"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: August 2019

Saturday, August 31, 2019

Why Hausa is a Fascinating Language

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

Hausaphone northern Nigerians on social media celebrate “Ranar Hausa” (Hausa Day) every August 26. In honor of the celebration, I share with the reader a reworked version of a column I wrote on September 4, 2016 in the aftermath of the controversy stoked by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s alleged description of Hausa as a “unique” language.

 He actually never said that. Nevertheless, even if he didn’t say Hausa was unique, it sure is a fascinating language for these five reasons—and more.

1. Hausa is by far Nigeria’s, nay West Africa’s, most widely spoken language. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, it is spoken by up to 50 million people both as a native language and as a non-native language. This means it is outrivaled only by Swahili as the most widely spoken language in Africa.

2. Hausa is also emerging as Nigeria’s only non-ethnic language, by which I mean it is spoken as a lingua franca by millions of people who are not ethnically Hausa. Although Yoruba, Igbo, Ijaw, Fulfulde, and other major Nigerian languages have tens of millions of speakers, their speakers are, for the most part, ethnically affiliated with their languages.

There are more than 25 million non-native Hausa speakers, according to many estimates. That means, like the English language, there are probably more people who speak Hausa as a non-native language than there are who speak it as a native language.

 It is now usual to distinguish between native- and non-native speaker varieties of Hausa in terms of vocabulary and pronunciation. There is even pidginized Hausa called Barikanci, which is spoken by non-native Hausa speakers in military barracks.

Hausa is a lingua franca in 16 of northern Nigeria’s 19 states. The only northern Nigerian states where Hausa isn’t widely spoken are Benue, Kogi, and Kwara.

3. Hausa enjoys enormous language loyalty in ways no other Nigerian language does. First, most Hausa speakers who are educated in English are also educated in Hausa. That is, they can write as proficiently in English as they can in Hausa. You can’t say that of speakers of other Nigerian languages.

Second, Hausa speakers don’t subordinate their language to English or even to Arabic. By contrast, the Igbo language has the distinction of being the only endangered language that is currently spoken by millions of native speakers. Typically, languages are endangered because of the numerical insignificance of their native-speaker base, or because younger people refuse to speak them. This fate is often suffered by minor languages with low social and cultural prestige.

But Igbo isn’t just spoken by millions of people in Nigeria, it also enjoys high social prestige. However, the preference for English and Nigerian Pidgin English is endangering the language. That is why in 2012 UNESCO predicted that if nothing is done to reverse the trend the Igbo language could disappear from the world’s linguistic map by 2025. This is obviously overly alarmist, but several Igbo scholars are taking this prediction seriously.

4. Hausa has a rich written tradition that goes back to hundreds of years. For instance, Kano Chronicle, a palace-centered monthly publication, was first published in Hausa (and in Arabic) in 1503 and continued for many years before it stopped publishing. It predated Iwe Irohin fun awon Egba ati Yoruba (“newspaper for Egba and Yoruba people”), which was first published in 1859 by the Reverend Henry Townsend.

5. Hausa is also perhaps the only Nigerian language that has grammatical gender for noun distinction. Every Hausa noun is either masculine or feminine.

Misconceptions about Hausa’s Linguistic Superiority
While Hausa is a lexically rich, structurally beautiful language, it isn’t superior to any language. No language is. As Michael Stubbs points out in his book, Language, Schools and Classroom, “It is accepted by linguists that no language or dialect is intrinsically superior or inferior to any other, and that all languages and dialects are suited to the needs of the communities they serve” (p. 30). Here are popular misconceptions about the Hausa language that I’ve decided to explode:

1. Hausa is not Nigeria’s first written language. Although the ajami script (an improvised Arabic orthography to write non-Arabic languages) emerged in Hausaland around the 1500s, it is not the first writing system in Nigeria. Ajami was preceded by an indigenous writing system called nsibidi in what is now Cross River and Akwa Ibom states by hundreds of years.

The earliest record of nsibidi dates back to more than 1,000 years. It was an ideographic alphabet that was written on pots, calabashes, stools, walls, leaves, etc., which British colonialists initially derided as "a kind of primitive secret writing," but which actually produced an elite corps of literate people who used it to write court judgments and to chronicle history.

