"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: February 2020

Friday, February 28, 2020

Supreme Court as Graveyard of Electoral Mandates

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

Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad’s Supreme Court will go down in history as easily Nigeria’s most blatant bastion of supreme injustice. In the last one year, it has shaped up to be the graveyard of electoral mandates.

It either sanctifies transparent electoral heists, such as Buhari’s blazing mandate theft, using the most astonishingly illogical arguments or reverses approximations of people’s choices such as in Zamfara, Imo, and Bayelsa. In inflicting legal violence on people’s choices, the Supreme Court appears to have no care for basic consistency.

In what seems like an attempt to compensate for its disastrously indefensible usurpation of the electoral mandate of former Imo State governor Emeka Ihedioha, the Supreme Court on February 13 overturned the mandate of  former Bayelsa State governor-elect David Lyon and his deputy governor-elect Biobarakuma Degi-Eremieoyo because some names in the credentials the former deputy governor-elect presented to INEC have changed over time and have inconsistent spellings.

I initially thought Degi-Eremieoyo forged his certificates—like many Nigerian politicians do. But he apparently didn’t. He only changed his names—and the spellings of some—in the course of his life, and supported some of the changes with sworn affidavits. But the Supreme Court was persuaded that those changes were sufficient grounds to invalidate the legitimate votes he and his boss earned from Bayelsa voters.

This is both culturally insensitive and a violation of the sanctity of the vote. I will only discuss the cultural insensitivity of the judgment because it has implications for a whole host of Nigerians. Because there’s a vast disconnect between the colonially inherited orthography we use and the sound systems of our indigenous (and, in some cases, borrowed precolonial) languages, it’s impossible to maintain consistent spellings for all our names.

For instance, my credentials have many variants of the spelling of my first name. In my primary school certificate, my teacher spelled it as “Faruk,” and there’s nothing I can do about that. When I got to secondary school, I realized that the correct orthographic rendition of the name from Arabic is “Farooq,” so I adopted that spelling.

However, when Bayero University issued me my certificate, I saw that my name was spelled as “Farouk” even though I’ve never spelled it that way. Should I be held responsible for this? But it gets worse: my transcript spells my first name as “Farooq.” In other words, my certificate and my transcript have different spellings of the same name.

To make matters even more complicated, a few years after my graduation from the university, I changed my last name from Adamu, which is my father’s first name, to Kperogi, which is my family name that my father, uncles, and cousins, bear (bore in the case of my dad) as their last name.  Is the Supreme Court suggesting that I can’t win an election because of the differences in the spellings of my names and because I changed my last name to my family name?

The inconsistencies in the names we bear in Nigeria can sometimes start from our birth certificates. For instance, when I was born in a Baptist missionary hospital in my hometown, a white American nurse by the name of Miss Masters who delivered me and who could speak, read, and write my native Baatonu language, wrote my name as “Imoru Sabi” in my hospital birth certificate.

Apparently, my father told her my name was “Umar Farooq.” But she used her judgment to take only “Umar,” which she chose to write as “Imoru”—exactly the same way an uneducated Borgu person would pronounce Umar—and added “Sabi,” the generic name for every second son in Borgu, as my middle name.

For some reason, she entirely omitted “Farooq” (which she might have spelled as “Faruku” given her penchant for Borgu phonological fidelity) from my name, but that was the name by which I was known and called when I grew older. No one called me Umar or Sabi.

That was why when I came of age and my father handed my birth certificate to me, I told him it wasn’t mine. I knew I was Sabi by default since I am my parent’s second son, but no one ever called me that, and “Imoru” totally threw me off until my dad explained to me what had happened.

Muhammadu Buhari had similar issues. His father was called Adamu Bafale. His primary school certificate probably either lists Adamu or Danbafale as his last name. I say this because his late older brother, Mamman, was formally called Mamman Danbafale (Danbafale means “son of Bafale” in Hausa), so I won’t be surprised if either Adamu or Danbafale appears in Buhari’s primary school certificate.

In any case, Muhammadu and Buhari are his first and middle names. By the way, why doesn’t he bear a surname? Most importantly, though, the British colonial educators who registered Buhari at the Provincial Secondary School in Katsina spelled his name as “Mohamed,” and it’s that variant of his name’s spelling that still appears in his school certificate, which I am now convinced he actually has, contrary to widespread notions that he doesn’t.

