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

Friday, December 14, 2018

Death of the Electoral Bill and the Coming Electoral Theft

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

In my October 6, 2018 column titled “Three Reasons You Should be Worried about 2019 Elections,” I pointed out that “You don’t need special prognostic powers to know that the 2019 elections will be fraught with frightening fraud.” President Buhari’s refusal to sign the Electoral Bill is conclusive proof that the 2019 election would possibly be one of the worst electoral heists in the history of Nigeria.

It is precisely this unsettling prospect that makes the signing of the peace accord by presidential candidates comical. The surest guarantor of peace isn’t an empty, symbolic peace accord; it’s a legally binding, institutional guarantee of a free, fair, and transparent electoral process, which the electoral bill that Buhari has rejected embodies.

Among other provisions, the electoral bill makes the use of card readers with biometric data mandatory for voting. This would have eliminated age-old electoral malpractices like multiple voting, “ghost” voting, and underage voting. The bill also makes real-time, on-the-spot transmission of election results obligatory. Again, this would have provided a safeguard against ballot stuffing, vote swapping, and other stratagems of post-voting manipulation. These are obviously scary provisions for a potential rigger.

Buhari’s rejection of the bill is particularly intriguing because an analysis of the 2015 presidential election result that Buhari won by fewer than three million votes shows that he benefited from the absence of these electoral safeguards. According to TheCable of December 8, 2018, "At least 13.5 million Nigerians voted manually — without biometric accreditation — in the 2015 presidential election, according to data from the Independent and National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“The data, obtained by DeepDive Intelligence, shows that President Muhammadu Buhari, then candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), won in nine of the 10 most-affected states…. Of the 31,746,490 accredited voters in the election, 13,536,311 — representing 42.6 percent of voters — voted without biometric accreditation. Out of this number, 10,184,720 votes are from states won by Buhari..."

This seems to be the most probable reason the president is scared of a truly fair and transparent electoral process. Insistence on biometric data for every voter will expose his phantom voters and frustrate his rigging plans. The five million voters Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano promised him will not materialize if there is an insistence on a biometric corroboration of the identity of every voter. I thought the president and his supporters often brag that he is "popular" and unbeatable. If he truly is, why is afraid of real, verifiable votes?

Well, I know why. The game is over for Buhari. He and his minders know it. The tide of popular opinion in the places that matter is shifting inexorably in the direction of Atiku, not because of who Atiku is but in spite of who he is. He is a beneficiary—an undeserved one, I would add—of Buhari’s unacceptable and intolerable ineptitude.

 As it stands now, it is entirely plausible that Atiku will win at least 45 percent of the Muslim north, which used to be Buhari’s exclusive political territory. Atiku’s Fulani and Muslim identity is huge factor in diluting Buhari’s monopoly of this voting bloc. Recall that the late Umar Musa Yar’adua had the same effect on Buhari’s near monopoly of the Muslim north. Buhari wins the vast majority of this bloc only when his opponent is a southern Christian.

Most critically, though, Buhari has lost the support of critical opinion molders in the region, will lose the entirety of the Shia Muslim vote (which is way more significant than many people can be persuaded to believe), and has lost the confidence of millions of traumatized and disillusioned people in the region. I saw a viral video of a crowd of people— in what people say is Kano— wildly dancing and singing to a song with the lyrics, “Buhari ne barawo!” [Buhari is the thief!].

Now, it is entirely in the realm of possibility that this was not a spontaneous ventilation of anger by the vulgar herd; it was probably engineered by a northern political opponent of Buhari’s. But this would have been impossible, even suicidal, in 2015. Recall that PDP couldn’t even get any driver to agree to drive Jonathan’s campaign buses up north in 2015. The fact that people can now call Buhari a “thief” in the heart of a Muslim northern Nigerian city without any consequence is definitive proof of the dramatic diminution of his political capital in the region.

 Buhari has also lost a lot more ground in the southwest than he has gained since 2015. This is important because he defeated Jonathan in the region by only 611,779 votes in 2015 even with the support of Bola Tinubu and the political establishment of the region. Given the mass cynicism that his lackluster, inept, and undisguisedly nepotistic administration has inspired throughout the nation—and the massive loss of political capital that has attended this—Atiku will more likely than not win more than 45 percent of the southwest vote.

The Christian north is another critical voting bloc that Buhari did well in in 2015 (for the first time since he started running for president in 2003) but that he will lose in 2019 in a free and fair election. For instance, after his deceitful deodorization by American PR experts, he won the predominantly Christian Benue State and lost Plateau State to PDP by only 120,475 votes, his best ever. Contemporary mainstream public opinion in the Christian north is that Buhari has lived up to the worst fears they had had of him, which effective PR had caused them to suspend.

