What business trip can’t wait until the airspace is officially reopened? What business is taking place in London amid the raging coronavirus pandemic that warrants flouting Nigeria’s aviation law with such impunity? Is this an admission that the Buhari junta has taken impunity, double standard, and reckless disregard for its own rules as official state policy?

Well, if Sahara Reporters is right, as it always is in matters like this, it means Mamman Daura is probably in a grave medical emergency and wanted to avoid having to deal with the medical dysfunction at home that his uncle has done nothing to halt and that caused many of his fellow Aso Rock cabalists to die recently.

Unfortunately, death is no respecter of our wealth, access, and privilege. In his last letter to Nigeria before his death, Abba Kyari said, “I hope to be back at my desk very soon.” Unfortunately, nature didn’t share in his self-construal of his invincibility and outsized importance.

 Someone very close to the Presidential Task Force confided in me that arrangements had been concluded to fly Abba Kyari to Germany in a presidential jet when his condition took a turn for the worse.

But German government officials said they couldn’t deal with the fall-out of his hospitalization in their country if it became public knowledge that they allowed a COVID-19 victim from Nigeria into their country while the airspace was closed.

Nigerian elites subsist on self-interested lawlessness all the time to advance themselves at the expense of the rest of the country, but this attitude has assumed epidemic proportions in the past five years. For instance, Sahara Reporters also reported on August 7 that Aisha Buhari was flown to Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to treat a neck sprain while the airspace was closed to everybody else.

No country whose leaders flagrantly undermine the laws they make and imperil the systems that give the country life, like the henchmen of the Buhari junta do habitually, can endure.

Most importantly, though, when pampered and privileged fat cats like Mamman Daura lie about their health and the medical tourism they embark on to take care of themselves while the vast majority of everyday people are crushed by preventable illnesses at home, they rob themselves of posthumous compassion in the event of their deaths.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Transformation of Nigeria’s Corruption from Outrage to Comedy

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

News of corruption used to outrage our moral susceptibilities. Now they excite our faculty of humor. In Nigeria’s increasingly dreary and despairing political and economic climate, people now look forward to news of bizarre acts of corruption as a source of cathartic hilarity.

We thought politicians faking illnesses and enacting histrionic displays in the courtroom to evade justice was the ultimate comedic mockery of justice that nonetheless helps us purge the ever-increasing emotional tensions that governmental ineptitude activates in us.

Then in February 2018, a JAMB employee in Benue by the name of Philomina Chieshe took it a notch higher. She alerted the nation to the existence of a moneyvorous “spiritual snake” that mysteriously swallowed 36 million naira realized from the sale of JAMB scratch cards. Her story stimulated mass psycho-therapeutic laughter in the country and inspired countless creative memes on social media. The national laughter her story stirred drowned out the outrage of her theft.

Exactly two years later, on February 7, 2020, the bursar of the University of Ibadan by the name of Michael Alatise told the House of Representatives Committee on Public Accounts that the university hadn’t submitted its audit report to the Auditor-General of the Federation since 2014 because the external auditor it hired to audit it went blind in the course of doing his job!

Perhaps, the fraud the external auditor discovered was so blindingly eyewatering it caused him to lose his visual sensibilities. Seriously, though, as House Public Accounts committee chair Oluwole Oke said then, “That somebody went blind does not mean that the firm [has gone] into extinction.” Instead of striking the nation with revulsion, the story became another laughter tonic to relieve stress.

Since then, of course, more consequential government officials and private sector operatives that have direct dealings with government have discovered that the most artful way to elude consequences for corruption is to be so inordinately outrageous in your justification for corruption that the nation goes from indignation to  bursts of deep loud hearty laughter.

For instance, on April 10, Maryam Uwais, Special Adviser to the President on Social Investment, told Channels TV’s Sunrise Daily program that she couldn’t account for the billions that she and the Minister of Humanitarian Affairs minister putatively gave to weak, poor, and vulnerable Nigerians to ease the hurt of the coronavirus pandemic because, "Those who benefit from the conditional cash transfer of the Federal Government as palliative to cushion the effects of the lockdown caused by the deadly Coronavirus don't want to be addressed as poor people. That is why we can't publish their names.”

As I pointed out in my April 10, 2020 column, “Anyone who is too proud to be called poor is clearly not poor. The pangs of hunger are stronger than the vanity of self-esteem. That’s why there are hordes of Nigerian ‘e-beggars’ who drop their names and account numbers on social media without shame during social media ‘giveaways’—and sometimes without ‘giveaways.’

