Saturday, March 30, 2019

INEC as Greatest Danger to Nigeria’s Democracy

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The current Independent National Electoral Commission headed by Professor Mahmood Yakubu is perhaps the greatest threat to the growth, flowering, and faith in the electoral process in Nigeria since 1999. This isn’t flippant hyperbole. Yakubu’s INEC is out and away the most incompetent and most compromised INEC Nigeria has had since the rebirth of democracy.

Given the well-known, inherent weakness of institutions in Nigeria, government agencies habitually assume the character and temperaments of their heads. For example, NAFDAC used to be vibrant, visible, and virile because of the vivaciousness and vitality of Dora Akunyili. Now, people barely know NADAC exists. Those who know it exists no longer have any faith in what it does.

Hamman Tukur’s fearlessness and forthrightness gave visibility and verve to the Revenue Mobilisation Allocation and Fiscal Commission (RMAFC). Now no one hears about the commission anymore. Yemi Kale’s aggressive independence and analytical rigor has rubbed off on the National Bureau of Statistics, a hitherto nondescript government agency, and has made it influential in national discourse. Should he be replaced as boss of the NBS by someone with a different temperament, you can bet that it will go the way of NAFDAC and RMAFC.

The examples are legion, but the important point is that in the absence of enduring self-sustaining structures to nurture institutions in Nigeria, the personal attributes of heads of agencies have come define the character and performance of institutions. Weak, corrupt, compromised people reflect— or, more correctly, infect—their moral failings on the institutions they head.

When Professor Attahiru Jega was appointed head of INEC, he brought his enormous social capital and strong moral character to bear on the organization. Suddenly, people began to invest faith in the sanctity of the electoral process. Even though his midwifery of elections wasn’t faultless, it was comparatively transparent and progressively corrective. It was the personal example of fierce independence and transparency he brought to the job of heading INEC that inspired what I called “misplaced PVC [Permanent Voters Card] optimism.”

For the first time since 1999, people had been led to believe that their votes could actually make a difference, that their votes would count. But current INEC chairman Yakubu has shattered that illusion, and faith in the electoral process is now the worst it has ever been. This is a reflection both of the frail moral character of Yakubu and of the integrity deficit of Buhari’s desperately fascist regime.

First, there are indications that Yakubu got his job as INEC chair on the recommendation of Abba Kyari, Buhari’s notoriously avaricious Chief of Staff who is sullied by visible ethical stains. He is Yakubu’s puppeteer and doesn’t even hide it. For instance, on October 26, 2018, Kyari invited Yakubu to his office at the Presidential Villa for a closed-door meeting. There is no parallel for that level of explicitly unabashed meddlesomeness in the electoral process in Nigeria’s history.

Strangely, no one protested. Not even the Atiku campaign, to my knowledge, protested. And it went downhill from there. As I pointed out in a previous column, the Chief of Staff to the President is not even a constitutionally recognized position. It’s an informal contrivance that incompetently mimics the American system. In other words, an unconstitutional Chief of Staff to the President can’t legally summon the INEC boss for a meeting in his office, but he did.

Of course, Yakubu himself has an unflattering record as Executive Secretary of TETFund from 2007 to 2012. And that’s the nicest thing anyone can say about his horrible record there.  So Yakubu was susceptible to blackmail from government agents because of his sordid record at TETFund. Most importantly, though, his moral deficiencies, absolute lack of principles, and right-down incompetence have come to define INEC. The once relatively transparent and effective INEC that Jega headed has now come to assume Yakubu’s morally questionable personality make-up.

The result is that elections are now a cruel charade, and people have lost confidence in the electoral process. I warned about this. In my Daily Trust column of October 6, 2018 titled “Three Reasons You Should be Worried about the 2019 Elections,” I wrote: “So, obviously, APC has a new rulebook of rigging, and it goes like this: Can't win an election fair and square? No problem. Get INEC to declare the election ‘inconclusive.’ During the rescheduled election, hire police officers, soldiers, and thugs to intimidate voters, openly steal PVCs, and then brazenly rig. And, voila, you're a winner! The more electorally vulnerable APC is, the more vicious these agencies will be in their partisanship and strong-arm tactics.

 “If that doesn’t work, hire thugs to screen voters who will allow only those who will vote for you to be at the polling station.

“Or, as happened in Kano, just manufacture arbitrary but fantastical figures from nowhere and pass them off as the number of votes your preferred candidate won. Because APC has gotten away with these newfangled rigging strategies, they will perfect and replicate them in 2019. Watch out.”

It's incredible how my prediction has materialized with almost mathematical precision, with the Kano daylight electoral heist of March 23 being the latest.

