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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Abati, Arise TV’s PR Show, and Buhari’s Dementia

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

That even the vaguest pretense to traditional watchdog journalism is in throes of death in Nigeria’s institutional news media was instantiated by the interview Arise TV’s crew had with Muhammadu Buhari last week. It was out and away a PR job that masqueraded as journalism.

 The questions were feeble, obvious follow-up prompts were ignored, the questioners were diffident, and the viewer was left scratching their head about what they had just watched. It was the journalistic equivalent of a bad circus.

I am glad famous Punch columnist Sonala Olumhense clinically dissected the interview in his Sunday column and showed what a tragic professional theater the interview was. Even though I was initially inclined to comment on the poor quality of the conduct of the interview, I chose to cut the interviewers some slack because I thought managing to get reclusive and tight-lipped Buhari to talk after nearly six years of ignoring the domestic news media was praiseworthy.

But Reuben Abati’s cloying, self-aggrandizing, and mind-bendingly eulogistic post-interview column removed all doubts that Arise TV was merely conscripted as an instrument of presidential propaganda and mind management in the aftermath of the growing global reprobation that Buhari’s ill-thought Twitter ban has activated. Who better to recruit for the job than two previous presidential propagandists and mind managers?

 So, in retrospect, it makes sense that the “interview” did not have the haziest resemblance to a professional journalistic interview. It was a predetermined, duplicitous public relations performance that stole and wore the garbs of journalism to give it undeserved professional legitimacy. 

Now let’s look at the print version of Abati’s presidential propaganda project that he called a column. Although the interview was clearly pre-recorded and edited, which gave Buhari more verbal clarity than we have become accustomed to lately, he was still repetitive, cracked the same humorless jokes, avoided questions that required him to demonstrate familiarity with the nitty-gritty of contemporary events like the Twitter ban, and gave and got away with puzzlingly off-center responses to questions he was asked.

Yet Abati wants Nigerians to disbelieve what they saw, transport themselves to an alternate universe, and persuade themselves that Buhari was “alert, alive, informed, confident, relaxed, witty and capable of disarming humour” during the interview. This is classic gaslighting. Many people who read Abati’s column were compelled to re-watch the interview to see what they’d missed. They found that they were being psychologically manipulated by a professional mind manager.

 The presidential propaganda project won’t be worth its while if it wasn’t deployed to impugn the growing evidence that Buhari is held hostage by dementia, which I have called attention to since 2018.

Abati wrote: “Commentators like Farooq Kperogi, claiming insider knowledge of Aso Villa and its actors, in seductive prose, told Nigerians many tales about how their President had succumbed to a combination of dementia and senility and government had been taken over by unscrupulous persons who call the shots in the President’s name.”

I know Abati is earning his pay, which is fine by me, but he should not promote ignorance in the process of doing so. A choreographed one-hour interaction isn’t what you need to disprove that someone has dementia. The doctor who met Buhari and alerted me to his dementia years ago also has a father with dementia. He reached out to me because he read my June 20, 2015 column titled “Criticizing Buhari Over ‘President Michelle of West Germany’ Gaffe is Ignorant.”

He said contrary to what I wrote, Buhari’s gaffes during his trip to Germany (or, as he called it, “West Germany”) wasn’t age-induced memory lapse, which everyone over the age of 40 is apt to suffer occasionally, but dementia. He listed signs to look out for, which I did and chronicled in many columns (see, for instance, my January 19, 2019 column titled “Buhari’s Physical and Mental Health is Now a National Emergency”). So, it wasn’t based on “tales” but on verifiable observations.

If Abati has no idea what dementia means, he should look it up on the web. He might learn a thing or two. Dementia doesn't mean people who suffer it can't grant an interview. But it means even when they grant one, they can't answer the questions they're asked if the questions are very current, as Buhari often does.

The short-term memory of people with dementia is often weak and unreliable, so they rely on old memories, which makes them boringly repetitive. That's why Buhari keeps saying the same things since 2016.

 In 2020, when a journalist asked him in an impromptu interview about the probes of the EFCC and the NDDC, he started talking about Single Treasury Account. Garba Shehu was caught on camera frantically telling the journalist who interviewed Buhari to cut the interview. It wasn’t a “tale.” It did happen. And the evidence exists on the Internet. There were many such examples even in his Arise TV interview.

Having dementia also means that while the sufferers may have occasional moments of clarity, they are usually mostly lost. And that describes Buhari. Why do you think he failed to show up at Government Science Secondary School in Kankara in the aftermath of the kidnap of schoolboys there even though he was in Katsina at the time?

Why do you think he failed to show up at the funeral of the Chief of Army Staff even though he had no other engagement that day and was only a few minutes away from the venue of the funeral?

When COVID-19 became a pandemic in March 2020 and there was public pressure for Buhari to address the nation, he was absent. When his minders couldn’t resist the pressure any longer, they pre-recorded a speech that lasted only a couple of seconds in which Buhari mispronounced COVID-19 as "Kovik one nine"! As I pointed out at the time, there was no sentient, living being on this earth— and certainly no world leader—who didn’t know that there was a global pandemic tipping over the world that was called the new coronavirus or COVID-19.

Again, during the #EndSARS revolt, which convulsed the foundations of Nigeria, Buhari was absent. Then on October 13, 2020, a video surfaced on the Internet of Lagos State governor Jide Sanwo-Olu briefing Buhari on what the Inspector General of Police was doing about the EndSARS protests. Buhari stood like a breathing, insentient mannequin and intermittently laughed vacuously. 

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

Recall, too, that when Buhari visited the family house of the late President Shehu Shagari to commiserate with them over the death of their patriarch, he didn’t have the presence of mind to write anything on the condolence register; he just signed his name and couldn’t even get the date right. 

And he also appended his signature to a memo to then Senate President Bukola Saraki appointing two justices to the Supreme Court in which his first name was spelled as “Muhammdu.” People who are close to Buhari know he has (or used to have) an obsessive-compulsive urge to spell his name as “Muhammadu.” That he missed the misspelling of his name and appended his signature to it pointed to diminished sentience.  

Plus, dementia also sometimes comes with a degeneration of the muscles, which explains why Buhari falls without explanation, as we saw during the 2019 campaigns in Lokoja and in Kaduna. His close aides who caught him when he fell in Lokoja didn’t seem shocked, which indicated that they were already habituated to it.

A 45-minute propaganda interview can’t erase all the evidence of dementia we see in Buhari.

Anyone who wants to believe that Buhari has no dementia and that he is the picture of perfect mental and cognitive health because he didn’t drool during a choreographed PR show called an interview is free to do so. But it takes nothing from the truth of his progressive mental degeneration and his unfitness to be president of a complex, developing country like Nigeria with no solid institutions to withstand a dementia-plagued president.

Related Articles:

Reuben Abati’s Violence Against Metaphors

Grammar of Reuben Abati’s Semantic Violence

Buhari’s Only Job is to Prove He Isn’t Dead

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Making Sense of Buhari’s Nonsense Now Senseless

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

As I pointed out in my Facebook and Twitter status updates in the aftermath of Muhammadu Buhari’s June 10 interview with Arise TV, Buhari’s thought-processes, whenever they’re publicly expressed, are often so devoid of basic rhyme and reason that to even try to make sense of them is a painfully senseless waste of one’s senses. 

Let’s ignore his responses that had not the remotest affinity with the questions he was asked and blame it on his dementia. Let’s focus instead on the substance of the interview—if that’s possible. For instance, how do you make sense of Buhari’s understanding that the #EndSARS protest (thank God he even knew and remembered that there was a protest) was a plot to remove him from power? As someone pointed out on Twitter, if protests against police brutality threaten his hold on power, is he implying that police brutality is the essential condition to keep him in power?

How about telling Nigerian youth to “behave” if they want jobs? "Nobody is going to invest in an insecure environment. So, I told them, I said they should tell the youth that if they want jobs, they will behave themselves," Buhari said. "Make sure that the area is secure. So that people can come in and invest." So, security is now the responsibility of unemployed youth and not the government?

Or take his justification for building a railway in Niger Republic while most parts of Nigeria are devoid of basic transportational infrastructure. “I have first cousins in Niger,” he said. “There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in Niger Republic just as there are Yorubas in Benin Republic and so on. You can’t absolutely cut them off.”

In which world does this make sense? So, he isn’t building infrastructure in Benin Republic, Cameroon, and Chad because he has no cousins there? And, perhaps, he hasn’t built infrastructure in other parts of Nigeria because he has no cousins there? 

 Buhari is supposed to be “president” of Nigeria. It is to Nigeria and its constituents that he owes allegiance, not his cousins and kinfolk in another country. It is borderline treasonable to deprive a country you lead of its resources and wealth in order to develop another in which you’re not even a legal citizen just because a part of your ancestry is traceable to that country.

 Yes, colonialists arbitrarily imposed unnatural borders on the African continent and created nation-states without regard to pre-existing polities. I also come from a border community. Borgu, where I am from, used to be a confederacy that stretched from parts of what is now Kwara State, Niger State, Kebbi State to what is now northern and central Benin Republic. More than 80 percent of the people who speak my native Baatonu language live in northern and central Benin Republic.