“But the whole point of asking for the identity of the people who benefited from the government’s ‘palliatives’ is to be able to authenticate government’s claims.”

However, as is now the norm, instead of being outraged by her explanation, Nigerians found it a welcome source of therapeutic mirth. And nothing has been heard about it since then.

When a video circulated on social media showing the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy telling what appears to be a white woman from an unidentified Western country that government uses the top-up data on phones to determine the economic needs of Nigerians and to wire money to them to relieve the economic burden of COVID-19, there were loud cyber guffaws all over Nigerian social media.

But an infinitely more hilarious moment of governmental corruption was to come later during the probe of multi-billion-naira corruption at the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC). For example, acting Managing Director of the NDDC, Daniel Pondei, “fainted” in response to questions about the enormous corruption in the commission. This earned him freedom from further scrutiny.

This event has become a goldmine for inventive humor, memes, and laughter therapy. So was the spat between the former MD of the NDDC, Joi Nunei, and Niger Delta minister Godswill Akpabio. Nunei’s claim that she slapped Akpabio when he attempted to sexually assault her provided grist for the humor mills and overshadowed the corruption allegations both of them are mired in.

The comedic entertainment that modern Nigerian corruption provides was also fully realized when Akpabio said members of the National Assembly committee probing the sleaze in the NDDC were beneficiaries of the corruption they were probing. “It’s OK,Honorable Minister!” members of the probe panel could be heard pleading. “Off [turn off] your mic!” The songification of this tragicomic encounter has gone viral on social media.

Sadiya Umar Farouq, Buhari's minister of humanitarian affairs who has become a byword for audaciously aggressive and hard-boiled corruption, also said a few days ago that she spent more than half a billion naira to feed non-existent schoolkids in their homes in Lagos, Ogun, and the FCT while schools were shut!

She said this to “correct” a viral social media message that suggested that she’d spent 15 billion naira to feed schoolchildren nationwide. Her “clarification” said nothing about how much she spent to “feed” school children in other parts of the country—or why only school children in Lagos, Ogun, and the FCT were “fed” to the exclusion of others. Or, more crucially, what she has done to the money budgeted to “feed” children under lockdown in other parts of the country if only kids in Lagos, Ogun and the FCT were fed.

 Of course, if she spent more than half a billion to feed phantom schoolkids in just two states and the FCT, it isn’t unreasonable to suggest that she spent 15 billion—or more— to “feed” children all over the country.

Again, instead of crying, Nigerians laughed about what I characterized as the minister’s explicit and unapologetic governmental theft by outrageousness.

Finally, on August 10, it emerged that the CEO of First City Monument Bank (FCMB) by the name of Adam Nuru told the Ayo Salami panel probing Ibrahim Magu's corruption at the EFCC that he paid N573 million into account # 1486743019, which is the church account of Magu's pastor Emmanuel Omale, in error, and only discovered the "error" four years later after the panel summoned him. This humorously infantile lie provoked another round of comic excitation across the country and inspired lots of creative editorial cartoons.

The bank’s face-saving “clarification” of what it meant was another exercise in comically obscurantist verbal buffoonery.

“To provide further clarity, during a maintenance upgrade of our systems in 2016, a defective file led to the aggregation of multiple unrelated entries into a single balance under the affected customer’s name in one of our reports,” the bank’s head of Corporate Affairs said in a statement. “This aggregation occurred only in the weekly automated report to the Nigerian Financial Intelligence Unit. It had no effect on any customer account balance or statements and therefore was not immediately identified.”

Obviously, Nigerians are laughing to keep them from crying. But the corrupt will continue to intensify their theft while we laugh at the innovative wackiness of their corruption. 

Perhaps American journalist and author Erma Louise Fiste Bombeck was right when she said, “There is a thin line that separates laughter and pain, comedy and tragedy, humor and hurt.”

Nigerian Politicians: Pampered in Life and in Death

Nigerian politicians are the world's most pampered and protected species. When they're alive, you can't criticize their misdeeds without contending with darts from their legions of daggers for hire on social media and in the news media.

When they die, people who know them are also not allowed to speak unflattering, publicly available FACTS about them; the society blackmails them into feeling guilty for "speaking ill of the dead." This ensures that they get away with iniquities in life and in death.

That's why, in spite of being the absolute worst leader Nigeria has ever had since independence, Buhari confidently says history would be "kind" to him. Of course, Nigerian "history" is always kind to every dead politician.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Young People Have Mentally Checked Out of Nigeria

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Young people are traditionally associated with vim, vigor, enthusiasm, and idealism. They energize social movements, inspire revolts, and help shape the contours of the future. But I’ve noticed that in the last few years, the vast majority of the Nigerian youth have effectively dissociated mentally from Nigeria.

