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

Saturday, May 30, 2020

Gambari: Embrace and Alienation of an Outsider on the Inside

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, Buhari’s new Chief of Staff, appears to be catalyzing a lot of motion in the Presidential Villa in ways that were not typical when Abba Kyari held sway. Buhari, for instance, had a meeting with his estranged benefactor T.Y. Danjuma, and with Sokoto State governor Aminu Tambuwal, for the first time in a long while.

There’s also talk that Nigeria’s corrupt and incompetent service chiefs who have been overdue for retirement since at least 2017 but who had been kept in service by Abba Kyari against every known public service convention might finally be relieved of their appointments.

Sure, these are mere motions, not movements, but in a regime that has been defined by its remarkably stultifying stagnancy for five years, motions— or even notions of motions—are welcome departures from the norm.

In my first public reflection on Gambari’s appointment as chief of staff, I noted that, “The only silver lining I see is that he probably won’t be as lazy as Abba Kyari was. Kyari was an indolent, self-absorbed presidential gatekeeper who allowed files that required urgent presidential attention to gather dust and who attended only to issues that feathered his nest.

“I hope Gambari would at least bring his considerable experience to help lubricate the rusty wheels of governance even while doing the bidding of his benefactor(s).”

I get the sense that, at least for now, my optimism wasn’t entirely misplaced. Since Buhari has shown that he is usually only as good as or as bad as his closest babysitters are, Gambari may well help give a spark of life to the transparently dead Buhari regime.

Nevertheless, I pointed out in my May 16, 2020 column titled “Real Reason the Buhari Cabal Picked Gambari as CoS” that Gambari’s linguistic “handicap” in the Hausa language would ensure that he isn’t sufficiently close enough with Buhari to have any meaningful interpersonal relationship with him. That, I said, would whittle away the influence of his office. 

That evidence emerged last week. A source that had told me that Gambari would at best be an outsider on the inside— and who is familiar with Gambari’s simultaneous embrace and alienation in the Villa—called my attention to an exclusive news story in the Daily Trust of May 25, 2020. 

Titled “How Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Gambari facilitated removal of TCN boss,” the story detailed the behind-the-scene maneuvers that resulted in the firing of the Managing Director of the Transmission Company of Nigeria by the name of Usman Gur Mohammed.

Tucked somewhere in that story is this telling paragraph: “The Special Assistant to the President (President Secretariat), Sabi’u Yusuf, the same day, wrote a letter referenced PRES/65-I/COS/3/750, addressed to the CoS, Prof. Gambari, conveying Buhari’s approval of his earlier memo.”

In other words, unlike Abba Kyari who had a direct access to Buhari and whom Buhari said all ministers should meet if they wanted anything from him, Gambari has an intermediary between him and Buhari. And it isn’t just any intermediary; the intermediary is Buhari’s blood relative whom my November 23, 2019 column titled “Government of Buhari’s Family, By His Family, and For His Family” exposed.

Here is what I wrote about Sabi’u Yusuf in the column: 

2. Sabiu ‘Tunde’ Yusuf. He is Buhari’s Private Secretary. Don’t be deceived by the 'Tunde' in his name. It’s just a nickname, probably inspired by Tunde Idiagbon, Buhari’s deputy when he was a military dictator. Sabiu is the son of Mamman Daura’s full biological sister by the name of Hajia Halima (more popularly known as 'Hajja Madam' in Daura) who died last year. As you should know by now, Mamman Daura’s sister is Buhari’s niece since their father (Dauda Daura) is Buhari’s much older half-brother.”

“Sabiu, who is in his 30s, is one of the most powerful people in Nigeria today. He determines who sees and who doesn’t see Buhari. Only Mamman Daura and Abba Kyari can overrule him.  By several accounts, he is now a multi-billionaire, although he had no formal work experience before Buhari became president. He used to sell phone recharge cards in Daura until 2015!”

What has happened after Abba Kyari’s death is that Mamman Daura, Buhari’s emotional and intellectual prop who actually “owns” this regime, has chosen to not share substantive power with any non-blood relative again. He got burned by Abba Kyari whom he introduced to Buhari many years ago.

He also didn’t trust Babagana Kingibe, a member of the cabal, to succeed Abba Kyari because of Kingibe’s well-earned notoriety for treachery. Isa Funtua, another member of the cabal, publicly said the office of the Chief of Staff to the President was beneath him. I doubt that Mamman Daura would have supported Funtua’s aspiration even if he desired the position because Funtua’s linguistic and geo-cultural affinities with Buhari might cause him to get as close to Buhari as Abba Kyari was.

