"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Buhari’s Trumpian Propaganda to Cover Up the Lekki Massacre

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

On October 20, I couldn’t sleep in my base here in the United States because I was glued to social media monitoring livestreams of the agonizing state-authorized mass massacres of peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos.  I was crushed and despondent beyond description.

My situational insomnia was triggered by vicarious pains. The sights and sounds of young men and women being felled by live bullets by uniformed homicidal thugs caused me to imagine— and vicariously experience— the pain that the parents of the children who were being killed would go through when they find out about the murder of their children.

Although this Buhari-sanctioned, Tinubu-supported mass murder of unarmed and defenseless protesters was captured in real time on social media, archived on the web, and reported in the domestic and international media, the government isn’t only denying it now, it is causing people who witnessed it to question their own perceptual stimuli, recollections, and even sanity.

That is the propaganda tactic Donald Trump routinely deploys in America. He tells outrageous lies (he has told more than 50,000 lies since becoming president, according to several media houses that are keeping records!), repeats them ad infinitum, ignores rebuttals, and causes otherwise normal people to question the reality they live in and the evidence around them.

This propaganda and mind management tactic is called gaslighting. Its goal is to defamiliarize reality and the truth through intentional, in-your-face obfuscation of the facts—or through the popularization of what Trump’s former counselor Kellyanne Conway once called “alternative facts.”

In a January 2017 article for Psychology Today, Stephanie A. Sarkis, Ph.D., defined gaslighting as “a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed.”

I’ve seen otherwise intelligent, critical people fall victim to the Nigerian government’s Trumpian gaslighting propaganda tactic over the Lekki massacre. Even though videographic evidence exists of the shooting of protesters in Lekki—and of real-time reports of military officers hiding corpses to conceal their murderous cruelty—I’ve seen a surprising number of people asking for evidence of the deaths of protesters in Lekki.

Before writing this column, I observed social media conversations about the government’s audacious denial of the Lekki massacre, and I was amazed by the number and types of people who were gaslit by the government.

Although gaslighting was initially studied in interpersonal settings, it has now been expanded to account for how people with political and coercive authority (such as presidents, heads of military organizations, etc.) and even symbolic power (such as celebrities and public intellectuals) can use their positions to muddy the waters and confound otherwise self-aware people.

The website “Healthline” tells us that gaslighting can cause people “to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them,” adding that “A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity.”

It is the reason millions of Americans have become suckers for Trump’s absurd, easily refutable lies, and why millions of unreflective Talibangelical African Christians worship and believe him even though he isn’t a Christian and hates and disdains them because of their race.

Psychologists say the most potent solution to gaslighting is to recognize and accept that you’re the victim of a carefully planned emotional manipulation by people who have conscious and unconscious political, symbolic, or interpersonal dominion over you.

That acceptance frees victims from the burden of self-doubt and allows them to examine the facts and evidence around them. The unvarnished fact is that on October 20, CCTV cameras were turned off in Lekki and scores of protesters were shot at with live bullets by the Nigerian military. An undetermined number of protesters died.

The Punch of October 21 reported that “no fewer than seven persons” were murdered at Lekki and that “Many protesters were said to have sustained bullet wounds as a result of the attack that suddenly came just after the billboard on the tollgate and the streetlights around the premises were switched off.”

The paper also reported an eyewitness to have said, “They have killed more than seven people that I have seen with my eyes. They were killed with real bullets...”

Premium Times of October 23 also reported “Nigerian artiste, DJ Switch, who was present when soldiers shot at peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos, [on] Tuesday” to have said, “at least 15 people were killed in the shootings and that she and other survivors took the victims’ bodies to the soldiers who took them away.”

The Peoples Gazette, a professional, up-and-coming digital-native news outlet, reported that “the police in Lagos turned down [the] Nigerian Army’s request to hand over nine bodies from Tuesday’s massacre” and pointed out that “Amnesty International had reported 12 persons were killed by security forces on the same night, including 10 from Lekki military shooting.”

So the murder of protesters in Lekki by the Buhari regime is real. It isn’t mass hallucination. And it is disrespectful to the memories of the people who were senselessly murdered by the Nigerian military to question the truth of their death.

