"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: August 2018

Sunday, August 26, 2018

It’s “Academic,” not “Academician” Q and A on Nigerian English Errors and Usage

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

Although many Nigerians, including Professor Wole Soyinka, use “academicians” and “academics” interchangeably, they are in error. Find out why in today’s Q and A. Also find the difference between a “house” and a “home,” between the expressions “it’s me” and “it’s I,” and other usage questions.



Question:
What is the difference between an “academic” and an “academician”? I see both words used interchangeably in Nigerian English.

Answer:
Let me answer you this way: you will probably never have a reason to use the word “academician” if you speak or write Standard English. Most people who use “academician” are either non-native English speakers or uneducated native English speakers.

So what is the difference between an “academician” and an “academic”? Well, an “academic” is someone who teaches or conducts research in a higher education institution, typically in a university. In British and Nigerian English, academics are also called “lecturers.” In American English, they are called “professors.”

 An “academician,” on the other hand, is a person who works with or is honored with membership into an academy, that is, an institution devoted to the study and advancement of a specialized area of learning such as the arts, sciences, literature, medicine, music, engineering, etc. Examples of academies are the Nigerian Academy of Letters, the Royal Academy of Arts, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, etc.

Not all academics are academicians and not all academicians are academics. In other words, you can teach in a university, polytechnic, college of education, etc. and never be made a member of an academy, and you can become a member of an academy without ever being a teacher or a researcher at a higher educational institution. I know a number of academicians who don’t teach or conduct research at a higher ed. institution. Note that while most academicians are also academics, most academics are never academicians.

A little note on pragmatics is in order here. Although many dictionaries have entries that say “academician” and “academic” can be synonymous, this isn’t really the case in actual usage, at least among educated native English speakers. It is considered illiterate usage in British and American English to call higher education teachers and researchers “academicians”; they are properly called “academics.” Many dictionaries merely capture the entire range of a word’s usage without discriminating socially prestigious usage from uneducated or archaic usage.

That is why I was disappointed when Professor Wole Soyinka used “academician” as if it meant “academic” in a 1971 newspaper article. In the article, he wrote: “What I would have expected of an academician was the advocation [sic, “advocation” is an archaic variant of “advocacy”] of a social system whereby the life of a decent [living] was guaranteed and the benevolent patronage of the privileged groups was eradicated for all time.

“Dr Isong’s cry if any should be directed against a social system which binds both him and his dependants in a vice of mutual degradation and limits his freedom of action and development by denying him equality in his association with all the potential inherent in every class of society” (quoted in James Gibbs and Bernith Lindfors (1993), Research on Wole Soyinka, pp. 243-244).

Dr. A. J.  Isong, whom Soyinka called an “academician,” wasn’t a member of an academy; he was an “academic,” that is, a lecturer, at the University of Ibadan. I think it helps to point out that “academic” is derived from “academia” (pronounced aki/deemia) or “academe” (pronounced aki/deem), which means a place of (higher) learning such as a university or, as the Online Etymology Dictionary puts it, “the world of universities and scholarship.” “Academician,” on the other hand, is derived from “academy” (pronounced as “aka-demi”), which is an institution dedicated to the pursuit of advancement in a narrowly defined field of knowledge.

Henry Watson Fowler, the famous English lexicographer who wrote A Dictionary of Modern English Usage and co-wrote the Concise Oxford Dictionary, pointed out that although Shakespeare, Tennyson, and Lowell used “academe” as a poetic variant of “academy,” it is a mistake do so in conventional usage.

In sum, don’t call anybody an “academician” if the person doesn’t work in an academy. It’s actually rare to come across an academician. That’s why I said earlier that you will probably never have a reason to use the word—if you want to use it correctly, that is.

Question:
I am a regular reader of your columns in the Daily Trust on Sunday.  My question to you is do "house" and "home” mean the same thing or are they different?

Answer:
A “house” is merely a building where someone lives while a “home” is a house we have an emotional attachment to. It is the sense of comfort and emotional connection we feel toward a house that makes it a home. You build a house and make it a home by occupying it and filling it with memories. So a house is the building, the structure, the concrete, etc. while a home is a combination of the building and the emotions, memories, sense of belonging, and comfort that we bring to the house.

While this distinction is generally true, it is worth noting that American English speakers, especially real estate agents, often use “home” in ways that are similar to the traditional meaning of a “house.” They say things like "homes for sale," "buy a home." Well, traditional grammarians would say you can't buy a home; you can only buy a house and make it a home.

Question:
Is the expression “the both of us” standard? Or it is Nigerian English?

Answer:
It’s neither nonstandard nor uniquely Nigerian English. Several grammarians say the expression first emerged in American English as a deviation from the conventional “both of us,” but I have never heard any American in my social circles use the expression; most of them simply say “both of us.” The definite article “the” in the expression strikes me as pointless.

Nevertheless British music sensation Adele in her recent wildly popular, record-breaking song titled “Hello” said “the both of us.” This means either that “the both of us” has crossed over to the UK or Adele’s English has become Americanized. The latter seems more likely since Adele, who now lives in the US, sounds really American in accent and diction in the song.

Question:
When someone asks you “who is it?” which of these responses is correct? “It is I.” “It is me.”

Answer:
From a pragmatic point of view, both responses are grammatically acceptable. In formal grammar, however, “it is I” would be considered the only grammatically correct response. The responder is the subject of the sentence, and “I” is a subjective pronoun—just like “we,” “he,” “she,” “they,” etc. are subjective pronouns. Subjective pronouns initiate action in a sentence. To understand why “It is I” is considered the only grammatically acceptable response, recast the sentence. For instance, you would say, “I am the one,” not “Me is the one.”

It is worth noting, though, that almost no one says “It is I” in conversational English anywhere in the English-speaking world. The conventional usage is “It is me.” You may find “It is I” only in formal, written contexts. Many grammarians say “It is I” is on its way out of the English language, and I agree.

Question:
Kindly say something about the use of “her,” “she,” and “it” in talking about a country or a group. My assumption is expressions like "Nigeria and her allies" and "NUJ protects her members" are old fashioned, and now better put as "Nigeria and its allies" and "NUJ protects its members" respectively. But a friend thinks the latter are incorrect expressions. Please comment.