In his article titled “Early Ceramics from Calabar, Nigeria:Towards a History of Nsibidi,” American art historian Christopher Slogar quoted J.K. Macgregor to have said the following about nsibidi in the 1900s: "The use of nsibidi is that of ordinary writing. I have in my possession a copy of the record of a court case from a town of Enion [Enyong] taken down in it, and every detail ... is most graphically described."

It is worth mentioning that a kind of indigenous, nsibidi-like Hausa alphabet that is neither Arabic-based nor Latin-based was discovered in Maradi in southern Niger Republic in 2004. It was discovered by a Nigerien Hausa by the name of Aboubacar Mahamane and brought to the attention of the world by Dr. Donald Zhang Osborn, an American scholar who specializes in African languages. However, no one has determined when the alphabet was invented. Did it predate ajami or did it come after ajami?

2. The notion that Hausa speakers were widely literate before colonialism is a common claim, which has no basis in facts. Although literacy in Arabic and ajami existed in Hausaland before British colonialism, it was never widespread at any point in history. Being merely able to read and write in Arabic isn’t functional literacy. Like most northern Muslims, I can read and write in Arabic, but I can’t claim to have functional literacy in the language because I can’t communicate in it or understand, say, a newspaper article in it.

As Billy Dudley points out in his book, Parties and Politics in Northern Nigeria, according to the 1921 census, the literacy rate in the North (including Arabic literacy) was a mere 1.9 percent. By 1952, the literacy rates in Arabic were 10 percent in Zaria; 8 percent in Kano; 4.8 percent in Katsina; 4 percent in Niger; 2.2 percent in Plateau; 2 percent in Borno; 1 percent in Benue (p. 106).

Like Latin in Medieval Europe, full functional Arabic literacy in northern Nigeria was the exclusive preserve of a few clerical elites. It was never democratized literacy.

3. It’s a misconception that the ancestors of modern Hausa people have always spoken Hausa. First, according to historians, including the late Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman, “Hausa” isn’t even a Hausa word; it’s derived from the ancient Songhai word for “southerners,” which makes sense since Hausa people are located south of the Zarma people of Niger Republic (who are the modern descendants of the Songhai people). The first known use of the term Hausa (in English?) dates back to 1853, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary.

Second, a landmark 2009 DNA study by Sarah A. Tishkoff and 21 other researchers titled “The Genetic Structure and History of Africans and African Americans” shows that most modern native Hausa speakers are actually Nilo-Saharans who share genetic affinities with people from Borno, central Chad, Cameroun, and South Sudan. They adopted the Hausa language through elite emulation thousands of years ago. That’s why linguists are often careful not to use language as a basis to make judgments on ethnic origins.

In my April 3, 2016 article titled “Nigerian Languages are More Closely Related Than You Think,” I pointed out that “linguistic similarity isn’t always evidence for common ethnic or racial origin. For instance, although the Hausa people speak an ‘Afro-Asiatic’ language, they have little or no Eurasian element in their genetic profile while the Fulani who speak a Niger-Congo language have substantial Eurasian elements in their gene pool.”

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Presidential Dissociative Disorder (PDD)

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The intoxication of power can deaden people’s moral sensibilities, weaken their faculty for empathy, and cause them to be ensconced in an alternate universe. My widely shared July 27, 2019 column titled “How Political Power Damages the Brain—and How to Reverse it” provides scholarly, empirical evidence for this.

Nevertheless, Muhammadu Buhari appears to be breaking records in the depths and severity of his divorce from quotidian reality. He seems to inhabit a universe that is completely disconnected from everyday Nigeria. In his parallel universe, he has transformed Nigeria into a Nirvana where there is a superfluity of the best imaginable nourishment for everyone and where life is pleasant, pleasurable, and perfect.  

For instance, in his speech at the inauguration of his ministers on August 19, Buhari said he had "secured" the country, "improved the economy" and "fought corruption" to a standstill, adding “none but the most partisan will dispute that we have made headway in all three areas.”

The reality, of course, is that Nigeria is more insecure now than it has ever been since its founding. The theater of sanguinary frenzy and abductions for ransom in the country has both widened and deepened in ways that have no parallel in Nigeria’s history.

The economy has witnessed negative growth throughout the period Buhari has fancied himself as president, and debt has ballooned to unimaginable proportions. Unemployment is now the worst it has ever been since 1960. On his incompetent watch, Nigeria earned the dubious honor of being the world’s poverty capital.