Most people from the border states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Niger, and Kebbi have relatives in Benin Republic. Just like people from the border states of Cross River, Taraba, and Adamawa have relatives in Cameroon. People from Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kebbi have relatives in Niger Republic, and Borno also shares borders with the Republic of Chad.

But our nation-states have existed for more than five decades and have acquired independent identities in spite of their unnaturalness. Niger Republic is a Westphalian sovereign state like Nigeria is. Buhari’s emotions can’t override that fact. If everyone from Nigeria’s border states becomes president and decides to divert resources from Nigeria to develop their kinfolk in a neighboring country, what will become of Nigeria?

This is particularly concerning because Buhari has shown time and again that he has more emotional investment in Niger Republic (because his father migrated from there to Dumurkul in the Daura Emirate of Katsina State) than he has in Nigeria which he leads. (He might as well go the whole hog and build infrastructure in Senegal since it’s the ancestral home of the Fulani, his paternal relatives).

He talks about Igbo people, his Westphalian compatriots, with unconcealed animosity and genocidal fury but builds infrastructure for his kinfolk in a foreign country using resources derived from a part of the country his openly disdains supposedly because they gave him only “5 percent” of their vote. That’s not the way to run a modern state.

He described the Southeast, using IPOB as a rhetorical crutch, as a mere “a dot in a circle,” adding “Even if they want to exit, they’ll have no access to anywhere.” You know he equated IPOB with Igbo people because he also talked about “the way they are spread all over the country having businesses and property.” 

Interestingly, he enabled and popularized IPOB and its vulgar, mentally ill thug of a leader by the name of Nnamdi Kanu. At a time when most people hadn’t heard of Radio Biafra in July 2015, Buhari’s government bragged that it had jammed the radio station’s signals, which it actually didn’t, but which nonetheless helped popularize the station.

As I pointed out in my July 18, 2015 column titled “Why Buhari Should Leave Radio Biafra Alone,” “What is probably worse than jamming—or claiming to have jammed—the signals of the radio station is the presidency’s issuance of a press statement on July 15, 2015 disclaiming an alleged anti-Igbo statement credited to President Buhari by the station. That’s a huge, unearned presidential validation of the station.”

It went downhill from there. After popularizing and lionizing Radio Biafra and later Nnamdi Kanu, the government arrested Kanu when he visited Nigeria, and then allowed him to get away, which made him even more popular. His secessionist message is now resonating in the Southeast even among otherwise committed Nigerian patriots of Igbo extraction because of Buhari’s intentional, even if senseless, Igbophobia.

During his Arise TV interview, Buhari also hit Bola Tinubu who expects to be Nigeria’s next president as a reward for helping Buhari to power. Buhari took a wild, unmistakable dig at Tinubu when he said, “You cannot sit there in Lagos…and decide on the fate of APC zoning.” 

This not-so-subtle public humiliation of Tinubu has obviously caused some uneasiness in the Tinubu camp (as if some of us hadn’t warned several times that Buhari won’t hand over to Tinubu), so Buhari’s spokesman pretended to walk back his boss’ impolitic rhetorical barb at Tinubu through a news release on Friday.

 “The President, the Asiwaju and the rapidly growing members of the party, want a dynastic succession of elected leaders,” the release said. For people who don’t know, “dynastic succession” simply means family members taking over leadership from other family members.

The Oxford Reference defines dynastic succession as “The transfer of power and authority from father to son throughout the generations.” When I first brought this to the attention of my social media followers, some people pointed out that Buhari’s spokesperson probably had a different meaning of “dynastic succession” from what it means in conventional English. 

Someone even said the spokesperson probably wrote in Nigerian English! Well, I am a scholar of Nigerian English and have even written a book on it. Dynastic succession in Nigerian English means exactly what it means in every other variety of English: transfer of power and authority from one family member to the other, typically from a father to son. That’s why Nigerian historians write about dynastic succession battles among obongs, emirs, obas, obis, and other monarchies. 

In politics people talk of dynastic succession only to refer to the circulation of power within the same family, such as in Togo where there’s a hereditary monocracy around the Gnassingbé family. Or in Gabon where Ali Bongo Ondimba succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, in 2009. Or nearer home in Chad where Mahamat Déby succeeded his father Idris Deby.

That means Yusuf Buhari—or any of Buhari’s children or relatives, since Yusuf will be only 31 in 2023— will succeed Buhari in 2023. In other words, the presidency didn’t really walk back Buhari’s verbal dart at Tinubu; it doubled it down. It’s telling the nation that there won’t be a transfer of power at the presidential level to anyone outside the Buhari family. 

It’s probably also reminding Tinubu of his own longstanding dynastic entanglements in Lagos. His wife is already a senator and his children control the commanding heights of the Lagos economy. He alone determines who becomes governor of Lagos. 

So, yeah, Tinubu “cannot sit there in Lagos” and change Buhari's “dynastic succession” plan that he already practices. But, then again, it’s senseless trying to make sense of Buhari’s nonsense, more of which his spokesman said he will spill on Friday when this column was written.

Monday, June 7, 2021

False Dichotomy Between an App and a Country

By Farooq Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

A pro-regime apologist said he’d rather lose an app (i.e., Twitter) than lose a country. Nonsense! That’s called a false dilemma (or a false dichotomy) in logic. A false dilemma imposes an unnatural and deceptive limit on options. 

You can have both an app and a country—like many countries do. You can lose a country without an app—such as Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, etc. And you can simultaneously lose an app and a country, such as Buhari’s Nigeria seems pigheadedly moving towards.  

But if your country’s fabric is so brittle that it can be dismantled by the mere dissident chatter of disaffected citizens on an app, then you have no country to lose in the first place. If you really want a country, go do some work to have one so that mere insurgent chatter on an app can’t undo it. 

Start with building virile institutional safeguards against systematically excluding people from government on the basis of their ethnicity, political persuasion, region, or religion. Then you won’t be scared of the shadows of social media apps.

Every stimulus rouses a response. The stimulus that’s rousing Nigeria’s current raucous dissension is Buhari’s inept and exclusionary style of "ungovernance." Banning an app won’t change that fact.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

You Can Ban Twitter, But You Can’t Ban Rebellion Against Injustice

By Farooq Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

You can ban Twitter, or even the Internet, but you can't ban the righteous emotions that injustice animates. Or the rage and angst that people ventilate on social media as a consequence of injustice.  Only justice, equity, tact, respect, good governance, etc. can ban them.

Nigeria isn’t dysfunctional and insecure because of social media; it is dysfunctional, insecure, and tottering perilously on the brink of the precipice because of the incompetence, irresponsibility, and intolerance of the Buhari regime, easily the vilest and most insular regime in Nigeria’s entire history.

There was no Twitter when Nigerians fought totalitarian military juntas to a standstill. There was no social media or even mobile telephony when Nigerians organized and resisted the cancelation of the June 12, 1993 election, which ultimately ended IBB’s ruinous 8-year misrule.

 To think that banning social media or shutting off the internet will cause people to suddenly make peace with oppression and injustice is to be guilty of the most vulgar version of technological determinism, which is the wrongheaded idea that technology, not human agency, is the singular motive force of human actions.

People use social media; social media doesn’t use them. People will organize and fight with or without social media. If you don’t want rebellion, remove the conditions that birth and nurture it. It’s that simple. You don’t want a child to cry? Then don’t hit him or her.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

“Fulanization” of the North by the South

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Fears of “Fulani domination” have endured since Nigeria’s founding but, more than ever before, there is now an insanely unhealthy obsession with the Fulani in Nigeria’s South. The Fulani are not just routinely reviled with genocidal rhetorical venom, all manner of devious, supernormal political power is ascribed to them.

In the service of the reigning monomania about the Fulani, Northern Muslims, irrespective of their ethnicity, are now labeled “Fulani.” It’s worse if they are also beneficiaries of “juicy” political appointments in the Buhari regime.

Former Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai, for example, was habitually called “Fulani” even though he is Babur from southern Borno, a good portion of whom are Christians. The late Abba Kyari was called “Fulani” even though he was Shuwa (but linguistically and culturally Kanuri) from Borno.

When Muhammad Mamman Nami replaced Babatunde Fowler as the boss of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), many people in the South said Nami was “Fulani.” But Nami is Nupe from Niger State, and Nupe people are linguistically, historically, and geographically closer to Yoruba people than they are to Fulani or Hausa people.

There is a list doing the rounds on social media of supposed “Fulani” people who are holding strategic positions in Buhari’s government, but most of the people on the list are merely northern Muslims who are neither ethnically nor culturally Fulani. Take Nigeria Customs Service boss Hammed Ali, for example, who appears on the list. He is neither Fulani nor even Hausa. He is from the Jarawa ethnic group from Dass in Bauchi State.

Nigerian Television Authority's boss, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, is also on the list of “Fulani” appointees of strategic government agencies, but he is ethnically Jukun from Taraba State who grew up in Plateau State. 