In other past columns and social media interventions, I warned Nigerians about Yakubu’s INEC. For instance, in a viral February 12 social media post titled “Atiku’s Fiercest Foe Isn’t Buhari; It’s the INEC Chairman,” I pointed out that a source close to Yakubu told me Yakubu “has a deep-seated animus toward Atiku and has made many nasty, unkind remarks about Atiku in private. That, in and of itself, is not the problem. We are all entitled to our personal predispositions and biases as long as they don’t interfere with our judgement on occasions that invite our neutrality and fair-mindedness.

“However, the same source told me the INEC chairman has a profound personal investment in APC’s electoral successes, like Maurice Iwu had in PDP’s victories.” I wrote further: “I’m so sure of my information that I can swear by Allah that Professor Yakubu isn’t neutral toward Atiku and has said unmentionably disparaging things about him in private. I invoke the wrath of Allah upon me if I am making this up. I hope Professor Yakubu, who is a Muslim like me and with whom I have personal familiarity, can do the same.”

In the October 6, 2018 column I quoted earlier, I wrote, among other things, that, “The current INEC chairman, Professor Mahmood Yakubu, is known to me personally, too. He is one of the most brilliant scholars anyone can ever wish to meet. His razor-sharp intellect is outmatched only by his piercing wit. Nevertheless, he is no Jega. He isn’t encumbered by the sort of self-imposed moral burden that drove Jega to reform INEC and to remain above the fray. Yakubu sees himself as an APC appointee who is beholden to the party. I have no confidence in his capacity to be fair in the 2019 presidential election. I hope he proves me wrong.”

Yakubu didn’t prove me wrong. He had a chance to write his name in gold, to redeem himself, by doing the right thing, but he blew it. The judgment of history, which he studied and taught, will be harsh on him. In spite of the colossal resources at his disposal and the technology he purported to deploy during elections, the conduct of the 2019 election was the most dismal we have ever had. No one, except deluded, low-wattage Buhari minions, believes elections mean anything in Nigeria again. That’s the greatest disservice to democracy.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

How Buhari is Turning Nigeria into a Fascist State

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Buhari’s Nigeria is a suffocatingly fascist, illegitimate rigocracy, and it will only get worse in the coming years. Dissent is now violently suppressed. Opposition is pathologized and criminalized. Elections are militarized and rigged blatantly—and with criminal impunity. Rule of law and due process are officially disdained and murdered at the highest levels. The judiciary is now a pitiful poodle of the presidency. Rank nepotism and total disregard for even the wispiest pretenses to meritocracy are now normalized.

What we are seeing now is Hitler-level fascist conquest of the Nigerian democratic space. The imperfect but nonetheless emergent culture of democracy that re-sprouted in the country from 1999 is now being systematically annihilated and replaced with fascist totalitarianism.

Buhari’s ascendancy to the Nigerian presidency and the ravages he and his puppeteers are inflicting on democratic culture remind me of German philosopher Theodor Adorno’s Negative Dialectics. In this book, Adorno took issue with the conventional Marxian understanding of the nature of the progress of history. Marxian (and, before it, Hegelian) dialectics takes for granted that the resolution of the contradictions between the thesis and the antithesis of historical epochs often leads to a synthesis, which is invariably positive.

But that’s not always true. Adorno, a German Jew, witnessed Adolf Hitler’s unspeakable fascist brutalities firsthand; he lived through fascist barbarities that negated the high-minded promises of the European Enlightenment and of modernity. I will vulgarize Adorno’s insights to make sense of Buhari’s pollution and reversal of Nigeria’s democracy.

There is no doubt that from 1999 to 2015, Nigeria did make minor, scarcely perceptible but nonetheless visible progress in democratic ethos. Elections have always been flawed, but they became progressively better, even if only marginally, each year. The 2015 election, defective as it was, represented a qualitative improvement over all other elections that preceded it, and is perhaps Nigeria’s best to date.

There has always been intolerance for, even suppression of, dissent, but because this was often resisted by critical sections of the society—the media, civil society groups, and sometimes the judiciary— it often came across as anomalous.

All that has changed. Critics of government lose their jobs without as much as a whimper from anyone. Critical voices on social media are arbitrarily arrested and jailed on trumped-up charges. The news media are forced to self-censor and squelch critical voices in their opinion pages. The judiciary has been subdued and decapitated. Votes no longer matter. INEC now arbitrarily allocates fraudulent figures to poodles of the presidency during shameful shams called “election.” Fraud and state-sponsored violence are now legitimate instruments of governance.