However, although the official records of his secondary school spell his first name as “Mohamed,” he prefers to spell it as “Muhammadu.” In spite of the discrepancy between the official spelling of his name in his school certificate, about which he lied under oath that it was with military authorities instead of admitting that he had lost it, the Supreme Court said he was “eminently qualified” to stand for election.

If Buhari was “eminently qualified” in spite of the different spellings of and possible inconsistencies in his name from primary school to now, why should Degi-Eremienyo be disqualified? Why is what is good for Buhari bad for Degi-Eremienyo?

Now the elephant in the room is that Degi-Eremienyo is still a senator. If he was unqualified to be a deputy governor by reason of the inconsistent spellings of and changes to his name, can he be qualified to be a senator? Can his opponent sue to be declared the rightful senator of Bayelsa East Senatorial District even though he lost the election?

This goes to the heart of the doctrine of judicial precedent, which the Oxford Dictionary of Law defines as “judgement or decision of a Court used as an authority for reaching the same decision in subsequent cases.”

Clearly, Tanko’s Supreme Court, as I pointed out in my July 20, 2019 column titled “A‘Technically’ Incompetent Chief Justice of Nigeria,” doesn’t give a thought to precedents. That’s why its judgements are characterized by inconsistencies, and why there’s a spike in the number of lawyers who are asking the Court to review its judgements.

 “All over the world, courts rely on precedents to adjudicate current cases,” I wrote in my July 20, 2019 column. “Precedents may be modified, but they are rarely overturned without a compelling reason, certainly not within a few years after they were established. That is what legal scholars call stare decisis, that is, the doctrine that courts should follow precedent. A Chief Justice that is ignorant about something as basic as ‘technicality’ is unlikely to know what ‘precedent’ means, much less something as rarefied as the doctrine of stare decisis.”

If Nigeria had a real parliament, I would have suggested that the National Assembly pass a law to undo the judicial violence of Tanko’s Supreme Court. Well, this is what you get when every branch of government is an extension of a confused and feuding executive branch.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency

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

Premium Times’ February 17 unmasking of National Security Adviser Babagana Monguno’s secret memo, which revealed that Abba Kyari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff, exercises presidential powers on Buhari’s behalf, is only the official confirmation of what I have written in many columns and social media updates in the past two years.

The truth is that Buhari has no cognitive, emotional, physical, not to mention intellectual, capacity to be president. And, since nature abhors a vacuum, Abba Kyari has filled the void that Buhari’s emptiness has created.

 Sometime in the midpoint of last year, a northern retired general told me Abba Kyari said in private that people who vilify him don’t realize that without him Nigeria would be rudderless and descend into chaos.

He is probably right. When a man who fancies himself as “president” is so wracked by dementia and cognitive decline that he can’t hold a meeting for more than 10 minutes, has lost the ability to follow conversations in a meeting, and has zero short-term memory, someone needs to act on his behalf.

That Buhari is almost wholly emotionally and intellectually dependent on Abba Kyari is no secret in Aso Villa, but it came out in the open when Buhari himself publicly told his newly appointed ministers that Abba Kyari is the only way to him. In any case, most of the ministers were appointed by Abba Kyari.

Kyari also made—and continues to make— some of the most consequential appointments of the last five years. For instance, he singlehandedly appointed INEC chairman Mahmood Yakubu, DG of DSS Yusuf Magaji Bichi, and CJN Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, among others too numerous to mention.

That was why Kyari could summon INEC chairman Yakubu to the Presidential Villa on October 26, 2018 to instruct him on how to conduct the forthcoming elections. As I wrote in my January 5, 2019 column titled, “INEC’s Troubling Missteps Amid Aso Rock’s Desperation,” what happened on October 26, 2018 had no precedent.

“The Chief of Staff to the President is not a constitutionally recognized position,” I wrote. “He has no legal powers to summon the INEC boss for a meeting.” Of course, I knew that Yakubu was beholden to Kyari because he owes his position to him.

Kyari rode to his current cushy surrogate presidency through Mamman Daura, Buhari’s nephew, who has been Buhari’s link to the northern political mafia and to transnational financial transactions since 1983.

In researching the genealogy and rhetorical techniques of Nigerian crime syndicates for a book I am working on, I came across an insightful 2016 book by Professor Stephen Ellis titled “This Present Darkness: A History of Nigerian Organized Crime,” which spells out the link between Mamman Daura and Buhari.

On page 132 of the book, which was published by Oxford University Press, Ellis writes: “The Kaduna Mafia is said to have ‘dictated to President Shehu Shagari how Nigeria should be managed’ during his tenure from 1979 to 1983….Buhari’s main connection to this group was through his nephew (although slightly older), Mamman Daura.