NNPC boss Mele Kyari has also been assigned a “Fulani” ethnicity even though he is a straight-up Kanuri man from Borno. 

The only linguistically and culturally Fulani people on the list are FCT minister Mohammed Musa Bello and UBEC boss Hammed Bobboyi who are both from Adamawa State.

A reporter from the South recently interviewed me for a personality profile, and although one of the issues we discussed during the interview was the robust diversity of northern identities and how people mistake me for Fulani, Hausa, “Hausa-Fulani” or Nupe even though I am actually Baatonu from Kwara State, he still went ahead and described me as “Fulani” in his story. This shows how our preconceptions can sometimes distort our perceptions.

I corrected his unintentional mischaracterization of my ethnicity because he was kind enough to let me have a pre-publication readback of his story. 

In other words, the South is relentlessly rhetorically Fulanizing the North, particularly the Muslim North, just to fertilize and sustain a simplistic narrative of superhuman Fulani domination. One of my Fulani friends from Adamawa by the name of Idirisu Alkali tells me he is often simultaneously amused and flattered by the prodigious capacities that southerners endue on his people. 

The Fulani are now lionized in the South as the lifeblood of the North and the sole designers of all that is ill with Nigeria. But at the core of this sociologically impoverished monomaniacal fixation with the Fulani is a deep-seated but unacknowledged inferiority complex, which is fully realized in the tendency to describe as “Fulani slave” anyone who expresses opinions that depart from the forced and false consensus of the Fulaniphobes in the South. 

Since only “masters” can have “slaves,” people who call others “Fulani slaves” have clearly accepted the Fulani as “masters,” indicating that they have also internalized their own inferiority before the Fulani.

But the truth is that the Fulani are just as human as anyone else. They are not a stagnant, undifferentiated, unthinking human monolith with no dissensions. They have the same fears, anxieties, and pains as anybody else. They have both good and bad people like other groups. There’s no conspirative conclave where Fulani people meet and plot to dominate everyone else. They battle disunity within their ranks like all ethnic groups. In fact, like the Igbo, they agonize over the progressive erosion of their language and culture in much of Northern Nigeria.

Muhammadu Buhari on whose account the Fulani are ceaselessly dehumanized and vituperated is, in fact, not culturally or linguistically Fulani. In other words, although he traces patrilineal descent from the Fulani, he doesn’t understand or speak Fulfulde (as the language of the Fulani is called) and has no experience with Fulani culture.

Buhari’s father, Adamu Bafallaje, who was an ardo (as Fulani community elders are called), died in his real hometown of Dumurkul in the Daura Emirate of Katsina State when Buhari wasn’t old enough to know him, so Buhari was brought up by his maternal relatives in Daura. His maternal relatives are ethnically Kanuri people who are nonetheless culturally and linguistically Hausa.

As Mamman Daura’s daughter, Fatima Daura, wrote on the occasion of her father’s 80th birthday, Mamman Daura is Kanuri. The family’s forebears migrated from Borno to a town in what is now Niger Republic and finally to Daura. Note that Mamman Daura’s father, Dauda Daura, shares the same mother (but different fathers) with Buhari. So Buhari’s mother, Hajia Zulaiha, was Kanuri.

 Not having grown up with his father and knowing next to nothing about the Fulani, Buhari idealized not just his absent Fulani father but the Fulani people. This is a well-known psychological phenomenon that is encapsulated in the folk wisdom that says, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Barack Obama, for instance, idealized his absent Kenyan father—and his Luo people— with an intensity he would never have had if he’d grown up with him.

Buhari’s idealization of his absent Fulani father inspires an exaggerated identification with the Fulani in ways that alienate others and expose innocent Fulani people to unjustified animosity. That’s why I called him the “single greatest threat to the Fulani” in a July 6, 2019 column.

I also pointed out in a January 12, 2019 column titled "Miyetti Allah, Presidential Endorsement and Politics of Fulani Identity"  that “People who are on the edge of an identity tend to be more exaggeratedly aggressive in their assertion of the identity than those who are—or see themselves as being—in the mainstream of the identity.

“For instance, when there was a butcherly communal turmoil that pitted Bororo Fulani cattle herders against Yoruba farmers in the Oke-Ogun area of northern Oyo State in October 2000, Buhari led a group of ‘Fulani’ northerners to Ibadan to meet with the late Governor Lam Adesina where he told Adesina, among other things, ‘your people are killing my people.’ A Fulani person from the northeast is unlikely to say that.”

Nothing in what I’ve said is intended to mitigate the injustice of Buhari’s preferentialist style of governance. I started calling out what I called the “undisguised Arewacentricity” in Buhari’s appointment since 2015 when most people were scared to criticize the regime (read, for instance, my September 5, 2015 column titled “Buhari is Losing the Symbolic War”), but to put the entire moral weight of his wrongheaded choices on the Fulani and proceed to demonize them without let is both reprehensible and unconscionable. 

There’s no denying that northern Muslim elites have benefitted disproportionately in choice appointments in this regime, but “northern Muslim elite” isn’t synonymous with “Fulani.” 

An honest, empathetic role play would probably help. Imagine being from an ethnic group that’s perpetually slandered, maligned, reviled, and vilified as a national pastime because you share ethnic identity with someone—or some people—whose boneheaded policies smolder you like they do your traducers. How would you feel?

Demonizing people based on invariable attributes that are incidental to their humanity, such as their ethnicity or race, is akin to condemning them even before they were born. Malcolm X once called that the worst crime that can ever be committed. Let the toxic, hateful ignorance stop already! 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

COAS Appointment as Missed Opportunity for Unity

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The appointment of my namesake, Major General Farouk Yahaya, as Chief of Army Staff to succeed the late Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru who died in a plane crash on May 21 is yet another tone-deaf but entirely predictable mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity at a time it desperately needs to be cared for with deliberate symbolic nourishment. 

There is no question that General Yahaya is qualified for the job. His CV shows evidence of immense professional and academic preparedness for the position. But the alternatives to him are just as qualified, so this is never about competence for the job. It’s about symbolism and the politics of representation at a time of heightened national storm and stress.

Many people had hoped that the regime would appoint Major General Benjamin Ahanotu from Anambra State as Attahiru’s successor both to water the perishingly shriveling tree of national unity in the country and to pacify the Southeast whose sense of alienation in the last five years is resurrecting the ghost of Biafra secessionist agitation.  

Since Ahanotu is just as professionally and academically prepared as Yahaya is, a lot more would have been gained in symbolic and substantive terms if the regime had chosen to not appoint another Northern Muslim to succeed a northern Muslim who succeeded a previous northern Muslim.

In no previous civilian administration has this ever happened. Former President Shehu Shagari had ethnic and religious diversity in his choice of Chief of Army Staff. He started with Lieutenant General Ipoola Alani Akinrinade, then appointed Lieutenant General Gibson Jalo, and finally Lieutenant General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi.

Although Obasanjo’s choices of Chief of Army Staff didn’t reflect religious diversity, they reflected regional and ethnic diversity. Goodluck Jonathan also chose only Christians from the South-South and the Southeast, which we condemned, but his security council was more broad-based than Buhari’s is.

Many well-placed northern politicians who are disturbed by the widening intensity of fissiparity in the Nigerian polity told me they intervened to ensure that the regime appointed someone other than a northern Muslim as Chief of Army Staff. One man told me he was part of a group that reached out to Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, to persuade him to advise his boss to appoint Ahanotu—or another qualified southerner—as Chief of Army Staff.

Perhaps, that was where the group erred. Gambari has no powers to influence consequential policy decisions in this regime. A personage who is intimately familiar with the workings of the Presidential Villa told me a few days ago that Gambari was recently caught dozing off in the waiting room of Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf, the 30-something-year-old cousin of Buhari’s who is also his special assistant. 

The man said the fact of Gambari drifting off in Yusuf’s waiting room was indicative of the extended minutes, perhaps hours, that he had been waiting for the young man. But, for me, it emblematizes Gambari’s powerlessness and lack of access to the man he is supposed to be Chief of Staff to.

As dramatic as this revelation was, it wasn’t shocking to me. I have always known that Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf, whose highest work experience prior to joining his cousin’s government was a phone recharge card seller, is the real successor to Abba Kyari.

In my November 23, 2019 column titled “Government of Buhari’s Family, By His Family, and For His Family,” I described him as “one of the most powerful people in Nigeria today. He determines who sees and who doesn’t see Buhari. Only Mamman Daura and Abba Kyari can overrule him.”

I also pointed out in my May 16, 2020 column titled “Real Reason the Buhari Cabal Picked Gambari as CoS” that Gambari’s linguistic “handicap” in the Hausa language would ensure that he isn’t sufficiently close enough with Buhari to have any meaningful interpersonal relationship with him. That, I said, would whittle away the influence of his office.

A May 25, 2020 exclusive Daily Trust story titled “How Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Gambari facilitated removal of TCN boss” proved me right. “The Special Assistant to the President (President Secretariat), Sabi’u Yusuf, the same day, wrote a letter referenced PRES/65-I/COS/3/750, addressed to the CoS, Prof. Gambari, conveying Buhari’s approval of his earlier memo,” the story said.

