"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta

Saturday, February 16, 2019

Abba Kyari’s Self-Serving Condemnation of Foreign Intervention

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Abba Kyari, President Muhammadu Buhari’s geriatric and morally stained Chief of Staff, wrote an impudent, awkwardly error-ridden, and mind-numbingly platitudinous screed titled “Tomorrow Never Dies.”  That’s an ironic title in light of the well-known fact that he and a junto of reactionary, avaricious pudden-heads misgoverning Nigeria on behalf of a senile, cognitively degenerate, and physically infirm Buhari are already murdering Nigeria’s tomorrow.

Kyari has an unflattering reputation for physical and intellectual laziness and for down-the-line duplicity, so his hackneyed, intellectually malnourished harangue didn’t surprise me. Nonetheless, the false, exaggerated, and opportunistic appeals to patriotism and the hypocritical denunciation of foreign intervention that constitute the core of his essay need a response and a reality check.

 Kyari griped about Bukola Saraki’s alleged hiring of an American lobbyist by the name of Riva Levinson.  “We are meant to believe that Ms Levinson, like the others who are paid by one of the contestants, wants only to promote a free and fair race,” Kyari wrote. “And that it is only a coincidence that this language for hire is identical to what we hear from accredited diplomats!”

I have no clue what thought Kyari wanted to express in that tortuous quote, especially in the second sentence, but it’s apparent that he was taking issue with the hiring of an American to help the opposition with today’s presidential election. Well, I too resent it and have written several columns in the past to denounce what I have called Nigerians’ knee-jerk xenophilia, which I have defined as the tendency to uncritically celebrate and valorize the foreign. Nevertheless, Kyari’s APC isn’t immune from this disease of low self-esteem.

 From December 2013 to 2015, according to influential American online newspaper Politico, the APC paid for the services of AKPD Message and Media, a political consulting firm owned by former Obama campaign manager David Axelrod. “AKPD’s Nigerian work has already drawn media attention in the U.S. and Nigeria, including reports of leaked emails that discussed the firm’s recent work for Buhari’s party,” the paper wrote in its February 14, 2015 story titled “Democrats working both sides of Nigeria's presidential election.”

The same sorts of pronouncements from Trump administration officials that Kyari and his gang of philistines in the Presidential Villa characterize as evidence of foreign interference were also made by Obama administration officials against Jonathan in 2015. When President Goodluck Jonathan postponed the presidential election in 2015, for instance, then Secretary of State John Kerry said, “It is critical that the government not use security concerns as a pretext for impeding the democratic process.”

Several other influential American political players made statements that the Jonathan administration interpreted as covert endorsement of Buhari’s APC. For example, following Kerry, Jennifer Cooke, director of the Africa program at the Center for Strategic & International Studies, a Washington think tank, said, “There is a great deal of anger about the postponement of the election and suspicion among opposition supporters that the delay is a deliberate ploy to subvert the democratic process.”

I can give more examples, but the point is that in 2015 when US, UK, and EU officials issued statements that benefited Buhari’s APC and censured Jonathan’s PDP, Abba Kyari and the band of farouche provincials he is speaking for now didn’t see any “foreign interference.” In fact, when Buhari visited the US in July 2015, according to the Associated Press of July 20, 2015, “he said Nigeria would be ‘ever grateful’ to the U.S. for its support of free elections in his country,” and added that “U.S. and European pressures to ensure the election was ‘fair and credible led us to where we are now.’” He repeated this sentiment on several other occasions. And Jonathan, on the other hand, has blamed his electoral loss on foreign, particularly American, interference.

Even after getting into power, the Buhari regime has been more obsessed with getting favorable public opinion in foreign lands, particularly in the West, than it has been with its perception in Nigeria. That is why Buhari gave all the consequential press interviews of his presidency to foreign media organizations—usually on foreign soil.

In addition, a September 20, 2018 Premium Times investigation found that Justice Minister Abubakar Malami “hired two American lobbying and public relations firms to plant opinion articles favourable to the President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration in American newspapers.”

So, for Buhari and his no-good puppeteers like Abba Kyari and homicidal executive thugs like Nasir El-Rufai, foreign interference is good only when it favors them and condemnable when it calls out their incompetence and duplicity.

I won’t lie that when I read statements from foreign countries cautioning, warning, and threatening our leaders to be of good behavior or risk punishment, my national self-pride is often bruised. Sadly, it is only this sort of infantilization that can compel our leaders to be of good behavior.

I have pointed out in previous interventions that most Nigerians would seem to be held hostage by a debilitating and deep-seated inferiority complex. This complex consists in the internationalization of a mentality of low self-worth and an inordinate reverence of the foreign, especially if the “foreign” also happens to be white.

It is this xenophilic inferiority complex that allowed low-grade US diplomatic officers to extract treasure troves of sensitive national secrets almost effortlessly from well-placed Nigerian officials, according to revelations from WikiLeaks in 2011.

What I’ve found particularly instructive from the US diplomatic cables that WikiLeaks squealed in 2011 is that our perpetually lying politicians suddenly become truthful, honest, 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 severely punishes his kids for the minutest lie they tell.

For instance, Nuhu Ribadu, the wily airhead who had told the world that he thoroughly investigated former President Obasanjo and found him squeaky clean, confessed to the Americans that Obasanjo was more corrupt than Abacha. The same Ribadu had lied that the EFCC he headed never investigated Mrs. Patience Jonathan over money-laundering allegations. However, leaked US diplomatic cables quoted him as telling US officials that he indeed investigated Patience Jonathan for money laundering.

Nasir el-Rufai, the thuggish, murder-loving governor of Kaduna, had also publicly denied any debt to Atiku Abubakar for his political rise, but he confessed to American embassy officials that Atiku indeed gave him his first public service job as head of the Bureau of Public Enterprises, according to WikiLeaks.

Many Nigerian leaders—and followers— seem to have an infantile thirst for a supranational paternal dictatorship. The United States is that all-knowing, all-sufficient father figure to whom they run when they have inter-elite troubles. We learned from the US embassy cables in 2011 that our Supreme Court judges, Central Bank governors, national leaders, and state governors routinely ran to the American embassy like terrified little kids when they had quarrels with each other. They only preach “patriotism” in the open when they are publicly chastised by their masters.

I can bet my bottom dollar that even Abba Kyari will squeal like a canary if he is “honored” with an invitation to any Western embassy. Don’t be deceived by his fraudulent pretense to patriotism.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Lawal Daura's Plans to Rig Saturday's Poll Using the DSS

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
My source within the DSS just informed me that Lawal Daura, the disgraced former DG of the DSS (who is still in charge of the agency by proxy in spite of being fired) has perfected plans to rig Saturday's election for Buhari with new suspicious postings. See screenshots of the memo of the postings here below: 


He swapped some State Directors of Security (SDS) in some states yesterday for that purpose and instructed them to manipulate the electoral process in favor of Buhari
For instance, Bassey Eteng, who is the DSS' Director of Operations (equivalent to DIG Operations in the police) is going to lead elections operations in Kwara State. (They decided that they must wrestle Kwara State from Saraki in view of his centrality to the Atiku campaign). Eteng is very close to Daura and the cabal in the Villa. He's their tool.
As you can see from the memo, tt was Eteng, rather than Yusuf Magachi Bichi, (the surrogate DG), who signed the memo. Bichi is an old, tired man who has no clue what is going on in the agency he supposedly leads. Also note that Lawal Daura still lives in the official residence of the Director General of the SS in Asokoro months after he was relieved of his appointment by then Acting President Yemi Osinbajo.