Although Buhari disputes that Nigeria is now the poverty headquarters of the world, he continually says he will take “100 million” people out of poverty in the next 10 years (never mind that his “tenure” is supposed to end in four years). If 100 million people need to be taken out of poverty out of Nigeria’s 190 million people, isn’t that an admission that more than half of the country’s population is desperately poor? So what exactly does he dispute about the World Poverty Clock’s characterization of Nigeria as the headquarters of the world’s poorest people?

Corruption is now so shamelessly brazen that even positions in government, including ministerial appointments, are now literally auctioned off to the highest bidders. As a source close to presidency told me recently, “The rottenness is unprecedented and no society or country can survive this level of fraud, crime, and sleaze.” It’s supremely symbolic that the vast majority of Buhari’s current ministers are people who have been investigated for financial crimes by the EFCC.

Only a person who is unmoored to reality, who is dissociated from the real world, who should be a patient in a psychiatric hospital, would even joke that Nigeria is secure, that the country’s economy is improved, and that corruption is being fought. That’s why I think Buhari is suffering from a condition I choose to call presidential dissociative disorder (PDD). It’s a condition that causes him to take rent-free residence in cloud-cuckoo-land and that uncouples him from the experiential realities of real living people.

Another jarring instance of presidential dissociative disorder occurred on August 15. While commissioning the Nigerian Air Force Reference Hospital built in his hometown of Daura, Buhari was reported to have remonstrated "against foreign medical treatment." He pointed out that the location of the Air Force Hospital in Daura would “minimise the need for people in these areas [apparently areas around Daura] to travel to Kano, Kaduna, Abuja or even overseas to receive medical treatment.”

I initially dismissed the story as a humorous spoof, given Buhari's notoriety as a UK medical tourist. But it turned out to be a factual story. Now get this: According to the Punch of April 20,2019, Buhari spent a total of one year and 39 days abroad between May 2015 and April 2019, mostly on foreign medical tourism in the UK while healthcare at home falls apart on his watch.

Buhari has spent more time in foreign hospitals—at the expense of Nigeria—than any past president or head of state, dead or alive. He beat the late Umaru Musa Yar'adua's record by a wide margin. While Yar’adua spent 109 days in foreign hospitals during his presidency, Buhari spent 172 days in UK hospitals as of May 2018.

Given that British news agency Reuters reported in 2017 that several of Buhari’s foreign trips are actually covert medical trips (such as when his media aides prevaricated that he had made a“technical stopover” in London on his way from the US in May 2018), the number of days he spent in foreign hospitals exceeds what has been publicly acknowledged.

If Buhari wasn’t unplugged from reality, he wouldn’t be caught railing against medical tourism, his favorite pastime. He should be embarrassed by any talk of foreign medical care. But he lives in his own world, his own self-created psychic silo. It didn’t start this month, though.

Recall that on May 22, he told outgoing ministers that they should “be proud” that they “were part of a government that ended Boko Haram.” He said this at a time of Boko Haram’s forcefully slaughterous resurgence, at a time when more soldiers were murdered by Boko Haram than at any time since 2009, at a time when several communities in Borno were under Boko Haram's control, and when the population of IDPs continued to rise to astronomical levels.

Recall also that in the aftermath of a horrendously bloodstained communal upheaval in Taraba in March 2018, which compelled him to pay a forced sympathy visit to affected communities, Buhari told grieving communities that he had fulfilled his campaign promise to secure the nation. “Today, even our worst enemy can attest to the fact that the APC-led federal government has done well in the area of security,” he said. “We have decimated Boko Haram, while the fight against corruption is going on well.” If government had “done well in the area of security,” why was he on a tour of scenes of bloodletting?

What more evidence do we need to conclude that Buhari has disengaged from the world the rest of us live in? A man who doesn’t see the contradiction in bragging about his “success” in security while on a condolence visit of several parts of the country that were drenched in unspeakably agonizing oceans of blood lives in an alternate universe. He is completely divorced from reality. And that’s frightening.

It appears that Buhari’s apparent senile dementia is colliding with an emergent presidential dissociative disorder, causing him to be detached from reality! His thoughts, actions and the reality in the country have parted company. What is sadder still is that his dissociative disorder is infectious. All his aides have caught it. That’s why the entire country is caught in a state of suspended animation.