So, unlike Abba Kyari who had a direct access to Buhari and whom Buhari said all ministers should meet if they wanted anything from him, Gambari has an intermediary between him and Buhari, and that intermediary is a blood relative of his planted there by Mamman Daura, his Trinity College, Dublin-educated nephew on whom he has always been emotionally and intellectually dependent. 

As I pointed out in my May 30, 2020 column titled, “Gambari: Embrace and Alienation of an Outsider on the Inside,” “The real Chief of Staff to Buhari is Sabi’u ‘Tunde’ Yusuf (of course, acting on Mamman Daura’s behalf) while Ibrahim Gambari is only the public face of the office— with some legroom to do the most obvious official requirements of his job.”

I’ve gone to this length to rejig the reader’s memory just to make the case that anyone who wanted to influence the appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff should have gone to Mamman Daura who is the real, if unofficial, president of Nigeria. But Daura has a really retrograde and fossilized understanding of Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversity.

Nonetheless, in case people who can influence Daura are reading this, he should be made self-aware that in moments such as Nigeria is going through now, even little symbolic acts of inclusion go a long way. At the twilight of his life, he has become the luckiest Nigerian alive. He has unofficial presidential powers without winning or rigging an election, staging a coup, or even being appointed. Even for the sake of his grandchildren, he should snap out of his provincial cocoon and save the country from avoidable implosion.

Nigeria’s chance for continued existence going forward will be dependent on intentional symbolic gestures that nurture national cohesion. National cohesion doesn’t magically emerge out of thin air because people who are luxuriating in the decadent orbits of power facilely proclaim Nigeria’s unity to be “settled” and “non-negotiable.” Nation-building is never “settled”; it is always in a state of negotiation and renegotiation. 

Unity is not an article of faith to be internalized and accepted unquestioningly. It is consciously sowed, watered, and nourished by acts of kindness to the disadvantaged, by equity and justice to all, by consensus-building, by deliberate healing of the existential wounds that naturally emerge in our interactions as constituents of a common national space, and by acknowledging and working to cover our ethnic, religious, regional, and cultural fissures. The efforts will never be perfect or fool-proof but doing something about a problem is always better than complacency and smug self-satisfaction.

Most progressive Muslim northerners I know are embarrassed to no end by the extreme and unprecedented Arewaization of appointments in this regime. They are embarrassed and worried because the lopsidedness of the appointments invites unearned hate to innocent northerners who don’t materially benefit from them, line the pockets of a privileged few, and alienate our compatriots from the South. That’s not sustainable if we still want a country. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Between Malami’s Spare Parts and Southern Governors’ Cows

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami aroused people, particularly from the South, to seething fury when he said on May 19 during a ChannelsTV interview that Southern governors’ May 18 resolution to ban open grazing in their part of the country would be synonymous with northern governors banning the sale of spare parts in their own gubernatorial spheres of authority.

“For example, it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north,” he said. “Does it hold water? Does it hold water for a northern governor to come and state expressly that he now prohibits spare parts trading in the north?”

This was a dreadfully mistaken analogy that instantiates the age-old English expression, “comparisons are odious.” First, the governor of Benue State, which is in the North, has also signed a law banning open grazing. It isn’t unlikely that other northern states will follow suit with some version of an open-grazing ban at some point. So, it’s not exactly as cut-and-dried, north-versus-south binary as Malami makes it seem.

Second, as I pointed out in my May 20 social media update, Malami’s imperfect contrast of contexts is an invidious and wholly gratuitous dog-whistle ethnic jibe at Igbo people even though it wasn’t just Igbo governors who endorsed the banning of open grazing; Yoruba, Ikwerre, Bini, Ijaw, Ibibio, and Obanlikwu governors endorsed it, too.

Although the expression “dog whistle” originated in Australian English, it was popularized and exported to the rest of the world from America, and it means the devious, loaded use of words and imagery in ways that seem harmless and innocent on the surface but that actually send a special, often bigoted and divisive, message to an intentionally preselected group of people.

“Biafra boys,” “IPOB people,” “spare parts dealers” are well-known dog-whistle references to Igbo people. My April 3, 2021 column titled “Umar’s ‘BIAFRAN Boys’ Dig Part of Nigeria’s Unofficial Igbophobia” shows how the Buhari regime’s honchos have adopted Igbophobia as an unofficial policy.

It’s just like how “terrorist” has now become a dog-whistle reference to northern Muslims among southerners. For instance, in December 2014, Mrs. Rose Chinyere Uzoma, the then Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, told members of the National Assembly that she subverted the laws and conducted a widely condemned, secretive, regionally skewed recruitment into the immigration service because she didn’t want to “unknowingly employ terrorists.”

Well, it turned out that northern states with Muslim majority populations were the least represented in Uzoma’s secretive employment exercise. I called her out in a December 29, 2012 column titled “Terrorism and Recruitment into the Nigeria Immigration Service.” Malami is as guilty of invidious dog-whistling as Uzoma was.

Another reason Malami’s comparison is odious is that it’s at once wildly inaccurate and factually impoverished. As many people have already pointed out, it is cows, not herders, that are banned from uncontrolled grazing because they destroy farmlands.

Spare parts don’t destroy anything. On the contrary, they supplement the middle-class indulgence of car ownership for Nigerians.

The southern governors’ resolution, as I understand it, is, in fact, not an attack on cows or on herders. It’s merely a restriction on an act: open grazing. Ranched cows are not affected by the resolution. And the constitution guarantees the rights of Nigerian herders, as individuals, to move to any part of Nigeria—like everybody else. (Of course, this excludes non-Nigerian herders in Nigeria whose proliferative presence even the government has acknowledged many times). 

Chapter4, Section 41 of the Nigerian Constitution says, “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom.” The resolution of the southern governors hasn’t violated that.

But several governors have, in the past, violated this constitutional guarantee without as much as a whisper from Malami.  In August 2019, the Lagos State government accused some northerners of “illegal mass movement” into the state and arrested them. I passionately condemned this in a September 7, 2019 column titled “Victims of Xenophobia Abroad, Culprits of Xenophobia at Home” and contributed to their unconditional release.

In April 2020, in contravention of both common sense and well-established conventions, the Kano State government also “deported” a man from Kano to Jigawa State after he tested positive for the coronavirus. As I pointed out in my May 2, 2020 column titled “COVID-19 Dramatizes Nigeria’s Countries-Within-a-Country Conundrum,” Kano later opened the floodgates for the recriminatory “deportations” of almajirai in Nigeria’s northwestern states by first “deporting” more than 1,000 children to their home states.

The Kaduna State government, I pointed out in the column, “sensationalized Nigeria’s countries-within-a-country absurdity on April 28 when it closed its ‘borders’ and arrested 100 people ‘hidden inside a truck coming from Kano, and several others smuggled from Lagos by a trailer conveying goods to Kano,’ according to ChannelsTV. No government, as far as I’m aware, has condemned this.

“Since states are not sovereign entities, they can’t have ‘borders.’ What they have, according to the Nigerian constitution, are ‘boundaries,’ which they, in fact, have no jurisdictional competence to police. Only the federal government can, under certain circumstances, impose limits on freedom of movement within the country.

“States can also not ‘deport’ citizens of one state to another. Deportation means the expulsion of people from one country to another. It’s both semantically and legally impossible to ‘deport’ citizens of a country within their own country. That’s both an abuse of the English language and of the constitution.”

Malami was unseen and unheard when all of these violations of the constitution occurred, but he is suddenly interested in these matters because cows and regional politics are involved. That, in my opinion, bespeaks reckless and extreme irresponsibility, not to mention toxic incompetence and bigotry.

In any case, the harm of open grazing disproportionately affects more northern farmers than it does southern farmers since farming is the North’s mainstay and open grazing hurts farming. I know of scores of relatives, friends, and acquaintances from all parts of the North who have stopped farming because of the increasingly lethal dangers of open grazing.

In a January 20, 2018 column titled “Existential Threats of Nomadic Pastoralism to Nigeria,” I wrote:

 “To give just one example of how this anachronistic practice is ruining and displacing lives, in my local government, most peasant farmers have abandoned farming (and I know this is true of most traditionally agricultural communities) because of the menace of cattle herders. Farmers toil day and night to tend to their crops only for herders to destroy them in a day.

“Last year, one of my younger brothers expended time, money, and energy to cultivate huge yam, peanut, and corn farms. He returned from school (he is an undergraduate) one day to find that almost all of his crops had been eaten by herds of cattle. Now he says he will never farm again. And he is not alone.”

 The consequences of the mass desertion of farming are only just now manifesting in the form of food shortages and high costs for food. This will only get worse if nothing is done.

Malami’s “spare parts” comparison is faulty for another reason: Many state governments— including Kano, Kaduna, the FCT, Lagos, etc.— have actually banned the use of motorcycles and minibuses for intra-city mobility in what I once called a “Transportational War on Nigeria’s Poor” in a February 2, 2013 column. That directly affects spare parts sellers.