The blame for this gaslighting, of course, rests entirely with the government. Many of the peddlers of the government-approved falsehood that no one died at Lekki—or that accounts of what happened there are hyperbolized— are also victims of sophisticated emotional exploitation.

Tinubu is Complicit in the #LekkiMassacre

In an October 21 phone interview with Channels TV, Bola Tinubu tried to dissociate himself from the mass murder of EndSARS protesters in Lekki by asking, “Why will they use live bullets?” and proclaiming he “will never, never be part of any carnage. I will never be part of that.”

His condemnation of the massacre is refreshing, but he advertently or inadvertently enabled it in his blind pursuit of an increasingly implausible presidential ambition.

On Oct. 17, it emerged that clueless Aso Rock insiders said Tinubu was behind the #EndSARS protests as a bargaining chip to get the APC presidential ticket in 2023. I pointed this out on social media, and Tinubu himself acknowledged it days later in his ChannelsTV interview where he said he was “being accused and reported to the Presidency that I was behind the protests, that I was a sponsor of the protests.”

To persuade Aso Rock power brokers that he was on their side, he issued a forceful press statement on October 18 disclaiming any connection with the protesters, saying the protests, in fact, "affected the "economy of Lagos State" (read: Tinubu's bottom line since he practically owns the Lagos State government).

But his disclaimer did little to assuage the suspicions of his Aso Rock masters. So on Oct. 20, he issued an even more forceful statement where he, among other things, said the Buhari regime had the right to "act with the requisite decisiveness and FORCE to restore law and order."

In other words, he gave his imprimatur to the military to murder protesters. What else can “decisiveness and FORCE to restore law and order” mean but state-sanctioned lethal violence?

On the night of Oct. 20, several unarmed, defenseless young men and women were murdered in cold blood in Lekki by the Nigerian military. Of course, given Buhari’s bloodstained history, he didn’t need Tinubu’s greenlight to extrajudicially murder citizens who challenged his dreadful ineptitude, but Tinubu’s endorsement made it easier.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

#EndSWAT/#EndSARS Youth Steamroller and Theory of Rational Ignorance

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

An unprecedently seismic youth-led force is convulsing the foundations of Nigeria, which once and for all settles the widespread notion that Nigeria’s youth are lazy, ignorant, and detached. I call this the EndSWAT/EndSARS youth steamroller.

Like the literal steamroller, this Nigerian youth steamroller is massive, resolute, persistent, fearless, implacable, and determined to crush everything and everyone that stands in its way. Its momentous passion is energized by the vigorous eruption of years of raw, pent-up rage over the murderous impunity and crippling incompetence of the Nigerian state.

Its confidence is buoyed by its lack of fear of loss because it has nothing to lose. The vast majority of young Nigerians feel indestructible because they have already been destroyed. You can’t destroy what is already destroyed.

 When a young man pays through his nose to get a crummy higher education that was perpetually punctuated by strikes and, after graduation, is required to pay hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, in bribes to get a hopelessly low-wage civil service job, he has nothing to lose by confronting the state.

When a man defies the odds, surmounts the state-imposed structural impediments placed in his way, and takes advantage of the global digital economy to earn a decent living but automatically becomes the target of ignorant law enforcement agents who torture him based on evidence-free suspicion that he is an internet fraudster, he has nothing to lose by fighting.

When a smart, hardworking young lady with as good qualifications as—or even better than—the next person can’t get a job without being trapped in the lecherous snares of arrogant and degenerate bureaucrats and politicians, she has nothing to lose by fighting.

When the annihilators of the Nigerian state transcend the dysfunctions that they created at home by misappropriating public resources to go abroad for services their incompetence deprives the less privileged of, they enkindle the fury of young people who are condemned to deal with the insensate cruelty of the elites.

Young people see that the elites send their children to overseas schools while public institutions wither away irreparably. They see that as healthcare gets progressively worse, the elites have become perpetual patrons of foreign hospitals.

They see insatiably greedy, short-sighted, senescent geezers in government relentlessly borrowing and stealing massive amounts of foreign loans they won’t be around to repay. They know they would be burdened with and compelled to repay these foreign debts they didn’t benefit from. They know their futures are being literally mortgaged. So they have nothing to lose by fighting.