The whole world must know that the DSS is planning a massive rigging operation on Saturday. Vigilance, people! Vigilance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Atiku’s Fiercest Foe Isn’t Buhari; It’s the INEC Chairman

By Farooq Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The auguries already favor a decisive Atiku win in the forthcoming February 16 election, and the biggest electoral shock may actually come from the northwest, hitherto Buhari’s impregnable electoral fortress. The silent majority of voters in the region will ventilate their pent-up anger and frustration against Buhari in ways that will signal a tectonic disruption of the habitual voting patterns of the region. At this point, Buhari isn’t a threat to Atiku. INEC Chairman Professor Mahmood Yakubu is actually Atiku’s most potent threat now. Here is why.

A brother of the INEC chairman’s close friend confided in me today that the electoral boss has a deep-seated animus toward Atiku and has made many nasty, unkind remarks about Atiku in private. That, in and of itself, is not the problem. We are all entitled to our personal predispositions and biases as long as they don’t interfere with our judgement on occasions that invite our neutrality and fairmindedness.
However, the same source told me the INEC chairman has a profound personal investment in APC’s electoral successes, like Maurice Iwu had in PDP’s victories. He said the INEC chairman told his friend that he was going to hand victory to APC in the Osun governorship election even though PDP clearly and handily won it. Buhari’s unguardedly candid confession on January 27 at the banquet hall of the Osun State Government House that APC won the Osun governorship election with “remote control” is the biggest corroboration of this previously uncirculated whisper.
The go-to rhetorical strategy to impeach the credibility of uncomfortable, anonymous but veridical revelations like this is to call them “fake” and to dismiss them as ill motivated. Well, I’ve confirmed the INEC chairman’s ill will against and active personal hostility toward Atiku from other credible sources that should know. I’m so sure of my information that I can swear by Allah that Professor Yakubu isn’t neutral toward Atiku and has said unmentionably disparaging things about him in private. I invoke the wrath of Allah upon me if I am making this up. I hope Professor Yakubu, who is a Muslim like me and with whom I have personal familiarity, can do the same.
I concede that INEC has taken many admirable actions in the past few months that point to some degree of independence. It has also conducted a few elections in which APC lost, but that may just be window-dressing to conceal plans for the grand presidential electoral heist on February 16. The world needs to know that the INEC chairman isn’t neutral toward all the presidential candidates. 

There are many other disturbing things I’ve heard about the INEC chair that I’ll withhold for now because I haven’t independently confirmed them. It suffices to say, nonetheless, that the INEC chairman is NOT a neutral arbiter in the forthcoming election. Domestic and international observers—and Atiku’s agents—should observe him with heightened sensitivity. This is not Attahiru Jega; this is a less evil version of Maurice Iwu.

Forget Onnoghen; Let’s Talk about Buhari’s Asset Declaration Fraud

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Buhari’s asset declaration fraud is more damning than Onnoghen's, yet it is Onnoghen who has been illegally “suspended” and pilloried in the media. In this piece I’ll show you why Buhari is a double-dyed scammer who should be in jail.
First, it was Buhari who voluntarily said he would publicly declare his assets. The Punch of February 20, 2015 reported him to have said: “I pledge to PUBLICLY declare my assets and liabilities, encourage all my appointees to publicity declare their assets and liabilities as a pre-condition for appointment.” However, several months after getting into power, he refused to declare his assets publicly.

In the early days of the regime, I frantically reached out to many people in the president’s inner circle with whom I have a personal relationship and begged them to prevail upon the president to make good his campaign promise. When they weren’t forthcoming, I wrote a column on June 13, 2015 titled “Mishandling of Asset Declaration May Doom Buhari’s Presidency.” I republished it weeks later.
The very first paragraph of the column, which seems pretty prescient in retrospect, read: “Although many of us still nourish the hope that President Buhari’s administration will represent a substantive departure from the blight of the past, Buhari has so far done little to inspire confidence that he will live up to the hopes we have invested in him. Perhaps the biggest germinal error he has made, which might haunt his administration, is his seeming reluctance to publicly declare his assets, contrary to the promise he made during his campaigns.”
After the column was published a second time, one close aide of the president told me in confidence that Buhari would NEVER publicly declare his assets because it would demystify him. I asked why and he said it's because the man is very wealthy and that his base in the North and his supporters down South would feel betrayed if they knew how much he’s actually worth. He said Buhari declared close to a billion naira in his asset declaration form and has choice property all over the country worth billions of naira. What was worse, he said, Buhari didn’t even officially declare everything. That was when it dawned on me that Buhari was a deodorized and carefully packaged scammer.
For instance, Buhari routinely received generous donations from foreign governments during previous runs for president. The Saudi Arabian government has given him the equivalent of up to two billion naira in two election cycles, and he always instructed his personal aide to deposit the money into his personal bank account. The late Muammar Gaddafi also once gave him at least $3 million and he deposited it into his personal bank account. He was also the sole signatory to the donations that everyday Nigerians made to his campaign through scratch cards between 2014 and 2015. The money was never used for the presidential campaign, and it has not been accounted for up to now. (An old woman in Kebbi State donated her entire life saving of N1 million that she got from selling kosai (bean cake) and died in penury a year later. Buhari didn’t even acknowledge her death!). Buhari did not declare all these monies in his asset declaration form, yet he had close to a billion naira in cash in his declaration form that he is hiding from the world.
Now, here is where the fraud starts. In December 2014, Buhari had said, “I have at least one million naira in my bank, having paid N5.5 million to pick my form from my party APC. I have around 150 cattle because I am never comfortable without cows. I have a house each in Kaduna, Kano, and Daura which I borrowed money to build. I never had a foreign account since I finished my courses in the USA, India and the UK. I never owned any property outside Nigeria. Never.”
They say a liar must have a good memory. But Buhari is a bad liar. After so much pressure from many of us, Buhari’s strategists came up with a plan to deceive Nigerians and deflect attention from Buhari’s asset declaration fraud. His spokesman was told to issue an intentionally vague and incomplete “public asset declaration” that would leave room for plausible deniability in case he is caught.
That was why there were no specifics other than unhelpfully broad claims that the president had a house in Abuja (which he earlier said he didn't have during the campaigns), Kano, Kaduna, Daura and Port Harcourt; some cattle and livestock; “not less than 30 million naira” (how more deceptively vague can you get than that? Recall that a few months earlier he said he had only one million naira left in his account!); “a number of cars” (we weren’t told how many); and so on. Compare Buhari’s "public asset declaration" with the late President Umaru Musa Yar'adua's more transparent, public declaration and the face of Buhari’s fraud will become even more nakedly apparent.
Many Nigerians weren’t deceived by the fraud. They asked that he make public a copy of his declaration like Yar’adua (who didn’t even campaign to publicly declare his assets) did. In response, the president’s spokesperson said, “As soon as the CCB is through with the process, the documents will be released to the Nigerian public and people can see for themselves.” It’s been more than two years, and the declaration hasn’t been released to the public.
What is worse, I have confirmed from friends at the Code of Conduct Bureau that the presidency took away Buhari’s asset declaration form from the place. So, get this: Buhari is the ONLY public officer whose asset declaration does not exist at the Code of Conduct of Bureau. Of course, it’s because he wants to hide his fraud from scrutiny.
This double-dyed fraud becomes even more annoying when you remember what Buhari says when he is asked to publicly show his asset declaration form as he promised he would. During the one and only media chat he did as president, he challenged journalists to use their skills in “investigative journalism” to find the form. What sort of dumb logic is that? On your own, you promised to publicize your asset declaration form. Then you took it away from the only place it’s legally supposed to be, and you now challenge journalists to use their investigative skill to find it. You want them to invade your home, hold you at gunpoint, and force you to produce it?
Well, journalists have used the best resources they have to find the form. They invoked the Freedom of Information Act and requested the CCB to release Buhari’s asset declaration form. On September 21, 2016, Code of Conduct Bureau Chairman Sam Saba said the Bureau couldn’t release Buhari’s asset declaration form because the law that set up the bureau forbids him from making the forms public without Buhari’s consent.
That’s why the Bureau also declined requests to release the asset declaration forms of other higher-ups in the Buhari regime. Now, how did Dennis Aghanya, Buhari’s former media aide and current SA on justice, get access to CJN Onnoghen’s asset declaration form when the law forbids the public disclosure of public officials’ asset declaration forms without their consent? Why isolate someone for punishment for an offense that everyone, including the people meting out the punishment, is guilty of?