“Mamman Daura became a director of Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which set up shop in Nigeria in 1979 and became the favorite bank of the ruling group, performing all manner of illegal transactions on behalf of its elite clients.” Daura became director of the defunct Karachi- and London-based BCCI through his father-in-law, Alhaji Ibrahim Dasuki, who had controlling shares in the bank’s Nigerian branch.

Note that, according Peter Truell and Larry Gurwin in their 1992 book titled “False Profits: The Inside Story of BCCI, The World's Most Corrupt Financial Empire,” BCCI was a sensationally fraudulent bank that engaged in high-profile  transnational money laundering, including for dictators such as Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, and Samuel Doe.

The Washington Monthly magazine, in a September 4, 2004 investigation titled “Follow the Money: How John Kerry busted the terrorists' favorite bank,” also found that BCCI laundered money for such criminal corporations as the Medellin Cartel and Abu Nidal and for terrorist kingpins like Osama bin Laden. In fact, Washington Monthly quoted a senior U.S. investigator to have said, "BCCI was the mother and father of terrorist financing operations."

Of course, there’s no evidence that the Nigerian branch of BCCI was involved in terrorist financing, but the same Mamman Daura who served as the conduit between Buhari, the Kaduna Mafia, and BCCI in the 1980s also introduced Abba Kyari to Buhari much later. Mamman Daura, in addition, facilitated Abba Kyari’s employment at the defunct African International Bank, an offshoot of BCCI, which was forcefully liquidated in 1991.

In other words, Abba Kyari’s connection to Buhari via Mamman Daura possibly follows the money. Relationships nurtured by the kind of money that binds Daura, Kyari, and Buhari are hard to dissolve. It’s particularly difficult when the man who is supposed to be “president” has, due to dementia, lost all sentience and is dependent on a younger, more educated, if unethical and rapacious, Kyari for directions on what remains of Nigeria’s pretense to governance.

In his surrogate presidency, Kyari is redefining the limits of audacious impunity and primitive acquisitiveness. For instance, in an unprecedented move in July 2016, he appointed himself a member of the NNPC Board and got insentient Buhari to sign off on it!

When Air Vice Marshall Mukhtar Muhammed, Buhari’s close friend who died on October 1, 2017, read about Kyari’s appointment to the NNPC Board, he was concerned because there was no precedent for it. So he called Buhari to let him know that the optics of the appointment were bad, but he was shocked when Buhari told him it wasn’t true that he had appointed his Chief of Staff as a member of the NNPC Board, even though he actually signed off on the appointment.

It turned out that Buhari didn’t know what he signed off on. Someone close to the late AVM Mukhtar Mohammed told me this story a few months after it happened. That was the moment I began to suspect that Buhari was held hostage by dementia. No one knows this more than Abba Kyari, who is taking advantage of it to the maximum.

Sahara Reporters reported on September 20, 2016 that “Buhari [was] presented with evidence his Chief of Staff took [a] N500m [bribe] to help MTN reduce fine.” About three months after this exposé, MTN fired its top staffers who facilitated the bribe in order “to avoid scrutiny by the United States government over bribes offered to Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to President Muhammadu Buhari,” according to Sahara Reporters’ December 23, 2016 story titled, “MTN Fires Amina Oyagbola Over Bribery To Buhari’s Chief Of Staff Abba Kyari.”

Buhari’s mental and cognitive decline, which has severely affected his short-term memory, ensured that the people who reported Abba Kyari to Buhari actually only reported Abba Kyari to himself. 

When a prominent Southwest politician sponsored protests importuning Buhari to not reappoint Abba Kyari as his Chief of Staff, I laughed boisterously. It was akin to asking Abba Kyari to not reappoint himself.

Abba Kyari is now literally a law unto himself. People lose their positions in government only when they fall out of his good graces. Buhari is now totally inconsequential. All the people who matter in this government know Buhari is merely a nominal head with no capacity to exercise actual power.

Power resides with Abba Kyari who is now transmogrifying into a Frankenstein monster that is about to devour even Mamman Daura, its creator.

The only way out of the tragedy of the current surrogate presidency is to impeach and remove Buhari on account of his incapacitation and treasonable abdication of responsibility to an unelected surrogate. 

But that will never happen. Not with the current docile and malleable National Assembly that has fittingly been dubbed the “Rubber-Stamp National Assembly.” Nigeria is stuck!