In a January 21, 2012 column titled “Labor’s Treachery against the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ Revolt,” I despaired that the revolutionary fire of a splendidly promising, spontaneous, unscripted, and unexampled mass insurrection against an evil ruling class was extinguished by Nigeria’s thoroughly compromised labor movement.

I ended the column with the following ominous warning: “Lastly, this battle isn’t over yet.  The suicidal and clueless Nigerian elite are unlikely to relent in their cowardly and egomaniacal violations of the poor. When the combustion does erupt again, it would take a decidedly different course. Labor leaders would no longer be able to stop what they didn’t start. A wise government would learn from this, retrace its steps, and respect the will and wishes of the people it claims to govern. But is any Nigerian government wise?”

My warning turned out to be accurate. The current #EndSARs/#EndSWAT revolt is a recrudescence of the 2012 #OccupyNigeria protests that the Nigerian labor movement betrayed and squelched from within. As I predicted, the current face of the revolt of the Nigerian youth excludes labor and the traditional wheeler-dealing “pro-democracy” and “human rights” entrepreneurs. It is fierce, decentered, leaderless and yet intensely consequential.

 As I pointed out on social media recently, the current #EndSARS/#EndSWAT revolutionary ferment in Nigeria has been successful precisely because the Nigerian Labor Congress and its evil twin, the Trade Union Congress, aren’t in it.

The debauched labor aristocrats in NLC and TUC habitually hijack, neutralize, and extinguish the people’s revolt. They didn’t just do precisely that in the #OccupyNigeriaProtests in 2012, they’ve been doing it ever since. They did it again a few weeks ago. There is now no doubt that the Nigerian labor movement is officially an extension of the government.

But why are young people now waking up? The seeming complacence and self-satisfaction of the Nigerian youth in the face of their continual rape by a rapacious, decaying elite class—and their curious obsession with sports and entertainment—had worried me and caused me to question my confidence that a second OccupyNigeria rebellion in a newer, more ferocious, less predictable form would materialize someday.

 In trying to understand why the Nigerian youth appeared disengaged, “ignorant,” fixated on strategies of emotional escape such as binge-watching BBNaija but suddenly energized to confront their oppressors, I encountered a concept in economics called “rational ignorance.”

In his book titled “Against Democracy,” Jason Brennan explained rational ignorance as the intentional avoidance of knowledge that has no immediate utilitarian value. “When the expected costs of acquiring information of a particular sort exceed the expected benefits of possessing that sort of information, people will usually not bother to acquire the information,” he wrote.

Nigerian politics is a source of unrewarding emotional strife and distress, so the youth chose to disengage from it, not because they don’t understand the power of knowledge and engagement but because they realize that they are and will always be systematically excluded from the orbit of power and influence. They also realize that conventional engagement with the state would do nothing to assuage their continued structural exclusion.

Now they’ve come to the realization that their very lives depend on their unconventional engagement with the state. Malcolm X once said, “Preserve your life. It’s the best thing you’ve got. And if you gotta give it up, let it be even Steven.”

 The Nigerian youth are fighting back with vigor and defiance because it’s their only chance to live. They are suddenly engaged because they are enraged. The only thing they have to lose is their oppression. That’s not a loss anyone regrets. The political elites should be wise enough to know that they can’t crush a people whose only hope of living is to risk death.

In Monarchs and Mendicants, Dan Groat said, “Not interested in scarin’ anybody, but people with good sense are afraid of a man with nothin’ to lose.” Lance Conrad captured the same sentiment in The Price of Nobility. He said, “Only a fool would underestimate a man with nothing to lose.”

The #EndSWAT/#EndSARS are only the trigger of a much deeper youth resentment against the Nigerian state. The protests aren’t just against police brutality; they are also against the oppressive and obscenely unequal character of the Nigerian society.

Although I live in America, my heart is with the valiant and resilient young men and women who are risking everything to take back their humanity from wretched scoundrels in the seat of power.

Related Articles:

Fuel Subsidy Removal: Time to “Occupy” Nigeria!

