"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: September 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

What the WikiLeaks Controversy Says about Nigeria’s Leaky-mouthed Elite

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Just when you think you’ve read the worst possible testament to the spinelessness of Nigeria’s blabber-mouthed elite, WikiLeaks releases more secret U.S. diplomatic cables that just make your head spin in utter horror and embarrassment.

Well, there is now what must feel like a soothing letup for our ruling elite in the flow of humiliating exposés of their dirty little secrets. For me, four things stand out in bold relief in the aftermath of these WikiLeaks revelations.

First, 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. I once called this xenophilia.  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.

Our elites’ egos are  often flattered to no end when a white person--any white person--considers them “worthy” enough to serve as traitorous snitches against their own country. When I worked in the presidential villa during Obasanjo’s administration, people used to joke that the surest way to attract the president’s attention was to bring a white person to his office. Many a truth, it is said, is uttered in jest.
WikiLeaks logo
I once read the experiences of German expatriate workers in Nigeria who said they made a boatload of money from Nigerian governors who paid them to appear with them in public as “foreign investors.” They said all they did was to pretend to sign documents, shake hands, and take pictures with governors and commissioners.

It isn’t only our political leaders who are afflicted by this psychiatric malaise. A friend here in the United States once told me the story of a rich Nigerian woman who came to Houston in the state of Texas to treat a medical condition. It turned out that the best doctor for her condition was a Nigerian-born medical doctor. But the woman, to the shock of people who referred her to the Nigerian doctor, said she would never submit to being treated by a Nigeria. “How can I spend millions of naira to come to America only to be treated by a Nigerian? No way! I might as well have stayed in Nigeria. No, I want a white man to treat me,” my friend quoted her as saying.

Long story short, the Nigerian doctor recommended the treatment regimen to be given to the woman and handed it to a white doctor who administered it to her.

Second, the willingness of our elites to divulge unsolicited information about the nation to U.S. officials betrays an infantile thirst for a paternal dictatorship. The United States is seen as that all-knowing, all-sufficient father-figure to whom our elites run when they have troubles. We have learned from the US embassy cables that our Supreme Court judges, Central Bank governors, even vice presidents and governors routinely run to the American embassy like terrified little kids when they have quarrels with each other.

 The condescending language that the diplomatic cables deployed to describe our elites clearly shows that even the American officials they confided in were amused by the juvenile exuberance of our leaders to squeal. They are infantilized as clueless informants who become garrulous when the right buttons are pressed.

What I’ve found particularly instructive 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 who had told the world that he thoroughly investigated former President Obasanjo and found him squeaky clean confessed to the Americans that Obasanjo was, indeed, more corrupt than Abacha who, in Nigeria’s popular discourse, has become the byword for obscene corruption.

The same Ribadu shamelessly lied a while ago that the EFCC he headed never investigated Mrs. Patience Jonathan over money-laundering allegations. But leaked US diplomatic cables confirmed that he did. I think Ribadu deserves an Academy Award for his great acting and lying skills.

What of Nasir el-Rufai who publicly denied any debt to Atiku Abubakar for his social rise only to confess to American embassy officials that Atiku indeed gave him his first public service job as head of the Bureau of Public Enterprises?

In the past, many people had been falsely accused of being “CIA agents.” For instance, Dr. Patrick Wilmont, the brilliant sociologist who taught at Ahmadu Bello University for many years, was deported to England under the pretext that he was a CIA agent. Many other innocent people, Nigerians and non-Nigerians alike, have been falsely labeled “CIA agents.” Now we know that it is our leaders who are embedded in the inner recesses of our national power structure that are the real CIA agents. The American government doesn’t need to invest a lot of money planting agents in Nigeria when they can—and do—get any information they want first-hand and untainted from our very leaders.

Third, the revelations from WikiLeaks betray the extent to which our elite have no faith in the country. The nature and scope of squealing by our political elite that we have read from the leaked cables can only come from people who have no patriotic investment of any kind in their nation. It is obvious that the only thing that unites our elite is their common desire to loot and plunder our oil wealth. Once the oil dries up and there is no other means of cheap revenue, I doubt that Nigeria can endure.