Saturday, February 15, 2020

True Ethnic Origins of Nigeria’s Past Presidents and Heads of State

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

Nigeria’s education system robs Nigerians of basic knowledge about their country and its people. That’s why although ethnic identity is a central part of Nigeria’s national imagination, most Nigerians know awfully little about the ethnic identities of their rulers.

 In the absence of accurate, official information, most people have resorted to assumptions, guesswork, and outright falsehoods on the ethnic origins of their rulers—and on most things about the country, leading me to once characterize Nigeria as a “know-nothing nation” in my August 10, 2013 column.

I have chosen to dedicate today’s column to providing accurate, verifiable information about the ethnic identities of Nigeria’s past presidents and heads of state.

1. Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Several people, particularly in the South, have assigned a Hausa, Fulani, or “Hausa-Fulani” ethnic identity to Nigeria’s first Prime Minister. But he was neither ethnically Hausa nor Fulani. Of course, if he was neither Hausa nor Fulani, he couldn’t conceivably be “Hausa-Fulani.”

He came from a small ethnic minority group called the Gere, whom Hausa people call Bagere or Bageri (singular) and Gerawa (plural). Gere is not mutually intelligible with Hausa or Fulfulde. It’s a wholly separate ethnic group that traces distant roots from what is now Chad.

As I pointed out in my January 23, 2016 column titled “Gere:Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa’s Real Ethnic Group,” a 1905 Journal of the Royal African Society article by a G. Merrick titled “Languages in Northern Nigeria” said the Gere are “closely related to the Bolewa [a minority language spoken mostly in Fika Emirate in Yobe State] and living to the west of them.”

2. Thomas Aguiyi-Ironsi: There is no question that Aguiyi-Ironsi, who became Head of State after Tafawa Balewa’s assassination, was Igbo from Umuahia in what is now Abia State.

3. Yakubu Gowon: Although he was raised in Wusasa near Zaria, which is home to Fulani Christians, his parents were Angas (also called Ngas) from what is now Plateau State. Angas is an Afro-Asiatic language like Hausa, but it is mutually unintelligible with Hausa.

As I pointed out in my April 3, 2016 column titled “Nigerian Languages are More Closely Related Than You Think,” “Another surprising fact about Nigeria’s language family classification is that Hausa, the most prominent member of the Afro-Asiatic family in Nigeria, shares the same ancestor with the Angas of Plateau State. In fact, just like Hausa, Angas belongs to the Chadic subfamily of the Afro-Asiatic language family. Yet two ethnic groups couldn’t be more culturally different than the Hausa and the Angas.”

4. Murtala Mohammed:  Murtala Mohammed's paternal identity is the subject of elaborate, long-standing speculations. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, who is now Emir Muhammadu Sanusi II, once wrote that Murtala Mohammed was Fulani. A few other people from Kano say the same thing. But several other people say it was only Murtala’s mother that was Fulani from Kano.

His paternal identity is shrouded in controversy. But the most credible clue to his paternal identity, in my opinion, is the assertion that his father was from northern Edo State. A man by the name of Austin Braimoh, who says he is Murtala’s paternal first cousin, wrote in a February 19, 2016 Vanguard article titled “Remembering Murtala Mohammed” that Murtala’s father's name was Dako Mohammed and that he migrated to Kano from the village of Igbe in the Auchi area of Edo State after briefly living in Lagos.

“It is well documented that General Murtala Mohammed made efforts to reach out to his paternal relations before his demise,” he wrote. “Two months into his tenure as Head of State, he was at Auchi to confer with the Otaru of Auchi Alhaji Guruza Momoh. He invited him to join him to that year’s Hajj in Mecca. On his way out of Auchi, he directed that a mosque be erected at Aviele, near Auchi in a predominantly Muslim settlement. The mosque was completed after his death and named after him.”

Given the number of people with “Auchi” ancestry who rose to prominence in the Kano society, including the legendary Isyaku Rabiu, this claim isn't far-fetched.

5. Olusegun Obasanjo: Obasanjo’s Owu ethnicity is well-known. There is nothing to add or take away from it. Of course, the Owu are a subgroup of the Yoruba ethnic group.

6. Shehu Shagari: Shehu Shagari’s Fulani ethnicity is also well-known. Although he also spoke Hausa, he self-identified as Fulani. His great-grandfather founded the town whose name he adopted as his last name.