Saturday, February 9, 2019

“Body Bag”: El-Rufai’s History of Rhetorical Violence and Semantic Duplicity

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai’s ludicrously impotent threat that citizens of foreign powers who intervene in Nigeria’s internal affairs “would go back in body bags” and his duplicitous attempt to explain away the homicidal signification of the trope of “body bags” are only the latest addition to his lengthening record of rhetorical violence and semantic legerdemain.

There is now no doubt that El-Rufai is a rhetorically violent and murderous thug whom the good people of Kaduna have had the singular misfortune to elect as a governor. I hope they undo their mistake on March 2. El-Rufai started to publicly invoke bloodcurdling thanatological allusions to shut down his political opponents on October 16, 2015.  

“All of us in Kaduna State Government have sworn with the Qur’an—Christians with the Holy Bible—to do justice and we will do justice,” he said in Hausa during a town hall meeting in Kaduna. “We better stand and tell ourselves the truth. Everyone knows the truth. No matter the noise, the truth is one. And as I stand here, no matter who you are, I will face you and tell you the truth. If you don’t want to hear the truth, you can climb Kufena Hill and fall.”

Sunday Vanguard of October 17, 2015 reported him at the time as having taunted his opponents to “go and die” if they didn’t agree with him. As is now his wont, he resisted that indisputably logical interpretation. Nevertheless, falling from Kufena Hill, as I wrote my November 1, 2015 column titled “El-Rufai’s Kufena Hills and Metaphors of Death in Nigerian Public Discourse,” is a chilling local metaphor for death. No one falls from a high, rough, steep hill like Kufena and survives.

Although Governor El-Rufai didn’t directly utter the word “die,” I pointed out, Vanguard’s interpretive extension of his thanatological metaphor is perfectly legitimate, even brilliant. It’s interpretive journalism at its finest. It helped situate and contextualize the governor’s utterance for people who don’t have the cultural and geographic competence to grasp it.

Since anyone who jumps from the edge of an enormous hill will naturally plunge to his death, it was impossible to deploy the resources of linguistic logic to defend the governor’s choice of words as anything other than a call to suicide to his opponents. Text derives meaning from context. In any case, the video clip of the town hall meeting where El-Rufai enjoined his critics to go climb Kefena Hill and fall showed him in a combative and livid mood.

I challenged Governor El-Rufai and his media aides who insisted that asking people to jump from a giant hill and fall wasn’t synonymous with asking them to go die to prove their point by jumping from Kufena Hill and living to tell the story. They didn’t take up my challenge.

Again, at a Kaduna APC stakeholders’ meeting in September 2017, El-Rufai told political opponents that should they insist on fighting him, they would all die like the late President Umar Musa Yar’adua did. “I had fought with two presidents,” he said. “Umaru Yar’Adua ended in his grave, while President Goodluck Jonathan ended in Otueke.”

Many people in Katsina understood this statement as El-Rufai’s self-confession of culpability in the death of the late president and asked that he be prosecuted for murder. That was, of course, an inaccurate interpretation of his words. El-Rufai obviously cherishes the illusion that he possesses supernatural powers that can send his opponents to their untimely graves if they dare him. That is probably why he thinks he can put citizens of the US, the UK, and the EU who intervene in Nigeria in “body bags” and live to tell the story! He fancies himself as some invincible, immortal man-god.

In the aftermath of the massive domestic and international backlash against his threats of mass murder of foreigners, he said he didn’t imply that foreigners who intervene in Nigeria’s affairs would be murdered. But that’s an indefensibly unintelligent semantic obfuscation. A body bag is a “bag used for carrying a corpse from a battlefield or the scene of an accident or crime.” Other than mass murder, what else could El-Rufai possibly mean when he said US, UK, and EU citizens who intervene in Nigeria’s affairs would go back to their countries in “body bags”?

I called it a ludicrously impotent threat because you’re talking of the world’s strongest military powers. In the event of a military confrontation with these powers, Nigeria would be history in a matter of weeks, perhaps days. And should these powers desire to eliminate El-Rufai, his corpse wouldn’t even enjoy the dignity of being wrapped in a body bag.

El-Rufai’s fulmination against foreign intervention is particularly noteworthy because during the late Umar Musa Yar’adua’s administration, he and unprincipled, airheaded Nuhu Ribadu went on self-exile in the West and actively discredited and sought foreign intermediation against the Yar’adua government from their foreign bases.

 By the way, the most potent bulwark against foreign interference or intervention is to resist begging for and accepting aide from foreign governments to conduct elections. The US, the UK, and the EU have collectively sent millions of dollars to Nigeria for the conduct of the forthcoming election. The moment you take money from foreign governments for something as basic as conducting elections, you’ve already surrendered your sovereignty, and your patriotism is hollow. Samuel Johnson was right when he said, “Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel.”

In all of this, though, my greatest relief is that El-Rufai’s tenure as Kaduna State governor has afforded the nation the opportunity to know who he really is. Many people who had been seduced by his occasional flashes of intelligence had suggested that he would do well as Nigeria’s president someday. Now we know that he is an intolerant psychopath with homicidal impulses.

 In my September 23, 2017 column titled “El-Rufai’s Morbid Fixation with Death of His Political Opponents,” I pointed out that El-Rufai betrays a disturbingly shallow humanity and a murderous inner disposition. He, for example, endorsed, defended, and even celebrated the brutal, cold-blooded, and unjustified mass slaughter of hundreds of Shiite Muslims in his state.