Answer:
I wrote about this some time ago. Yes, the use of feminine pronouns such as “she” or “her” to refer to a country or to an organization or to a ship is outdated. The pronoun “it” is now preferred to “she” or “her” when reference is made to countries or organizations. You will never find contemporary native English speakers say “Britain and her citizens” or “America and her interests”; they’d replace “her” with “it.”

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Saturday, August 25, 2018

Ilorin is an Ethnogenesis: Response to Kawu’s Anti-Saraki Ilorin Purism (II)

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

Last week, I pointed to the presence of non-Muslim Fulani pastoralists in Afonja’s army before the arrival of Alimi in Ilorin in 1817— at the behest of Afonja. Professor Abdullahi Smith’s book shows that Afonja’s army, called “jama” (derived from the Arabic jama’ah, which translates as “congregation” in English), also had several Hausa ex-slaves who all later became part of Ilorin.

As most people know, Afonja didn’t found Ilorin. That distinction goes to a Yoruba hunter named Ayinla, according to the Ta’alif, who, out of respect, gave up his dwelling to Afonja. Afonja then used Ilorin as the main base for the formation of his fierce and feared multi-ethnic jama with which he attacked the Alaafin in Oyo-Ile, where Afonja was born.

We learn from many historical sources that in c.1821, four years after Alimi’s arrival in Ilorin, Afonja’s jama used the town of Iseyin (incidentally the hometown of the late Olusola Saraki’s mother) as a base to launch attacks on the Alaafin. Afonja had been doing this for at least 20 years before Alimi came to Ilorin from the Yoruba town of Kuwo in Asa Local Government of Kwara State. (As I pointed out last week, Alimi had lived in Ogbomoso for three months and in Ikoyi for a year before moving to Kuwo where he lived for three years prior to his invitation to Ilorin by Afonja).

I bring all these examples to illustrate the originative ethnic cosmopolitanism in the evolution of Ilorin’s ethnogenesis and to show the hollowness and inadmissibility of notions of Ilorin purism. Language and religion, not ethnicity or ancestral provenance, are the most important cultural markers of the Ilorin identity. (Emotional attachment and self-identification are other central markers of the identity, as I’ll show in my conclusion.)

The language is Yoruba, but it’s a dialect of Yoruba that bears poignant linguistic testament to the labyrinthine identities that blended to form the Ilorin identity. In the Yoruba dialect spoken in Ilorin, you encounter distinct, if muffled, echoes of Hausa, Fulfulde, Baatonu, Kanuri, Nupe, and, of course, Arabic. Yet the language is mutually intelligible with the Yoruba spoken in much of Nigeria’s southwest. Islam is another central building block in the construction of the Ilorin identity. It’s often said that it is easier to find an “indigenous” Kano non-Muslim than it is to find an “indigenous” Ilorin non-Muslim.

Many people who despise the Sarakis and want to rhetorically sever their connection to Ilorin like to point to an apocryphal account of their Egba (Abeokuta) origins. I interviewed the late Olusola Saraki in early 2002 (read my November 24, 2012 column titled “My Last Encounter with Saraki”), and he told me his paternal grandfather was a Malian Fulani Islamic scholar who was drawn to the Islamic ferment that was taking place in Ilorin.

There is certainly a huge Malian influence in Ilorin and many parts of Nigeria, which I’m currently researching. Although the Malians who brought Islam to Yoruba land were Mande, not Fulani, people, there was a lot of mixing between the Mande and the Fulani in old Mali. It is entirely plausible that the Sarakis are patrilineally descended from the Malian Islamic scholars who migrated to Yoruba land (and elsewhere) in large numbers from the 15th century up until the late 19th century.

But let us, for the sake of argument, agree that Olusola Saraki made up his Malian Fulani ancestry to cozy up to the northern Nigerian political establishment, and that his father, Muktar Saraki, was only an Islamic student in Ilorin from Abeokuta. Well, that was precisely how much of Ilorin was formed: people coming from different parts of what is now Nigeria into Ilorin in search of Islamic education from the mid-1800s up until the early 1900s. Muktar Saraki was clearly born in the 1800s, which coincides with the incipience of Ilorin as we know it. That makes him as authentically Ilorin as anybody else who claims that identity.

And insisting that Muktar Saraki not being born in Ilorin delegitimizes his claims to Ilorin origins would open a Pandora’s box of unintended delegitimizations. Let’s start from the obvious. It would mean that Abd al-Salam, Ilorin’s first emir who reigned from c. 1823 to c.1836, according to Smith’s chronology, was not an Ilorin man since he was not born in Ilorin; he was born in Sokoto, according to the Ta’lif. It would also mean that Shi’ta, Abd al-Salam’s younger brother who succeeded him as emir and ruled from c. 1837 to c. 1863, was not an Ilorin man since he, too, was born in Sokoto. It would, of course, also mean that every child born of Ilorin parents outside of Ilorin town is not native to Ilorin. That’s simplistic nativist logic.

What is even more simplistic, not to talk of ahistorical and unsociological, is the claim that Bukola Saraki’s Yoruba given names (Olubukola Olabowale Adebisi) somehow denude him of his Ilorin bona fides. Modibbo Kawu said, “These are not names an Ilorin person would normally be called.” Well, one of Ilorin’s distinctions is the rich cultural and onomastic tapestries its people embody with grace and pride. I know of no Ilorin person, whatever his or her ancestral provenance, who does not have a Yoruba given name.

Even Kawu himself used to be known as Lanre, the short form of Olanrewaju. The current emir of Ilorin was known as Kolapo throughout his professional career. He only formally became known as Ibrahim after he became emir. Babatunde “Tunde” Idiagbon, one of Ilorin’s most famous sons, who was patrilineally Fulani, didn’t also formally bear his Muslim name, Abdulbaki, throughout his life. In fact, he gave all his children Yoruba names: Adekunle, Babatunde, Ronke, Mope, and Bola.

Ilorin people are simultaneously all of the multiplicity of identities that constitute them and none of it. That’s why they are an ethnogenesis.  No one is pure anything in Ilorin, and every Ilorin person knows this. For instance, someone once told me that the ancestors of Professor Shuaib Oba Abdulraheem, former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and head of the Federal Character Commission, came to Ilorin from Mali. When I interviewed him in 2000 or thereabouts, I asked if this was true. He shrugged off my question. It was probably his way of saying that it’s impractical and pointless to trace that sort of neat, discrete provenance in a complex ethnogenesis like Ilorin.