They have lost interest in the affairs of government, human rights, democracy, social justice, and other high-minded ideals. Entertainment, gossip, comedy, football, and petty fights on social media are now their escape from the strain and stress of life in Nigeria.

I started observing this from the quality and quantity of engagement with news on social media. I noticed that the typical average “like” and “share” (or “retweet”) counts for stories shared on social media by Nigeria’s most visible national news platforms are always in the ballpark of 800.

Really impactful political stories may sometimes get up to 5,000 likes, shares, or retweets. I have never seen a story shared by a conventional Nigerian news platform that has attracted up to 10,000 likes, shares, or retweets.

But comedies, gossip, entertainment pages, football replays, BBNaija, etc. consistently get hundreds of thousands of likes, shares, retweets, and comments. Trending topics on Nigerian social media also reveal this reality.

In offline Nigeria, the culture of civil rebellion against tyranny is virtually gone. Student union activism, which used to be the initiatory rite to social justice activism, has been dead for a while. That’s why Omoyele Sowore’s #RevolutionNow protests attracted only a handful of the Nigerian youth. Scores of young people who should join it accepted pittance from the government to counter it and to deride it on social media.

There are at least three reasons for the progressively alarming mental dissociation of the Nigerian youth from issues that will shape their collective futures whether or not they realize it. The first obvious reason is plain, old, shortsighted self-interestedness. Human beings are biochemically wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain.

Nigeria is a source of endless mental and emotional anguish. From the decay of infrastructure, to rising insecurity, to the expanding oceans of blood across the country, to the conscienceless theft of national resources by everyone in government, to intractable impunity and lawlessness by people who are tasked with making and enforcing the law, Nigeria inflicts pain—even on those of us who are not directly affected by the country’s dysfunction because we live abroad.

In light of the frustration and helplessness that this state of affairs inspires, many people, including the youth, choose to escape into mental universes that they can control, that can give them ephemeral joys and freedom from disabling anxieties. Unfortunately, mental escapes don’t solve problems; they only suspend them temporarily.

The second reason why vast swaths of young Nigerians are no longer animated by social justice issues is that they have very few people to look up to for inspiration. With a few exceptions, most of the people who used to be at the vanguard of social justice are now in bed with the Buhari regime, which is by far the most tyrannical, the most inept, and certainly the most unjust government since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999—and perhaps in the entire history of Nigeria.

 If there is any regime that deserves to be confronted by a sustained, organized, nationwide, pan-Nigerian civil insurrection, more than any in Nigeria’s history, it is the Buhari regime, but it is ironically the one that is mollycoddled and legitimized by hitherto professional activists.

Activists who are not openly in bed with the regime run with the hare and hunt with the hounds, and most people are smart enough to know this. I’ve had the opportunity to speak with some former activists who are now unabashed pro-regime apologists, and they’re united in saying that they don’t want to be condemned to being economically disadvantaged, perpetual agitators for justice and democracy while undeserving people benefit from their toil.

They said other people should take off from where they left off. But that is simplistic. Their betrayal of the cause they were famous for hasn’t only broken the intergenerational continuity of a long tradition that goes back to the anti-colonial struggles of yore; it has damaged the credibility of civil activism. It has now caused people to see civil society activists and insurrectionists as mercenary opportunists who are waiting for a chance to be noticed by the government and rewarded with an invitation to join the plunder of the nation’s resources.

The third reason for young Nigerians’ mental break from their country is the forlorn hope they nourish that they would relocate from the country to a more prosperous, more secure, and more welcoming country in the near future. Survey after survey consistently shows Nigeria as the country with the highest number of people who desire to leave their country for another country.

For example, in a March 27, 2019 survey, Pew Research Center found that, “In Nigeria, Africa’s most populated nation, nearly half… of adults say they plan to move to another country within five years, by far the highest share among 12 countries surveyed across four continents.”

People who are resigned to relocating to another country in the near future will have a weakened commitment to their country since they see themselves as sojourners in their own homes. But the truth is that only a small fraction of people who want to relocate to other countries will be successful. That means the blithe unconcern to the solvable problems of the country that prospective exiles show will ultimately be counterproductive.

As many people have already pointed out, the vast amounts of money being mindlessly looted now by Buhari and his gang of criminals is borrowed money that today’s disconnected youth will have to repay someday. The Buhari regime is literally stealing and mortgaging the future of Nigeria’s youth.