The ban on commercial motorcycles not only inflicts misery on and halts internal mobility for millions of the urban working poor and the people who survive on it, it also deprives spare parts sellers of a huge chunk of their clientele. Why has Malami not come out in defense of commercial motorcyclists and spare parts in the same way he has come out in defense of cows?

Again, several states in the North habitually seize and destroy alcoholic beverages belonging to other Nigerians who have a constitutional right to sell them to willing customers. Malami has never protested this violation of their rights.

Malami clearly allowed his prejudice to overpower his mind. As a wise man once said, prejudice deceives when it talks, distorts what it sees, and destroys when it acts. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Dementia, not Buhari, Fired NPA’s Bala Usman

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Muhammadu Buhari’s “suspension” of Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman as Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) four months after prematurely approving a second term for her (months before the end of her first term) is yet another powerful instantiation of his dangerously degenerative dementia.

Think about this: which half-way self-aware and sentient human being would approve a tenure extension for a CEO six months before it expires but then turn around and suspend the same person two months to the end of the first tenure over allegations that date back to more than four years? Before you extend someone’s tenure, shouldn’t you first audit their current one and be satisfied that they have no ethical and moral stains that would warrant a reversal of the extension?

Well, the truth is that Buhari has literally no mind, and any aide, associate, minister, or even friend who has exclusive access to him can get him to sign off on anything. Hadiza Bala Usman’s backers initially had access to Buhari and caused him to buck convention by hastily approving a second term for her. Then Rotimi Amaechi had another chance to meet with Buhari and got him to temporarily fire her. I can guarantee that when her backers have an opportunity to meet Buhari again, they will make him sign off on a reversal of her suspension. 

You see, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out since 2018, dementia has made Buhari a pitiful puppet who is easily manipulated and swayed by anybody with private access to him. I called attention to this more than two years ago in hopes that it would alarm people enough to work to prevent the catastrophe of a dementia-plagued Buhari second term, which is now unraveling.

In my January 19, 2019 column titled “Buhari’s Physical and Mental Health is Now a National Emergency,” which I encourage people who missed it to read and people who read it before to re-read, I wrote:

“People around the president are intimately familiar with his considerably diminished sentience and his notoriously declining short-term memory. As a consequence, he is being taken advantage of by several people close to him. Aso Rock insiders say Buhari doesn't remember anything, so no one even obeys his instructions—if he gives any at all. The last person to see him gets him to do whatever they want. Someone from the Presidential Villa told me it’s precisely because of this fact that governors frequent the Villa several times in a week; they are in a race to be the last people to see the president before he takes decisions and signs off on them.”

The pendular swings in the tenure elongation and then sudden suspension of Hadiza Bala Usman as MD of NPA is only the latest example of an uncomfortably lengthening cascade of inscrutable, dementia-fueled presidential decisions that Buhari has taken in the last five years.

For example, in my February 22, 2020 column titled “The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,” published about two months before Abba Kyari’s April 17, 2020 death from COVID-19 complications, I brought to light how Kyari manipulated Buhari’s dementia to get him to sign off on his shady, unexampled appointment as a member of the NNPC Board.

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

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

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

Sahara Reporters also reported on March 24, 2021 that Buhari’s driver by the name of Sa'idu Afaka got Buhari to sign off on fraudulent documents for an NNPC contract from which the driver made millions of naira. He was betrayed by Buhari’s former ADC who was initially in on the fraud but who got furious because he was out-schemed by Afaka, according to Sahara Reporters. 

“SaharaReporters further gathered that it is generally known in the President's circle and among his cabinet members that Buhari has been showing some symptoms such as forgetfulness, limited social skills and impaired thinking abilities,” the paper reported, confirming what I wrote more than two years ago. “Therefore, he does not go through the rigours of reading reports or properly vetting documents as required of his office.”

When Sahara Reporters reported that on March 24 that Afaka was arrested and detained by the DSS, there was no official response. But when he died on April 6, 2021, in typical manipulative, mind management fashion, the presidency said Afaka died “after a prolonged illness.” And after Sahara Reporters said he “was tortured by the DSS before he was rushed to the State House Clinic, Abuja, where he later died,” the DSS was instructed to deny this.

Sadly, there are many more instances of Buhari’s insentience being weaponized and used for all kinds of things by people who are close to him that the public isn’t privy to. The truth is that Buhari is in an inexorable cognitive and mental free fall. His dementia-powered presidential pendulum swings are merely outward expressions of a deeply decrepit and dysfunctional personality who shouldn’t rule any country. 

Alas, it’s too late to do anything now. The only legitimate course of action at this point to salvage the situation is for the National Assembly to invoke the constitution to impeach and remove him. But everyone knows there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. Certainly not with the unscrupulously servile automatons who currently head the Senate and the House of Representatives. So we’re stuck.

Connecting the Dots Between Aisha Buhari and Armed Invasion at Aso Rock

When Sahara Reporters reported on December 5, 2020 that Aisha Buhari fled to Dubai because of "insecurity in Aso Villa," it sounded both incredulous and humorous. 

Well, on May 10, Peoples Gazette reported that "armed men" "invaded" the Aso Rock residences of Ibrahim Gambari, Buhari's Chief of Staff, and Abdullahi Maikano, an Aso Villa admin officer, and carted away "valuable assets." 

The presidency all but confirmed the story but added the obligatory official lie that it was only a "foolish attempt" at burglary. Well, connect the dots.

If even the most fortified place in the country isn't secure enough for Buhari's wife to stay in—and his Chief of Staff is vulnerable to armed raids in it—where's safe? 

It’s worse when the person who should be most concerned about this isn’t even alive enough to know what’s happening around him, much less what’s happening in the country.

Related Articles:

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

The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency

Abba Kyari's Death, End of a Surrogate Presidency, and the Coming Chaos

Coronavirus: Why Buhari Won’t Address Nigerians

The Post-Abba Kyari Chaos I Warned About is Here!

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Celebration of Kabiru Yusuf’s Election as NPAN President

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

I’m certain that many people will be astonished by the thematic core of today’s column: the extolment of someone who isn’t dead and whom I have a good reason to resent for capitulating to pressures from the Presidency to squelch my voice in his paper.

In December 2020, two significant events happened in Nigerian journalism: Malam Kabiru Yusuf, the founder and majority shareholder of Media Trust, which publishes the Daily Trust, was elected president of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, Chairman of the Leadership Newspaper, died.

I wrote this column in December 2020 to reflect on these events but kept putting it off because more pressing issues kept emerging that eclipsed it. 

Well, people who’d said the unkindest things about Nda-Isaiah when he was alive wrote eloquent praises about his incomparable professional, moral, and intellectual strengths. But I’m unaware of anyone who used the occasion of Yusuf’s election as NPAN president to write about his character, professionalism, and intellectual vitality.

Why do we see the good in people only when they’re dead but obsess over their foibles when they’re alive? I think part of the reason we’re reluctant to celebrate the living is the fear of being misunderstood as angling to win their favor through flattery. Well, people who are familiar with the breakdown of my relationship with Daily Trust know that if I were to obey my gut inclinations, my reflections on its owner would be clouded by negative emotions. But I choose to transcend that.

I have known Malam Kabiru Yusuf since 1998 when he employed me as a reporter— on the recommendation of Professor Attahiru Jega, his childhood friend who was my mentor at Bayero University, Kano. In more ways than he is aware, he taught me a lot, shaped my professional sensibilities, and fast-tracked my journalistic growth and maturity.

He loves to give a chance to young people almost as an article of faith. He prizes competence and youth over longevity of experience for its own sake. A lot of the people who have held important positions in the Trust newspapers were in their late 20s. He appointed me news editor at the Weekly Trust (and later of the Daily Trust) when I was in my 20s and nominated me to represent him at places where older, more experienced editors gathered. 

Although I was one of the youngest people in the newsroom, he recognized my professional journalistic training and would occasionally devote a good portion of the editorial meetings to request me to teach my colleagues and my seniors about professional news writing conventions. This both flattered me and boosted my professional self-confidence.

Abdulaziz Abdullahi, Habeeb Pindiga, Nasiru Lawal are other examples of Daily Trust editors who didn’t have extensive reportorial experience before they became editors and who were in their late 20s/early 30s when they became editors. The paper’s current Editor-in-Chief, Naziru Mikailu, is in his mid-30s.

I think Yusuf’s almost compulsive thirst to thrust young people into positions of leadership draws from his own biography. He was editor of the Daily Triumph in Kano in his 20s. When he was editor of the Today newspaper in Kaduna, he was also in his 20s. By all accounts, he gave a great account of himself.

Yusuf also embraces the unconventional. When he started the Weekly Trust in early 1998, he hired a smart, quick-witted political science university teacher with no prior journalism experience by the name of Isyaku Dikko as editor. Dikko’s professional “outsidedness” gave him fresh, out-of-the-box perspectives that made the paper stand out.