In his stirring, delicately phrased tribute to his mother in September 2009 titled “Now I feel Truly Vulnerable,” Kawu admitted that his mother was Yoruba. That’s half of his DNA. The other half, which is Fulani, is mixed with many other ethnicities, so that if a scientific DNA analysis were done on him, the Fulani stemma in him would probably only be about 10 percent or less. This would be true of even the contemporary descendants of Alimi who don’t look anything close to how the Ta’lif describes Alimi, Abd al-Salam, and Shi’ta—“red,” i.e. light-skinned. That’s why scholars of identity, as I’ve pointed out here several times, characterize identity as “fiction,” even though they admit it’s politically consequential fiction that is often deployed to exclude, marginalize, and imagine communities.

The late Dr. Olusola Saraki clearly had an enormous emotional investment in his Ilorin identity. He self-identified as an Ilorin person, and that’s all that matters. Ultimately, our identity is what we think and proclaim we are. In any case, Bukola Saraki didn’t choose to be born into the Saraki family, which claims Ilorin origins. That was an accident of birth about which he had no control. To judge people on the basis of invariable attributes, such as the place or circumstance of their birth, is to condemn them even before they were born. Malcolm X called that “the worst crime that can ever be committed.”

In the final analysis, heterogeneity is at the structural and symbolic core of the Ilorin identity, and nativism and rigid ethnic exclusivism are a painful betrayal of the intrinsic hybridity of that identity.

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Ilorin is an Ethnogenesis: Response to Kawu's Anti-Saraki Ilorin Purism (I)

Sunday, August 19, 2018

English Words that Make Nigerians Say the Opposite of What They Mean (III)

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


23. “Who send you message?” This is a Nigerian Pidgin English expression for “who asked you to do it?” or “stop being a busybody!” It’s a direct translation from many Nigerian languages. The expression is now finding mainstream acceptance in informal Nigerian English, and is sometimes rendered as “who sent you message?” by educated Nigerians who are sensitive to Standard English tenses.

The expression would mystify native English speakers. They would understand it as “who sent a message to you?” But the converse is actually true: it literally means “who asked you to send a message to someone on my behalf?” It, of course, figuratively means, “Mind your own business.”

24. “Talk less of.” This is sometimes written as “talkless of.” I used to think only barely educated Nigerians used this expression, but, lately, I have seen it used by PhDs, professors, journalists, and people with an otherwise good grasp of the English language.  A few months ago, a Briton sent me an email asking for my help in deciphering what a Nigerian email correspondent meant by “talkless of.”

As you can guess by now, “talk less of” or “talkless of” is entirely meaningless to native English speakers. It’s a Nigerian English invention that arose out of an incompetent mimicry of the expression “much less,” which is used in negative contexts to mean that something is less likely to happen or be the case. So where Nigerians would say, “He can’t even speak Pidgin English talk less of [or talkless of] Standard English,” native English speakers would say, “He can’t even speak Pidgin English, much less Standard English.” Other phrases native English speakers use in place of “much less” are “let alone,” “not to mention,” “not to talk of,” and “still less.”

“Talk less of” can only mean “don’t talk much of,” as in, “Talk less of him so that he doesn’t think he is that important to you.” If you apply this meaning to the Nigerian English “talk less of,” like the Briton who wrote to me did, there’s definitely bound to be a communication breakdown.

25. “His royal highness.” In British English, this form of address is used for princes, but it’s used for kings in Nigeria. A British person not familiar with Nigerian English would mistake a Nigerian king for a prince if he were introduced as “His Royal Highness.” As I’ve pointed out in several previous columns, the British use “majesty” (His Royal Majesty or Her Royal Majesty) for monarchs.

During colonialism, all traditional rulers in the British sphere of influence were subordinate to the King or Queen of England, so, at best, they were princes, not kings, since there could only be one king in the British Empire. But years after colonialism and the collapse of the British Empire, kings are still addressed as “royal highnesses” in Nigeria and other Commonwealth countries.

26. “Farmer.” Nigerian English speakers understand a farmer exclusively to mean someone who plants, tends to, and harvests crops. For native English speakers, however, a farmer doesn’t only work the land; he can also keep livestock, also called “farm animals.” So the distinction Nigerian English speakers draw between “farmers” and “herders” would strike native English speakers as arbitrary and puzzling.

If you are familiar with the “Old McDonald had a farm” nursery rhyme, you’ve probably heard this:

Old MACDONALD had a farm
E-I-E-I-O
And on his farm he had a cow
E-I-E-I-O
With a moo moo here
And a moo moo there
Here a moo, there a moo
Everywhere a moo moo
Old MacDonald had a farm
E-I-E-I-O

The song mentions a whole host of other animals and the sounds they make, demonstrating that a farm can be filled with animals, not just crops. When my mother visited me here in the United States from the middle of last year to early this year, she requested me to take her to a farm. I obliged her. The first farm we went to had only farm animals—cows, pigs, ducks, chickens, etc. She told me that wasn’t a farm. I, too, would never have called that a farm had I not lived in America for years. But I took her to a cornfield and other crop-based farms, which she recognized as the “real” farms.

In America, people who raise cows are called “cow farmers.” Many Nigerians would find that expression befuddling. I would add, though, that the distinction Nigerians draw between “farmers” and “herders” is justified because herders are itinerant.

27. “In all ramifications.” Nigerian English speakers say “in all ramifications” to mean “in all aspects,” or “in all dimensions.” However, “ramifications” (note that it’s often pluralized) is widely understood among native English speakers to mean an "unwelcome consequence,” as in, “The murder of the soldier is bound to have grave ramifications for the community.”

“Ramification” is a derivative of “ramify,” which literally means to grow branches. So ramification can mean branches, an arrangement of branching parts, units of a complex structure, etc. as in, "he broke off one of the ramifications." I think when Nigerian English speakers say “in all ramifications” to mean “in all aspects,” or “in all dimensions,” they are metaphorically extending the literal meaning of ramification (i.e., the branches of a tree). Although the usage is unidiomatic and nonstandard, I think it is legitimate. Unfortunately, native English speakers are unlikely to understand this peculiarly Nigerian usage of the term.

28. “Severally.” When Nigerian English speakers say “severally,” they mean “several times.” Example: “I have told you severally that I don’t like that!” or “I have been severally arrested by the police.” In Standard English, however, “severally” does not mean “several times”; it only means individually, singly, independently, without others, etc., as in, “the clothes were hung severally.” This means the clothes are apart from each other and don’t touch each other. That’s why lawyers say “jointly and severally,” which means collectively and individually.