The Buhari regime legitimizes its strangulation of basic democratic liberties through duplicitous appeals to a transparently fake anti-corruption crusade that has been intentionally designed to ensnare only opponents of the regime while mollycoddling crooked pro-regime fat cats. That is classic fascism: it subsists on the self-created notion of widespread societal decadence, which justifies the enthronement of the authoritarian state, the worship of the supreme leader who reputedly embodies moral regeneration, and the suspension of civil liberties in the service of a putative moral revival.

To be sure, Nigeria is no stranger to asphyxiating absolutist tyranny. But it has never experienced this depth, breadth, and severity of fascist despotism under a system that pretends to be a democracy.  Most importantly, under past military dictatorships, the country always had a robust culture of civil rebellion to checkmate and neutralize tyranny.

But Buhari’s fascist monocracy is enabled and nourished by the very people who had made it their life’s calling to fight past military dictatorships. And that is what is particularly scary about what is unfolding in Nigeria today. Human rights organizations, pro-democracy groups, and the legacy news media formation either are in bed with Buhari’s fascist regime or are too cowed to speak up. The result is that people are increasingly becoming desensitized to the habitual rape of democracy, and tyranny is being normalized.

Even when Buhari told the Nigerian Bar Association that he had no use for the rule of law and due process, there was no outrage. When he illegally “suspended” the Chief of Justice of Nigeria over allegations that have now turned out to be bogus by the admission of the regime’s own prosecution counsel (which I’d called attention to several times in the past), there was no condemnation, much less a protest. Of course, when he coerced INEC to declare him winner of an election he clearly lost, everyone who should talk has looked the other way.

The next phase of Buhari’s fascism is to perpetuate himself in power beyond 2023—if he is lucky to survive the mandate he stole this year, that is.  The incoming National Assembly will be a pliant, slavish, rubber-stamp congress of yes-men that will tweak the constitution to legitimize and even prolong Buhari’s tyranny. Opposition parties will be decimated and Nigeria will become a one-party state.

Since Nigeria’s intellectual, cultural, and political elites are already compromised, resistance to Buhari’s fascism is a forlorn hope. Most people know that Nigeria is in the throes of economic collapse, that the slenderest tinctures of democracy are being eroded every day, and that there is more division now than at any time in Nigeria’s history, but they feel helpless and appear to have come to terms with this depressing reality with listless surrender.

A newspaper editor told me last week that, “People here are carrying on like a conquered people.” There is no doubt most people in Nigeria outside the circle of the bloodstained buccaneers who are ruthlessly fleecing the nation now are overcome by a sense of helplessness and have developed ego defense mechanisms to justify their indifference to the creeping totalitarian fascism in the nation.

Michael Rivero, an American journalist, actor, and activist, once captured it this way: "Most people prefer to believe their leaders are just and fair even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen acknowledges that the government under which they live is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it. To take action in the face of a corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one's self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice.

“Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all."

In other words, in order to free themselves from the twin burdens of critical thinking and direct action to change or challenge a bad government, people become willing suckers of sterile government propaganda. Nowhere is this more nakedly apparent than in Nigeria. Many otherwise sober, clearheaded people are making peace with the fascism in the country.

They legitimize their moral cowardice by swallowing the propaganda of the regime: Buhari is fighting corruption; it gets worse before it gets better; even though Buhari is bad, the alternative is worse; in the interest of stability, let’s not rock the boat; Buhari will hand over power to the people of my region, so we can wait out his incompetence for another four years; and so on.

I warned several times in the past that Nigeria might not survive a Buhari second time in its present form. Although he did clearly lose the election, he rigged himself back to power in ways never seen before in Nigeria’s entire history, and will be sustained in power by people’s moral cowardice. Then he’ll complete the destruction of the country he started. I hope people of conscience act before it’s too late.

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Why Pius Adesanmi’s Death Shook Us to our Roots

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

I know of no death in Nigeria in recent time that has dominated social media conversation and inspired a welter of sustained lamentations with as much undying persistence as Pius Adesanmi’s heartrendingly sudden death in an air crash last week.

He was no politician. He was no wealthy man. He was no king or prince. He was no pop culture celebrity.  He was only a scholar and a social critic who railed against incompetence and malfeasance in government and who fired our collective imagination about our unrealized but realizable potential as a nation. Yet he was mourned—and is still being mourned—by an unbelievably vast swath of humanity.

Shakespeare said, “When beggars die there are no comets seen; the heavens themselves blaze forth the death of princes." Pius was no prince, yet the heavens are blazing forth his death. Why has his death detained our imagination and united us in grief? Was it because when he lived he radiated so much communicable warmth and love? Was it because he inspired tremendous, transmissible mirth wherever he was? Was it because he exuded life like no one? Was it because he shared love and built bridges across traditional fissures like no one in his generation? Well, it was all these things and more.