Labor’s Treachery against the “Occupy Nigeria” Revolt

I'm Shocked People Are Shocked by NLC's Treachery

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Litigious Terrorism of Ortom, el-Rufai, Fani-Kayode and Osinbajo

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

There is an abysmally low legal literacy in Nigeria. And Nigerian political elites have discovered that they can exploit the fear and ignorance of the law in the general population to terrorize their critics into silence and self-censorship through the threats— or actual institution— of meritless lawsuits.

American defamation lawyers call this “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” (SLAPP). But I choose to call it litigious terrorism. I think that is a more evocative and fitting description than SLAPP. Litigious terrorism is the intentional intimidation, coercion, or instilling of fear in journalists and critics through frivolous lawsuits that are designed to shut down scrutiny of plaintiffs’ questionable lives.

In Nigeria, litigious terrorism also comes in the form of infuriating litigious frivolity. Take the case of Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom for example. On October 4, he sued young, smart, fearless human rights activist Sesugh Akume (for N150 million) for suing him “over abuse of the local government system [particularly] the powers to sack local government chairmen and control local government funds, especially federal allocations”!

He also sued Sahara Reporters (and its owner Omoyele Sowore) for reporting on Akume’s lawsuit! The governor’s lawyer said the lawsuit against his client and its publication on news websites such as Sahara Reporters constituted “defamatory words or hate speech [sic] capable of lowering the reputations, [sic] undermine the integrity of the plaintiff, inviting disloyalty and bringing the name of the plaintiff to obloquy.”

This has to rank as by far the silliest and most ignorant lawsuit in the history of litigation worldwide. Even with the wildest stretch of the most febrile fantasy, it’s impossible to imagine a more absurd lawsuit than that.

In law, there is something called absolute privilege, which is the privilege granted to certain people in certain places to say whatever they want without legal consequences. For instance, people can’t be sued for whatever they say (however libelous it may be) while a court is in session or during National Assembly hearings.

There is also what is called “qualified privilege,” which is the privilege extended to reporters to report on what people with “absolute privilege” say without legal consequences. It’s called “qualified,” i.e., limited or restricted, because it is only guaranteed if the reporter reports exactly what the person with absolute privilege says.

If, for example, Mr. A says in court that Governor O stole money, but journalist S adds that Governor O also sexually harasses his female aides (which Mr. A didn’t say in court), journalist S can be sued for defamation.

But Mr. A’s claims don’t have to be true for him to be protected from libel lawsuit and for journalist S’s accurate reporting on what Mr. A said to be protected. The idea behind the privileges is informed by the need for untrammeled divulgence of the facts that are critical to the pursuit of truth in court cases, judicial inquiries, parliamentary proceedings, etc.

The judge before whom Ortom filed his thoughtless lawsuit would most likely remind him of the Latin legal maxim that says de minimis no curat lex, i.e., “the law does not concern itself with trifles.”

An even more insidious litigious terrorist than Samuel Ortom is Nasiru el-Rufai who sues every critic he can’t cause to “disappear.” For instance, on August 23, Sahara Reporters reported that the Kaduna State Government sued a Kaduna bishop “for saying Governor El-Rufai will never be Nigeria’s president”!

I observed in an August 23 tweet that the humiliation of el-Rufai by the Nigerian Bar Association must have literally driven him stark raving mad. That was the only way I could make sense of his juvenile litigious terroristic stunt.

Opinion is protected by law. In fact, vigorous, vituperative, unflattering opinion uttered in moments of inflamed passions can’t be defamatory in Nigerian law. There are many precedents for this. For instance, in Bakare v Ishola, the defendant, in a moment of heightened emotions, said to the plaintiff in Yoruba, “Ole ni o! Elewon! Iwo ti o sese to ewon de yi.” English translation: “You’re a thief! Ex-convict! You have just come out of prison.”

Justice C.J. Jibowu ruled that these were vulgar insults that weren’t actionable. “It is a matter of common knowledge of which this court takes judicial notice that people commonly abuse each other as a prelude to a fight and call each other ‘ole! Elewon!... which…no one takes seriously as they are words of heat and anger,” he said.