7. Muhammadu Buhari: Apart from being phenotypically Fulani like Shagari, Buhari also never missed an opportunity to proclaim his Fulani ethnic identity. In fact, at 18, when he applied to enlist in the Nigerian military, he gratuitously mentioned his ethnicity. “I have the honour to apply for regular service in the Royal Nigerian Army,” he wrote on October 18, 1961. “My name is Muhammadu Buhari and I am a Fulani.”

8. Ibrahim Babangida: IBB’s ethnic identity is surprisingly a magnet for controversy and speculations. He has been called Gbagyi (whom Hausa people call Gwari), Nupe, and even Yoruba from Ogbomoso or Osogbo. But he told journalists and his biographers at different times that his immediate ancestors were Hausas from Kano who migrated to what is now Niger State.

I’d rather go with his self-definition of his ethnic identity than the evidence-free claims of others.



9. Abdulsalami Abubakar: Because Minna, where Abubakar was born, was founded by the Gbagyi, people have also assumed that he is Gbagyi. But he told a biographer that he was born to Hausa parents. Since Hausas are not native to Minna, it must mean that, like IBB, his immediate ancestors came to Minna from Nigeria’s northwest.

10. Umaru Musa Yar’adua: Yar’adua has been erroneously called “Fulani” because of his phenotypic features, but his immediate paternal ancestors are actually Tuaregs, possibly from Mauritania. The Tuaregs are a branch of the Berber cluster in North Africa. Many Tuaregs (whom Hausa people call Buzu) in northern Nigeria tend to be mistaken for Fulani because of the similarities in their physical features. I got to know that the Yar’Adua family are Tuaregs when I lived in Katsina town in the late 1990s.

Another prominent Tuareg family in northern Nigeria that people mistake for Fulani is the Baba-Ahmed family in Kaduna State.

11. Goodluck Jonathan: Jonathan is often mistaken for an Ijaw, but he is not. He is from a small ethnic group called the Ogbia (or Ogbinya), which is linguistically and ethnically unrelated to Ijaw. As of 2006, according to records, the Ogbia were a little over 266,000.

As I pointed out in my August 3, 2013 column titled “What’s REALLY President Goodluck Jonathan’s Ethnic Group?” while Ijaw belongs to the Atlantic-Congo branch of the Niger-Congo language family, Ogbia belongs to the Central Delta subphyla, but historians say the ancestors of the Ogbia people most likely migrated to their present location from present-day Edo State. Ogbia has its own dialects, which are all mutually intelligible, according to Ethnologue. They are Agholo (or Kolo), Oloibiri, and Anyama.

Concluding Thoughts
A distribution of the paternal ethnic identities of Nigeria’s presidents and heads of state shows that the Hausa and the Fulani each had two, and Yoruba, Igbo, Angas, Ogbia, Tuareg, and Etsako (or Afenmai) each had one.

Of course, that’s simplistic. Identity in northern Nigeria is more complex than that. Religion is a more important marker of identity than ethnicity is. For instance, although Abubakar Tafawa Balewa was Gere, he was culturally Hausa and was indistinguishable from a Hausa or Fulani Muslim. 

Nonetheless, in the interest of historical accuracy, it doesn’t hurt to be familiar with the facts about the ethnic identities of Nigeria’s past and present presidents and heads of states.

Postscript:
The omission of Sani Abacha from the list wasn't deliberate; it was an oversight. Abacha was a Kanuri man who was raised in Kano. His prominent Kanuri facial marks were the most visible stamps of his Kanuri ethnic identity.

So I'd rephrase the first paragraph of my concluding thoughts to, "A distribution of the paternal ethnic identities of Nigeria’s presidents and heads of state shows that the Hausa and the Fulani each had two, and Yoruba, Igbo, Gere, Angas, Kanuri, Ogbia, Tuareg, and Etsako (or Afenmai) each had one.

Nnamdi Azikiwe had no executive powers and Ernest Shonekan was an extension of IBB's regime. In any case, the Igbo and Egba/Yoruba identities of Azikiwe and Shonekan are not in doubt.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Unkind Things US Diplomatic Cables Reported Tinubu to Have Said About Buhari

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

On Friday, February 7, Bola Tinubu’s media adviser by the name of Tunde Rahman issued a press release that attempted to impeach the credibility of a viral, reputationally injurious, pre-2015, anti-Buhari quote attributed to Bola Tinubu.

The quote, which has been making the social media rounds in the past few weeks, goes thus: “Muhammadu Buhari is an agent of destabilization, [ an] ethnic bigot, and [a] religious fanatic who if given the chance would ensure the disintegration of the country. His ethnocentrism would jeopardize Nigeria’s national unity.” I have seen slightly different lexical variations of this quote, but the essential sentiment is unchanged.