The real Chief of Staff to Buhari is Sabi’u “Tunde” Yusuf (of course, acting on Mamman Daura’s behalf) while Ibrahim Gambari is only the public face of the office— with some legroom to do the most obvious official requirements of his job.

Obasanjo, Buhari, and Our Republic's “Original Sin”
In 2018, during Daily Trust’s 20-year anniversary, several people shared with me screenshots of some cover stories I wrote for the paper when it was a news weekly in the late 1990s. Looking at just the headlines on the front page of the screen shots reminded me of how we got here.

 The first screen shot I looked at was from July 16, 1999. The cover story, which I wrote, was titled, “Golden Handshake: New Face of Corruption in Nigeria.” The first thing the headline remined me of is the endemicity of corruption right from the nascence of the current return to "democratic" rule. The military gave out billions of naira of public money to themselves and to politicians who served them in what was euphemistically called a “golden handshake” for their “services.”

The screenshot also reminded me of the misplaced confidence many people had invested in Obasanjo to confront corruption, and it was captured by a headline we promoted on the front page: “Corruption will fight Obasanjo—Dr. Bala Usman.” 

Just like during the first few months of Buhari’s assumption of office, people actually genuinely thought that Obasanjo was going to institute a scorched-earth, no-holds-barred policy against corruption. He not only disappointed us; he was himself enmeshed in allegations of corruption.

For my cover story on the "new face of corruption," we interviewed the late intrepid and intellectually fertile Dr. Yusufu Bala Usman who, believing that Obasanjo was determined to root out corruption, said corruption would fight Obasanjo. 

He was the first person to popularize the expression, “If you fight corruption, corruption will fight back.” Nuhu Ribadu, who adopted the expression without giving credit to its originator, led a thoroughly compromised, one-sided anti-corruption fight in the service of Obasanjo's personal and political interests. (His record is now being beaten by the shady, barely literate buffoon called Magu). 
Now unimaginative, intellectually impoverished Buhari minions on and off social media mouth the expression as if it originated in this tragicomically corrupt Buhari government.

The second screen shot from July 2, 1999 shows that the provincialization of security appointments is an “original sin” of our current republic. Like Buhari who ensured that the first DSS boss he appointed was from his hometown, Obasanjo also ensured that his “homeboy” became the “SSS boss.”

Friday, May 29, 2020

When Did You Discover Buhari Was a Fraud?

By Farooq A. Kperogi

My friend Moses Ochonu asked his Facebook friends to share when they had an epiphany that Buhari was a down-the-line incompetent fraud. He said for him it was when Buhari took 6 months to assemble the most colorless cabinet in Nigeria's history, which he surpassed with the current unprecedentedly lusterless one.

For me, it was when Buhari refused to publicly declare his assets, as he said he would, after he was sworn in. That means it took me less than a month to write Buhari off. Recall that he said he'd publicly declare his assets and encourage everyone who served him to do so before his 100th day in office.

When I still cherished the illusion that Buhari was halfway decent, I reached out to many people in the president’s inner circle with whom I had a personal relationship and begged them to prevail upon him to publicly declare his assets without pressure from the public.

When they weren’t forthcoming, I wrote a column on June 13, 2015 titled “Mishandling of Asset Declaration May Doom Buhari’s Presidency.” I republished it weeks later.

This is the first paragraph of the column: “Although many of us still nourish the hope that President Buhari’s administration will represent a substantive departure from the blight of the past, Buhari has so far done little to inspire confidence that he will live up to the hopes we have invested in him. Perhaps the biggest germinal error he has made, which might haunt his administration, is his seeming reluctance to publicly declare his assets, contrary to the promise he made during his campaigns.”

After the column was published a second time, one close aide of the president told me in confidence that Buhari would NEVER publicly declare his assets because it would demystify him. I asked why and he said it's because the man is way wealthier than his base in the North and his supporters down South believe.

He said Buhari declared close to a billion naira in his asset declaration form and had choice property all over the country worth billions of naira. What was worse, he said, Buhari didn’t even officially declare everything. That was when it dawned on me that Buhari was a thoroughly sanitized and carefully packaged scammer. 

Read more about this in this February 12, 2019 article titled, "Forget Onnoghen; Let’s Talk about Buhari’s Asset Declaration Fraud."

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Trump NOT a Christian. Here’re 7 Proofs

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

There are Nigerian Christians who are prepared to put up with Donald Trump’s undisguisedly vile anti-black racism because they think he shares a common Christian identity with them. I’ve even read some Nigerians call him “God’s Chosen one”! I hate to burst people’s bubbles, but Trump is decidedly NOT a Christian. In fact, he has stone-cold contempt for Christians, but he conceals this because he needs the votes of white evangelical Christians. I list only 7 proofs that he isn’t a Christian.