In another case, Ibeanu v Uba, the defendant was accused of defaming the plaintiff by saying in Igbo, “Josiah, Josiah, Ongi kpo ndi ori bia zulu ewum, bia malu uma najum.” Translation: “Josiah, Josiah, you brought the thieves with whom you stole my goat and you have now come to ask me.” The judge in the case also ruled that this didn’t constitute defamation.

So it has been established in Nigerian law that mere “vulgar abuse” isn’t defamatory. In American media law, vulgar abuse, such as calling someone a “criminal idiot” in the heat of anger, is called rhetorical hyperbole, and is not defamatory.  Saying someone can never be president because of his vicious divisiveness isn’t even vulgar abuse or rhetorical hyperbole; it’s simply innocuous, if uncomplimentary, opinion. Only a litigious terrorist would sue anyone over that.

This is particularly interesting because el-Rufai said worse things about people in power when he was in opposition than his critics say about him now, but no one sued him. He was so proud of his vicious verbal causticity that he described himself as a “certified ruffler of feathers” on his Twitter profile.

Femi Fani-Kayode’s litigious terrorism is less outrageous than Ortom’s and el-Rufai’s but it’s no less indefensible. On September 1, for example, he sued—or threatened to sue— the Daily Trust over a scathingly unflattering opinion article that an occasional contributor to the paper's opinion pages wrote about him.

Most of the unsparingly virulent things the writer wrote about Fani-Kayode, as I pointed out on September 1, qualify as opinion and fair comment in media law and are not actionable. The matter about which the writer wrote, i.e., Fani-Kayode’s unjustifiably primitive verbal violence against a Daily Trust reporter, had dominated the news cycle and generated intense public interest.

The only potentially libelous statement in the piece was the claim that Fani-Kayode is a drug addict who had been treated, without success, in psychiatric hospitals in Ghana (and other places) but who hasn't recovered from his drug addiction.

That's not an opinion that enjoys legal protection; it is a statement that implies a definitive habit of moral turpitude that can be proven to be either true or false.

 Nonetheless, truth is a defense in libel. Daily Trust would be compelled to prove that Fani-Kayode was indeed a drug addict who had been treated at psychiatric hospitals.

In proving this, Daily Trust’s legal team would expose Fani-Kayode to even more public ridicule because whatever evidence they present in court, whether the evidence is false or true, would be legitimate, legally protected material for the news media.

But, even worse, if Daily Trust finally proves it, Fani-Kayode's reputation would be so irretrievably sullied that he would become what defamation lawyers call a “libel-proof plaintiff,” that is, someone whose reputation is already so thoroughly damaged that no libelous statement can damage it further. In other words, he would inadvertently open the floodgates to everyone to thrash him in public without fear of legal consequences.

Plus, he is a public figure who seeks out the media, who willfully thrusts himself into public consciousness, who seeks to influence national conversations, and who has the capacity to respond to whatever dirt is thrown at him. Such people have a hard time winning libel cases.

Finally, in a September 28, 2019 column titled “Osinbajo:Unraveling of Nigeria’s Most Overrated Vice President,” I also wrote about Yemi Osinbajo who, “instead of confronting the real demons that are tormenting him… has chosen to transfer his aggression elsewhere by intimidating and overawing soft, weak targets….

“He is now on a wildly frivolous litigation spree. As of the time of writing this column, he has sued—or has threatened to sue—'one Timi Frank and another Katch Ononuju’ whom he said have ‘put their names to’ what he said are ‘odious falsehoods’ against him. He also threatened to sue RootsTV and Google over a YouTube video he said injured his reputation.”

As is obvious by now, litigious terrorists are cowards who derive strength from intimidating weaker targets and who treasure the privileges of being in the public eye but chafe at the scrutiny that comes with it.

Related Articles:

Abba Kyari’s Cowardly SLAPP against the Punch over Alleged Scam

Osinbajo: Unraveling of Nigeria’s Most Overrated Vice President

Fani-Kayode: All Great Journalists Are “Rude

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Who Writes Buhari’s Horrible, Error-Ridden Speeches?

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

A former minister called me a few days ago to say the focus of my columns on Muhammadu Buhari ignores my own 2018 disclosure that he is a captive of an irrecoverably degenerative mental decline that ensures that he doesn’t know what he says and does. “To criticize Buhari is to beat a carcass,” he said.