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Saturday, August 17, 2019

Complicity of Nigerian Media in Intellectual 419 of Academics

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

The sensational but entirely false story about one Dr. Nura Yakubu (or is it Yakubu Nura) of the University of Maiduguri winning “the World Physics Competition by defeating about 5720 contenders from 97 countries,” which reputedly earned him the distinction of becoming “the father of modern Einstein's planetary equation studies in Physics,” is another sad example of how the Nigerian news media help to give publicity to patent intellectual fraud by Nigerian academics.

I can forgive the Nigerian media’s failure to detect Philip Emeagwali’s intellectual 419. It was a sophisticated, well-layered intellectual con game that suckered even well-established media outfits like CNN and otherwise perceptive politicians like former US president Bill Clinton.

Emeagwali’s deception was believable because he actually did win a real award. It was just that he exaggerated the worth of the award and used it as a launching pad to orchestrate one of the most labyrinthine intellectual swindles I’ve ever come across in all my years of systematic study of the rhetorical strategies of fraudsters.

Although several well-researched reports have blown the lid off Emeagwali’s unfounded claims, Yemi Osinbajo recently repeated the discredited falsehoods Emeagwali had peddled for years. During an Independence Day speech on October 1, 2018, Osinbajo said, “the world’s fastest supercomputer was designed by a world-renowned inventor, Philip Emeagwali, a full-blown Nigerian.”

Premium Times was compelled to fact-check Osinbajo in an October 20, 2018 report titled “FACT-CHECK:Did VP Osinbajo goof in his Independence Day speech?” “There is no evidence that Mr. Emeagwali, 64, has ever invented anything, not to talk of the ‘world’s fastest supercomputer’,” the paper wrote. “A detailed investigation by the rested NEXT newspaper in 2010 indicated that Mr. Emeagwali’s biggest achievement at the time was his winning of the $1,000 Gordon Bell Prize in 1989.”

I wasn’t surprised that Osinbajo said this. His media aide, Laolu Akande, was one of the biggest enablers of the false and exaggerated claims of Nigerian academics when he was a reporter for the Guardian in New York.

As I wrote in my November 6, 2010 column titled “Intellectual 419: Philip Emeagwali and Gabriel Oyibo Compared,” “The Guardian's U.S. correspondent, a certain Laolu Akande, is the biggest accomplice in Oyibo's fraud. Until the last few years, the Guardian often reported that Oyibo was among the top three candidates being considered for the Nobel Prize in Physics. This intentionally deceitful newspaper speculation was/is the basis for his unearned popularity in Nigerian elite circles.”

You would think after Emeagwali and Oyibo, the Nigerian media would be wary of future unverified claims by Nigerian academics. On the contrary, however, they seem to be falling for even less sophisticated, easily detectable scams.

For instance, on July 28, 2011, the Guardian publicized the false claims of a Benue State University lecturer by the name of Michael Atovigba who claimed to have solved a 262-year-old mathematical puzzle (for which he said he would win $1 million from the US-based Clay Mathematics Institute) based on an article he published in a predatory, pay-to-play Pakistani journal (with more than half of his references from Wikipedia!) The Guardian caused Nigerians to celebrate him wildly until I—and others— burst his bubble.

Four years later, the Vanguard of November 15, 2015 publicized the false claims of a Dr. Enoch Opeyemi of the Federal University in Oye-Ekiti who claimed to have solved the same centuries-old mathematical puzzle that Atovigba had claimed to have solved! As I pointed out in my November 21, 2015 column titled “‘Mathematical’Enoch Opeyemi and the Making of Another Nigerian Intellectual 419er,” Opeyemi’s only evidence for claiming to have solved the Riemann Hypothesis was that he presented a paper on the puzzle at the “International Conference on Mathematics and Computer Science” in Vienna, Austria.

It later emerged that the “conference” itself was a scam operation. An August 20, 2011 blog post titled “Fake Paper Accepted by Nina Ringo's Vienna Conference” revealed that a scientist by the name of Mohammad Homayoun who was suspicious of the genuineness of the “International Conference on Mathematics and Computer Science (ICMC)” decided to test his suspicion by submitting a fake, worthless, nonsensical paper to the conference to see if it would be accepted or rejected.