He also appointed Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, an accomplished broadcaster with no prior print journalism experience, as Daily Trust’s second (and first substantive) editor. It wasn’t just an unconventional move designed to creatively disrupt settled and familiar professional boundaries in print journalism; it was also, I suspect, an intentionally expansionist move to centralize the margins of the North in the paper. Kawu is a Yoruba-speaking Kwaran from Ilorin who traces distant patrilineal descent from the Fulani but who speaks neither Fulfulde nor even Hausa with any proficiency.

And this leads to another attribute of Yusuf’s that is rarely recognized. Although he has his own primordial loyalties like most Nigerians, he is extremely cosmopolitan and urbane. That’s why the Daily Trust has more “federal character” than the Federal Character Commission—and any newsroom in Nigeria. I heard him on more than one occasion tout the virtue of ethnic and religious diversity in the reportorial corps of newsrooms for practical reasons.

Yusuf challenged his reporters to think big and had no hesitation to let them materialize their ideas. One day in 1999, we debated what our cover story would be, and a lot of people suggested we do a story on the cries of “marginalization” by the elites of the North only a few months after Obasanjo was in power.

Just when everyone thought we had a good story, I opposed it. I said political exclusion from the orbit of the power structure was not a faithful rendition of the real meaning of “marginalization,” insisting that the only truly marginalized people were the underclass, the economically and socially disaffiliated: people who slept under bridges, Ogoni people whose land had been despoiled by years of oil exploration, communities on the edge of existence, etc.

Marxian notions of injustice were still fresh in my brain and, as a former ABU- and Toronto University-educated Marxist himself, he nodded and said he would give me a chance to bring my idea to life. He approved my request to travel to Ogoni land, including Ken Saro-Wiwa’s hometown of Bane, rural communities in central, southern, and northern Nigeria, and so on. It turned out to be one of our most consequential cover stories.

He also showed empathy in ways that weren’t always apparent to people who looked at his cold surface. I recall in 2000 that he assigned me to cover the raging Kaduna Sharia riots where scores of people were being murdered.

After the editorial meeting in his office, I came to the newsroom and told my then girlfriend who later became my wife that Malam Kabiru wanted me dead. I didn’t know he had left his office, was in the newsroom, and heard everything I’d said.

I froze when I saw him. But what he said and did touched me so deeply it’s still as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. He said, “Farooq, I cherish you too much to want you to die, but I do understand your reluctance. To show you I don’t want you to die, I’ll go with you to do the story.”

He was calm and had no hint of anger. He drove me around Kaduna amid the killings. I wore a shirt and trousers and could be mistaken for a southern Christian. Wherever we were stopped in Muslim-dominated areas, he would make sure to say in Hausa I was “dan Kwara” or “dan Ilori” and that I was a Muslim. 

I also remember his humility. It isn’t self-conscious, self-advertising humility. It’s natural humility. During production nights in Kaduna, he stayed the nights and dined with us. He hated red tape, excessive bureaucracy, and elaborate formalities. He’s had the same (and only one MTN) phone number since mobile telephony started in Nigeria!

When a now late colleague of mine at my university returned from a world journalism conference in 2014 from somewhere in the Middle East and told me he met a former “colleague” of mine there who sent his hellos to me, I frankly didn’t think it was Yusuf, although I know him as someone who disdained vainglory. 

It turned out that Yusuf recognized that he taught at Kennesaw State University and asked if he knew me. My friend asked how he knew me, and he said I was his “colleague.” When I told my friend that Yusuf was not only my boss, he owned at least 40 percent of the newspaper I worked in, he said that was some sky-high modesty even by American standards!

It’s also not often known that Yusuf is one of Nigeria’s finest prose stylists in English. It’s sad that he has stopped writing. I was fortunate to read not just his occasional pieces in Weekly Trust and Daily Trust but his past columns in Today and Citizen. He has a distinctive style that privileges freshness in word choice and imagery, and that shuns clichés with what seems like a religious zeal. 

When everyone overused words and expressions, he’d choose everyday but nonetheless distinctive alternatives, which gave his writing originality and admirable stylistic sparkle. He was probably a poet in his youth.

I congratulate him on his election and hope that he brings his extensive experience to bear in the running of the NPAN.

Related Articles:

Psychology Behind the Unexpected Beatification of Abba Kyari

Femi Kusa’s Perverse Dance on Ibru’s Grave

Beyond Yar’adua: Tributes to Little-Known Living Heroes

Tributes to Little-Known Living Heroes (II)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

My Outrage Fatigue About Nigeria

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In the last few months, I’ve noticeably scaled down the frequency and intensity of my social media involvement with Nigeria, and scores of people have reached out to ask why. The short answer is that I am suffering from a psychological phenomenon called outrage fatigue.

Late African-American civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer colorfully characterized this state of mind as being sick and tired of being sick and tired. It is instigated by sustained sensations of powerlessness, hopelessness, mental exhaustion, and cynicism, which ultimately lead to indifference and even compassion fatigue.

My outrage usually flows from a wellspring of righteous indignation over injustice, avoidably missed opportunities, elite cruelty, and preventable existential catastrophes. It is nourished by expectations that its forceful ventilation will jolt people to act and cause policymakers to make amends for the good of the society.

That was what Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist James Earle “Jimmy” Breslin meant when he said, “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”

But outrage, rage, and even compassion are not a permanent condition; they are intrinsically temporary. It’s impossible to keep your sanity while you are in a perpetually agitative emotional state. In other words, outrage fatigue is an unconscious self-defense mechanism. It’s the mind’s way to decompress and regain equanimity.  

It’s bad enough when outrage changes nothing and when both the people on whose behalf you’re outraged and the people whose bone-headedness activated your outrage use you for target practice in throwing vituperative darts for daring to be outraged. But it’s worse when people pretend that the consequences of ignoring well-intentioned outrage are unanticipated. 

Today, every section of Nigeria is enveloped in profound existential turmoil thanks to both the inability and unwillingness of the Muhammadu Buhari regime to confront the problems that afflict the country. 

Boko Haram, which the regime used to brag about “technically defeating,” has now established a foothold in Niger State; several rural communities there now periodically pay the terrorist group millions of naira that they can’t afford just to buy fleeting peace. And Niger State is contiguous with the Federal Capital Territory. It’s only a matter of time before the group takes over Abuja.

This is in addition to daily and ceaseless mass deaths and abductions in almost every part of the country—and calls for dissolving the Nigerian union in the East and in the West. Even for those of us who live outside Nigeria, the emotional toll is enormous.

But in several past columns, I’d warned about the dangers of allowing Buhari to come back for a second term. I warned that Buhari’s almost congenital incompetence and degenerative mental decline, not to mention the coterie of duncical babysitters that surround him and rule on his behalf, should cause the nation to not allow him to rule for a second term.

 The persistence of my warnings, in fact, caused the presidency to pressure Daily Trust to stop my column in December 2018, but the paper wrote a front-page comment this week lamenting exactly the same things I prevised the nation of. 

I foretold what is unravelling now since at least 2017. For instance, in a December 16, 2017 column titled “There Must be an Alternative to Buhari and Atiku,” I wrote: “Given Buhari’s provable incompetence and undisguisedly subnationalist proclivities, which have plunged the nation to the nadir of fissiparity, allowing him to rule for another four years could sound the death knell for the country. This is no hyperbole.”

In an April 21, 2018 column titled “Buhari: From Criminalizing and Dividing Nigerians to Dissing Nigerian Youth,” I wrote: “If Buhari’s second term, which he appears poised to get, doesn’t end Nigeria as we know it, nothing ever will again.”

In an October 13, 2018 column titled, “Atiku’s Emergence and End of the Road for Buhari,” I observed that “There is no question that Buhari is the absolute worst president Nigeria has ever had the misfortune to be burdened with. He is thoroughly and irredeemably incompetent, not to mention unapologetically bigoted and lazy. Only a sick country would reward such a person with a second term.”

I ended the column with the following ominous words: “A Buhari second term will end Nigeria as we know it. Of that, I am sure.”

In a November 19, 2018 Facebook update titled, “NextLevel: Follow Detached Leaders to Your Death,” which I later developed into a full-length column, I wrote the following:

“The creativity deficit in APC’s NEXT LEVEL campaign slogan and graphic is truly unnerving, but it powerfully encapsulates, without intending to, the frighteningly escalating sense of foreboding that a Buhari second term would mean for Nigeria. The photo shows Buhari and Osinbajo insouciantly detached from the people they are leading. Buhari appears as a clumsy, clueless leader who can’t even get his steps right: unlike Osinbajo, he skips a step on the staircase as he leads Nigerians to perdition.

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

“The ‘NEXT LEVEL’ slogan is also a powerful linguistic affirmation of the depressing future the graphic evokes. There’s no question that Buhari’s record as president these past three years has been an unrelieved disaster. Nigeria now leads the world from the bottom in almost everything. Insecurity used to be limited to the northeast, but it has now become democratized nationally. Prices of commodities have gone through the roof. Governance has ceased. Governing boards of several federal agencies are still not constituted, which means the nation is literally at a standstill. The economy has tanked, and everyday folks are writhing in unspeakable agony, but the president bragged about never being in ‘a hurry to do anything.’