Finally, the nature of the denials that emanated from our government officials in the wake of the damning revelations against them betrays unnerving ignorance. For example, President Jonathan, shamelessly stealing a line from el-Rufai, dismissed the WikiLeaks cables about Nigeria as “peer parlor gossip.” But WikiLeaks is merely a website formed in 2006 for exposing secret documents from governments all over the world. In the current case, they are merely exposing cables that US embassy staff wrote from all over the world, not just Nigeria.

 The site didn't author those cables. So what we've been regaled with these past few months is NOT "WikiLeaks’s beer parlor gossip"; it is U.S. diplomats' dispatches, which were intended ONLY for the consumption of the US president, the US Secretary of State, and other high-profile government officials but which WikiLeaks exposed to the rest of the world at the cost of tremendous discomfort and embarrassment to the US government.

The juvenility of the responses from the president and other government spokespeople to the WikiLeaks revelations about them confirm English journalist Francis Claud Cockburn’s famous quip that you should “Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.”

Whatever it is, the faith of many people in the “Nigerian project” is being destroyed.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Re: Lies Nigerians Tell in Italy in the Name of Sharia

My post last week with the above title resonated with a lot of people who shared their thoughts with me. I also got hundreds of visits, most of them, interestingly, from Italy and specifically from Rome. I imagine that I must have “poured sand sand into Kate Omoregbe’s garri,” as we say it in Nigerian Pidgin English. I will keep readers updated on this issue. In this fast-paced, networked, information age, we should never allow people to get away with cheap lies like Omoregbe’s. Enjoy below some comments I received on the article:

Salam sir, I couldn’t stop marveling at the gullibility of our sophisticated Western and European human rights crusaders as I read through your column of today.

To imagine that a Parliament could dedicate a part of its valuable time to squawk and indeed support a claim without an iota of investigation is laughable as it is scandalous for the Italian Parliament. Little wonder it was easy for Europe and the West to swallow George Bush`s silly lie of Saddam`s WMD to justify his invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Your prophesy is already here. Three of my friends who belong to a Nigerian Yahoo Literary group were recently delisted for “homophobia”.   
Aminu Sheik.

I was shocked upon reading this cooked story. So it has come to this level? Anyway, you have tackled the issues well. But must she lie that way before she could be allowed to stay in Italy?
Abubakar Algwallary

This is a pointer to the level of antagonism Europeans hold against anything 'Islamic' so much as to allow themselves be stupidly infantilized by someone who has no idea at all on how to make appropriate use of the object (shari'a) she uses to deceive them. Very little they know that the more they hate, fabricate lies and associate them with Islam, the more they add to the lubricants that that smoothen the propulsion of the religion. Thanks prof for exposing her, we expect more because this cannot be the first or last one.
Salihu Sule Khalid

It is a survivalist stunt to avoid being returned to hell-hole, Nigeria...if i were her, I would say scaffold has been erected at Nigerian airports for me by Ayatollah 'Komẹnikan'...
Omotosho Olalekan

Prof., you have treated the issue well and think it’s good that people outside Islam know the truth about sharia. Well done, sir. She is just a desperado who wants to stay in Italy at all costs.
Sa’ad Dembo

Ah, there are many are “Zamfara indigenes” here in Leicester and they have got their asylum! A lot of our brothers rushed to the council when Yerima Bakura introduced sharia, even though they may be from Edo, etc., etc. They rush to seek asylum; that if they return to Nigeria, sharia.....blah blah.
Uzal Umar

What's all this desperation? Several TV documentaries have shown the horrible situation some of the immigrants end up in, and yet it's still not enough warning for the prospective immigrants whose desperation, as shown here, is getting to a despicable level.
Abu Eedris Batuta

The so-called superiority complex of an average European coupled with the self -inflicted Islamophobia makes him to be stupidly ignorant about anything African. Our foreign missions abroad are nothing but mere houses of jamboree; they can’t launder our image. I doubt it much if our ambassador in Italy reacted to this shame.