Pius lived his life publicly on social media. He shared his prodigious intellect with a massive, engaged social media audience. His biting wit, his sharp repartees, his homespun witticisms, and his equal-opportunity rhetorical “kobokos” (as he liked to call public censures) on Nigeria’s decadent and shortsighted political and cultural elites animated social media chatter and inspired hundreds of thousands of Nigerians.

He was an open book who shared the joys, the thrills, and the challenges of parenting with his friends and followers on social media. Everyone who followed him knew of his 7-year-old daughter Tise— and of her precocious questions to and conversations with him. He shared details of his travels with his friends and followers and even invited them to partake in his anxieties even in things as quotidian as the gastronomic choices he had to make in grand, glitzy, Western-style African hotels that marginalize African culinary delicacies.

He let anyone who knew him to take a peep into his deep, vast, phenomenal mind and see the angst that troubled him. People who cared to look saw a man who was deeply concerned about the present and the future of Africa. They saw the mind of a man who was impatient with the snail-pace progress of his native Nigeria. They saw a mind that was gripped by the fear of the judgment of history. They saw a man who was prepared to risk being unpopular rather than bend or sugarcoat the truth.

In short, in Pius Adesanmi, people saw a complaisant, brilliant, fearless, patriotic yet modest hero in whom they had become intellectually and emotionally dependent. That was why his death felt like—and actually is— the death of a piece of us.

I first met Pius in 2004 when I started publishing my articles in the Nigerian Village Square, a website set up by a Chicago-based Nigerian by the name of Philip Adekunle, where Pius also published. It was the go-to electronic marketplace for Cyberians, as I like to call Nigerians on the Internet, before the profusion of social media. In time, we discovered that we had more in common than our viewpoints about Nigeria: I found out that my late wife, Zainab, and he shared the same hometown. They were both from Isanlu in Kogi State. After this discovery, we started to call each other “my in-law.” Until his death, every communication we had—emails, phone calls, texts—was preceded by “my in-law.”

It was through him I got to know that my wife’s grandparents—or great grandparents—were the first Okun people to accept Islam in Isanlu and that a prominent Muslim secondary school in Isanlu, known as Oluyori Muslim Comprehensive High School, is named after my late wife’s grandfather (or perhaps great-grandfather).

When my wife died in a car crash in Nigeria in June 2010, Pius was distraught and was among the friends who rallied Nigerians in the diaspora to lend me emotional and financial support. In spite of his “sister’s” death and my remarriage four years later, we still called each other “my in-law.” When his wife gave birth to their daughter, Tise, more than a year after my late wife’s death, I was one of the first people he informed. “My in-law, Muyiwa delivered a beautiful baby girl this morning. Mother and daughter are doing great!” he wrote to me on Facebook on November 22, 2011.

Pius kept up with and lubricated his vast network of friends through dutiful outreach and relational nourishment. If a milestone happened in his life and you didn’t write or call to congratulate him, Pius would send you an email or a text to chastise you—often employing his trademark satirical raillery. He did the same if something momentous happened to you and he got to hear of it from others. But he was quicker to forgive than he was to take offense.

That is why a whole lot of people who knew him are distressed beyond comforting by the gut-wrenching news of his death. I personally don't think I will ever come to terms with his death.

A mutual friend of Pius’ and mine by the name of Bamidele Ademola-Olateju moved to the Atlanta area from Michigan about a year ago. She told me Pius kept reminding her to call me so we could visit each other. 

She finally called me about two weeks ago, and my family visited her family on March 9. In the nearly five hours we spent at her home, as you would expect, we talked about Pius. Bamidele's husband had fun things to say about Pius, especially about his travels to Ghana where Bamidele's husband grew up. Their lovely daughter, Imani, took photos of our visit, which Bamidele said she would share with Pius the following day.

Bamidele's call woke me up the following morning. I thought she called to tell me that Pius had seen our photos and videos and got a good laugh from my 2-year-old daughter’s clowning. Instead, she told me Pius had died in an air crash! Because I was still in bed and not quite awake when I answered her call, I thought I was having a nightmare from which I would wake up. So I called her back a couple of hours later to confirm if she did actually call to tell me Pius had died. I was hoping against hope that it wasn't true. She said I wasn't dreaming.

In many ways, Pius reminds us all of the intrinsic impermanence of our very humanity and of the imperative to always be self-conscious of our mortality. In many discussions with friends, Pius often said he had a foreboding that he wouldn’t live long enough to see his daughters grow to adulthood. That was why he lived every day as if it was his last. He always knew and said that tomorrow isn't guaranteed. That was why he always stood on the side of truth, justice, and fair play.