The researcher’s hunch was accurate: the ICMC in Vienna was an elaborate, money-making scholarly scam. His paper was accepted even though it was intentionally nonsensical.

Opeyemi also said he would be paid $1 million by the Clay Mathematics Institute in two years for his “feat,” and the media believed him. On November 25, 2017, I did a follow-up column titled “Remember Enoch Opeyemi Who Claimed to have Solved the Riemann Hypothesis?” where I pointed out that two years later, the puzzle Opeyemi claimed to have solved was still listed as “unsolved” on the Clay Mathematics Institute’s website. It’s still unsolved as I write this.

In spite of my pointing this out, many Nigerians continued to celebrate Opeyemi’s delusional claims to nonpareil intellectual accomplishment—until Dr. Nura Yakubu came and displaced him.

As I pointed out on social media, the truth is that Dr. Nura is the willing victim of a scam, a kind of scam I call scams of ego, which prey on the status anxieties and low self-esteem of insecure, fraud-prone people. World Championship, the "organization" that conferred the “award” on Dr. Nura, is a well-known scam operation that does not, for strategically fraudulent reasons, have a site with its own domain name. It uses a free sites.google.com account to perpetrate its swindles.

Anyone who pays a fee can get any—I mean ANY—award from the site. Check the site to see the list of “award winners” it features in every imaginable field. You will find many Nigerians there. Some past Nigerian “winners” even managed to defraud the ever credulous Nigerian news media into publicizing their “feat.”

For instance, one Dr. Kaywood Leizou of the Niger Delta University (NDU) got the Guardian to write a story about his “award” from this same fraudulent site on October 19, 2018. Titled “Bayelsa don wins global chemical sciences contest,” the report said, “The Bayelsa-born don beat 5,845 others from 89 countries whose nominations were screened for this year’s edition. Consequently, the International Agency for Standards and Ratings (IASR) has recognised Leizou as one the world’s 500 most influential experts on earth in chemical sciences for the year.”

In 2018, the same website “conferred” one “Dr.” Shuaib Idris Mohammed of Edo State (who hasn’t even completed his PhD) with the “World Champion in Agricultural Extension (Credit Facilities)” award “out of 91 countries.” The site added: “Dr. Shuaib Idris Mohammed is now recognized as Father of modern Credit Facilities in Agricultural Extension. The purpose of the award is to identify brilliant scientists and academicians around the world through World Championship. The World Championship is organized by International Agency for Standards and Ratings at international level.”

Sounds familiar? That’s the exact language used for Dr. Nura. It’s the same suspiciously atrocious grammar. The “contenders” for the “awards” are always in the thousands—and from more than 80 countries in the world.

But nothing in Nura’s scholarly record—and those of others who have been made “fathers” of whole disciplinary specialties by the fraudulent site—suggests that he is anywhere close to the pinnacle of his career. In fact, most of his articles are published in dodgy, predatory journals that publish ANYTHING submitted to them for a fee.

The scariest thing in all this is that Dr. Nura Yakubu was going to be hosted in the Presidential Villa and honored by Muhammadu Buhari. A friend of mine who is a close confidant of Buhari’s called to tell me this and to ask that I help verify the authenticity of Nura’s “award.” My findings and subsequent status update saved Buhari from a potentially momentous embarrassment.

Well, even Buhari himself fell for a fraudulent “MLK award.” So he and Dr. Nura Yakubu would have made good company in the Villa! Nigerians have to be the world’s greatest suckers for cheap scams!

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Lessons from George Orwell about Current Phase of Buhari’s Fascism

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

I have immersed myself in the study of the ontogenesis and manifestations of fascism since Buhari started to bare his ferociously fascist fangs. One of the world’s most insightful writers on fascist totalitarianism is George Orwell. As he himself pointed out in his 1946 essay titled “Why I Write,” “Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936 has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism….”

His most famous works, Animal Farm (published in 1945) and 1984 (published in 1949), were not just devastatingly searing fictional critiques of totalitarianism, they also offer enduringly accurate insights into how absolutist fascism works.  The significance of Animal Farm to understanding Buhari’s monocratic excesses are already too obvious to deserve expounding.

Orwell’s 1984 is the most helpful in unpacking the unfolding phase of Buhari’s next-level fascism. In this phase, the regime wants to not just impose ironclad strangulation on basic liberties; it also wants to exercise absolute control over the limits of the meanings of everyday words and expressions. I call this intangible but nonetheless visible forms of symbolic fascist violence.