“Imagine what the ‘next level’ of this would be. That’s what the Buhari campaign is warning you about.”

In a December 15, 2018 column titled “Death of the Electoral Bill and the Coming Electoral Theft,” I said Nigeria and the world “can't afford the tragedy of a war-torn Nigeria, which a Buhari second term will surely precipitate.”

In another update, I wrote: “Buhari isn't even misgoverning; he isn't governing at all. I call it ‘ungovernance.’ Buhari is by far the worst president Nigeria has ever had since independence. And I don't say this lightly. His second term would signal the death of Nigeria as we know it."

There are several such warnings littered liberally in most of my columns and social media interventions before the 2019 election. Of course, as l always remind my readers, I have no prescient or oracular powers. No human being does. But every perceptive person can make informed predictions about the future based on a knowledge of the past and the present.

It was always easy to see that a Buhari second term would spell doom for the country, democratize bloodbath, and push the country to the edge of the precipice. No one deserves admiration for knowing this.

A popular leftist American bumper-sticker slogan says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Well, I am paying attention. It’s just that I have reached the elastic limit of my outrage because Nigeria’s current tragedy is self-inflicted, predictable, and preventable.

Related Article:

Young People Have Mentally Checked Out of Nigeria

Saturday, April 24, 2021

On My Friendship with Pantami

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Supporters of Communications and Digital Economy Minister Dr. Isa Ali Pantami bewailed that my April 17 column titled “Pantami is My Friend, But He Can’t Be Defended” threw him under the bus and that I’m a “fake friend” and a snitch who isn’t even a “real Muslim.” But his critics said I wasn’t hard enough on him and that I gave him a wiggle room to extricate himself from his past toxic utterances because he is my friend.

At the core of these mutually opposed reactions to my column is a deeply transactional conception of friendship. Nigerians have been primed to understand “friendship,” particularly with powerful politicians, as a relationship that is lubricated by the dispensation of favors. 

So, people who said I “betrayed” Pantami probably think I failed to defend him in spite of the patronage I got from him, and people who said I was mild in my rebuke of his rhetorical embrace and promotion of wildly exclusivist rhetoric and terroristic incitements probably think I did so because I had a need to justify the patronage I got from him.

But let me make this clear: I have never physically met Pantami in my entire life and have never asked for nor received a single favor from him since he has been in government. My relationship with him started on May 29, 2011 when he sent me a friend request on Facebook.

When I accepted his friendship, I had not the faintest clue who he was. His first message to me on June 25, 2011 was an expression of admiration for my writing. “I really appreciate your pen in most cases,” he wrote. “I hope you will try and maintain the tempo of your objectivity. May Allah continue to albarkate your life. Ameen.”

As a linguistics aficionado and a connoisseur of lexical inventiveness, I loved the word “albarkate” because it made an English word out of “albarka,” the Hausa word for blessing, which is itself derived from the Arabic “barika” (ultimately from the Semitic root berakhah).

Even when our interactions morphed to the phone, I still had no idea who he was—to my shame, I admit, because he was a consequential cleric in the Hausaphone Muslim North at the time. Sometime in 2013, I got a little curious and decided to search his name on Google and came across a Facebook page dedicated to him. It had at least 150,000 likes at the time and featured his Hausa-language homilies.

I was struck by the number of likes the page had because social media hadn’t quite taken off in Nigeria as it has in the past few years. I later asked him if the page was his and he said it was set up and maintained by his students. His students? I was even more piqued.

So, I called a few friends I knew from the Gombe/Bauchi axis and asked what they knew about a Sheikh Isa Ali Pantami. I learned from them that he was an infant prodigy who memorized the Qur’an before he was 13 and who was also a math whiz kid.  

A Hafiz (as Qur’an memorizers are called) who is also a mathematical wizard? That was interesting. But why did he not tell me who he was? Was he being modest? Or did he think I should have known?

Interestingly, he hardly discussed religion with me. Our conversations often centered on family and occasionally on my writing, and he was almost always the initiator. I saw him as someone who genuinely admired my work.

In 2014, he received his PhD in Computer Information Systems from UK’s Robert Gordon University and moved to Saudi Arabia as an assistant professor of Computer Science and Information Technology at the Islamic University of Madinah. When he would call me from Madinah, he would give the phone to his son, Abdulrahman, and his wife to say hello to me.

When Muhammadu Buhari offered him a job as Director-General of the National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) in 2016, he sought my opinion. And before his name was formally announced as minister, he called to tell me I was one of 10 people whose approval he wanted before accepting the position. Of course, I was flattered, but I knew my opinion wouldn’t change anything. 

In spite of being close to Buhari, he had never requested that I stopped criticizing the government in which he served. He only appealed to me to use a milder tone in my criticisms if I could. I promised I would try but never delivered on my promise. 

One day he called and said he had just come to terms with the fact that I was like Caliph Umar Bin Khattab (who was nicknamed “Farooq,” meaning one who distinguishes truth from falsehood—after whom my dad named me). He had a reputation for brutal, unsparing fierceness in his truth telling. Pantami promised he would never again ask me to be whom I am not. 

People who are familiar with my relationship with him have asked why I’ve never derived any material benefit from it. Well, I don’t think friendship should always be transactional. He initiated friendship with me out of his appreciation for my writing, and I admired what struck me at the time as his humility in spite of his fame. Not much else connects us.

In 2016, during a conversation while he was still in Saudi Arabia, I told him of a half-brother of mine who wanted to get married but had no job, and he offered to reach out to his friends to help. He did make two attempts, and carbon-copied me in his email communications, but none worked out.

When he became DG of NITDA, my brother pressed him but didn’t have any success. And when his name was announced as minister in 2019, my brother pleaded with me to talk to Pantami on his behalf, believing that he didn’t help because I didn’t request it. I didn’t. 

As a rule, when people I know get into government, I give them a wide berth both to avoid compromise and to not be one extra burden they have to deal with. This principle has alienated me from family and friends. But I’d rather have it that way.

I am bringing all this to light to let people know the nature of my relationship with Pantami so they can understand the context of my relationship with him. I was never aware of his previous extremist views that became public knowledge in the last few days. I am not indebted to him for any favor of any kind. I am only privileged to know a side of him that most people who heard and watched his incendiary homilies don’t.

As I told an interlocutor a few days ago, every human being embodies a multiplicity of personas. For example, Black America’s Malcolm X was a fierce, fiery, electrifying, and uncompromising orator who gave white folks the jitters, but he was timid, almost diffident, even-tempered, and overly polite in private, according to his biographers. Who was the real Malcolm X? The hothead in public or the quiet man in private?

People who know me only through my public commentaries also think I'm a grouchy, fire-eating hulk with an intemperate rage, but people who know me in private know me as a slight, compulsively smiling, mild-mannered introvert, and can't reconcile my public persona with my private one.

Of course, I didn’t bring up Pantami's other side to obscure his clearly condemnable past utterances in support of terrorism (because nothing at all can attenuate that), but to show why I could be on friendly terms with him in the times that I've known him.

An otherwise acerbic critic who took issue with my last column for not being hard enough on Pantami expressed his disagreements with me in the mildest and pleasantest tone I’ve seen him deploy on Facebook when he disagrees. I asked why he didn’t curse me like others were doing, and he said, “it’s because you’re not just a friend, but a brother.”

I have never met this person in real life and he actually deployed “brother” as an affectionately fictive kinship term (because we don’t even share the same ethnicity). So, I asked why he expected me to be different to Pantami in my criticism of his past. He got the point.

As Oscar Wilde said, “I write because it gives me the greatest possible artistic pleasure to write. If my work pleases the few, I am gratified. If it does not, it causes me no pain. As for the mob, I have no desire to be a popular [writer]. It is far too easy.”

Related Articles:

Pantami is My Friend, But He Can’t Be Defended

When You Piss Off Two Extremist Groups on Opposite Ends

Sunday, April 18, 2021

When You Piss Off Two Extremist Groups on Opposite Ends

 By Farooq Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

From the responses to my Saturday column, you can almost accurately tell the motivation that drives the responders. Regular, everyday people with no loyalties to any religious ideology have a different response from thin-skinned, unthinking, “touch-not-my-anointed” Salafist and Pentecostal religious partisans.

The Salafists are angry that I put their ideology under a microscope. They said I poured fuel to the fire of Pantami’s troubles, said I am a “fake friend,” and have been cursing me. The Pentecostal partisans, particularly of the RCCG crowd, are ticked off that I mentioned Yemi Osinbajo’s name in the column even though I made it clear that while he has been accused of RCCG bigotry with solid evidence, to his credit, he hasn’t been associated with extremist and exclusivist religious rhetoric in his past homilies. 

It's my choice whom I chose to reference in my own column. Don’t like it? Tough luck.

This reminds me of a report I did about Katsina in either 1999 or 2000 for the Weekly Trust titled “Katsina: Transparency Without Development” when the late Umar Yar’adua was governor of the state. All the people at the extreme ends of the partisan divide were livid. They called and sent copious mails to complain and harangue.