1. On July 18, 2015, Trump told a gathering of socially conservative Christians in Ames, Iowa, that he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness. "I think if I do something wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don't bring God into that picture. I don't," he said. 

As a Christian theologian by the name of Michael Austin said in response to Trump’s comment, “Asking God for forgiveness is a central aspect of Christianity across… many traditions. This is not relevant to his political views, but it is curious that many Christians support Trump and believe his claims about his Christian faith.”

2. During a speech at the conservative Christian Liberty University on January 18, 2016 Trump betrayed his lack of basic familiarity with the Bible when he quoted “Two Corinthians 3:17” instead of the “Second Corinthians” that observant Christians call it.

3. On August 26, 2015, Bloomberg reporters Mark Halperin and John Heilemann asked Trump to mention his one or two favorite Bible verses after he called the Bible his “favorite book.” He stammered and said, "Well, I wouldn't want to get into it because to me that's very personal." He was mocked.

4. In order to compensate for this embarrassment, about a month later, he tried to prove that he did, in fact, have some familiarity with the Bible. So, during an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network on Sept. 16, 2015, he said his favorite verse in the Bible was, "Proverbs, the chapter 'never bend to envy.'" Problem is, Christians say no such verse exists anywhere in the Bible.

5. Again, on April 14, 2016 New York radio host Bob Lonsberry asked Trump to name his favorite Bible verse. After hemming and hawing and prevaricating, he finally said “an eye for an eye” was his favorite Bible verse. Even a non-Christian like me knows that Jesus repudiated that verse in the New Testament.

 Many American Christians pointed out that in Matthew (5:38-42) Jesus said, "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Washington Times' headline was, "Donald Trump's favorite Bible verse is one Jesus specifically repudiated"!

6. Trump doesn’t even go to church. During a campaign stop in South Carolina in 2015, Trump said he was a "Presbyterian Protestant” who goes to the “Marble Collegiate Church” in New York. The very next day, the church issued a statement saying although Trump’s late parents were “active members” of the church, Trump “is not an active member of Marble," a polite way to say he lied about being a member of the church. 

7. Trump has never gone to church since he has been president, and when he appears in official church functions, he’s always visibly uncomfortable and apathetic. On Friday, he pandered to evangelical Christians (for their votes only) by saying churches are essential services that should be open. But on Sunday, he went to play golf instead of going to church. If there’s really such a thing as an “Anti-Christ,” it is Trump.

Two Trump biographers sum up his attitude to Christianity and God nicely. Timothy O’Brien, author of TrumpNation: The Art of Being Donald, wrote: “Donald has never been a spiritually or religiously serious person.” 

And Gwenda Blair, author of The Trumps: Three Generations of Builders and a President, wrote: “He's a transactional guy with humans, and it's no different with God — it's all about whatever is to his advantage with regard to his supporters, and referencing God is exactly and only that.”

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Monday, May 25, 2020

COVID-19 Shows Wholly Online Education Has No Future

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Before COVID-19, we were told that traditional brick-and-mortar institutions and face-to-face instructional methods were museum-bound. That compelled me to enroll for online teaching certification 5 years ago.

But the COVID-19-inspired transition to online-only pedagogy across the world this year has shown that the reports of the death of traditional ways of knowledge dissemination are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain.

The data that has emerged, at least in the US, shows that wholly online learning environments are too inadequate and too socially impoverished to stand in for the full "college experience." Students detest it, parents resent it, and teachers chafe at it.

There're many reasons for this. I'll share only one personal example to make my point. A few years ago, a student I taught in an entirely online class and whom I'd never physically met requested me to write a recommendation letter for her for a job.

Sadly, I couldn't say anything about the student other than that she took and passed a class I taught her. I couldn't speak to her character, her personality, her social skills, her discursive abilities, or other non-academic attributes that are central to constructing her full portrait. I politely told her I couldn't write a recommendation letter that would be helpful to her. I've heard similar experiences from my colleagues.

If there's any positive thing that COVID-19 has done to education, it is that it has dramatized the irreplaceability, at least for the foreseeable future, of face-to-face instructional methods.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

Video of Young Senator Biden Fighting for South African Blacks in US Senate

For those who are uninformed about Joe Biden's record of fighting for black people, watch this old video of young Senator Joe Biden passionately arguing for the liberation of South Africa from apartheid. He was severely critical of the US government's tacit support for the apartheid regime.

If you're a black person and you have a choice between this man and a bungling racist buffoon like Trump you would be a pitifully self-hating imbecile to choose Trump.

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Biden is Right; If You Vote Trump You Ain’t Black

By Farooq A. Kperogi, PhD

Joe Biden told a black radio host yesterday that if he had “a problem figuring out whether you're for me or Trump,” then he “ain't black." Yes, that betrayed an annoying sense of entitlement. Every politician, including Biden, should earn the vote of the electorate. No one is entitled to any vote.