My immersion in psychiatry also leads me to suspect that El-Rufai is suffering the early onset of a condition some psychologists call “megalomania with narcissistic personality disorder.” As I’ve pointed out in the past, he obviously has grandiose delusions that lead him to think that he deserves unquestioned obeisance from everyone. He also thinks he has a special relationship with imaginary supernormal powers that fight his opponents to death. Those are classic symptoms of malignant megalomania.

The American Psychiatric Association defines megalomania, which it also calls “delusional disorder, grandiose subtype,” as “delusions of inflated worth, power, knowledge, identity, or special relationship to a deity or famous person.”

Mayo Clinic, a go-to site for medical research, defines narcissistic personality disorder as “a mental disorder in which people have an inflated sense of their own importance, a deep need for admiration and a lack of empathy for others. But behind this mask of ultraconfidence lies a fragile self-esteem that's vulnerable to the slightest criticism.”

El-Rufai’s claim that Yar’adua’s death was the price he paid for opposing him politically, his self-delusion that he can successfully murder US, UK and EU citizens who intervene in Nigeria, his oversensitivity to even the mildest criticism, his legendary lack of empathy (evidenced in his perverse love to remorselessly destroy people’s homes, the joy he exudes when people he hates die, etc.), and his exaggerated notions of his importance, for me, show symptoms of a man who is held hostage by megalomania and narcissistic personality disorder.

Saturday, February 2, 2019

Even Ahmadu Bello Would Be Ashamed of Buhari’s Arewacentricity

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The late Sir Ahmadu Bello, defunct Northern Nigeria’s first Premier, gets an undeservedly bad rap from the South for being the patron saint of the sort of exclusionary, reactionary regional chauvinism that political leaders of the North have been accused of. But he wasn’t nearly the monster of retrograde ethnic particularism he has been presented to be in the South, and he would definitely be ashamed of Buhari’s insensitive, in-your-face, knee-jerk “northern” sub-nationalism.

Of course, as a leader of the North, which was engaged in a battle of regional supremacy with the South, Ahmadu Bello was naturally protective of his region—as other regional premiers were. But he was the premier of a less homogeneous and infinitely more labyrinthine region than the West or the East. This fact heightened his sensitivity to diversity and to the merit of fair, if symbolic, representation of this diversity in employment and positional hierarchies in the Northern Nigerian regional civil service.

During a June 2000 interview, Chief Joseph Aderibigbe, who was provincial secretary of Sokoto and Kano provinces during the First Republic, told me a story about how he became the Provincial Secretary of Sokoto Province that, I think, strikes at the core of Ahmadu Bello’s foresighted northern Nigerian ecumenicalism.

Aderibigbe was a Yoruba man from what is now Kwara State. His hometown, Erin-Ile, is on the border between Kwara State and Osun State, and he was socialized in the West, having attended the University of Ibadan before being recruited into the Northern Nigerian Civil Service. He said one day the Premier asked for him because he had never paid a personal visit to the Premier’s office as others did.

While at the Premier’s office, he met everyone seated on the carpet. He couldn’t bring himself to do that, so he stood. He said Ahmadu Bello really wanted to earn his trust, so he invited him to come eat with him. He said the premier kept pushing juicy pieces of meat to him until he ate more meat than he had intended to. So the Premier cracked a joke along the lines of, “Look at this Yoruba man who didn’t want to sit on the floor. Now, he has finished all my meat! I am not sure he sees this much meat at his village.”

Everyone laughed at Aderibigbe’s expense, and he was enraged. In anger, he said, he told the Premier that it was because his people didn’t spend their money on meat that they could afford to send him and his kind to school to man the northern Nigerian civil service. There was dead, impenetrable silence everywhere. He thought he would lose his job, and he was fine with it.

A week after he got ready to return to Lagos, Ahmadu Bello invited him again. Instead of a sack letter, the Premier told him he had been posted to Sokoto as the Provincial Secretary, which is the equivalent of a governor now. (Sokoto Province is now present-day Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Niger states). Ahmadu Bello said to Aderibigbe, “I want you to go teach my people how to spend their money on education, not meat.”

This anecdote is a prototypic instantiation of Ahmadu Bello’s bridge-building efforts across Northern Nigeria’s many fissures. He wasn’t perfect. He was, for instance, accused of wanting to universalize his cultural and religious particularities to the whole region, which ignited forceful resistance among northern Christians. Nevertheless, the one thing no careful student of Ahmadu Bello would deny is that he was evolving and showed profound sensitivity to inclusivity, even if it was only token. He didn’t live long enough to realize the ideals he set out, but he did leave a template that anyone who leads an intricate, multi-ethnic and multi-religious polity can tweak and adopt.

He identified the multiplicity of ethnic groups in northern Nigeria, physically visited most of their places of origin, and sought to give them a sense of belonging in the region. This template can be extended as an instrument for nation building. A real, Ahmadu Bello-type northerner, which Buhari is not, would regard Yoruba people from Kwara and Kogi states as his or her “regional kin.” Well, if you can do that, you might as well extend that “kinship” to other Yoruba people in the Southwest in the interest of nation building.

If you accept Ebira people in Kogi as your regional kin, you might as well extend it to the Igara in Edo State whose language is mutually intelligible with Ebira. If you regard the Idoma of Benue as your regional kin, why not do the same to the Yala in Cross River who are linguistically and culturally similar to the Idoma? If you regard the Igala in Kogi as your regional kin, you might as well like the ethnic kin of the Igala known as the Ebu in Oshimili North LGA of Delta State or the Ilushi in Edo State, who are linguistically and culturally indistinguishable from the Igala.

If your benign northern sub-nationalism causes you to accept Iyiorcha Ayu as your brother because he is Tiv from Benue, why would you not accept his own brothers and sisters in Obanliku in Cross River State who are also, for all practical purposes, linguistically and culturally Tivs?

In fact, we are only now getting to know that there are Igbo people in Ado, Oju, Obi and Okpoku local government areas of Benue State who are native to the state. Had Ahmadu Bello lived long enough to know this, he would definitely have drawn them close to him. In other words, being a genuinely benign northern sub-nationalist draws you close to being a pan-Nigerian nationalist.

That is why the embarrassingly undisguised Arewacentricity of Buhari’s appointments in the last three and a half years—and counting—is such a betrayal of Ahmadu Bello’s template for inter-ethnic relations. Ahmadu Bello was supposed to be Nigeria’s first Prime Minister, but he instead passed the honor to the late Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa because he knew he hadn’t yet evolved to the point where he could regard the whole of Nigeria as his constituency. He was still learning to come to terms with Northern Nigeria’s complexity.

 Buhari’s Arewacentricity is not even reflective of the complexity of the North. The only visible appointment he gave to Northern Christians, for instance, is the position of Secretary to the Government of the Federation. Everything else is dominated by Northern Muslims. Going by the precepts Ahmadu Bello idealized, Buhari has neither the temperament nor the moral qualifications to even be a northern Nigerian leader, let alone a Nigerian ruler.