 Words and expressions such as “revolution,” “terrorism,” “terrorist,” “treason,” “soft target,” “defeat,” “technical,” “hate speech,” etc. no longer mean what they are universally understood to mean in the Anglophone world; they now only mean what Buhari and his fascist honchos want them to mean, as I will show shortly.

In Orwell’s 1984, we learn that the fictional totalitarian country of Oceania invented a new language called newspeak, which strips words of their habitual significations, constricts the semantic boundaries of existing words, narrows the range of vocabularies people can use, and privileges, indeed insists on, the meanings the state imposes on words and expressions.

All fascist regimes understand the power of language in birthing, nurturing, and naturalizing tyranny. Orwell recognized this fact in another famous, oft-cited 1946 essay titled “Politics and the English Language.” That is why the Buhari regime now wants to impose limits on what words can mean and not mean. Take, for instance, the increasingly variable and arbitrary meaning of the word “terrorism” in Buhari’s Nigeria. Every organized resistance against the government is now “terrorism.”

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), whose mode of campaign for separatism is demonstrably non-violent, was formally declared a “terrorist” organization and proscribed.

 Shiite Muslims, who have remained remarkably pacifist and restrained even in the face of the unjustified extra-judicial mass murders of their members and the continued incarceration of their leader in spite of several court judgments to release him, have been declared “terrorists” and their organization “proscribed.”

The regime labeled IPOB and Shiites “terrorists” only because of their sustained, constitutionally guaranteed civil protests against the government, which will go down in history as the most thin-skinned collection of boneheaded crybabies.

Omoyele Sowore’s nationwide #RevolutionNow protests, for which he is being illegally detained, were also declared “terrorism” and“treasonable felony.” Ironically, between 2013 and 2014, many of the founders of the APC vigorously lobbied the US government to not designate Boko Haram a foreign terrorist organization. On June 10, 2013, Lai Mohammed said Goodluck Jonathan administration’s proscription of Boko Haram was overly broad and did not “pass the Constitutional test.” Buhari is also on record as saying that military action against Boko Haram was an attack on the “North.”

To this day, the Buhari regime has never officially declared Boko Haram a terrorist group let alone proscribe it. On the contrary, Boko Haram’s captured members are often washed up, deodorized as “repentant,” and even enlisted into the Nigerian Army, which explains why our soldiers are now sitting ducks for Boko Haram terrorists.

Murderous marauders known in the Nigerian news media as “killer Fulani herdsmen” or " armed bandits" have been called “the fourth deadliest known terrorist group” in the world by the Global Terrorism Index, but the Buhari regime has said absolutely nothing about this group much less designate it as a terrorist group. If anything, members of the group are being featherbedded and emboldened by the regime.

But harmless, unarmed, defenseless groups who resist the regime’s tyranny peacefully are quickly labeled “terrorists,” detained, harassed, and ultimately “proscribed.” This is particularly interesting because Buhari rode on the crest of the wave of civil disobedience to climb to power. In fact, in 2011, during a stump speech, he did actually commit what amounted to a terroristic incitement to violence when he unambiguously told his supporters to extra-judicially murder political opponents.

  Ku fita ku yi zabe. Ku kasa. Ku tsare. Ku raka. Ku tsaya. Duk wanda ya taba ku halaka shi!” he said in Hausa. Rough idiomatic translation: “Go out and participate in the election. Cast your vote. Protect it. Accompany it (to the collation center). Wait for it (to be counted). Whoever tempers with (the vote) kill him!”

And scores of people, including youth corps members, were extra-judicially murdered in several parts of the Muslim North as a direct consequence of his incitement. That was real terrorism for which he was never brought to justice. Terrorism is defined as "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political aims."

Similarly, although Buhari, Bola Tinubu, and many APC henchmen had used the word “revolution” in the past to characterize their resistance to the reigning government, the word is now practically banned in Nigeria. It can now only mean what the government wants it to mean. By “revolution,” Sowore clearly meant prolonged mass protests that would so overwhelm the government that it would be compelled to accede to the demands of the protesters.