Nigerian newspapers reported Rahman to have insisted that “the quote is fictitious, describing it as ‘the handiwork of merchants of hate and fake news.’” So what is the truth? The short answer is that the quote is largely accurate.

I’ve never shared the quote even though I’ve been familiar with it since 2011, but since Rahman was bold enough to “challenge those behind it to mention where Tinubu made the remark,” let me offer some help.

Tinubu didn’t say those words at a news conference, as some people have inaccurately claimed. He was quoted to have said them in a confidential diplomatic cable that the United States Consul General to Nigeria sent to his bosses back home on Friday February 21, 2003.

 We got to know this because, in September 2011, WikiLeaks—the insurgent, whistle-blowing, official-secret-spewing site—dumped a trove of 251,000 such confidential, unredacted cables that US embassy officials sent to the US State Department in Washington D.C. from all over the world.

In the February 21, 2003 confidential cable, which can be found here, the US Consul General to Nigeria reported Tinubu to have said Buhari was an ethnocentric agent of destabilization who would strain Nigeria’s unity if he became president.

He also said the Southwest would support Obasanjo against Buhari—which it did—because Tinubu and his group didn’t want the spread of Sharia, which Buhari supported and which Obasanjo countered, and because even though Obasanjo was unlikeable, he was Yoruba and Buhari wasn’t. Looks to me like Tinubu was guilty of the same crime of “ethnocentrism” he accused Buhari of.

The cable reads: “Turning to the presidential contest, Tinubu disclosed that he does not like President Obasanjo because he contributed to the end of democracy in Nigeria during his tenure as a military president and is now benefiting from that history. 

“That said, Tinubu admitted that he and his party, the Alliance for Democracy, must support Obasanjo. Southwest Nigeria is Yoruba land and the President is Yoruba. Tinubu"s [sic] party had no choice since it has not fielded a presidential candidate.  Moreover, Obasanjo is the only candidate who stands a chance of blocking his rival, General Muhammadu Buhari, whose ethnocentrism would jeopardize Nigeria"s [sic] national unity.  Buhari and his ilk are agents of destabilization who would be far worse than Obasanjo.

“Tinubu and many other governors are therefore implementing a strategy to re-elect Obasanjo, partly in an effort to prevent Sharia from spreading. Tinubu predicted that the President will follow his own course, if re-elected, since he will not need as many friends the second time around.”

Incidentally, Tinubu had really kind words to say about Atiku Abubakar throughout his interactions with the Consul General. “Tinubu praised Vice President Atiku Abubakar, whom he has known for many years,” the Consul General wrote. “Elaborating on his knowledge of the VP, Tinubu said he has known and understood the VP even before his entry into politics. Atiku is a detribalized politician who knows where he is going and how to build bridges to get there.”

The Consul General also wrote that, “Tinubu credits his going into politics to Atiku's personal encouragement.” You won’t guess that going by the way they and their agents tore at each other—or at least pretended to— in the last presidential election.

Anyway, my search of WikiLeaks’ archive with the keyword “Bola Tinubu” turned up several other unflattering characterizations Tinubu made of Buhari to Americans.

For instance, in a September 14, 2005 “secret” cable, US Consul General Brian L. Browne wrote that Tinubu wanted to be vice president to either Atiku Abubakar or Muhammadu Buhari but was self-conscious of the perception that either option would present the country with a Muslim-Muslim ticket, and reiterated the sentiment that Buhari’s perception as a “religious zealot” made teaming up with him unviable.

 “While Tinubu did not see this [i.e., being vice presidential candidate] as a big problem with Atiku (due to Atiku's noted religious laxity and his pro-Western outlook), it would be a heavy cross to bear for a Buhari-Tinubu ticket because of the perception in many southern Nigerian minds that Buhari is a religious zealot,” Browne wrote. “Because of this factor, Tinubu asserted he had begun to shift his focus, which had been exclusively on the vice presidency, to see the Senate as a nice place to land upon exiting the governor's mansion.”

Again, in a confidential cable sent on Thursday April 12, 2007, the Consul General reported Tinubu to have described Buhari as a “fascist” during an April 9, 2007 meeting. “Tinubu stressed he had no qualms about PDP presidential candidate Umaru Yar'Adua winning the election,” the Consul General wrote. “Yet, Tinubu was adamantly opposed to ANPP presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari. In a recent news story, Buhari called the PDP government 'fascist'. Tinubu sarcastically mentioned that he would take Buhari's ephitet [sic] as being accurate, for who better to identify a fascist than another one.”