 In late 2015 when I started to call out Buhari’s skewed appointments in favor of the Muslim North, many people, mostly southerners, asked why I was bothered since I'm a northern Muslim who is “favored” by such appointments—“favored,” that is, on the emotional and symbolic plane. Well, I did and still do so out of embarrassment. It’s the sort of embarrassment you feel when your best friend visits you in your home and, during a family dinner, your mother gives you a considerably bigger food portion size and choicer pieces of meat than your friend.

Buhari’s self-defense for his provincial appointments is that he needs to appoint only people he can trust. Well, if after working for more than two decades in the Nigerian military, by far Nigeria’s most cosmopolitan institution, he can’t trust anyone outside his cultural, regional, and religious comfort zone, HE IS the problem, not the people he distrusts.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Bola Tinubu’s Costly 2023 Political Gamble

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

You don’t have to be enamored with Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s politics to concede that he is, for now, the nonpareil political hegemon of Nigeria’s Southwest.  Sure, his hegemonic hold over the region’s political space isn’t total and unchallenged, but it’s remarkably preeminent nonetheless.

I am deploying the term “hegemony” not in its contemporary, everyday sense, but as it was used and popularized by Italian Marxist theorist Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci theorized hegemony as the way the ruling classes in capitalist society perpetuate their dominance by making their values seem “natural” and “common sense,” which encourages oppressed people to identify with their oppressors without a twinge of psychic discomfort. Most people think, for instance, that it’s “natural” and “common sense” to want to make profit at the expense of the physical and creative labors of others. It’s not.

Hegemonic cooptation of all classes in the society is achieved through artful consensus building and through the persuasive narrative construction of the core values of the ruling classes. This requires that the consent of subordinate classes be perpetually won and re-won voluntarily, for, as Gramsci pointed out, “people’s material social experiences constantly remind them of the disadvantages of subordination and thus poses a threat to the dominant class.”

Tinubu has succeeded, to a large degree, in seamlessly meshing his self-interested acquisitiveness and insatiable thirst for power with the “Yoruba agenda” or the “Yoruba interest.” Many, certainly not all, well-meaning Yoruba people take it as “common sense” that Tinubu is the “leader,” or, if you will, the apotheosis, of the Yoruba people in contemporary Nigeria who looks out for and defends their interest. This hegemonic narrative enjoys the purchase of a vast swathe of the region’s intellectual, media, and social elites.

I have read people opine that Tinubu used his enormous wealth to buy the consciences of many otherwise critical minds in the region; that these otherwise critical people are his pitiful, acquiescent poodles because they can’t risk severing their financial umbilical cord with him. That’s simplistic. While I won’t discount the influence of money in buying the silence and loyalty of otherwise clear-minded people, the truth is that once an idea becomes hegemonic, people buy in or accede to it out of social pressure, out of anxieties about social ostracism. We call it the spiral of silence in communication theory.

For instance, before his death, the late Chief Gani Fawehinmi became something of a social pariah in the Southwest because of this relentless opposition to Tinubu and his intrepid quest to  pry open the ethical dirt Tinubu hides in plain sight in his cracked closet. Most people don’t have the emotional stamina to defy and confront the ferocious attacks and smears Fawehinmi contended with, so they just toe the line of least resistance by conforming to normative expectations.

However, as Gramsci pointed out, hegemony is always a site of contestation, which explains why the consent of people who buy in to it has to be earned and re-earned in perpetuity.  Afenifere used to be the hegemonic political force in the Southwest. But Tinubu and his forces have diluted the group’s dominance. Tinubu’s own dominance is also now being repugned by a multiplicity of subaltern political forces in the region.

The February 2019 election will determine if Tinubu’s hegemonic hold over politics in the Southwest will be strengthened or weakened. My sense is that it will be weakened—if not extirpated outright. Here is why. Tinubu is going into another alliance with Buhari in hopes that Buhari and his supporters will reward him with a presidential ticket in 2023. That’s a costly miscalculation for a whole host of reasons.

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

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

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

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

Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Tinubu’s dutiful protégé, is worse than a figurehead vice president. The cabal habitually humiliates him to his face and denudes him of any real powers. Every time Buhari handed over power to him when he traveled to London, the Villa always became a tumultuous, feuding house.

When former DSS boss Lawal Musa Daura instructed his men to invade the National Assembly, Osinbajo was not in on the decision, even though he was the "acting" president. When he inquired why he was not consulted, he was insulted and humiliated by members of the cabal. He fired Daura in exasperation. But the man is practically back. He nominated the current DG, Yusuf Magaji Bichi, and is actually the man who still runs the DSS. Every decision VP Osinbajo took when Buhari was away has been reversed or vitiated upon Buhari's return. Check the records.

This would be worse in a Buhari second term when the cabal no longer needs to pretend in order to earn the goodwill of the Southwest. The dissension between the cabal and the southwest political establishment led by Tinubu and Osinbajo would reach a feverish pitch. A degenerative, vegetative Buhari would be oblivious, and the nation would burn to the ground. You need no oracular powers to know that this would happen. At that point, Tinubu's minions in the news media and the currently quiescent civil society organizations would resume their trademark barking and tarring all northerners with the same brush. By then, it would be too late.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

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

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

A fierce, momentous national emergency is confronting Nigeria now—the emergency of President Buhari’s physical and mental incapacity to govern. This concern should transcend partisan political loyalties because it strikes at the very core of the urgency for national self-preservation.

It is apparent to anyone who cares to observe that Buhari is unwell. People used to give expression to this concern on the fringes of polite society in Nigeria. But it’s now increasingly becoming mainstream.  For instance, in a December 24, 2018 article in the Boss Newspaper titled “My Take on Buhari’s Physical and Mental Problems,” National Interest Party (NIP) presidential candidate Eunice Atuejide divulged snippets of a conversation she had heard by Aso Rock insiders who worried that Buhari has dementia that is worsening by the day. She quoted them as saying that it was “totally irresponsible for his handlers to push him to continue as Nigeria’s president beyond 2019.”

One of the conversational partners, she pointed out, “said the stress of the campaign for the presidency would only cause him more harm than good.” We have seen precisely that in the last few days. Although it’s easy to dismiss Atuejide’s article as a partisan, ill-natured whispering campaign, it’s not. I have known this for a while.

On November 23, 2018, for instance, I tweeted that a doctor who has met Buhari during a personal, non-medical visit told me he was troubled that Buhari appeared to evince tell-tale symptoms of dementia (of which Alzheimer's disease is a type), which is often characterized by repetitiveness, unawareness, mental deterioration, impaired memory, diminished quality of thought, slurred speech, and finally complete helplessness. That’s why neurologists call dementia "failure of the brain."

A friend whose dad has dementia and who has also met Buhari in the recent past had earlier told me Buhari reminded her of her dad whom she forced to retire, adding, sadly, that Buhari’s dementia is way worse than her dad’s is. She was, and still is, concerned that Nigeria has no president. She's right, and the evidence stares us every day. Buhari barely has any awareness of his existence, much less the requirements of being president.

In the cringe-worthy December 25, 2018 Christmas carol he sang with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and APC chairman Adams Oshiomhole, it was obvious that Buhari had no clue who Oshiomhole was. He shook hands with Osinbajo after the carol but ignored Oshiomhole. When Oshiomhole extended his hands to shake to him, he looked at him with a quizzical eyebrow and appeared to be asking Osinbajo who Oshiomhole was. In the video, we see Osinbajo pointing to Oshiomhole in ways that suggest he was introducing him to the president.