Atiku will, of course, win more than 70 percent of the southeast and the southern ethnic minority bloc. So it's obvious that 2019 would be a blowout for Atiku. That's why there's frenzied, transparent panic in Buhari land. The only option left for Buhari now is to rig himself back to power. That's precisely why he has refused to sign the electoral bill. His reason for not signing it is that, "any real or apparent changes to the rules this close to the elections may provide an opportunity for disruption and confusion in respect of which law governs the electoral process." That's such a blizzard of senseless verbiage that communicates nothing. It's a linguistic, communicative, and rhetorical fraud.

Buhari knows he can no longer win a free and fair election, so he wants to go down with the nation by planning a massive nationwide rigging of the sort that he did in Osun and Ekiti. His openly partisan Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, who, along with other service chiefs, attended his reelection campaign rally, told the nation on November 28 that the Nigerian Army intends to “replicate the successes achieved” in the Osun and Ekiti elections, which is a polite way to signal that he will rig the election for Buhari in 2019.

 But Buhari is daring people who are more vicious than he is in electoral villainy. PDP and other parties are being put on notice to prepare for a rigging, not an electoral, contest in 2019. Buhari can't win that contest. The power brokers that matter in the nation are against him because they know his second term will literally kill the nation. The "international community" doesn't want him again because it can't afford the tragedy of a war-torn Nigeria, which a Buhari second term will surely precipitate. The next election may yet present the toughest test of our nationhood.

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Buhari: Not a Clone but a Clown

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Last Tuesday was an awkward day for me here in the United States. It wasn’t just that President Buhari’s ill-advised response to the insanely absurd IPOB whispering campaign that he is a body double from Sudan was the butt of hurtful jokes in the American news media, all that my students wanted to talk to me about was this issue.

“While your president certainly isn’t a clone, he sure is a clown,” one student said. Although this jibe jabbed at my national self-esteem, it’s painfully accurate nonetheless. Why would someone who isn’t a clone (IPOB actually called him a body double, not a clone) deign to dignify such implausible absurdity with a response— and in a foreign country, to boot?

Several readers of this column had importuned me to share my thoughts on the allegation that it’s a Sudanese body double who is pretending to be our president, but I always responded that the suggestion is so ludicrous, so off-the-wall, and so patently illogical that even acknowledging it would be an exercise in the legitimization of stupidity. But the president, who is at the receiving end of this fatuous folly, chose to mainstream and legitimize it.

Many people said the president’s protestation that he wasn’t a clone was intended as good-natured banter. I believe them. It’s obvious that Buhari fancies himself as possessing an uncommonly rich faculty of humor precisely because his inanely fawning aides habitually make exaggerated pretenses to finding his often unfunny jokes hilarious.  

But it’s part of the performances of power that sycophantic subordinates who want to ingratiate themselves with people in power have to learn to laugh at their bosses’ jokes, even if the jokes are flat, unwitty, inappropriate, and humorless. This fact creates a false self-construal in the bosses of their matchless capacity for humor, and predisposes them to thoughtless, inapt jokes.  When my American student said Buhari was a “clown,” he was acknowledging that the president was joking when he said he wasn’t a “clone,” but he was also communicating the fact that the subject-matter of the joke was beneath the self-worth of a president.

Many times, Buhari comes across as someone with an insatiable gluttony for self-ridicule in his awkward attempts at humor. In the same Poland where he protested that he was not a clone, to give another example, he joked that he would no longer whine about the problems he inherited from PDP, which aggrandized his ineptitude before the world.

He also jokes about having an irresistible urge to run away from Nigeria when the obligations of governance get to him. In November 2016, for instance, he joked that he “felt like absconding because 27 out of 36 states in Nigeria cannot pay salaries.” Again, in September 2017, he joked thathad farmers witnessed a poor harvest, “I must confide in you that I was considering which country to run to.”

These are humorless jokes, especially because Buhari has the unflattering distinction of being Nigeria’s president who has spent the most time abroad.  In a September 16, 2017 column, I characterized this tendency as “Buhari’s obsessive compulsive runawayism.” Serious business of governance shouldn’t be trivialized with unamusing jokes, especially by someone whose ineptitude is dramatized by these jokes, whose incompetence is on steroids.