29. “Cogs in the wheel.” In Nigerian English, a “cog in the wheel” means an obstacle, a hindrance. In Bukola Saraki’s letter announcing his defection from APC to PDP, he said, “Perhaps, had these divisive forces not thrown the cogs in the wheel at the last minutes, and in a manner that made it impossible to sustain any trust in the process, the story today would have been different." That would be completely meaningless to a native English speaker.

“A cog in the wheel” is a Standard English idiom, which is also rendered as a “cog in the machine,” and it means an insignificant but nonetheless essential person in a large organization, as in: “The lowly civil servant is a cog in the ministry’s wheel.” Secretaries in organizations are cogs in the wheel because although they are insignificant in social status, they are indispensable to the functioning of organizations.

30. “Military industrial complex.” The Nigerian presidency is fond of this expression even when it’s clear that people who use it have no idea what it means. For instance, after the Nigerian Army University was announced a few months ago, the federal government said, “It is our hope that it will be the hub for developing a Nigerian Industrial Military Complex. It will be a very great university.”
In an August 7, 2015 presidential news release, President Buhari was also quoted to have said, “The Ministry of Defence is being tasked to draw up clear and measurable outlines for development of a modest military industrial complex for Nigeria.”

“Military-industrial complex” (note the hyphen between “military” and “industrial”) is a pejorative term that was first used by US president Dwight D. Eisenhower on January 17, 1961 in his exit speech. It refers to the evil, war-mongering, profit-inspired conspiracy between arms manufacturers, certain elements in the US military, and some members of the US Congress. This conspiracy ensures that the US Congress budgets huge sums of money to the military to fight often needless and unjust wars with countries around the world. The wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere are the consequence of the influence of the US military-industrial complex. Wars cause arms to be manufactured and sold, which brings money to the pockets of arms manufacturers, the legislators who support war, and the generals who execute it.

President Eisenhower was worried about this triangular conspiracy of warmongers. That was why he said, “We must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence… by the military–industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.”

Concluded

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Saturday, August 18, 2018

Ilorin is an Ethnogenesis: Response to Kawu’s Anti-Saraki Ilorin Purism

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

This is a difficult column to write because Malam Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission whom Premium Times of August 5, 2018 reported to have questioned Senator Bukola Saraki’s claim to Ilorin origins, is my friend and brother for whom I have the profoundest respect. It hurts to publicly call him out.

At the same time, I entirely align with the angst that inspired his tirade against Saraki. Like Kawu, I’m from Kwara State and find Saraki’s arrogance and suffocating control of the state insufferable. In December 2016, when President Buhari wrote an overly laudatory birthday wish for Saraki, saying "Saraki has successfully kept the memory of his late father alive by identifying with the grassroots in his home state,” I shot back at the president in my December 24, 2016 column and said, “Nope, Mr. President. Saraki does NOT identify with the grass roots in Kwara State; he exploits them. I am from Kwara, and know that Saraki is the worst evil to ever befall the state.”

In my April 8, 2017 column titled “The False Binary Between Saraki and Buhari,” I described Saraki as “a cold, calculating, corrupt conman who destroys everything that comes in his way.” Earlier, in my October 24, 2015 column titled “Who Will Save Kwara COE Lecturers from Saraki’s Deadly Grip?” I wrote, “Senate President Bukola Saraki is called Kwara State’s ‘Governor- General’ for a reason: He is, for all practical purposes, the state’s de facto governor, and Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed is merely his impotent, obsequious caretaker. Ahmed must dutifully take orders from Saraki or risk losing his cushy surrogate governorship….

“So when I ask who will save lecturers in Kwara State’s colleges of education from death and starvation because they haven’t been paid salaries for six or seven months now, I am not barking up the wrong tree. Saraki is the main character in the movie of Kwara politics. Nothing happens there without his imprimatur.”

I have gone to this length to reference my past articles just to show that I am no fan of Saraki and his politics. But I'd betray the very meaning and essence of my name and my self-imposed duty to correct injurious falsehoods if I allow the ahistorically nativist delegitimization of Saraki’s Ilorin origins by my brother Kawu to go unchallenged.

What Kawu Said about Saraki
Premium Times reported Kawu to have said in a closed WhatsApp group (of past and current northern Nigerian newspaper editors) that Saraki’s family has no roots in Ilorin. (He used the word “asali,” a Hausa word derived from the Arabic asal, which translates as “origin” in English).

Kawu pointed to Saraki’s given names (about which he has no control) as evidence of his foreignness to Ilorin. “Even his names tell anyone who knows Ilorin that this is an ‘alien’ individual. His full names are OLUBUKOLA OLABOWALE ADEBISI (sic),” Premium Times quoted Kawu to have written. “These are not names an Ilorin person would normally be called. And he didn’t have a Muslim name until he wanted to run for governor in 2002-2003! They first named him Muktar after his grandfather and that was then dropped for Abubakar, the name his father was also ‘borrowed’ in Ilorin. These are the facts!”

This is archetypal “othering,” one that Kawu’s enormous intellectual endowment and immersion in critical scholarship should have prevented him from engaging in. I don’t have the space to explode the ahistoricity and sociological poverty of Kawu’s claims in this column, but here’s a start, which I will conclude next week.

Ilorin as an ethnogeny
Ilorin perfectly fits into a concept anthropologists call ethnogenesis, or ethnogeny, which describes how independent ethnic identities emerge from a mishmash of multiple influences. Black Americans, for instance, are an ethnogeny. They are neither entirely African nor entirely European or Native American. They are a new identity that emerged from the cultural, ethnic, racial, and historical synthesis of Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans, with the African influence predominating in this matrix.

That is precisely what Ilorin is, too. The Ilorin identity is the product of the fusion of Yoruba, Fulani, Hausa, Baatonu (Bariba), Kanuri, Nupe, Gwari, and Gobir ethnicities and influences. The Yoruba language is the linguistic glue of this fascinating ethnic commixture, and Islam is its religious glue. Kawu knows this more than anyone I know, which is why I was shocked by the pretense to an Ilorin purism that his WhatsApp message suggests.