 A viral internet message by a diasporan Nigerian in France who attended Buhari’s interactions with the Nigerian community in Paris on November 12, 2018 during the Paris Peace Summit said Buhari had not the vaguest awareness who Abike Dabiri-Rewa, his Senior Special Assistant on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora, was. He openly asked who she was. No one was allowed to record the interaction because the president’s minders knew awkward moments like that would arise.

The president has, from all indications, lost most of his sentience. That’s precisely why he had been shielded from unmediated public communication for long. The people who are bent on imposing him on Nigeria know he is a human vegetable but don’t want the world to know this. Nevertheless, with his disastrously mortifying performance at Thursday’s #NgTheCandidates townhall series (he barely understood the questions he was asked and gave astonishingly off-center responses to the ones he understood) and his awkward, pity-inspiring verbal miscues on the campaign trail, the cat is now out of the bag.

Buhari’s problems aren’t mere “senior moment” problems that I wrote about in a widely shared June 20, 2015 column titled “Criticizing Buhari Over ‘President Michelle of West Germany’ Gaffe is Ignorant.” In fact, the doctor who told me he strongly suspects Buhari has dementia (and possibly Alzheimer’s) read my 2015 article where I explained away Buhari’s “Michelle of Western Germany” gaffe as an age-induced memory lapse, which is informally called senior moments in America. He said it was beyond that. It’s a clear case of progressive, irreversible cognitive decline.

On the campaign trail, we saw that Buhari could not remember the day he was sworn in. He said he came to power on May 19 instead of May 29. He couldn’t tell a "presidential candidate," a "senatorial candidate" and a "gubernatorial candidate" apart. He misidentified Great Ogboru, APC’s governorship candidate in Delta State, as his party’s “presidential candidate.” Ogboru corrected him by saying he was the “gubernatorial candidate,” but Buhari called him the “senatorial candidate.” After the second correction, Buhari finally called him the “governatorial candidate.”

 He also didn’t remember when he was Petroleum Minister. “Since 1984, or 78 to 79 when I was the Minister, I never lost interest in the petroleum industry,” he said in Delta State. Well, he was appointed the equivalent of a Petroleum minister in March 1976. Recall, too, that when he 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.

 He slumped at a campaign rally in Lokoja, the Kogi State capital, but, curiously, his aides who caught him didn’t seem fazed, indicating that this is a fairly habitual occurrence beyond the glare of cameras. He also slumped onto a couch during a campaign rally in Kaduna on Friday. That’s evidence of weakened motor skills, which doctors say is another symptom of dementia.

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.

If you think with Buhari as president Nigeria has a president, you should sue your brain for non-support; you're NOT thinking! We have a national emergency on our hands. Buhari appears infirm both in mind and in body. Without a doubt, other people are ruling on his behalf, and his own wife hinted at that when she said her husband’s presidency has been hijacked by a three-man cabal.

 If Nigeria were a functional nation, the National Assembly should have constituted a team of medical experts to examine the state of the president’s physical and mental state. If he is found to have dementia, as I strongly suspect he does, he should be declared incapacitated and removed from office.  And he would certainly not be a candidate for president. That’s what Section 137 (c) of our constitution requires.

He should go and rest, not rule, because he is actually ruining, not ruling, Nigeria. People who matter in Nigeria should rise superior to partisanship and save the country. The late President Umar Musa Yar’adua’s example is too recent for us not to learn any lesson from it.  American journalist Alvin Toffler once said,   “If we do not learn from history, we shall be compelled to relive it. True. But if we do not change the future, we shall be compelled to endure it. And that could be worse." I hope the right thing is done before it’s too late.

Saturday, January 12, 2019

Miyetti Allah, Presidential Endorsement and Politics of Fulani Identity

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Many people have asked me to weigh in on why the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association of Nigeria not only endorsed President Muhammadu Buhari for this year’s presidential election but also chose to openly antagonize and demonize PDP presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar when, in fact, both Buhari and Abubakar are Fulani like members of the Miyetti Allah group.

Well, although on the surface Buhari and Atiku have a shared Fulani ethnic identity, they are in reality different kinds of Fulani. Being “Fulani” isn’t a homogenous, unproblematized collective identity; it is a complex, multi-layered one.

In several past articles, I have pointed out that there are at least four distinct categories of Fulani people in Nigeria. You have the (urban), settled, non-cattle-herding Fulani (whom Hausa people call "Fulanin gida," which literally means, "house Fulani") who have lost their language and culture, particularly in Nigeria's northwest and parts of its northeast and northcentral, and who have intermarried with other ethnic groups. They are Fulani only because they can trace patrilineal descent to a Fulani ancestor— and sometimes because of their embodiment of stereotypical physical features associated with the Fulani. Buhari belongs in this group.

But not every acculturated urban Fulanin gida self-identifies as Fulani. For instance, a former editor of mine at the Weekly Trust in Kaduna by the name of Isyaku Dikko who looks phenotypically Fulani always insisted he was Hausa because, he said, Hausa is his native language and Hausa culture is the only culture he grew up in. He always pointed out that he would be out of place in a traditional Fulani society because he knows nothing about, or at least hasn’t internalized, the norms, performances, and boundaries of the group’s identity.

That makes a lot of sense. Identity mostly inheres in language, culture, memory, and emotions, not just in genetics and physical features. The term “Hausa-Fulani” emerged in the course of history to capture the hybridity of “genetically” Fulani people who are nonetheless linguistically, culturally and even part genetically Hausa. In a 1999 interview, Buhari said he loved the term “Hausa-Fulani” because it gives expression to the hybridity of his identity. His father was Fulani while his mother was half Hausa and half Kanuri, but he is culturally and linguistically Hausa.

Another category of the Fulani are the (urban), settled, non-cattle-herding Fulani who are still wedded to their primordial language and culture, particularly in such northeastern states as Adamawa and Taraba— and parts of Gombe and Bauchi. They usually have relatives who still live in the "bushes,” and resent being labeled as anything other than Fulani. Atiku Abubakar belongs in this group.

The Fulani of Adamawa and Taraba also take exception to being called “Hausa-Fulani” because Hausa is only a second or a third language to them. There are even Fulani people in this part of the north who don’t speak Hausa at all, although that number is declining.  Former super permanent secretary Alhaji Ahmed Joda, who was chairman of the Presidential Research and Communications Unit where I worked for two years, once told us during a staff meeting that when he left the former Gongola Province in the 1940s (after his elementary and middle school education) to attend Barewa College, he couldn’t speak a lick of Hausa.

It’s difficult to make definitive statements about the emotional affinities people feel toward other people, but my interactions with the Fulani people of Adamawa and Taraba tell me that they regard the “Hausa-Fulani” of the northwest as basically Hausa, not Fulani, people.

Because their societies are ethnically and religiously plural, the Fulani of Adamawa and Taraba tend to be cosmopolitan almost by default. As people who pay attention to the politics of Nigerian identities know, Adamawa and Taraba have some of Nigeria’s most diverse ethnic groups. The states are also almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians. That’s why it’s impossible to grow up in these two states and live entirely in your ethnic and religious filter bubble. Atiku’s cosmopolitanism owes debts to this background.