The youth must snap out of their lethargy and inertia and reclaim their country. It is not an option. It’s a dire existential imperative.

Buhari’s Nigeria as a Terrorcracy in Terroraria

The Head of the US Special Operations Command in Africa, Maj.-Gen. Dagvin Anderson, told reporters on August 6 that Al Qaeda terrorists are infiltrating Nigeria’s Northwest. That didn’t come to me as a surprise. The Buhari regime has worked very hard in the past few years to fertilize Nigeria’s social soil for the growth and flourishing of terrorism.

The regime has become the greatest boon to terrorism. When Boko Haram terrorists capture civilians and soldiers alive, they either murder them in cold blood or release them only when government pays a handsome ransom.

But when Nigerian soldiers capture Boko Haram terrorists alive, they "deradicalize," "rehabilitate" and "reintegrate" them at the cost of millions. In other words, they get rewarded when they defeat Nigeria and again get rewarded when Nigeria defeats them. They win heads or tails.

On August 5, the regime upped the ante of its pro-terrorism policies. It told distraught Borno communities that they must accept “radicalized, rehabilitated, and reintegrated” Boko Haram terrorists who murdered their loved ones or risk having them “go back to terrorism.”

Then it added this telling and ominous line: “The Buhari administration is a responsible one and is conscious of its duty to the state and society, and to the victims of terror as well as to those who inflicted these pains and losses on our people.”

 So the government has a duty to “those who inflicted these pains and losses on our people”? What sort of government has a duty to mass murderers but not to peaceful protesters who are always crushed with disproportionate force?

This is a regime of terrorists, by terrorists, and for terrorists. We might as well rename Nigeria Terroraria and the system it practices under Buhari terrorcracy.

Saturday, August 1, 2020

“De-radicalization” of Terrorists Doesn’t Work

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The de-radicalization, rehabilitation, and reintegration of so-called repentant Boko Haram terrorists have emerged as one of the centerpieces of the Buhari regime’s governance, which is not surprising given that Buhari had said in the past that government-sanctioned retaliatory aggression against Boko Haram terrorists was an attack on the North.

 Every sober observer knows that de-radicalizing, rehabilitating, and reintegrating remorselessly bloodstained mass murderers into the very societies they drowned in oceans of blood—especially without compensating and mollifying the people they displaced, widowed, and orphaned— is a singularly wooden-headed policy.

But it helps, nonetheless, to look at evidence from research— and from the experiential data of societies that attempted to de-radicalize terrorists. Since Nigeria isn’t the only country that grapples with the question of what to do with— and to—nabbed terrorists, what can we learn from other countries?

The UK has a program that it calls “Desistance and Disengagement Programme,” which works to de-radicalize terrorists. The US state of Minnesota, which has a large number of Somali immigrants and a fair amount of domestic terrorism, also has a “Terrorism Disengagement and Deradicalization Program” designed to jolt terrorists back from the precipice of fatal extremism. So do many countries in Europe and Asia.

The data from the UK is mixed, but it nevertheless provides a cautionary tale for Nigeria. For example, three past beneficiaries of the country’s “Desistance and Disengagement Programme” went on to murder 24 people between 2017 and 2019 in the aftermath of their “deradicalization.” Other countries have similar experiences.

Deradicalization of terrorists is not always a failure, of course. According to the Business Insider, “Between 2001-2012, Malaysia put 154 extremists through deradicalization schemes. Of those, 148 had ‘successfully completed the de-radicalisation programme and were released, without later re-offending,’ the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation and Political Violence (ICSR) wrote in a 2012 paper.”

However, an emerging consensus is that because terrorists are often animated by a single-minded, tunnel vision of society, it is often impossible to be certain that a deradicalization program can reverse their predilection for violence. A 2019 research by the European Union's Radicalization Awareness Network, for instance, concluded that, "Even after the very best of prevention efforts, some individuals still go on to become (violent) extremists."

The Center for Research and Evidence on Security Threats (CREST) also said there is "limited evidence about what supports positive change, which makes it difficult to determine if an intervention's approach is likely to be successful."

Similarly, the UK’s Christopher Dean, a psychologist who created a deradicalization program called the Healthy Identity Intervention (HII), admitted that it’s difficult to be certain that a terrorist has been completely deradicalized. “People can get more reassured and confident about change and progress that people are making, but I think we have to be very careful about saying someone has totally changed or has been cured,” the Independent of the UK quoted him as saying.

I don’t know how Nigeria’s Boko Haram terrorists are being deradicalized and rehabilitated—and I hope someone will systematically study this—but the result of their work stares us in the face. Many of the so-called deradicalized and reintegrated Boko Haram terrorists actually only reintegrate to their former terror cells from where they murder soldiers and civilians alike.