As anyone who has read the late Professor Abdullahi Smith’s groundbreaking collection of essays titled A Little New Light knows, everyone in Ilorin came from somewhere—relatively recently. The ethnogenesis of the Ilorin identity took place essentially in the 1800s. Dr. Olusola Saraki, Bukola Saraki’s father, was born in 1933. Bukola’s grandfather, Muktar Saraki, must have been born sometime in the late 1800s. If Muktar’s father was born in Ilorin, he was born right in the crucible of the formation of the Ilorin identity. To say someone with that pedigree has no “asali” in Ilorin is to be unfaithful to history.

From Smith’s book, especially the chapter titled “A Little new Light on the Collapse of the Alafinate of Yoruba,” we learn that ‘alim Salihu (known today simply as Alimi in Ilorin and beyond), the progenitor of the traditional ruling family in Ilorin, came to Ilorin in 1817 on the invitation of Afonja. Alimi had been an Islamic teacher in Ogbomoso, Ikoyi and other Yoruba towns, but Afonja invited him to stay permanently in Ilorin and be his “priest” to give him spiritual fortification against the Alaafin with whom he was feuding.

Alimi lived in Ilorin for only six years before his death. But, before his death, Afonja had prevailed upon him to resettle his family in Ilorin, so he brought his four sons and one daughter. Upon his death, his first son, Abd al-Salam, became the first Amir-ul-mumin [leader of Muslims] of Ilorin who co-existed with Afonja, initially without conflict, until Afonja felt threatened.

When Alimi brought his family from Sokoto to Ilorin, he brought other people along, many of whom were Hausa. In fact, according to the Ta’alif, a pamphlet written in Arabic about the events of the time at the time they occurred, which Smith translated into English, a certain Hausa Muslim by the name of Bako almost became the emir, but Abd al-Salam ultimately prevailed.

Meanwhile, in 1817, the year Alimi settled in Ilorin, Hausa slaves in the Alaafin of Oyo’s palace, taking advantage of the weakening of the Alaafinate, rebelled and fled to Ilorin. And, during Abd al-Salam’s 13-year reign (he became emir in 1823 after his father’s death), Ilorin was invaded by Baatonu (Bariba) people. The Baatonu people were defeated, and several of them stayed back in Ilorin. The Lander brothers, writing in the 1830s, said Ilorin had become a magnet for people from a wide variety of backgrounds. They said, “the discontented for miles around eagerly flocked to Alorie [Ilorin] in considerable numbers where they were received.”

The Alimis were not the first Fulani people in Ilorin. They were preceded by other Fulani people by many years. Some of Afonja’s followers, with whom he fought the Alaafin, Smith quoted the Ta’alif to have pointed out, were Fulani pastoralists who were never Muslims. The pastoralists had lost their cattle to tsetse fly bites and “had nothing to lose,” according to Smith, so they became Afonja’s mercenaries. One of the Fulani pastoralists whom Alimi couldn’t convert to Islam, according to the Ta’lif, was a man named Ibrahim Olufade who spoke perfect Yoruba and Fulfulde and acted as the interpreter for Afonja in his initial interactions with Alimi.

To be concluded next week

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Sunday, August 12, 2018

Do We Lose Our Emotions When We Speak English as a Second Language?

I apologize again for not concluding the series I started three weeks ago on Nigerian English expressions that make Nigerian English speakers say the opposite of what they mean— by the standards of native English speakers. Today’s article complements the series in a way. It is culled from the website called “TheConversation.com,” which publishes think pieces on different aspects of the human experience, and it’s about how speaking English as a second language denudes people of the emotions that words in the language should evoke. It was written on April 3, 2018 by Guillaume Thierry, a Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at UK’s Bangor University.

The basic thrust of Professor Thierry’s research findings, which are distilled in the article, is that when non-native English speakers speak the English language, they tend to be disconnected from the emotional content of words and instead obsess more with grammar, vocabulary, and structure. For example, saying “his father died today” would be more emotional when it is said in people’s native languages than when it’s said in English. For non-native English speakers, “death” is just another word in the language. But it isn’t merely a word when uttered in people’s native languages; it’s also a trigger for a welter of feelings and associations.

Strangely, I can’t relate to this because although English is chronologically my second language, I have native-speaker proficiency in it and have lived in the language’s natural habitat for years. I wonder what other people think about this, but I do know that Nigerian Pidgin English often strikes me as notoriously impoverished when it comes to expressing tender emotions. For instance, when I visited Nigeria in 2016, I was turned off by a Nigerian Pidgin English newscast about a shocking death. The newscaster said something along the lines of, “Na in the man come kpeme” [and the man died]. That struck me as perversely unfeeling.

Although “kpeme” denotes death, it provokes irreverent hilarity and playfulness to me, similar to “kick the bucket” in English. Saying someone “don kpeme” [has died], in my mind, lessens the tragedy of their death. I probably feel this way because Nigerian Pidgin English is my fourth language. It’s entirely possible that someone who grew up speaking the language as a first language, particularly in Nigeria’s deep south, won’t feel the same way. Professor Thierry’s research has given insights into the emotional subtleties we miss when speak a language that isn’t native to us. Enjoy the article below, which was originally titled “The English language is the world’s Achilles heel.”

English has achieved prime status by becoming the most widely spoken language in the world – if one disregards proficiency – ahead of Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. English is spoken in 101 countries, while Arabic is spoken in 60, French in 51, Chinese in 33, and Spanish in 31. From one small island, English has gone on to acquire lingua franca status in international business, worldwide diplomacy, and science.

But the success of English – or indeed any language – as a “universal” language comes with a hefty price, in terms of vulnerability. Problems arise when English is a second language to either speakers, listeners, or both. No matter how proficient they are, their own understanding of English, and their first (or “native”) language can change what they believe is being said.

When someone uses their second language, they seem to operate slightly differently than when they function in their native language. This phenomenon has been referred to as the “foreign language effect”. Research from our group has shown that native speakers of Chinese, for example, tended to take more risks in a gambling game when they received positive feedback in their native language (wins), when compared to negative feedback (losses). But this trend disappeared – that is, they became less impulsive – when the same positive feedback was given to them in English. It was as if they are more rational in their second language.

While reduced impulsiveness when dealing in a second language can be seen as a positive thing, the picture is potentially much darker when it comes to human interactions. In a second language, research has found that speakers are also likely to be less emotional and show less empathy and consideration for the emotional state of others.