 More than anything, it was Pius' commitment to these ideals that earned him universal admiration and why we have a hard time accepting that he is physically gone from us for good. But he lives in the millions of lives he inspired and in the ideals he passionately espoused. May his soul rest in peace and his family be comforted.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Let's Celebrate Jaafar Jaafar on His Birthday

By Farooq Kperogi
Pius Adesanmi's heartrendingly sudden departure from us has rudely reminded me once again of the intrinsic impermanence of our very humanity and the imperative to celebrate worthy people when they are alive, not only when they are dead.

Jaafar Jaafar of the Daily Nigerian, whom I have not (yet) met physically but with whom I have related for the last couple of years, is one person that is worthy of our celebration while he is alive. Today is his birthday, and I invite you all to not just say happy birthday to him, but to also appreciate his admirable record of uncommon courage in defense of the truth.

In case you didn't know, it was he who exposed damning videographic evidence of Kano State governor Abdullahi Ganduje collecting millions of dollars in kickbacks from contractors. Jaafar practically risked his life, spurned entreaties from people in the corridors of power, and resisted enormous financial inducement to release the videos. At some point, he was compelled to relocate his family to Lagos when the monsters of power and their minions who felt threatened by his intrepid journalism threatened to eliminate him.
That’s not run-of-the-mill courage, folks. That’s some singularly plucky journalism of the kind that is becoming increasingly hard to find in Nigeria. Jaafar’s exposé has become the single most important reason why Ganduje is about to lose his reelection bid as governor of Kano State. There is no doubt that Jaafar’s work will rank as one of the most consequential journalistic efforts in Nigeria in this period.
This is not Jaafar’s first confrontation with official graft and falsehood. He has a consistent record of sustained struggle to enthrone justice, fairness, truth, and fair play. Let’s celebrate him when he can see it.
Jaafar, you know what makes your birthday particularly special? You share it with my son, Adam, who calls himself my dad’s “replacement” because I named him after my dad. In other words, he is my boss at 9. I’ll tell him he shares the same birthday with a great man who was prepared to risk his life instead of suppressing the truth. Happy birthday!

Sunday, March 10, 2019

Pius Adesanmi's Death

By Farooq Kperogi
I am distressed beyond comforting by the gut-wrenching news of Pius Adesanmi's death today in an aircrash. I don't think I will ever come to terms with this tragedy.
A mutual friend of Pius and me, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, moved to the Atlanta area from Michigan recently and reached out to me. She told me how Pius reminded her to call me so we could visit each other. We visited her and her family just yesterday. As you would expect, in the nearly five hours we spent at her home, we talked about Pius. Bamidele's husband had fun things to say about Pius, especially about his travels to Ghana where Bamidele's husband grew up. Their lovely daughter, Imani, took photos of our visit, which Bamidele said she would share with Pius today.

Bamidele's call woke me up this morning. I thought she called to tell me that Pius had seen our photos. Instead, she told me Pius had died in an air crash! Because I was still in bed and not quite awake when I answered her call, I thought I was having a nightmare from which I would wake up. So I called her back a couple of hours later to confirm if she did actually call to tell me Pius had died. I was hoping against hope that it wasn't true. She said I wasn't dreaming, but importuned me not to share or confirm the news to anyone yet because Pius' family hadn't yet been informed about this.
This is a tragic national loss. It's also an inconsolable personal loss to me. In the past few months, we missed each other's calls several times and didn't get to speak. That's one of my biggest regrets, but one from which I've learned great lessons. I'll henceforth be checking up on my friends as frequently as I can. This life is too transient to allow ourselves become too busy that we don't have time to say hi to our friends.
Pius and I used to call each other "in-law" because my late wife, Zainab, and he shared the same hometown. They were both from Isanlu. When I lost my wife in 2010, he took it really personal and was one of the people who rallied Nigerians in the diaspora to offer me both emotional and financial support. Now he is gone, too.
Like me, Pius was always self-conscious of his own mortality. He always knew and said that tomorrow isn't guaranteed. That's why I live every day like it's my last. I'll always stand on the side of truth, justice, and fairplay even if the whole world no longer sees merit in these virtues. It was Pius' commitment to these ideals that made us friends. May his soul rest in peace.

Saturday, March 9, 2019

Why the Saraki Political Dynasty Collapsed

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Everyone who isn’t a victim of the current fascist mass hypnotism in Nigeria knows that Bukola Saraki was the target of a carefully executed and well-funded rigging assault by the Buhari presidency. For instance, a few days before the February 16 election, which was suspiciously canceled at the last minute, the Directorate of Security of Services swapped some State Directors of Security (SDS) in some states for what a source told me was a plan to manipulate the electoral process in favor of Buhari and against Buhari’s opponents.