As I wrote in my September 24, 2011 column titled “What the WikiLeaks Controversy Says about Nigeria’s Leaky-mouthed Elite” in the aftermath of WikiLeaks exposes of the diplomatic cables, the willingness of our elites to divulge unsolicited information about the nation to U.S. officials “betrays an infantile thirst for a paternal dictatorship.

“The United States is seen as that all-knowing, all-sufficient father-figure to whom our elites run when they have troubles. We have learned from the US embassy cables that our Supreme Court judges, Central Bank governors, even vice presidents and governors routinely run to the American embassy like terrified little kids when they have quarrels with each other.”

“What I’ve found particularly instructive,” I added, “is that our perpetually lying politicians suddenly become truthful, honest, and straight-talking people when they talk to Americans. You would think they were standing before their Creator—or at least before a stern, omniscient, no-nonsense dad who severely punishes his kids for the minutest lie they tell.”

After the revelations became public knowledge in 2011— and the embarrassment that attended this— Nigerian politicians dismissed them as "WikiLeaks’ beer parlor gossip." Of course, that’s intentionally misleading flapdoodle.

As I pointed out at the time, WikiLeaks was not the author of the embarrassing information about them;  the uncomfortable bits of information about them, which isn’t exclusive to Nigerian politicians, were contained in U.S. diplomats' dispatches, which were intended ONLY for the consumption of the US president, the US Secretary of State, and other high-profile government officials but which WikiLeaks exposed to the rest of the world at the cost of tremendous discomfort and embarrassment to the US government and embassy officials.

I don’t know what exactly Tinubu’s media adviser is denying. The truth is that Buhari’s people are already acutely aware of Tinubu’s honest opinions of Buhari and find his latter-day pandering to them, in a bid to earn their support for his 2023 presidential ambition, both theatrical and entertaining.

For the rest of us, though, his media aide’s forceful denial of that which is already archived in the public domain proves English journalist Francis Claud Cockburn’s famous quip that you should “Never believe anything until it has been officially denied.”

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Saturday, February 1, 2020

Insecurity Will Only Expand and Fester with Buhari

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Buhari’s admission that he was surprised by the growing insecurity in the North, Senator Abaribe’s call for him to resign, and the House of Representatives’ non-binding call for Nigeria’s service chiefs to retire in light of the escalating flow of blood all over the nation recall my April 13, 2019 column titledWhy Buhari Can’t and Won’t Solve the North’s Growing Security Crisis.”

Except for the dates and a few facts, it could well have been written this week. This shows how the more things change in the Buhari regime, the more they remain the same. Enjoy:

The last few days have seen a hypocritical mass awakening to the dire existential torments the people of Nigeria’s northwest face and a dramatic diminution of Buhari’s unearned goodwill in the region. People who had constructed Buhari as an unerring, irreproachable demigod who is worthy only of worship and unquestioned admiration have started to call him insensitive and clueless.


It took the unceasing escalation of kidnappings and the deepening and widening of the oceans of blood in the northwest for Buhari’s erstwhile unthinking worshipers to come to terms with what some of us have known and said since late 2015: that Buhari is an unfeeling wretch who is also irremediably incompetent.

For the first time since Buhari happened on the Nigerian political scene, Imams are now openly preaching against him. Northwestern Nigerian social media, which had functioned as the uncritical fortress for Buhari, is now suddenly viciously censorious of him. Even Daily Trust that plays the role of Buhari’s comforter and afflicter of critics of his ineptitude is allowing critical articles to be published about Buhari on its pages.

Public protesters against government, who are a rare species in the northwest, are sprouting and giving vent to muffled, reluctant, tentative but nonetheless significant anger against Buhari.

There suddenly seems to be an epiphany in the region that Buhari is an inept, uncaring fraud who scammed the people into attributing to him qualities he never possessed— and would never possess in a million lifetimes. Nevertheless, this epiphany is hypocritical and self-centered. Evidence of Buhari’s inattentiveness to and blithe unconcern with the suffering of everyday people has always been there, and some of us have called attention to it countless times.

For instance, amid the tear-jerking humanitarian disasters that the Boko Haram insurgency has inflicted on Nigeria’s northeast, Buhari never commiserated with, let alone visited, the area until he was practically blackmailed into doing so in late 2017. Even so, he only visited soldiers stationed in Maiduguri. When the Nigerian air force bombed scores of internally displaced Boko Haram victims in the northeast in error, Buhari didn’t issue a statement to condole with the people. Nor did he visit them.