That was precisely the sort of “revolution” Buhari praised in Egypt and which he enjoined Nigerians to emulate. The Arab Spring was not a revolution through the ballot box, as his defenders are insisting; it was a series of unrelenting, organized mass protests that caused the deaths of many people. It was its aftermath that birthed the pretense to democracy that was quickly thwarted in the country.

Any intelligent person knows that Sowore’s isolated references to overthrowing the government weren't literal. In media law, it’s called rhetorical hyperbole, and it’s not actionable.  Calling someone a “criminal,” a “thief,” a “fraudster,” a “conman,” etc. is mere rhetorical hyperbole, but saying they stole “500 billion naira in 2018” is a specific, verifiable fact and may constitute grounds for libel.

 Sowore and his group have no capacity to overthrow the government. It’s the government’s own acute self-consciousness of its transparent illegitimacy that is causing it to see threats in even the most innocuous forms of resistance. English philosopher Bertrand Russel had hypersensitive, illegitimate regimes like Buhari’s in mind when he said, “Freedom of opinion can only exist when the government thinks itself secure.”

While any physical protest against the Buhari regime is now “terrorism,” the definitional boundaries of the term “hate speech” have also been squeezed to now only mean any strong criticism of the government’s trademark incompetence and fraud.

But hate speech is conventionally understood as speech that denigrates or incites violence against a people on the basis of their social, cultural, ethnic, religious, etc. characteristics. Cambridge Dictionary defines it as “public speech that expresses hate or encourages violence towards a person or group based on something such as race, religion, sex, or sexual orientation (= the fact of being gay, etc.):”

That means government or its officials can’t possibly be the target of hate speech for just being in government. But the point of controlling the meanings of the words we use is that the regime wants to invoke its invented meanings as linguistic justification for physical violence and the naturalization of fascism.

Nigerians must not only resist the Buhari regime’s repression, they must also fight its Orwellian newspeak, which excludes Nigerians from the power of naming. In his influential book titled Challenging Codes, Italian political sociologist Alberto Melucci, whose country birthed the original fascist ideology Buhari is enamored with, tells us that, “The real domination is… the exclusion from the power of naming.”

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Saturday, August 3, 2019

Soldiers on Government Sanctioned Mass Suicide Mission

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

The Wall Street Journal’s disturbing July 31 report of the secret mass burial of at least a thousand Nigerian soldiers who were murdered by Boko Haram terrorists has, once again, brought to the fore the conscienceless villainy and duplicity  of the Buhari regime and its illegal service chiefs who have overstayed their statutorily mandated length of service by  several months.

The regime never stops to claim that it has “defeated” Boko Haram even when indisputable evidence to the contrary stares it in the face. In late last year, for instance, it was reported that Boko Haram had murdered hundreds of Nigerian soldiers. Yet the federal government did not consider it fitting to acknowledge the tragedy, much less condole with the families of the deceased soldiers.

In fact, on the day the fallen soldiers were given an undignified mass burial, Buhari met with APC senators who’d threatened to defect to other parties. Several reports have also surfaced to show that soldiers fighting on the frontlines are owed several months’ worth of allowances and that many of them are now practically beggars.

TheCable’s September 21, 2018 investigations show that the military men fighting Boko Haram are practically being forced to commit suicide because they are severely ill equipped. I also shared videos on Facebook and Twitter yesterday of Nigerian soldiers battling what seem like Boko Haram terrorists with obsolete, barely functional guns. That’s why they are sitting ducks for Boko Haram. They are on a government-sanctioned mass suicide mission.

In other words, there is no difference between President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari in the prosecution of the war against Boko Haram. Well, the only difference is that the Buhari regime has been more effective in muzzling the press, in intimidating private individuals in the northeast into not disclosing the true situation of the Boko Haram insurgency in the region, and in enlisting well-heeled individuals in its propaganda efforts.

What is now coming to light in spite of government’s studious efforts to suppress it supports my column of February 24, 2018 titled “Bursting the Myth of Buhari’s Boko Haram ‘Success’.” Almost everything I said in that column is bubbling to the surface now. The sanguinary in-fighting among Boko Haram members, which I said was the biggest reason for the lull in its attacks between 2016 and early 2018, has now subsided considerably.