 Then you have bucolic, semi-nomadic, cattle-herding Fulani (whom Hausa people call "Fulanin daji," which literally means, "bush Fulani") who live on the outskirts of several Nigerian communities. There is no part of Nigeria where they don’t exist. They tend to learn the languages of their host communities, and are often well-integrated into the fabric of such communities. Although they share vast linguistic and cultural similarities with the Fulani of the northeast, they are, for the most part, disaffiliated from the politics and intrigues of the Nigerian state. They are usually neither Muslims nor Christians.

 The fourth kind of Fulani are the transhumant, rootless, perpetually migratory Bororo Fulani pastoralists (their endonym is Wodaabe) who have no physical or emotional attachment to any specific community, although they are mostly found in the Republic of Niger. They are citizens without borders. Most bloody clashes between farmers and cattle herders traditionally occur between these restlessly itinerant cattle-herding Bororo Fulani pastoralists and farmers. Even the bucolic, seminomadic cattle-herding Fulani fear the nomadic Bororo Fulani.

Note that there are, of course, a few Fulani who speak their language in the northwest as there are who don't speak it in the northeast, especially in states like Gombe and Bauchi; I was just painting with a geographic broad brush here for taxonomic purposes.

So where do Miyetti Allah members fall in these classifications? It’s hard to say with any iron-clad certainty, but the organization’s founder, Muhammadu Sa'adu, was born in Jos and lived in Kaduna, which means he was culturally Hausa. I doubt that he spoke Fulfulde. In essence, he shared the same hybrid identity as Buhari. This is also true of several outspoken members of the group.

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. However, that is the kind of simplistic but unhelpful rhetoric that folks at Miyetti Allah cherish.

 But Buhari was wrong. The Oke-Ogun farmers carefully spared their "own Fulani"; their Fulani spoke Yoruba because they had always lived in the "bushes" of that community for decades and interacted with their hosts. Buhari found that out. He found out that it was neither an ethnic war (since the "bush" Fulani in the community were spared) nor a religious one (since most people in northern Oyo are Muslims and most of the Bororo pastoralists are, in fact, not).

The Bororo would not regard Buhari as one of them since he doesn’t speak any dialect of Fulfulde and most of them don’t speak Hausa. Nor would they regard the loudmouths at Miyetti Allah, who claim to represent them, as their kin.

As it should be obvious by now, the Miyetti Allah Cattle Breeders’ Association endorsed Buhari because most of its members are more like Buhari than they are like Atiku.

Saturday, January 5, 2019

INEC’s Troubling Missteps Amid Aso Rock’s Desperation

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

There is a noticeable whirl of feverish desperation in the Presidential Villa. No perceptive person can miss that.  From indiscriminately arresting and detaining political opponents and critics, to squelching dissent in the traditional news media through blackmail and threats, to undisguisedly deploying security forces in the service of overt partisan agendas, it’s now starkly transparent that the Buhari regime is not interested in or prepared for a fair electoral contest.

 The starker the reality of impending electoral defeat stares the regime in the face, the more extreme the intensity of its desperation becomes. All the institutions that are crucial to a free and transparent election are now compromised. For instance, service chiefs, who are required by law to be apolitical, attended the president’s reelection campaign event in mid-November 2018, and by late November 2018, Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai said the army would “replicate”the “success” (read: massive rigging) that took place in Ekiti and Osun elections) in this year’s presidential election.

EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu also attended an “IStandWithBuhari”rally in February 2016 and proudly wore Buhari’s reelection campaign lapel pin in May 2018 during a TV appearance. He was also caught on camera seated close to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on December 5, 2018 in Lagos “at a gathering to strategise on the re-election campaign of President Muhammadu Buhari.” After widespread backlash, he got Channels TV (which was once called out by BBC Journalist Anna Cunningham on November 27, 2018 for editing out embarrassing quotes from presidential spokesman Femi Adesina’s interview with it after a live broadcast) to say that he was superimposed into the video in error, even though he admitted to being at the hotel where the event took place to see his “sick relative”!

The Inspector General of Police (whom I have renamed the Inspector General of the President) makes no pretenses to being anything other than a barefaced, unblushing partisan hack working for the president’s reelection.

That is why there is heightened anxiety about the neutrality of the Independent National Electoral Commission in the forthcoming election. The appointment of INEC commissioner Mrs. Amina Zakari as head of the committee that will be in charge of the “secretariat for collation of results and venue for briefing of international observers and the media” has pushed this anxiety to the forefront of national consciousness.

Mrs. Zakari’s father was once married to Buhari’s biological sister. Her own mother is also from Daura. Although no one has been able to definitively establish any blood kinship between Mrs. Zakari’s biological mother and Buhari, it isn’t far-fetched that they could be distant cousins since Daura is a small town, and in small towns almost everyone is related.

But that’s not really the issue. To be fair to Mrs. Zakari, she was first appointed as an INEC national commissioner by Goodluck Jonathan in 2011, and her relationship with the president in and of itself isn’t enough reason to question her neutrality. Nevertheless, given the frenetic, devil-may-care recklessness and desperation of the honchos of the Buhari presidency, it is entirely reasonable to suspect that her appointment to the headship of that committee was designed to rig the vote in favor of Buhari.

This suspicion isn’t wild, groundless, or impulsive. On October 26, 2018, for instance, Chief of Staff to the president Abba Kyari invited the INEC chairman to his office at the Presidential Villa for a closed-door meeting. That’s unprecedented in the political history of Nigeria. The Chief of Staff to the President is not a constitutionally recognized position. He has no legal powers to summon the INEC boss for a meeting. The meeting was particularly suspicious because it came on the heels of Mrs. Zakari’s redeployment from being head of INEC’s electoral operations and logistics to being head of its health and welfare department, which is consistent with her disciplinary training as a pharmacist.

INEC chairman redeployed her apparently in response to concerns by opposition parties that she couldn’t be trusted to be fair to all parties in her role as director of logistics in view of her well-known relationship to the president. The INEC chairman seemingly bowed to pressure from the presidency and put Mrs. Zakari back at the core of the electoral process.

So opposition parties are justified in being outraged by what seems like the willful arm-twisting of INEC by the presidency in the service of the president’s reelection bid. Josef Stalin once said in 1923, “I consider it completely unimportant who… will vote, or how; but what is extraordinarily important is this — who will count the votes, and how.” Nicaraguan dictator Anastasio Somoza was coarser and blunter in his taunts at a political opponent he “defeated”: “Indeed, you won the elections, but I won the count.” And this was how the New York Times of May 26, 1880 summed up the thoughts of French general Napoleon Bonaparte (who became emperor of France) about elections: "I care not who casts the votes of a nation, provided I can count them."

As the reader can see, historically, dictators like Buhari have always cared more about the count than they’ve done about the vote. That’s why Buhari hasn’t been campaigning for the forthcoming election. His energies are being expended on how to successfully manipulate the count to his advantage. That’s why the appointment of his relative (by marriage and possibly by distant blood ties) as head of the count, particularly in the aftermath of the INEC chairman’s meeting with Abba Kyari, one of the three-man cabal for whom Buhari is a lifeless surrogate, is justifiably perturbing.