For instance, we showed that Chinese-English bilinguals exposed to negative words in English unconsciously filtered out the mental impact of these words. And Polish-English bilinguals who are normally affected by sad statements in their native Polish appeared to be much less disturbed by the same statements in English.

In another recent study by our group, we found that second language use can even affect one’s inclination to believe the truth. Especially when conversations touch on culture and intimate beliefs.
Since second language speakers of English are a huge majority in the world today, native English speakers will frequently interact with non-native speakers in English, more so than any other language. And in an exchange between a native and a foreign speaker, the research suggests that the foreign speaker is more likely to be emotionally detached and can even show different moral judgements.

And there is more. While English provides a phenomenal opportunity for global communication, its prominence means that native speakers of English have low awareness of language diversity. This is a problem because there is good evidence that differences between languages go hand-in-hand with differences in conceptualisation of the world and even perception of it.

In 2009, we were able to show that native speakers of Greek, who have two words for dark blue and light blue in their language, see the contrast between light and dark blue as more salient than native speakers of English. This effect was not simply due to the different environment in which people are brought up in either, because the native speakers of English showed similar sensitivity to blue contrasts and green contrasts, the latter being very common in the UK.

On the one hand, operating in a second language is not the same as operating in a native language. But, on the other, language diversity has a big impact on perception and conceptions. This is bound to have implications on how information is accessed, how it is interpreted, and how it is used by second language speakers when they interact with others.

We can come to the conclusion that a balanced exchange of ideas, as well as consideration for others’ emotional states and beliefs, requires a proficient knowledge of each other’s native language. In other words, we need truly bilingual exchanges, in which all involved know the language of the other. So, it is just as important for English native speakers to be able to converse with others in their languages.

The US and the UK could do much more to engage in rectifying the world’s language balance, and foster mass learning of foreign languages. Unfortunately, the best way to achieve near-native foreign language proficiency is through immersion, by visiting other countries and interacting with local speakers of the language. Doing so might also have the effect of bridging some current political divides.


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Saturday, August 11, 2018

Again, Osinbajo Dramatizes Buhari’s Leadership Inadequacy

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

On the day President Buhari left for London on yet another recklessly wasteful “10-working-days holiday” in the UK, I tweeted that Nigeria would again have another chance to feel the symbolic presence of leadership.

I was proven right a few days later in the aftermath of the audacious, primitive, ironclad strangulation of the legislature by masked operatives of the Directorate of State Service (DSS). Vice President Yemi Osinbajo’s swift action in halting this criminal show of shame earned him praises even from critical quarters and dramatized what his boss, Buhari, lacks: leadership.

In my March 12, 2017 column titled, “What Buhari Should Learn from Osinbajo,” I observed: “In a tragic irony, it took Buhari’s sickness for Nigeria to get a chance at some health. It also took his absence for the country to feel some presence of leadership. Why did it take the ascendancy of Osinbajo to the acting presidency for this to happen? The answer is simple: symbolic presence.”

Osinbajo demonstrated not just symbolic presence but also substantive political presence in the wake of the embarrassingly unconstitutional blockage of the National Assembly by minions of the executive branch of government. That is why anyone who gives credit to Buhari for the firing of former DSS boss Mamman Lawal Daura is being disingenuous. It was entirely Osinbajo’s initiative, which may (or may not) put him at odds with Buhari. Recall that Buhari reversed Osinbajo’s endorsement of the suspension of former NHIS Executive Secretary Prof. Usman Yusuf who was under investigation for an alleged N919 million fraud. His recommendation for the prosecution of Babachir Lawal and Ayodele Oke has also been ignored.

Nor is this the first time law enforcement agents loyal to the executive arm of government have violated another independent branch of government. In 2016, while Buhari was in the country, the same Lawal Daura-led DSS illegally invaded the homes of judges at night. It was a rape of democracy, which attracted mass outrage and condemnation. Buhari didn’t issue a statement, let alone censure Lawal Daura. Now that Osinbajo had the testicular fortitude to do what a real president should do, government justifiers are saying the credit for Osinbajo’s decisiveness should go to Buhari.

But when the Inspector General of Police openly disobeyed Buhari's instruction to relocate to Benue to contain the heartrending bloodletting in the state, nothing happened to the IGP. Kemi Adeosun forged an NYSC certificate and outraged the moral sensibilities of the nation. Not a word has been heard from the presidency up to now. Okoi Obono-Obla, one of Buhari’s points men in the “war against corruption,” has been conclusively shown to have forged his school certificate. The House of Representatives has even officially recommended his firing and prosecution. Nothing has been heard from Buhari.

Former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir David Lawal fleeced internally displaced people in the northeast of millions of naira. Buhari actually wrote in his personal capacity to defend and exonerate him! It took the same Osinbajo who fired Daura this week to recommend Lawal’s firing. Yet Lawal is still a denizen of the Presidential Villa, hasn't been prosecuted, and is, in fact, Buhari’s reelection campaign coordinator in Adamawa State as I write this. The examples are almost limitless.

Even APC chairman Adams Oshiomhole was compelled to admit during a July 23, 2018 tirade against Labor Minister Chris Ngige that Buhari “condones disrespect for his office,” which was a pleasant way to say that the president is an incompetent, aloof leader.

Buhari has NEVER taken any action against his corrupt, incompetent aides (because he is indistinguishable from them), but whenever his deputy, Osinbajo, takes a decisive action that attracts praise, supporters of the president never fail to say Osinbajo did it with Buhari’s “approval” and that the credit should go to Buhari.

Why does Buhari always have to give "approval" for his deputy to act in the national interest while he himself takes no such actions whenever he is in the country? First, that reasoning undermines the idea that we have an acting president with all the constitutional powers to take independent decisions on behalf of the president.  If the acting president can’t take independent decisions, then he is no acting president.

Second, it confirms that Buhari is indeed a weak, ineffectual leader if the most decisive actions in his administration are taken by his deputy only when he is away from the country. The truth, of course, is that Buhari's trajectory in the last three years has shown that Osinbajo's praiseworthy decisions are taken not because of Buhari but IN SPITE of Buhari.