I have taken the liberty to reproduce portions of my previous article, which seemed incredulous to many people when it was first published:

A false narrative that several people cherish about the Buhari government is the notion that its singular greatest achievement is its success in containing, downgrading, or defeating Boko Haram. It’s like a consolation prize to compensate for the government’s abject failure in every index of governance. I recognize that taking away the consolation prize of Buhari’s Boko Haram success narrative would cause psychic and cognitive dislocation in many people…

But the question I always ask people who talk of the Buhari administration’s “success” in “downgrading” or “technically defeating” Boko Haram (whatever in the world that means) is: what exactly has Buhari done that hasn’t been done by his predecessor to bring about his so-called success? The only intelligent answer I’ve received is that he ordered the relocation of the command center for Nigeria's military operation against Boko Haram to Maiduguri. Well, that’s commendable, but it conceals the unchanged, sordid underbelly of military authorities.

For instance, the military is still severely underfunded and ill-equipped. Soldiers on the front lines are still owed backlogs of allowances; several of them still starve and survive on the goodwill of do-gooders. Two videos of the heartrending conditions of our military men fighting Haram went viral sometime ago, and military authorities were both embarrassed and caught flatfooted. I periodically speak with my relatives and friends in the military fighting Boko Haram, and they say little or nothing has changed, except that propaganda and media management have become more effective. The fat cats in the military still exploit and feed fat on the misery of the foot soldiers.

Even on the symbolic plane, which is the easiest to navigate, Buhari hasn’t been better than his predecessor. He did not visit our foot soldiers in Borno to boost their morale nor did he visit IDPs whose misery has become one of the most horrendous humanitarian disasters in the world. He only visited Borno on October 1, 2017—more than 2 years after being in power—to celebrate Independence Day with the military after so much pressure was brought to bear on him by critics. There are three major reasons why the intensity of the Boko Haram scourge has subsided, none of which has anything to do with Buhari’s policies on Boko Haram.

One, our foot soldiers, like always, have never wavered in their bravery and persistence in spite of their prevailing untoward conditions. This isn’t because of the president; it is in spite of the president.
Two, Boko Haram has been weakened by an enervatingly bitter and sanguinary internal schism. Since at least September 2016, the Abubakar Shekau and Abu Musab al-Barnawi factions of Boko Haram have killed each other more than the military has killed them.

Three, and most important, the conspiracy theories and tacit, if unwitting, support that emboldened Boko Haram in the north because a southern Christian was president have all but disappeared, making it easy for the military to get more cooperation from the local population. Remember Buhari said, in June 2013 in a Liberty Radio interview in Kaduna, that the military’s onslaught against Boko Haram amounted to “injustice” against the “north.”

Babachir David Lawal, then a CPC politician, infamously said Boko Haram was a PDP plot to “depopulate” the northeast because the region doesn’t vote PDP. As my friend from the northeast noted on my Facebook page, “Borno elder Shettima Ali Monguno used to call BH ‘our children’ and he only stopped after he was kidnapped for ransom by the group.”

The Northern Elders Forum in 2013 said Boko Haram members should be given amnesty, not killed. Even then PDP chairman Bamanga Tukur said in 2011 that “Boko Haram is fighting for justice. Boko Haram is another name for justice.” Several Borno elders and everyday citizens protected Boko Haram members and frustrated the military.

In fact, in June 2012, Borno elders told the government of the day to withdraw soldiers fighting Boko Haram terrorists from the state. (But when the military dropped a bomb and killed scores of IDPs, these Borno elders didn't even as much as say a word of condemnation.)

I published letters in 2014 from Borno readers of my column that said the people would rather live with Boko Haram than cooperate with the military because they believed the military was part of a grand plot to annihilate them. The military was so frustrated that it almost wiped out the entire village of Baga in April 2013 when residents provided cover for Boko Haram insurgents who escaped into the area. I wrote to condemn the military at the time.

All this changed because the president is no longer a Christian from the south. Buhari isn’t just a northern Muslim; his mother is half Kanuri, and that’s why most (certainly not all) people from the region intentionally exaggerate the extent of safety and security in the region even when the facts give the lie to their claims. It's all ethnic solidarity.

Because someone with some Kanuri blood in him is president, Boko Haram is no longer a plot to depopulate the northeast. No northern elder is pleading amnesty on the group’s behalf. The group is no longer fighting “for justice.” Killing them is no longer “injustice” to the “north.” And everything is now hunky-dory. Ethno-regional bigotry will be the death of Nigeria.