Nevertheless, although it’s utterly brainsick to even imagine that a Sudanese body double could successfully take the place of Buhari, this whole notion of a Buhari imposter in the Presidential Villa resonates because it captures the vast disconnect between the Buhari Nigerians thought they elected in 2015 and the bungling, wimpy, aloof, unjust, and inept Buhari that we have as president now.

Buhari had an unearned reputation as a firm, fearless, just, disciplined leader who was animated by a restless thirst to transform Nigeria, to build enduring institutions, to wipe out or at least minimize corruption, and to bequeath a legacy of justice, fair play, and national cohesion.

 But he has turned out to be an infirm leader who looks the other way when injustice is committed by his close associates, who disdains the poor, who defends and praises corruption when it’s committed by people who are loyal to him, who lies interminably, who has not a clue how to glue the nation and transform lives, and who is consumed by a monomaniacal obsession to perpetuate himself in power.

For people who invested hopes in an idealized Buhari that never existed, the Buhari they see now is figuratively a clone. Even his wife, Aisha Buhari, casts him as a helpless, ineffective, and isolated leader who is held prisoner by an evil, sneaky, corrupt, vulturous, and conniving two-man cabal.

In a speech she delivered at a conference on Tuesday, the Wife of the President said her husband’s administration “achieved a lot but could have achieved more or even achieved all it had in one year but for two people in government who will never allow things to move fast,” adding that she was “disappointed in men who rather than fight these two men will go to them in the night begging for favour.”

This isn’t new information for many of us who are familiar with the disabling dysfunction and cronyism in the Presidential Villa, but coming from the president’s wife, even Buhari’s hardcore admirers are discomfited by the image of an ineffectual Buhari who is inexorably hamstrung by no-good, unelected puppeteers that he appointed. Even to these hardcore supporters, the Buhari they see now is figuratively a clone of the Buhari they elected.

Buhari is also the first and only Nigerian president on record who has openly confessed to being disaffiliated from many of the signature policies of his own administration. For instance, he publicly disagreed with the devaluation of the naira. “How much benefit can we derive from this ruthless devaluation of the naira?” he told business leaders who paid him a visit at the Presidential Villa on June 27, 2016. “I'm not an economist neither a businessman - I fail to appreciate what is the economic explanation."

So, get this: we have a president whose wife says is controlled and crippled by two unelected people that he appointed. This same president is also disconnected from, and obviously makes no input to, the major policies of his administration. How is he different from a clone or a body double? The hard, painful truth is that Nigeria has no president now. Buhari is merely a figurehead who is battling with the ravages of aging and who is unaware of what is going on in the country and around him.

If there is anything that this unhinged “cloning” or “double-body” narrative has dramatized, it is that we have a president who isn’t in charge, who holds the horns of the cow while others milk it, who should be resting, not ruling. This is dangerous for the country. Four more years of this will sink Nigeria irretrievably.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Politics of “Playing Politics” with Boko Haram’s Massacres

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

President Muhammadu Buhari entreated Nigerians on November 25 to “resist the temptation to play politics with the tragedy of the deaths of our soldiers” in the wake of withering criticisms of his reluctance to acknowledge, much less grieve, the heartrending mass slaughter of more than a hundred Nigerian military officers by Boko Haram terrorists on November 19.

It’s a trite, predictable script for governments of the day to complain about the “politicization” of tragedies after news of the mass murders of soldiers and civilians by Boko Haram. Goodluck Jonathan’s administration deployed it ad nauseam, and Buhari, as an opposition politician, was serially accused of it, such as after he told Niger State supporters who visited him in Kaduna that “the biggest Boko Haram is the Federal Government.”

 In the run-up to the 2015 election, Buhari played even more "politics with the tragedy of the deaths of our soldiers" and rode to power on the crest of the wave of that politics. For instance, in the aftermath of Boko Haram’s mass slaughter of innocents and the Jonathan government’s unwillingness to officially admit that the tragedy had happened, Buhari tweeted the following on January 13, 2015: “These Nigerians who have died because our government cannot protect them, they are not politicians. They deserve better. We deserve better.”

He—or his social media minders—fired off another tweet the same day. “It is unacceptable to ignore or minimise the deaths of Nigerian citizens because of elections. It is heart-breaking. This must change,” the tweet read.

Interestingly, Buhari did precisely what he railed against in 2015: he minimized the death of our soldiers by asking us, like Jonathan did, not to "play politics" with it and by his nakedly transparent disinclination to acknowledge the tragedy until five days after the fact—as a consequence of sustained social media taunts.  Of course, Buhari and his handlers were slow to react to the mass slaughter of our soldiers because they thought doing so would explode their self-serving propaganda that Boko Haram had been “technically defeated” or “degraded” and imperil one of the core anchors of their reelection campaign.