I must point out, though, that in spite of the indefensibly disgraceful elections he conducted in Ekiti and Osun states, the INEC chairman has demonstrated praiseworthy independence in the last few months. For example, he stuck to his guns and bucked pressures to allow Zamfara APC to field candidates for the forthcoming election after failing to meet the deadline to submit the names of their candidates.

He has also insisted, at least up to the time of writing this column, that only card readers will be used in the 2019 election. Where card readers don’t work, he said, incidence reports won’t be accepted as stand-ins. That’s commendably bold and reassuring, considering that INEC data from the 2015 election showed that Buhari was a disproportionate beneficiary of possibly fraudulent votes that were masked with and legitimized by “incidence forms.” “Of the 31,746,490 accredited voters in the election, 13,536,311 — representing 42.6 percent of voters — voted without biometric accreditation. Out of this number, 10,184,720 votes are from states won by Buhari," according to DeepDive Intelligence, which got the data from INEC’s website.

Nevertheless, INEC would reassure voters even more if it rescinds its decision to make Mrs. Zakari the head of collation. Ultimately, who counts the vote matters more than the vote itself, especially when a desperate, drowning dictator is a contestant.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Triple Jeopardy of the Unending Zamfara Mass Murders

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.

The progressively widening and deepening bloodbath in Zamfara State is made even worse by at least three narrative conspiracies that mask the real extent of the heartrending humanitarian disaster the people there are contending with.

The first narrative conspiracy is a media one. The institutional news media in Nigeria lack ready-made, stereotypical mental representations with which to frame the conflict, so they either avoid reporting it altogether or minimize its horrors if they report it at all. The news media thrive on Manichean binaries, conflictual differences, and sensation. The Zamfara mass slaughters don’t lend themselves to that.

It would have made a "better copy” if the murderers in Zamfara were from a different ethnic and religious group from their victims. Imagine a headline like, “Igbo Christian militia kill 200 Zamfara villagers” or “Tiv yam farmers invade Zamfara village, kill hundreds, including district head.” Sure, the headlines would be guilty of sensationalizing and exploiting difference, but they are sadly the only kinds of headlines people are drawn to.

It’s easy to feel righteous indignation toward journalists for exploiting difference as a schema for framing news events, but the truth is that news stories are both texts to be read and commodities to be sold. They won’t sell if they are bland, predictable, and unexciting. Plus, we have been socialized to expect news to be displacement of routine.

In Zamfara, the villains and the victims share common primordial identities—or so the news media think. Nevertheless, it is the same set of people that the news media have (mis)characterized as “Fulani herdsmen” when they slaughter farmers in the Middle Belt and in the South that they simply call “bandits” when they murder men, women, and children in Zamfara.

A headline like “Fulani herdsmen kill farmers in Zamfara” won’t excite passions and might even be dismissed as counterintuitive in some parts of Nigeria since Zamfara farmers are a mix of Hausa, Fulani, and Hausa-Fulani people. A popular Yoruba quip says, “Gambari pa Fulani ko lejo ninu,” which roughly translates as “If a Hausa person kills a Fulani person, there is no case,” implying that the Hausa and the Fulani are indistinguishable and that their internal strife is no outsider’s business. This predisposition has partly informed the reporting on the continuing Zamfara bloodbath.

Nevertheless, a far more insidious strain of this attitude is the conspiracy of silence by the direct and indirect victims of the violence. Several people in Zamfara actively work to suppress news of the mass murders of innocent farmers because they reckon that publication of such tragedies will lengthen Buhari’s catalogue of failures, weaken his estimation in the country, and make him “look bad.” As incredulous as it sounds, people actually fast and pray in the North so that news of mass massacres don’t make it to the news media because of their “love” for Buhari!

In fact, everyday folks who share news and photos of mass slaughters of men, women and children in Zamfara on social media have been threatened by unpaid, unappointed defenders of Buhari in the state. Scores of people from Zamfara inbox me periodically on Facebook and entreat me to help publicize incidents of mass slaughters that have been kept away from the media. I have taken a personal decision not to allow people who are too cowardly to come out in the open to tell the truth about the tragedies that happen in their communities to ride on my coattails. In any case, defenders of the government will always question my locational bona fides to impeach the credibility of such stories.

It is precisely the same scenario that is playing out in Borno and Yobe states. The vocal minority in these states are so hypnotized by their “love” for Buhari that they cover up Boko Haram attacks, threaten people who publicize them, and lie to the world that everything has been hunky-dory since Buhari became president. There is no precedent for this depth of mass stupidity in Nigeria.

Even after the Shehu of Borno told Buhari on November 30 that, “the people of Borno State are still under Boko Haram siege,” that “Nobody can dare move out of Maiduguri by 10 kilometres without being confronted/attacked by Boko Haram,” and that “Quite a number of farmers are being killed and kidnapped on a daily basis,” several people from Borno still go on social media to lie that Boko Haram is now history in the state.

When people who are the direct victims of an unending sanguinary fury don’t want anyone to acknowledge their pain because of their misguided “love” for a president who swore to protect them but who is either unwilling or unable to do so, others can’t be blamed for honoring their wishes. An African proverb says the most difficult person to wake up is a fully awake person who is pretending to be asleep.

The last narrative conspiracy against the mass murders in Zamfara is government propaganda. The Buhari regime is deeply invested in its mendacious, self-absorbed narrative that it has recorded “tremendous success in the area of security” in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary. So government actively suppresses or minimizes any news that has the potential to give the lie to its claims of success in security.

 A Premium Times reporter by the name of Nicholas Ibekwe revealed on Twitter recently that a government minister invited journalists in Abuja, bribed them with N1 million each (he said he rejected the bribe) and pleaded with them to suppress news stories about Boko Haram butcheries in their papers.

Government certainly also encourages the suppression of news about the Zamfara massacres. Government is so invested in the narrative of its “success” in security that President Buhari regurgitates it like a preprogramed robot even when he is commiserating with people who are mourning the loss of loved ones. For instance, while on a forced sympathy visit to Taraba State in the aftermath of one of the bloodiest communal upheavals in the state in March 2018, he said, “Today, even our worst enemy can attest to the fact that the APC-led federal government has done well in the area of security.” It was one of the worst examples of a tragic presidential dissociation from reality.

The Blamer-in-Chief
Buhari is the ultimate blamer-in-chief. After his election at 73, he blamed his age for his slow start. At 74 and 75, he blamed Goodluck Jonathan and "16 years of PDP misrule" for his awful missteps in governance that precipitated a devastating recession. At 76, he has now shifted the blame to the "system." The man is an expert at shifting cultivation of blames.

The "system" forced him to wait six months to appoint ministers and to not replace ministers who resigned or died. It made him wait three years to constitute governing boards of government agencies and to appoint dead people into them. Several are still unfilled as I write this. The “system” made him to not prosecute Babachir David Lawal, “budget padders,” Maina, etc. The “system” made him to unduly delay forwarding Walter Onnoghen’s name to the Senate for confirmation as Chief Justice of Nigeria until VP Osinbajo saved the day while he was away in London.