But the issue at point isn’t even about whether or not Osinbajo gets Buhari’s “approval” to do the commendable things he does when Buhari is away. Of course, I expect that Osinbajo would give his boss the courtesy of seeking his approval before taking actions on behalf of the president. Nevertheless, what is celebrated about Osinbajo—and what early supporters of Buhari like me wanted from Buhari--is his courage to do the right thing at the right time. If Buhari hadn’t lowered the bar of governance so miserably, Osinbajo’s action would merely be a routine duty that wouldn’t be worthy of acclamation. (Read my February 3, 2018 column titled "How Buhari Has Lowered the Bar of Governance")

Buhari is, without a doubt, an absentee president—in both symbolic and physical terms. That’s a nice way to say he is a lazy, incompetent, detached president who watches blithely as everything around him crumbles, as the nation groans and burns under the weight of his unprecedented ineptitude. And that's why it takes his physical absence for the country to have a chance to see a semblance of the presence of leadership.

Had Buhari been in the country during the raid on the legislature, we wouldn’t have heard anything from the presidency much less seen a swift action. At best, we might have gotten one of those dishonest, mealy-mouthed prevarications called presidential press releases. At best, we would be told that the president was not “aware” of what had happened. At worst, we would be greeted with the condescending silence that has become the style mark of the Buhari presidency. That’s not how to lead a country.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Vocabularies for Party Switching in Other English-Speaking Countries

By Farooq A. Kperogi, PhD
Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In light of last week’s gale of defections from political parties and the conversations this has inspired in the Nigerian public sphere, I have decided to share with the reader vocabularies and expressions that different people in the Anglophone world deploy to describe the phenomenon. (I apologize for suspending the “English Words that Make Nigerians Say the Opposite of What They Mean” series. I will conclude it next week).

1. “Decamp.” In the entire English-speaking world, only Nigerians use “decamp” to refer to the act of switching political party affiliations. In Standard English, to decamp means to leave a place hurriedly, often under the cover of secrecy—and illegally taking something along, as in: “After he told her he would divorce her, she decamped with all the money he kept in his closet." That’s certainly not what happens with party switching in Nigeria. It usually happens after claims of “extensive consultations” have been made, is done with fanfare, and does not involve anyone illegally taking anything along with them.

“Decamp” has other meanings in Standard English beside what I pointed out above, but it is never used by native English speakers to refer to changing political parties.

 “Decampee,” a lexical extension of “decamp” in Nigerian English, does not exist in any Standard English dictionary. It’s entirely the invention of Nigerian journalists. As I will show in number 2, the American English expression for people who defect to another political party is “party switchers.” They are also called “defectors,” although the word is primarily used of a person who abandons military duty.

2. “Party Switching.” That is what Americans call the act of leaving one political party for another. It’s also sometimes simply called “party switch.” It is rare in American politics, but it occurs. People who switch political parties, as I said earlier, are called “party switchers.”

Americans also have the expression “crossing the aisle” for the act of members of Congress (that is, the Senate and the House of Representatives) voting against the official position of their political parties. It is used only for members of Congress and does not refer to the act of changing political parties. “Aisle” (pronounced /ail/; the “s” is silent) refers to the passageway that separates Democrats and Republicans in Congress. To vote against one’s party requires literally leaving one’s seat and going to the other side.

3. “Crosstitution.” That is what South Africans informally call party switching. It is a blend of “crossing” and “prostitution,” implying that elected officials who switch political parties are political prostitutes. According to the Double-Tongued Dictionary, “The derogatory term ‘crosstitution’ has been used to describe the process—introduced by constitutional amendment—that allows politicians to move from one party to another without losing their seats.”

A “crosstitute” is a politician who switches political party affiliations, especially if he or she does it habitually. I really like the word “crosstitution”—and its lexical inflection, “crosstitude.” They are fitting descriptions of what Nigerian politicians do-- and become-- every election year. Note that the formal word for party switching in South Africa is “floor-crossing.”  

4. “Waka-jumping.” Most Nigerians would swear that this is a Nigerian Pidgin English expression for party switching because “waka” means “walk away” in Nigerian Pidgin English, which is awfully similar to party switching. But “waka-jumping” is not a Nigerian Pidgin English expression. It’s actually the informal term for party switching in New Zealand English, and it’s derived from Maori, an aboriginal, Polynesian language that is native to New Zealand. In the Maori language, “waka” means a boat. 

So the Standard English rendering of “waka-jumping” would be “jumping boat,” which is what switching political parties entails—figuratively, that is. Interestingly, to “jump ship” is a Standard English idiom that means, “to leave a difficult situation when you should stay and deal with it.” Another term for party switching in New Zealand English is “party-hopping.”

5. “Cross-carpeting” or “carpet crossing.” As I wrote in previous columns, “Carpet-crossing” or “cross-carpeting” are nonstandard expressions, but they are clearly derived from the British parliamentary expression “crossing the floor (of the House),” which occurs when a member of parliament either bucks his political party and votes with members of an opposing party on an issue, or when he entirely switches political party affiliation. In the British Parliament, members of the “ruling party” sit on the right side of the Speaker while members of the “opposition party” sit on the left side of the Speaker. Members of parliament who have a reason to change political party allegiance always have to “cross the floor” to join members of the other party, similar to “crossing the aisle” in American Congress.

During Nigeria’s First Republic, a carpet (which is the same thing as a “floor” since floors are always carpeted)  also separated members of parliament from the ruling party and those from the opposition parties, so changing political party affiliation also required “crossing the carpet” to the other side. That is why changing political parties has come to be known as “carpet crossing” in Nigerian English.

But under Nigeria’s current American-style presidential democracy, the expression is unjustified. Although members of Nigeria’s national and state assemblies still sit according to party affiliations and are separated by a carpet, they are no longer the only players in the democratic game. There is a president, a vice president, governors, and deputy governors who are not members of national or state assemblies (who therefore don’t have a carpet to cross) and who can—and do— change party affiliations. In fact, there are politicians who are not elected or appointed to any position who change parties.

In the First Republic, politicians from Nigeria (and other Third World Commonwealth nations) invented the term “cross-carpeting” or “carpet crossing” on the model of the British expression “crossing the floor” because they practiced parliamentary democracy. Now that Nigeria no longer practices British-style parliamentary democracy (which has no provision for a president, vice president, state governors, etc. and where even the prime minister has to be first elected to the parliament from his constituency), what term should we use to refer to change of political party affiliations, especially for elected and appointed officials who are not members of the national and state assemblies?