I see his point, but I disagree. It is the office, not necessarily the person, that is being criticized, although the person and the office converge. Anyway, the former minister said attention should be focused on the people who drive the policies of the regime, who write Buhari’s speeches, who babysit him.

He pointed out, for instance, that CBN governor Godwin Emefiele now almost singlehandedly steers the economic policies of the country without recourse to the presidency—or the presidential economic advisory council— because there is frankly no presidency. It’s just outright anarchy.

But, to get back to the subject matter of today’s column, who writes Buhari’s speeches? Why are the speeches often embarrassingly error-ridden, callous, shallow, cavalier, ignorant, and unpresidential? Buhari’s October 1 Independence Day Speech is perhaps the crowning encapsulation of his speech writers’ utter inner emptiness and cluelessness. I’ll come back to this point shortly.

I know that Mamman Daura and Education Minister Adamu Adamu wrote some Buhari’s signature speeches in his firm term. I know this because when I wrote a June 7, 2015 column in my now rested grammar column titled “A Grammatical and Rhetorical Analysis of President Buhari’s Inaugural Speech” where I both praised and called attention to the speech’s grammatical errors, I got a swift, defensive, ill-informed response from a “Mainasara” who used the majestic self-referential plural “we” in his response to me, which was published in the Sunday Trust of July 12, 2015.

Daura betrayed himself when he made reference to Dublin College Ireland as one of the guardians of the English language, which it isn’t, nor is there any. (He attended Dublin College!). I wrote a rejoinder to his rejoinder and shut him up. A senior person in Daily Trust later confided in me that “Mainasara” was Mamman Daura’s pen name and that Daura took my criticism personally because he was one of the writers of the inaugural. 

Adamu Adamu, who had been Buhari’s speech writer before he was elected in 2015, also contributed to the 2015 inauguration speech, particularly the Shakespearean references in the speech. (Adamu Adamu is a Shakespearean enthusiast and wordsmith who probably wrote Buhari’s famous “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” line in the inaugural speech, which some people erroneously said was plagiarized.)

But I no longer see the rhetorical echoes of Adamu Adamu—or even Mamman Daura—in the recent speeches Buhari reads. Whatever disagreements I may have with the duo, I can’t help but concede that they are excellent writers. This is particularly true of Adamu Adamu, who is far and away one of Nigeria’s finest writers in the English language.

I don’t know who writes Buhari’s speeches now. Nor is it possible to tell because the tones and tenor of the speeches change dramatically from occasion to occasion, underscoring the chaos and anything-goes climate in the presidency. 

But whoever the speech writers are, they are illiterate doofuses who have zero appreciation of the power of what we call the rhetorical presidency in communication studies, which I have defined in a forthcoming book chapter as the symbolic and discursive powers of the presidency to frame, reframe, define, and redefine the contours of national conversations and identity formulations and reformulations.

As I pointed out on social media on October 1, Nigeria's Independence Day is supposed to be a solemn, august, introspective moment, and the speech of whoever claims to be president of the country should reflect the dignified seriousness of the moment. It should inspire hope for the future, enliven spirits, and renew faith in the country.

 But what did we see? Buhari’s speech writers chose the moment to visit rhetorical violence on Nigerians, to rile people and foul their mood, to annihilate people’s loyalty in the country, to fertilize hopelessness and despair, and to inspire disabling anxieties about the immediate future.

For instance, during his speech Buhari signaled that he'd yet again hike the price of petrol (and plunge Nigerians into even deeper misery than they're already in) by saying, "It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia." Which sane person writes that in an Independence Day Speech?

Well, it also makes no sense for the minimum wage in Saudi Arabia to be 3,000 riyals (which is equivalent to N305,149.30) while the minimum wage in Nigeria is a miserly N30,000, which hasn’t even been fully implemented in all states. Nor does it make sense for Saudi Arabia to have generous social safety nets for its citizens while the vast majority of Nigerians are crushed by biting deprivation. Or that Saudis have access to affordable public transportation, while Nigerians don’t.

To compare the petrol prices of various countries with Nigeria and ignore the sky-high differences in minimum wages and standards of living is beyond cruel. In any case, if the government claims it has fully “deregulated” the petrol industry, what business does it have again talking about the prices of petrol? In a deregulated economy, the government has no business fixing prices. That’s the prerogative of the private sector.