I shared screenshots of the postings on my social media handles and on my blog on February 13. I pointed out, for instance, that, “Bassey Eteng, who is the DSS' Director of Operations (equivalent to DIG Operations in the police) is going to lead election operations in Kwara State. (They decided that they must wrestle Kwara State from Saraki in view of his centrality to the Atiku campaign).”

Again, three days before the rescheduled elections on February 23, at least two security sources told me Rafiu Ibrahim, Saraki’s protégé who represents Kwara South in the Senate, would be arrested a day prior to the election, among other things that came to pass, which the sources wanted me to publicize on Facebook and Twitter. At that point, frankly, my enthusiasm in the election had waned considerably because I’d known at that point that it was all a grand, prodigal charade, so I didn’t share it.

Saraki was the object of a vast, single-minded, concentrated federal assault. Nevertheless, he became an even easier target because of his own avoidable vulnerabilities. They are two.

The first is Saraki’s arrogance. His notoriety for overweening hauteur, particularly toward the people of Kwara State, is legendary. He routinely humiliated even people old enough to be his father out of pure, perverse self-conceit. One of my townsmen who was a professor here in the United States and who returned home to “give back to the community” a few years ago shared with me an experience he had with Saraki that captures Saraki’s imperiousness.

He said Saraki asked to meet with elders of the Baruten community in Kwara State, which included the area’s four emirs, over a contentious issue regarding political representation. In light of his age, education, and exposure, the professor was prevailed upon to be a part of the delegation. He said the delegation arrived at the venue of the meeting on time but that Saraki didn’t show up until several hours later.

When he arrived, he didn’t apologize for his lateness, didn’t establish eye contact with anyone in the delegation, and proceeded to tongue-lash every one of them in the most humiliating manner because he was miffed that they had the impudence to oppose his political choice for the area. Then he stormed out in a huff. The professor said many old men in the group felt so humiliated and so crushed that they literally wept.

I don’t recall if this incident happened when Saraki was governor or senate president, but this sort of insufferably overbearing arrogance and cultural insensitivity defines the contours of his relational dynamics with the people of the state—when he is not seeking their votes, that is. Someone also called my attention to the fact that Saraki’s political associates from Kwara State are often so subdued and so intimidated in his presence that they don’t even sit on the same chair with him. In several photos that I’ve seen, they either squat obsequiously or sit flat on the floor while he sits alone on the chair with imperial airs.  

To be fair to Saraki, this attitude of elite superciliousness toward people thought to be socially subordinate is a Nigerian malaise. Nigerian “big men”—and “big women”—seem to derive the cultural basis of their superiority and dominance from inferiorizing people who are below them. The degree of severity to which politicians inferiorize others may vary, but none is exempt from it.

Nevertheless, Saraki’s own arrogance is aggrandized in Kwara State, particularly in Ilorin Emirate, because it complements a strong, well-oiled, if reactionary, nativist delegitimization of his Ilorin bona fides. His political opponents from Ilorin have caused to percolate in Ilorin a narrative that he isn’t really from Ilorin and that he isn’t even a Muslim. Many Ilorin people have come to see him as a Lagos Yoruba carpetbagger who is only masquerading as an Ilorin man but who nonetheless can’t help but evince the age-old contempt southwestern Yoruba people have toward Ilorin people.

When Premium Times reported Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, director-general of the National Broadcasting Commission and Ilorin native, to have said in a closed WhatsApp group that the ancestral provenance of the Saraki family isn’t locatable in Ilorin, I wrote a two-part series on August 18, 2018 and  on August 25, 2018 titled “Ilorin is an Ethnogenesis: Response to Kawu’s Anti-Saraki Ilorin Purism” to point out the historical inexactitude  of his claims.

Most Ilorin people who responded to my interventions agreed with my historicization and sociological characterization of the Ilorin identity and saw merit in my condemnation of Kawu’s ahistorical Ilorin nativism, but almost all of them said what delegitimizes  Saraki’s Ilorin bona fides isn’t so much the notion of his ancestral provenance as his cultural disaffiliation from the people.

They pointed to the fact that when his child got married recently, he did a wedding ceremony that was completely culturally alien to Ilorin. It was an avoidable self-delegitimization that rankled a lot of Ilorin people. They also say he doesn’t speak the Ilorin dialect of the Yoruba language and that, in spite of his vast wealth, he neither has any investment in Ilorin nor even a home outside his family house and the post-governorship house built for him by the Kwara State government.

I have not independently verified the accuracy of these claims, but they circulate widely and fuel a simmering discontent against him among Ilorin people who are hypersensitive both about the cultural boundaries of their identity and any hint of snobbery toward them particularly from southwest Yoruba people. Olusola Saraki, Bukola Saraki’s dad, artfully navigated these unspoken but nonetheless consequential cultural minefields.