I was initially worried, but my editor-in-chief invited me to his office and said something along the lines of, “Look, Farooq, you’ve managed to equally piss off people at the extreme ends of a mutually opposed political divide. That’s evidence you’ve done a damn good job!”

The Christian partisans ignore my condemnation of my friend’s rhetoric and are hung up on what I said about their “anointed”— and the fact that I didn’t ask my friend to “resign” (as if anyone resigns in Nigeria for anything unless they’re British-born Kemi Adeosun). 

Salafist partisans ignored my saying that Pantami has a side to him that is not publicly known but that departs from his past fiery rhetoric— and that some facts of his life after those preachments point to a more tolerant ideational evolution. (He himself said so yesterday after my column.) They instead chose to fixate on my condemnation of his rhetoric and my affirmation of the views of people who called him out.

Regular people, of course, see a sincere attempt to X-ray and condemn a friend’s indefensible past utterances, offer another perspective about him, and suggest a way out for him. Most of these extremists who want me to mirror their thoughts (as if they pay me to write for them) don’t have the courage to question their own assumptions, their friends, their priests, and their primordial allegiances. In their childlike hauteur, they even suggest that I shouldn’t have written my column if I won’t validate their emotions. Ha!

Evolutionary biologists say humans didn’t evolve to be a thinking species (and that the burden of thinking is often invested in a minority of people), but the simplemindedness— and sense of entitlement to own my mind and to mold my opinions in other people’s self-interested images— by a vast horde of people is both insufferable and entertaining, if that's possible.

After all is said and done, the truth is that while my thoughts may be expressed in public, they are not public property. They are mine and mine alone. I express thoughts that I’m convinced about, not to court anybody’s validation or admiration. You don’t like my opinions? Write yours. Better yet, don’t read them. It’s that simple.

Saturday, April 17, 2021

Pantami is My Friend, But He Can’t Be Defended

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

This is a difficult column to write because although scores of people have importuned me to intervene in the controversy regarding Communication and Digital Economy Minister Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami’s utterances before he came into government, my wife, who knows Pantami is my friend, pleaded with me to stay out of it.

But I would be a hypocrite and betray the meaning of my name (and also my late father who taught me the meaning of my name when I was too young to fully grasp it and who never failed to remind me to live up to it) if I sidestep this consuming national controversy because it puts my friend in a bad light.

The truth is that it’s impossible to deploy the resources of logic, reason, basic decency, and even religious morality to defend some of the sermons Pantami gave in the early to late 2000s, especially in light of his current position as a federal minister in charge of a vast treasure trove of citizens’ sensitive information. I’ll come to this shortly.

But, first, how did the controversy about Pantami’s past preachments come to the forefront of national conversation? A story appeared in a few Nigerian news sites on April 12 alleging that Pantami was a Boko Haram sympathizer and enabler who is now on the radar of America’s intelligence community.

The most prominent of the newspapers that gave wing to this story was James Ibori’s Daily Independent, which alleged that Pantami had “ties with Abu Quata¬da al Falasimi and other Al-Qaeda leaders that he revered and spoke glowingly of in several of his videos on YouTube” on the basis of which he is now “on the watch list of the [sic] America’s Intelligence Service.”

The backstory to this story is that it was planted by executives of telecommunications companies in Nigeria whose companies are hemorrhaging financially because of Pantami’s December 9, 2020 directive that halted the sale, activation, and registration of new SIM cards until an “audit of the Subscriber Registration Database” is completed.

I know this because at least two editor friends confided in me that they had received the story of Pantami’s alleged links to terrorism and his surveillance by US intelligence authorities from people connected to Nigeria’s telecommunications industry, but that they declined to publish it because it was legally problematic. 

I suspect that Pantami himself has identified the source of his troubles because, on April 15, he ordered a conditional resumption of new SIM card sale, activation and registration from April 19 “as long as mandatory National Identification Number (NIN) verification is done and the guidelines of the Revised National Digital Identity Policy for SIM Card Registration are fully adhered to.”

Nonetheless, in spite of efforts by paid and unpaid media and social media “influencers” to defend him—and the retraction of the story that alleged his sympathies for domestic and international terrorists—the truth is that his rhetorical entanglements with extremist Salafist ideologies, which I wasn’t familiar with until fairly recently, justify the critical scrutiny he is receiving now.

In a series of reports, complete with audiographic accompaniments, the Peoples Gazette has unearthed sermons by Pantami that amounted to unvarnished homiletic endorsements of terrorism and intolerance of non-Muslims.  

For instance, in response to a question about Osama bin Laden’s “killing of innocent unbelievers,” Pantami said although he conceded that Bin Laden was liable to err because he was human, “I still consider him as a better Muslim than myself” and pointed out that “We are all happy whenever unbelievers are being killed, but the Sharia does not allow us to kill them without a reason.” You can’t defend that.

People’s Gazette also unearthed an audiotape in which he engaged in a weepy defense of Boko Haram terrorists against extra-judicial killings and asked for an amnesty for them just like Niger Delta militants. “See what our fellow Muslim brothers’ blood has turned to? Even pig blood has more value than that of a fellow Muslim brother,” he said.

In the aftermath of the religious crisis in Shendam in Plateau State in 2004 in which Christian militiamen murdered scores of Hausa Muslims, Pantami was livid and tearful. In an audio of his preaching, he said the “Ahlus Sunna,” that is, people who are now called Salafists, should strike back and shun politicians and religious clerics who preached peace and restraint.

“This jihad is an obligation for every single believer, especially in Nigeria (hādhā jihād farḍ ‘ayn ‘ala kull muslim wa-khuṣūṣan fī Nījīriyā),” he said.

In his March 2019 paper titled “The ‘Popular Discourses of Salafi Counter-Radicalism in Nigeria’ Revisited: A Response to Abdullahi Lamido’s Review of Alexander Thurston, Boko Haram,” Professor Andrea Brigaglia of the University of Cape Town, South Africa, writes:  

“Subsequently, Pantami offers himself as a volunteer to mobilise the Hisba police of the Muslim-majority states and to be appointed as the ‘commander’ (Hausa: kwamanda) of a militia ready to travel to Yelwa Shendam to join the fight in defence of the Muslims. The speech, which is about twenty minutes long, concludes with the prayer: ‘Oh God, give victory to the Taliban and to al-Qaeda’ (Allahumma ’nṣur Ṭālibān wa-tanẓīm al-Qā‘ida).”

There are many more indefensible rhetorical endorsements of extremism that can be found in Pantami’s past preaching. In my opinion, it is legitimate for non-Muslims to be concerned that someone with that sort of baggage is a federal minister—just like it would be valid for Muslims to be outraged if a Christian minister has been shown to have espoused extremist views before they became minister.

Yemi Osinbajo, for instance, has been accused of being an intolerant, narrow-minded Christian extremist who wallows in his Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) bubble, who employs only Yoruba people who belong to the RCCG, but while that is condemnable, no one has yet accused of him advocating views as extreme as Pantami’s when he was a pastor.

Nevertheless, while I denounce Pantami’s past embrace of extremism in his public preaching, I want to point out that there is a vast disjunction between his rhetoric and his person. People who know him outside the pulpit attest to his compassion, kindness, and peacefulness. 

Although an April 15, 2009 U.S. diplomatic cable (exposed by WikiLeaks in 2011) about the religious crisis in Bauchi during that year said “Imam Fantami Isa, who preached at the mosque, had been previously thrown out of Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University and of a Gombe mosque for preaching inflammatory rhetoric,” he is not known to have instigated any religious upheavals since then.

I also think he has evolved from the days of his fiery homiletic entanglements with stochastic terrorism. I can point to a few evidentiary proofs. First, although he said in one audio that he wanted to push Nigeria to the point where there would be no iconography in our national currency and even political campaign posters, he now obviously loves photography.

Second, although previous sermons expressed contempt for working for the government and even derided Islamic clerics who do, this is Pantami’s second political appointment. Before he was appointed minister, he was DG of NITDA.

Third, he earned a doctorate from the UK’s Robert Gordon University in 2014 and is now so enamored of the West that he even claims on his Twitter page and elsewhere that he was “trained” at “Oxford; Harvard; Cambridge; MIT/IMD” although he only attended a few weeks’ courses there after being in government.

But the notion that these facts show evidence that he has changed is just my extrapolation. If he indeed has evolved like I think he has, he should address a world press conference and say so. At the very least, he should give the context for his previous incendiary preachments.

 No one can do this for him. Paying media houses to “fact-check” un-fact-checkable claims (such as whether he is on a watchlist) and to cleverly twist facts to deceive a gullible reading public— and social media “influencers” to muddy the discursive waters— won’t help him.

After all, in December 2020, Sheikh Aminu Daurawa who, like Pantami, countenanced Al Qaeda and the Taliban in the early to mid-2000s, released an audiotape renouncing his past. And he isn’t a government appointee. 

As Desmond Ford reminds us, “A wise man changes his mind sometimes, but a fool never. To change your mind is the best evidence you have one.”