 “Decamping” is a legitimate Nigerianism, in my opinion. Language reflects—or should reflect— people’s socio-cultural uniqueness. I am against bland linguistic sameness in the name of “standards.” However, it helps to note that no one outside Nigeria uses “decamp” to mean changing political party affiliation. The British English “crossing the floor” doesn’t capture Nigeria’s political reality because we no longer practice the parliamentary system of government.

If you have trouble getting a non-Nigerian to understand our “decamping” or “cross carpeting,” using the American English “party switching” or “defection” would take care of the communication breakdown.

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Corruption Fighting Corruption: The Tragicomic Case of Obono-Obla

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

Okoi Obono-Obla, Special Assistant to the President on Prosecutions and Head of Special Investigation Panel for Recovery of Public Property, embodies the tragicomic disconnect between the Buhari administration’s self-construal of itself as an “anti-corruption” government and the cold hard fact of its deep embeddedness in and toleration of mind-boggling corruption of different shades.

Obono-Obla’s corruption started in the early 1980s. According to the Human Rights Writers Association (HURIWA), which painstakingly scrutinized his records, Obono-Obla possibly stole his dead relative's "O" level certificate in 1982, fudged it to include Literature in English, which the dead relative didn't sit for, used the result to gain admission to the university, and then changed his name decades later.

The dead relative was known as Ofem Okoi Ofem, the same name Obono-Obla bore until 2015, as I’ll show shortly. I viewed the photo attached to the statement of result from Mary Knoll College, Ogoja, Cross River State, that was issued to Ofem Okoi Ofem, and it looks nothing like the younger version Obono-Obla. So it is entirely plausible that Obono-Obla impersonated a dead relative. If this can be established conclusively, that would be a criminal offense on its own.
This photo doesn't look to me like the younger version of the man above

Obono-Obla’s probable criminal impersonation of a dead person is worsened by unassailable evidence of his criminal fudging of the relative’s school certificate. Ofem Okoi Ofem, whose certificate Obono-Obla used to get admission into the University of Jos, had four credits (C6 in English, A1 in Government, C4 in Bible Knowledge, and C5 in Economics), was absent for Literature in English, and got failing grades in Mathematics, Chemistry, and Biology.

The University of Jos, like most Nigerian universities, required (and still requires) five credits, including credits in English and Literature in English, to qualify to study law. Ofem Okoi Ofem’s school certificate fell short of these requirements, so Obono-Obla fudged the result. He fraudulently inserted C6 as the grade earned for Literature in English, which the original candidate didn’t sit for. That forgery achieved two things: it increased the credit passes of the certificate to five and satisfied the Literature in English prerequisite to study law. Obono-Obla used this falsified result to gain admission to study law—of all courses!—at the University of Jos.

 We know all this because of the revelations that came out of the House of Representatives’ ad hoc committee that investigated “the legality of the operations of the special investigation panel for the recovery of public property.”

And this isn’t a case of mistaken identity. Every detail of the certificate Obono-Obla presented to the University of Jos— and to the presidency as a precondition for getting his job— matches the record kept at the West African Examination Council. His public profile also says he attended Mary Knoll College in Ogoja, and the year of graduation he indicated on his profiles is consistent with the record at WAEC. There is no question that it's the same person.

In his testimony before the House of Representatives on June 6, 2018, WAEC’s Deputy Registrar, Femi Ola, said, “From our record, the genuine candidate is Ofem Okoi Ofem, 09403/247 of Mary Knoll College, Ogoja. The exam number and number of subjects are the same. The difference is the grade in English literature in which he claimed to have scored C6 despite being marked absent in the true, certified copy.” Daily Trust reported that the deputy registrar characterized Obono-Obla’s certificate as “fake, not genuine” and therefore invalid.

Perhaps in a bid to cover his tracks in anticipation of an “anti-corruption” job in the Buhari government, Ofem Okoi Ofem legally changed his name to Okoi Obono-Obla in October 2015. TheCable of May 28, 2018 reported HURIWA to have found that “[A]fter he was called to the bar in 1991, Ofem Okoi Ofem, for reasons best known to him, changed his name to Okoi Obono-Obla. See the Deed of Change of Name (ANNEXTURE E) and confirmation of name change issued by the registrar of the Supreme Court on 15th October 2015.”

Apart from possible impersonation and proven forgery, Obono-Obla was also accused of corruption in the management of the finances of the presidential panel he heads and of blackmailing the people he was supposed to be recovering looted funds from with threats of media exposes if they didn’t offer him bribes. The allegations were credible enough to cause the Attorney-General and Minister of Justice, himself a coddler of corrupt people such as Abdulrasheed Maina, to fire him and to bar him from granting press interviews and issuing press releases in November 2017.

“Obla is also instructed to henceforth seek clearance from the AGF before granting any media interview or making press releases on official matters, while he is directed to promptly provide a detailed up-to-date report on the activities of the panel to the Minister for onward transmission to the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo,” the justice minister’s letter of November 5, 2017 said.

As is now the norm with Buhari when it comes to corruption involving people he perceives as “loyal” to him, Obono-Obla was reinstated and his press gag lifted. But, again, after a methodical and comprehensive investigation of Obono-Obla, which included a report from the Auditor-General of the Federation that confirms his financial indiscretions, the House of Representatives, on July 31, recommended that Obono-Obla be fired, arrested, and prosecuted for corruption and forgery. It also recommended that the University of Jos revoke the degree it awarded him and for the Body of Benchers to disbar him.

It is both depressing and comedic that one of the president’s points men in the “fight against corruption” is himself wrapped in multilayered, eye-watering fraud. As usual, nothing will happen to him. And that’s precisely why there is now a complete, irretrievable loss of faith not just in the government’s “anti-corruption fight” but in law and justice. Court orders are routinely disobeyed by government and corrupt people who are “loyal” to the president are protected from the consequences of their corruption.

Obono-Obla’s case particularly stands out like a sore thumb because he is supposed to be in the forefront in the “fight against corruption.” But corruption cannot fight corruption. As the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr once said, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that." You can't be a criminal impersonator, an audacious certificate forger, and a venal public official who uses his position to defraud people and the country and claim to be an anti-corruption fighter.

Government apologists like to plagiarize the late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman by calling any unmasking of government’s fraudulent anti-corruption fight as “corruption fighting back.” No, corruption isn’t fighting back. It’s more a case of corruption selectively fighting corruption. That’s a dead-end fight because it is rooted in crying injustice and double standard.

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