On July 26, for example, a soldier fighting Boko Haram in Borno sent the following social media message that tugged at my heart strings: “Good evening sir. I'm presently in Monguno. I've been wanting to hint you on the recent happenings. During the last two attacks June and July (in Monguno), some of the so called rehabilitated Boko Haram guys- Non State Armed Groups (NSAG) joined their former colleagues in attacking the community and ran back to the BUSH with them. This is to say that the whole rehabitation [sic] narrative is a sham.”

Ali Ndume, who represents Borno South in the Senate, told ChannelsTV on July 30 that a recently “de-radicalized,” “rehabilitated,” and “reintegrated” Boko Haram terrorist murdered his father, stole his father’s cows, and vanished.

“Some of them that returned to Damboa, after two, three days, they disappeared,” he said. “I learnt reliably that even in the course of de-radicalisation, they said they are not willing to come to live with the infidels. This programme really needs to be looked into immediately. I am gathering information and position of my people and even go legal.”

Ndume’s observation has support in research. A German researcher by the name of Daniel Koehler who studied German neo-Nazis and terrorists inspired by religion found that, “The solitary problem for these individuals is always that there’s a global conspiracy against their race or religion; the solitary solution to such persecution is violence, with the goal of placing themselves and their group in control of a revamped society.”

They are not persuaded by moral or theological arguments, he said. He makes the case for “the careful reintroduction of problems and solutions into a radicalized person’s life, so that they can no longer devote all their mental energy to stewing over their paranoia.”

I doubt that the people who are tasked with the responsibility to “deradicalize” Boko Haram terrorists in Nigeria—if there are any, that is— have the intellectual resources to do what the German researcher suggested. How do the Boko Haram “deradicalizers” determine that “deradicalized” Boko Haram terrorists have “repented” and are ready to be unleashed to the societies they terrorized before their capture since even people who research the deradicalization of terrorists say no one can be certain that “deradicalized” terrorists won’t relapse to their old ways?

 Plus, people in the communities that the Nigerian government is reintegrating Boko Haram terrorists to don’t want these washed-up terrorists in their midst. Don’t the people’s opinions and preferences matter? TheCable of July 24 reported Borno residents to have told the government to integrate the terrorists back “to govt house or Aso Rock” instead of their communities.

The anger of the communities is understandable. While government is “reintegrating” terrorists, it is disintegrating the victims of the terrorists. While villainous Boko Haram terrorists are pampered, the surviving victims of Boko Haram’s murderous barbarism endure precarious existence in filthy, dangerous Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps.  It’s like they are being punished by the government for being victims of terrorists’ brutalities.

While Boko Haram terrorists are being treated with excessive indulgence, their victims in IDP camps are serially raped—both figuratively and literally. Babachir David Lawal stole millions from them, and he is still walking free. Umar Farouq Sadiya stole date palms (worth millions of naira) donated to them by Saudi Arabia. She has been rewarded with appointment as minister of Humanitarian Affairs, Disaster Management and Social Development. The cruel irony!

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), women in IDP camps in the Northeast “resort to transactional sex for survival.” Because of the unsanitary conditions of the IDPs, there are periodic outbreaks of cholera that kill scores of people. Plus, even in their state of helplessness, they are still subject to episodic Boko Haram murders.

When a Nigerian Airforce jet bombed an IDP camp in Rann, Borno State, on January 17, 2017 in error, which caused the death of at least 115 people, Buhari didn’t find it worth his while to console them, much less visit them. About three months later, on March 22, 2017, Boko Haram bombed another IDP camp in the Muna Garage area of Maiduguri. Again, there was insouciant silence from the same government that is bending over backwards to please Boko Haram terrorists.

Obviously, the Buhari regime rewards and celebrates homicidal outlaws. Its message to Nigerians is unmistakably this: if they want to be taken seriously and indulged by government, they should be organized, vicious mass murderers.

Boko Haram Rewarded When They Defeat-- and Are Defeated by--Nigeria

First posted on Facebook August 1, 2020

When Boko Haram terrorists capture civilians and soldiers alive, they either murder them in cold blood or release them only when government pays a handsome ransom.

But when Nigerian soldiers capture Boko Haram terrorists alive, they "deradicalize," "rehabilitate" and "integrate" them at the cost of millions. 

In other words, they get rewarded when they defeat Nigeria and again get rewarded when Nigeria defeats them. They win heads or tails. That's so bizarre and twisted!