It wasn’t only Buhari who played politics with the tragedy of Boko Haram’s mass slaughters of civilians and soldiers. Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai, whom Buhari said singlehandedly prevailed on him to run for president in 2015 after he gave up hope of every winning an election, played more than “politics with the tragedy of the deaths” caused by Boko Haram during the Jonathan administration; he was downright  cruel and uncommonly acerbic in his mockery of the Nigerian military.

In a widely shared tweet, he derided the Nigerian military as “JONATHANIAN ARMY” and added, “And now some IDIOTS [emphasis his] will be saying we should #SupportOurArmy. Na the army wey we go SUPPORT [emphasis original] be dis?”

Thankfully, in spite of exaggerated claims by the Buhari government about the “politicization” of the tragedy of Boko Haram’s murder of our soldiers, no one, to my knowledge, has scornfully tagged our military as a "Buharist army," and no one has said we shouldn't support our military because they don't like the president of the country. Nor has anyone called supporters of our military "idiots." If anything, there has been a bipartisan outpouring of patriotic support for the military.

Again, when Jonathan visited Chadian president Idris Deby to strategize on how to contain Boko Haram’s unceasing homicidal fury, El-Rufai implied that the meeting was a sinister conclave to hatch plans to kill more Nigerians. In a November 25, 2015 tweet, he shared a news headline that read, “Boko Haram: Jonathan Visits Chadian President, Idris Deby for Second Time in Two Months.” Below the headline, he commented thus: “…to plan more attacks?” I am yet to find an equivalent for that sort of recklessness since news of President Buhari’s planned visit to Chad got out.

In addition, Boko Haram was campaign fodder for APC. A wildly popular APC campaign video that made the social media rounds in 2015 ended with following words: "Make no mistake: the enemies [i.e., Boko Haram] are relentless. Vote for the man, Buhari, who can protect you and your children. Vote for change!"

So when the Buhari administration accuses people of “playing politics” with Boko Haram, they are being willfully amnesiac and hypocritical. No one has played more politics with Boko Haram than Buhari and his enablers in APC in the build-up to the 2015 election. Even now, no one is playing more politics with Boko Haram than the government.

Most importantly, though, this is isn’t the first time Boko Haram has killed soldiers on the frontlines in large numbers. For instance, according to Premium Times reporter Nicholas Ibekwe, on July 14 this year, Boko Haram murdered more than 200 military personnel at a military facility in Jili. “Due to poor reporting that incident didn't go viral,” he said on Twitter. “Poor reporting” is obviously a cute euphemism for deliberate government suppression of negative news about Boko Haram.

Recall that on August 2, after Boko Haram murdered, yet again, scores of soldiers, Buhari pretended it didn’t happen and instead chose to meet with senators from his party who had threatened to defect to the PDP. He was more concerned with salvaging his failing reelection bid than he was with the tragic death of soldiers who sacrificed their lives in defense of the country. Isn’t this similar to, or even worse than, Jonathan’s attitude of blithe unconcern toward the Boko Haram tragedy in 2014?

As many international news organizations have noted, more soldiers have been killed by Boko Haram under Buhari’s watch than at any time since the insurgency started in 2009. At least 500 soldiers have died this year alone. Yet, all that the government and its minions do is lie blatantly, shamelessly, and interminably about defeating Boko Haram.

These dead soldiers are the sons, husbands, brothers, and cousins of humans like Buhari and us. A president who quickly ferried his son to Germany for world-class medical attention after he had an accident with a multi-million naira power bike couldn’t even as much as acknowledge the death of soldiers who died in defense of the land he leads until he was pressured and shamed into doing so. Yet he had the presence of mind to invite his incompetent service chiefs, whom he should have fired since last year if he was a sincere and competent leader, to grace his reelection campaign at the presidential villa.

Amid this tragedy, a disturbing video is trending on social media of Nigerian soldiers on the frontlines complaining about their unpreparedness to fight Boko Haram. They show the viewer the military equipment they use, which they said were bought in 1983! Yet the government released one billion dollars for the purchase of ammunition. Asking soldiers to fight a well-armed, motivated, and nihilistic terrorist group like Boko Haram with equipment bought in 1983 is akin to sending them on a mass suicide mission. This is cruel and unconscionable! And it is precisely for this reason that Dasuki is still in jail. In Nigeria, sadly, the more things change, the more they remain the same.