People who wanted to shake off the senior Saraki’s grip on Kwara politics also called to question his ancestral connection to Ilorin. AbdulGaniy Folorunsho Abdulrazaq, northern Nigeria’s first lawyer and father of the current APC candidate for governor of Kwara State, famously said he knew Olusola Saraki’s father, known as Muktar Saraki, to be from Abeokuta. But his nativist delegitimization of the senior Saraki didn’t stick.

It didn’t stick because although the senior Saraki also studied medicine in London and grew up partly in Lagos, he immersed himself in the Ilorin cultural universe. He spoke the idioms and vernaculars of the people. He was modest, down-to-earth, and generous. His religious piety didn’t come across as forced and politically motivated. In short, he was indistinguishable from the very Ilorin people Abdulrazaq wanted to divorce him from.

Bukola Saraki didn’t learn this basic skill in what I call protective cultural mimicry, that is, the skill to embody and reflect the cultural singularities of your immediate community so you don’t stand out like a sore thumb. That was what rendered him vulnerable to the electoral onslaught of the hawks of the Buhari presidency. In other words, Saraki’s Ilorin cultural immunity was weak, which made him susceptible to an opportunistic presidential infection during the election.

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Friday, March 8, 2019

My (Temporary) Emotional Break from Nigeria

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
I have decided to take an emotional break from Nigeria for a while. I’ve not read Nigerian news and have had no social media engagement for nearly two weeks now. It's been unbelievably blissful and tranquil. I am completing research projects that had been hibernating for a while, have been spending more time with my family, and feeling happier and more fulfilled than I've ever been in a long while.
I didn't realize just how toxic and time-consuming dealing with Nigeria has been until this moment. Many people have wondered what I stood to gain from my passionate interventions in Nigerian affairs when I am not a direct victim of the dysfunction of the country and won't be a direct beneficiary of the systemic overhaul I desire for the country. I used to think people who asked me these questions were shortsighted.

Your home is where your heart is. Although I am a permanent resident of the US and can choose to never visit Nigeria for the rest of my life, Nigeria is where my fondest memories are located, where my heart is. But I am just realizing that it doesn't have to be that way.
It's now obvious to me that the country is an impending train wreck, which is being hastened by the rise of Buhari to the presidency. Suddenly, mass stupidity has taken over the country. Adults reason like retarded kids. Dissent is criminalized and punished. The critical press is dead. With a few exceptions, human rights and pro-democracy groups have become active accomplices in the emerging fascism in the country.
From my perspective, this is no longer a country worth wasting one's emotions on. But I've given up many times in the past and returned after a while, so I don't trust that I can sustain my emotional divestment for as long as I think I can. Nevertheless, ultimately, it is up to the people who live in Nigeria to either change their situation or live with it.
So, please don't tag me to posts and mention me in comments. As it should be obvious to people by now, I don't respond to personal attacks against me from my intellectual inferiors. I don't even read them because I don't want to read things I won't respond to. I don't kill ants with a sledgehammer. That's unusual cruelty. 
A few people have tagged me to an article written in the Daily Trust today with my name in the title. Even from the title of the article, it's obvious the writer would benefit from a good secondary school education. Why would I read an article whose headline screams pitiful illiteracy? I have better use for my time than that.

Saturday, March 2, 2019

This is Rigocracy, Not Democracy

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Critical scholars have characterized contemporary systems of government that claim to be democracies as mere “electocracies” because the vast majority of people actually don’t vote, which denudes such systems of their claims to being governments by the “demo,” that is, the people.  Nigeria’s situation is worse. It has institutionalized “rigocracy,” that is, government by in-your-face rigging, not transparent elections, as its preferred system of government.

Although rigocracy has been institutional in Nigeria for a while, its brazen manifestation in the February 23 presidential and National Assembly elections, in spite of putative technological safeguards against it, should invite introspection from people who matter in Nigeria on whether it’s wise to invest enormous resources, not to mention risk the needless deaths of scores of citizens, to organize periodic elections.

The last election was a sham and a shame. There is no question about that. The results INEC announced as the product of the presidential and National Assembly election are, in many cases, scandalously inconsistent with the figures officially declared at polling units.  Given the deployment of technology for the election, you would think that arbitrary allocation of votes to candidates won’t be a strategy of rigging. But it was.

At this point, we might as well have a fascistic monarchy with no elections at all instead of spending billions to organize sham elections that don't mean anything; that a bunch of mulish, nescient knuckleheads can overturn at will without consequences.