In the aftermath of unprecedented bloodletting in Taraba, Benue and other parts of central Nigeria, Buhari was insouciant. It took massive media and social media pressures to get him to visit these states. And when he did visit the places, he exacerbated rather than lessened the crises there by his incendiary,unpresidential utterances. He even chafed at being expected to condole with victims of episodic communal deaths and used the opportunity of these visits to tout his “achievements in security.” I once called that an example of presidential dissociation from reality.

As recently as during the last presidential campaigns, when Buhari visited Zamfara, he didn’t say a word about the intensification of death and violence in the state. Instead, he incited the people to more violence. “Let us pray for rainfall so can we grow food, eat, and then cause trouble,” he told the people of Zamfara in Hausa in February 2019. None of the newfound critics of Buhari’s callousness saw anything wrong in that at the time.


It took the concatenation of widespread kidnapping in all parts of the northwest and the unremitting intensification of bloodletting in Zamfara for erstwhile worshipers of Buhari to admit that he is a crass, cold, heartless prig. This hypocritical moral imagination is similar to the selective outrage some people in Kano expressed when Abdullahi Ganduje rigged himself back to power while being quiet about, even complicit in, Buhari’s own daylight electoral robbery in the same Kano.

To express outrage only when we are personally affected by injustice bespeaks a defective moral conscience. When other parts of the nation were drowning in rivers of blood and Buhari, as is his wont, turned the other way, many of the people who are excoriating him for his cold detachment from the insecurity in the northwest were his fiercest defenders against critics.

That is why some people can’t help but exult in perverse satisfaction that the enablers and defenders of Buhari’s incompetence and heartlessness are today the victims of the presidential vices they defended, excused, and justified. But to gloat over the misfortunes of the people who defended Buhari when he ignored other parts of the country when they writhed in bloodstained agony is to be indistinguishable from and morally equivalent to them.

For one, there are victims of the bloodbath in Zamfara and other parts of the northwest who detest and didn’t vote for Buhari.  Even those who voted for him don’t deserve the unspeakable cruelty that is their lot today. I admit, though, that it’s hard not to see karmic comeuppance in the kidnap of a prominent fanatical Islamic “prayer warrior” of Buhari’s second term by the name of Ahmad Sulaiman who secured his freedom after nearly two weeks of captivity and hundreds of millions of naira in ransom payment.

Nevertheless, in spite of the heightened, unexampled outrage in Buhari’s natal region over his trademark insensitivity to the total collapse of security there, he won’t do anything substantive to attenuate the horrors that threaten the very life of the people there. There are at least two reasons for this.

One, Buhari is an inherently solipsistic narcissist. In other words, he is fundamentally and unalterably self-centered. The only person Buhari cares about is Buhari. That is why he spends billions of naira of the nation’s resources to treat even his littlest ailments in London while hospitals are denuded of basic medicines and ordinary people die of easily treatable illnesses. It is the same solipsistic narcissism that explains why he has not built a single hospital even in Abuja in the last four years he has been president.

When his son had an accident with a multimillionaire-naira motorbike, he flew him to Germany. Yet, although neither he nor his family members use the clinic at the Presidential Villa, he recently said that henceforth no one outside the immediate families of the president and the vice president should use the clinic. It speaks to the depth of his egocentricity and perverse self-love that he would deny workers of the presidential villa use of a clinic that neither he nor his family members use.

The second reason Buhari won’t do anything about the growing insecurity in the northwest is that the perpetrators of the crimes that have held the region hostage have been identified as Fulani. Buhari, as I have pointed out in several previous columns, is a knee-jerk ethnic jingoist. He has a twisted idea of ethnic solidarity that embarrasses even many educated Fulani people.

For instance, the only time he ever visited Zamfara to intervene in the security situation there was to protect what he perceives to be the interests of Fulani herders whose cattle were reportedly being stolen by bandits. He even donned military fatigues for this expedition. Now, he really doesn’t care because the victims aren’t people he self-identifies with.

The president’s puppeteers have caused him to express faux, impotent outrage to mollify the people of the northwest, but the truth is that he doesn’t care. That’s why his administration’s response has been discordant at best. It said the killings in Zamfara are caused by illegal gold miners in the same breath it said they’re caused by traditional rulers.  The absurdity of these claims is the biggest proof that the government Buhari leads can’t and doesn’t want to stem the rising tide of insecurity in the northwest—or anywhere else in Nigeria.