Let's not hastily judge this woman inasmuch as we know that she was talking a load of crap. Many people will say/do much worse than her in order not to go back to Nigeria. And whose fault is it? Our so-called leaders (assuming we have any).
Uba Ceejay Agu

Like Kperogi, I laughed reading this incredulous story. It is only a matter of time that this kind of lies will become stale and unappealing to E U countries. An American President once said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time but u can’t fool all of the people all of the time''! So fellow Nigerians and Muslims particularly ,let this not deter us from practicing our faith in accordance with the Qur'an and Sunnah, which has been guaranteed in our constitution(1999 CFRN) in S. 38 i.e. freedom of thought, conscience and religion. Prof, we are grateful for this piece of information.
Garba Mohammed

Dr. Kperogi, where do you get the energy, drive, motivation and time to fish out these frauds that our mainstream media are either unwilling or unable to report? Knowing that you have a full-time job as a university teacher at an American university makes me respect your commitment even more. Please don’t be tired. My weekends are never complete without reading your two columns in Weekly Trust and Sunday Trust. Yours aren’t mere newspaper columns; they are weekly classrooms for which I can’t pay you.
Sabi’u Umar

Dr. Farooq, what you have written is a mere tip of the iceberg on the tissue of lies our country men and women are dishing out in order to mislead the immigration agencies abroad. Kindly create the time to watch the famous “Uncle London” YouTube video aired by SKY News Television.
Najeeb A. A. Gambo

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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Lies Nigerians Tell in Italy in the Name of Sharia

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Nigerians can do and say the most bizarre things just to live abroad. This includes telling willfully unabashed, off-the-wall lies that make you go “really?” For instance, on August 19 this year, an illegal immigrant Nigerian woman in Italy by the name of Kate Omoregbe made headlines in the Italian news media when she claimed that she would be stoned to death if she was deported to Nigeria.

She said when she lived in Nigeria, she resisted attempts to convert her to Islam and to railroad her into a forced marriage. The punishment for her resistance, she told an Italian court, is death by stoning or acid bath in Nigeria’s Sharia courts! Incredible, right? Well, wait for more.

She has made a sufficiently “convincing” case that the Italian Parliament—yes, the Italian Parliament!—has taken up her case. In all likelihood, the parliament would grant her amnesty if only to save her from the “impending torment” that awaits her should she be deported to Nigeria. Isn’t it so profitable to lie in the name of Sharia in Europe?
Kate Omoregbe

OK, here is Omoregbe’s full story. She not only went to Italy illegally, she also took large quantities of marijuana to sell in the country. Luck ran against her and she was nabbed by Italian law enforcement agents. She was subsequently tried and jailed for four years. Her four-year jail term will expire this month. Under Italian law, she is supposed to be deported to Nigeria this month.

But Omoregbe will rather die in Italy than live in Nigeria. “Please don't send me back to Nigeria,” she wrote in an Italian Catholic newspaper called Avvenire. “I only ask to be allowed to stay in Italy, to resume my studies and get my degree. I want to start a family, defend my freedom of choice and my Catholic faith.”

She wrote that were it not for her strong Catholic faith, she would have committed suicide. "Many times I hoped I would die,” she wrote. “Only my Catholic faith kept me going. Now all I ask is to be saved from a horrible fate.” The “horrible fate,” of course, is that she would stoned to death or bathed in acid in Nigeria because she refused to convert to Islam and accede to a forced marriage.

The story provoked mixed emotions in me. The first time I read it I laughed out so hysterically that I almost fell off my chair. I am not making this up, trust me. I thought Omoregbe’s lie was so conspicuously bizarre that no averagely intelligent person would believe it. First, no one has ever been stoned to death in Nigeria for anything, much less for refusing to convert to Islam. Nigeria’s constitution upholds every citizen’s right to practice the religion of their choice, including changing their religion.