You are either deregulating or you are not. There is no in-between. Deregulation means freedom from government regulations. Yet, the government fixes the price of petrol. That’s insane. In a deregulated petrol price regime, the first government agency that should be disbanded outright is the fraudulent Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

I live in the United States where petrol prices are truly deregulated. Different states have different price regimes. In fact, in the same city, different gas stations have different prices. And prices fluctuate from time to time. Prices have been extremely low these past few months because of the slump in global oil prices. Ironically, government-engineered price hikes in Nigeria coincide with a time when prices are low everywhere else in the world.

But, as I've pointed out before, cruelty is now Buhari's official governing philosophy. Denying Nigerians the expectation of relatively cheaper petrol prices is like asking people to hold cream on their hands while their faces and bodies are dry. That’s cruelty. Most Nigerians would be at peace with high petrol prices if their country doesn’t produce oil.

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

I think one error people keep making, including the former minister who spoke with me, is to forget that even before his dementia-fueled alienation from his government, Buhari had notoriety for sadism. In a response to a previous column, for instance, a Katsina man wrote that Buhari’s nickname as a youngster was "Danliti mugu," meaning "Danliti the sadist."

Another said most people in the Northwest have internalized the fact of Buhari’s sadism by coining the expression "Da sauran aiki; Buhari yaga mai rake da iPhone." Literally: "There's still more to be done; Buhari saw a sugarcane hawker with an iPhone!" In other words, the appearance of even a glimmer of prosperity in people activates Buhari’s sadistic instincts. So his government reflects his person, and his speech writers probably know this.

I wish I could say, "Happy Independence Day" to Nigerians, but that would be heartless. There was nothing to make a song and dance about an Independence Day that was ruined by Buhari's sadism.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

I'm Shocked People Are Shocked by NLC's Treachery

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The Nigerian Labor Congress (NLC) has been the outpost of nakedly mercenary and treacherous intrigues at least since Adams Oshiomhole became its leader.

I know for a fact that in the early 2000s, every petrol price hike used to be preceded by negotiations with, and eye-watering palm-greasing to, debauched labor aristocrats led by Oshiomhole.

If the price of petrol was, say, N10 per liter and the government planned to raise it to, say, N20, it would increase it to N30. Compromised and coopted labor bureaucrats would be encouraged to talk tough and to go on strike to "protest" the hike. After "negotiations" and other theatrics, government would "back down" and agree to “reduce” the price to N20. 

Both the government and labor aristocrats would win, and the masses would lose. Nonetheless, the masses would be thrilled that they didn’t have to pay N30 for a liter of petrol.

Unsuspecting citizens would praise the labor leaders for "fighting" for them—and the government also got brownie points for being a "listening government." And everything went back to normal. Until the next hike. And the same chicanery would play out.

But post-Oshiomhole labor leaders, particularly the current ones, neither have Oshiomhole's criminally effective wiles nor his swaggering gutsiness. They're simply farouche, unthinking, mercenary know-nothings whose dewy-eyed eagerness for financial inducement from the government caused them to botch an amateur theater. 

Of course, the current regime doesn’t even respect them enough to plot the sort of carefully choreographed histrionics that previous governments hatched with Oshiomhole and his gang of depraved underlings.  

That anyone even thought the barely literate mercantile scammers masquerading as labor leaders would lead a strike against the government's unpopular policies shows that many Nigerians know awfully very little about the crying moral poverty of the NLC—and its evil twin the TUC.

Related Article:

Labor’s Treachery against the “Occupy Nigeria” Revolt

Saturday, September 26, 2020

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

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oshiomhole and His Lizard and Lion Hyperbole

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

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

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

Related Article:

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

Sunday, September 20, 2020

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

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 19, 2020

Sadism as a Governing Philosophy in Buhari’s Nigeria

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Let’s Talk About the Subsidies for the Rich


By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

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

By Farooq A. Kperogi
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Buhari’s Growing Cruelty Reflects the Wishes of Nigerians

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 29, 2020

Aso Rock Cabal’s Judicial Cabal on Election Petitions


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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