I am surprised that I am surprised by this. In several past columns and social media posts, I had cautioned against what I called “misplaced PVC optimism.” In a September 28, 2018 post, for instance, I wrote:  “Nigerians feel oddly empowered by the possession of their Permanent Voters Card (PVC). They think it's their bulwark against Buhari's continuing incompetence. I am sorry to be a party pooper, but the truth is that in Buhari's Nigeria, the PVC is worthless, as we've seen in most of the elections conducted while Buhari is president, the latest being the Osun State governorship election.

“All indices show that Buhari would lose the 2019 election if it's free and fair, but Buhari would rather die in power than hand over power to anyone… So your votes would be worthless in 2019.” And that was precisely what happened: PVCs were worthless last Saturday.

In spite of propaganda to the contrary, last Saturday’s election will go down in the annals as one of the bloodiest, most brazenly monetized, and most explicitly fraudulent presidential elections in Nigeria's entire history. Ballot boxes in polling units won by opposition candidates were seized, burned, or dumped in the sewers by APC-sponsored thugs in places like Lagos. Countless instances of massive thumb-printing of ballot papers in APC strongholds have been captured and shared on social media in the far North.

Nevertheless, in spite of the active state-aided voter suppression in PDP strongholds, murderous violence against PDP agents, ballot paper snatching, and sundry electoral malpractices, Atiku Abubakar still had a comfortable lead. Results that trickled in in real time showed that he won in southern and northcentral states with a wider margin than Buhari did his strongholds in 2015, and lost a majority of northwestern and northeastern states by a far narrower margin than Jonathan did his weak spots in 2015.
At the last minutes, however, votes from several states were arbitrarily inflated in favor of APC’s Muhammadu Buhari, leading to a situation where there are now more votes cast in the election than there were accredited voters in the election.

The title of my last column is, "Buhari, 'remote control' is worse than ballot snatching." "Remote control," remember, is Buhari's euphemism for changing results after the vote, which he confessed to have done in the Osun State governorship election. “I know how much trouble we had in the last election here,” he said on January 27 during a campaign event in Osun State. “ I know by remote control through so many sources how we managed to maintain the [APC] in power in this state.”

 Well, he and his henchmen did precisely that again in Saturday’s presidential election. In the actual votes declared at polling units nationwide, which have been captured in real-time and stored in cloud-computing technology, Buhari lost the election. Troves of anecdotal evidence, including intercepted phone conversations and video recordings, have emerged to show that INEC officials fudged the figures in parts of the northwest, the northeast, the southeast and the south-south after the vote, to give Buhari a fraudulent lead.

This is in addition to massively brazen ballot snatching, ballot burning and outright, barbarous disenfranchisement in PDP strongholds in places like Lagos where, in spite of everything, Buhari only managed to squeak out a narrow "win."

The signs were always there that Buhari would not accept any result that does not declare him a winner, and I and other commentators have called attention to them. For instance, his refusal to sign the Electoral Bill, which would have frustrated the rigging his minions perpetrated in this election, was deliberate. One of the provisions of the bill was to make on-the-spot transmission of election results mandatory.

 He also knew, as I pointed out in a previous column, that his blatant rigging would invite a robust judicial challenge, and that the overturning of his fraudulent victory would be a slam dunk in an independent, unpredictable Supreme Court. That was why he exploited CJN Walter Onnogen's asset declaration infraction, which most government officials, including Buhari himself, are guilty of to illegally remove him and replace him with a pliant, acquiescent alternative from his geo-cultural backyard.

This is not an election Atiku and other opposition politicians should accept. It was a brazenly disreputable daylight electoral heist, which has completely destroyed the last vestige of faith most Nigerians had in the integrity of the electoral process. Unfortunately, the judiciary is now so intimidated and so compromised that it’s incapable of dispensing even a semblance of justice. Nevertheless, for the sake of history, I’d encourage Atiku to proceed to the courts to present evidentiary proofs of the enormous rigging the Buhari regime has perpetrated to perpetuate itself in power.

In all of this, the person I am concerned with the most is Professor Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman. Even Maurice Iwu would be alarmed by the shameless sham Yakubu supervised and legitimized. As I’ve pointed out before, Yakubu is straight-up one of the smartest people I have ever related with. As a professional historian, and a top-rate one at that, I thought he would be self-conscious of the judgement of history. Apparently, he is not.

He will sadly go down in the records as the worst INEC chairman Nigeria has ever had. He frittered away billions to invest in technology to organize elections and ended up not using it to determine the outcome of the election. Well, at least Maurice Iwu can thank him for displacing him as Nigeria’s most audacious election fixer in favor of a ruling party. That’s such a sad end for such a brilliant man.

But he might be able to redeem himself someday by writing a manifesto of rigocracy. At least he would make an original contribution to knowledge from the vantage point of someone who supervised an unsophisticated rigocratic process. Such a manifesto would also help cure the illusion that Nigerians have elections.