 Second, there is no punishment in Islam for refusal to convert to the religion, and acid bath has never been a form of punishment for any offense at any time in Islam’s history. Third, Omoregbe sounds like a Benin name and, the last time I checked, Edo State isn’t one of the 12 “Sharia states” in Nigeria. Plus, Nigeria is a famously multi-religious society, and the country’s current president is, in fact, a Christian. So there is not even the remotest chance that anyone can be stoned to death or bathed in acid for refusing to convert to any religion in Nigeria.

That was why I laughed. But I became sober when I read that Italy’s highest law-making body is taking up Omoregbe’s appeal. (There are, in fact, many Italian Internet support groups championing her lies!) Are you freaking kidding me? Why would anyone take seriously this noticeably infantile and rib-tickling lie by a criminal? I thought only an irredeemably stupid person would even think twice about dismissing Omoregbe’s plea as a load of comical, incompetent taradiddle. But Italian judges and parliamentarians aren’t a bunch of nescient idiots. So why would they not spot the evident mendacity and outlandishness in this criminal’s pleas?

Well, I have two theories. First, it appears that Italians are so ethnocentric and so insular that they are prepared to believe the very worst of any nation, especially if that nation is in Africa. Aren’t black Africans, after all, supposed to be naked, cave-dwelling, cannibalistic savages that were lucky to be touched by only faint sprinkles of European modernity? So why investigate any eccentric claims of inhuman cruelty in Africa?

Second, the growing Islamophobia in Europe has predisposed people to believe the worst of Islam and Muslims. When you combine racist condescension toward Africa with the irrational hatred and fear of Islam you get an emotionally combustible mixture that can blind even the most clear-sighted bigot to the most obvious lie.

This isn’t the first time this has happened. On this blog on September 8, 2007, I wrote about another Nigerian economic refugee identified as Felix Eugenne who told an equally brazen lie to immigration officers in Italy. He said he had impregnated a Muslim girl by the name of Fatimah in Niger State and that, in accordance with Sharia law, he was billed to be stoned to death when he mysteriously bolted from the prison! And some Italians believed him.

But that’s not even the most shocking lie. When did this incident allegedly happen? Wait for it—in 1994! Yes, it isn’t a typo. It’s 1994—when General Sani Abacha held sway as the military head of state and when Sharia had not been introduced in any part of Nigeria because there was no democracy!

One can only imagine how many more Nigerians are lying in the name of Sharia to get refugee status in European countries. Their cases appear to have been helped by the high-profile international media coverage that the Safiya Hussaini and Amina Lawal trials attracted. Anybody who says he or she has been condemned to death by stoning by a Nigerian Sharia court is now believed—or so it seems.

I think this is another sophisticated mutation of 419 scams. I wager that the next issue Nigerians seeking asylum in European countries will exploit is homosexuality. They will claim to be homosexuals who are being persecuted and threatened with death because of their “sexual orientation.” That will appeal to the sentiments of Westerners to no end. Homosexuality is now a “human rights” issue in the West, and the “plight” of African homosexuals is top on the agenda of the powerful Western gay lobby.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

The Murderous Barbarism at the UN building

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

My heart hurts terribly. I have been sick in the heart since I read of the suicide bombing of the United Nations building in Abuja. What justification could someone possibly have for murdering scores of innocent souls who were no more than mere cogs in the UN machine? Just thinking of this makes me wonder if we are all equally human.

It takes a really detestably insensate beast in human form to choose to kill innocent, defenseless men, women, and children just to make a political statement. I share no common humanity with such a person.

Almost all the people that were killed in the blast were UN humanitarian workers. The most tragic for me was the news of the innocent foundlings (children with no known parents because they were abandoned) who perished in a crèche at the UN building. This is just plain conscienceless villainy! 

What is Nigeria turning to? A few days before the suicide attack on the UN building, the New York Times did an analysis that suggested that Boko Haram had now linked up with al Qaida and could become more ferocious and more wide-ranging in its attacks. I’d dismissed the analysis as lazy and idle propaganda and, in fact, intended to debunk it on this blog.

Now I know I was wrong. So many strange things are happening in Nigeria these days—and at such a phenomenally dizzying pace— that I have given up trying to make sense of them using old cultural frames of reference. When Umar Farouk Muttalab attempted to blow up a Delta Airline on December 25 2009, a lot of Nigerians—Muslims and Christians alike—vowed that Mutallab couldn’t possibly be a Nigerian. We all thought that suicide bombing was so alien to our ways as to be worthy of being dismissed as totally un-Nigerian.

The stereotype of the average Nigerian is that he loves life so much that he would give up everything and anything to be alive. Plus, suicide is actually a grave sin in Islam. Islam teaches that people who commit suicide are guaranteed an unfettered passage to hellfire in the hereafter.

It is beyond me how the culture of suicide bombing took roots in parts of the Arab world in spite of the forceful doctrinal rejection of suicide in Islam. Someone once suggested that it is the recrudescence of pre-Islamic Arabian cult of martyrdom. I don’t know how sociologically and historically accurate this notion is because the modern roots of suicide attacks, according to many informed sources, are actually traceable to the Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka, who are Buddhists.

 But the sneaky incursion of suicide attack culture in Nigeria should concern us all. It bespeaks a worryingly sinister cultural infiltration. At least three instances have led me to conclude that this previously alien, “un-Nigerian” culture is taking roots on our soil. 

One, Umar Farouk Mutallab was clearly a would-be suicide bomber. Although his extremism was planted and fertilized in Yemen, he is Nigerian. Two, the attack on the police headquarters in Abuja early this year, by all accounts, was a suicide attack. And now we have an unmistakable case of suicide bombing on the United Nations building by a Nigerian.

We don’t know for certain who exactly was behind this savage mass slaughter of innocents, but we need to start telling ourselves some uncomfortable truths. Middle-East-type religious extremism is seeping out dangerously in Nigeria. The Boko Haram is only the concentrated expression of this disturbing trend. If nothing is done to reverse this, as I’ve pointed out previously here, we may become Afghanistan in Africa—or worse. But many of our people are reluctant to come to terms with this unsettling truth either out of cowardice or the hypocrisy of not wanting to play into the hands of the “enemy.”

But our silence will consume us all. As is already common knowledge, more than 90 percent of the victims of terrorism are often people who share the same faith—and nationality—as the terrorists. The problem on our hands is therefore as much a law-enforcement challenge as it is a doctrinal one. We need to strike at the roots of what disposes young people to be brainwashed by murderous, suicidal, and clearly un-Islamic teachings from the lunatic fringe.

A lot of highly knowledgeable and tolerant Muslim clerics are afraid to openly contradict and condemn the deluded and homicidal teachings of Boko Haram—and their ilk—for fear of being labeled and murdered. But silence will only further entrench their ideology and marginalize the mainstream. So I think the most effective front in the battle against Boko Haram would be to mobilize the ulama (community of Muslim scholars) to frontally confront and dilute the sect’s ideology so that they can no longer recruit young, impressionable minds.

 Our security and law enforcement apparatuses are, of course, painfully weak. And our president is even weaker. You need to go no further than Jonathan’s pitifully illiterate response to the bombing to know this. When journalists asked him if the attack on the UN building would hurt Nigeria’s image, his response was: “Of course, wherever you have terrorist attack in any country, Nigeria is not an isolated case. Many countries have suffered from terrorists attacks, may be it is the turn of Nigeria. But we are on top of the situation.”

Forget the disjointed thoughts; the man is famously incapable of stringing together coherent thoughts. But how could Jonathan say with a straight face that his government is “on top of the situation?” Three terrorist attacks in Abuja (that is, including MEND’s Independence Day terrorist attacks) in the space of one year and the president still says he is “on top of the situation”?

The presidency is obviously above this president’s pay grade. That’s almost as tragic as the tragedy of the suicide bombing. God save us.

As I end this piece, I read about the unprovoked, homicidal attacks on Jos Muslims as they were observing or about to observe the Ed-il-ftr prayers to mark the end of Ramadan. This is truly depressing.  It’s just as detestable as the suicide attack on the UN building or the irrational murders by Boko Haram members. This perpetual cycle of recriminations and violence on the plateau must stop.

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