Nevertheless, Biden’s broader point is that if you put his record side by side Trump’s, only a black masochist with a heightened taste for self-violence would vote Trump. Trump is an out-and-out, negrophobic, racist dirtbag. Here’s a highly abridged 7-point history of his anti-black bigotry.

1. In 1973, the US Department of Justice sued Trump for refusing to rent his property to black people. Discriminating against renters because of their race is a violation of the Fair Housing Act.

After a lengthy legal battle, he was compelled to sign an agreement that he'd not discriminate against black people. But he still said the government was forcing him to rent to “welfare recipients,” the racists’ codeword for poor black people.

2. In 1989, after 4 black teenagers—and one Latino teenager—were falsely accused of raping a white jogger in New York City’s Central Park, Trump bought newspaper ads that demanded that the government “BRING BACK THE DEATH PENALTY. BRING BACK OUR POLICE!” He wanted them killed!

Years after their wrongful conviction, thanks to pressure from racists like Trump, the boys were exonerated by DNA evidence. The city of New York paid them $41 million in restitution. But Trump refused to apologize for the role he played in wrongfully convicting the poor black boys. In fact, in 2016, he insisted that the boys were guilty despite DNA evidence to the contrary.

3. In criticizing a black accountant in 1991, Trump said, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it…. I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.”

4. In 2016, Trump praised and promoted a book titled “Adios America” by American conservative activist Ann Coulter which, among other racist claims, said, “There were almost no Nigerians in the United States until the 1970s. Today there are 380,000,” which she said was a problem because “in Nigeria, every level of society is criminal.”

5. On December 23, 2017, he was reported to have said people from Haiti and Nigeria should be denied US visas because “15,000 Haitians who received US visas ‘all have AIDS’ and 40,000 Nigerians [who visited the US on tourist visas that year] would never ‘go back to their huts’ after seeing the US.”

6. In January 2018, he was quoted to have said he didn’t want immigration into the US from “shithole countries” like Nigeria and Haiti; he said he preferred “more people coming in from places like Norway.”

7. In 2020, to appease his racist base, he banned Nigerians, along with other non-white countries, from immigrating to the US.

Biden isn’t a perfect candidate by any means, but you have to be a self-annihilating, mentally subnormal black person to vote for, or even support Trump, especially if the alternative is Biden whose record on fighting for justice for black people in America and in Africa is quite remarkable.

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History of Abacha’s Theft is Being Rewritten Before Our Eyes

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In her historical fictional narrative titled “The Lost Sisterhood,” Danish-Canadian writer Anne Fortier quotes one of her characters as saying that “those who control the present can rewrite the past.” This is playing out right before us in what I called the curious posthumous deodorization of Abacha’s grand larceny in a May 7, 2020 social media update.

 Loyalists and beneficiaries of Sani Abacha’s dictatorship control Nigeria’s present, and they are trying to exploit this privilege to rewrite the sordid past of their benefactor while the rest of the country is fixated on other issues.


Muhammadu Buhari has always been invested in cleansing Abacha’s appallingly grubby reputation as a murderous larcener. During the 10th-year-rememberance anniversary of Abacha in Kano in June 2008, for instance, Muhammadu Buhari remarked that, contrary to settled narratives in the Nigerian public sphere, Abacha never stole from Nigeria.

This 2008 Buhari declaration birthed a fringe, outlandish but nonetheless popular narrative in northern Nigeria that Abacha’s reputation as a ruthless crook who stole billions of Nigeria’s patrimony and salted it away in Euro-American financial institutions was the handiwork of Olusegun Obasanjo who was taking a posthumous pound of flesh from Abacha for imprisoning him.

In the aftermath of the unrelenting repatriation of what has now been called the “Abacha loot” from Western banks, a new farcical story line was fabricated, which is that Abacha actually “saved” the money for Nigeria for a rainy day!

Apart from Buhari’s public defense of Abacha’s larceny in 2008, the posthumous discursive purification of Abacha’s image as a greedy, conscienceless thief was largely informal and took place on the margins of polite society.

Abubakar Malami, Buhari’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, officialized the revisionism of Abacha’s thievery.  In a May 4, 2020 tweet, Malami described repatriated Abacha loot as “Abacha assets.” “I am happy to confirm that the Federal Republic of Nigeria on Monday 4th May, 2020 received $311,797,866.11 of the Abacha assets repatriated from the United States and the Bailiwick of Jersey,” he wrote.

The change from “Abacha loot” to “Abacha assets” was a willful rhetorical move designed to lend official credence to the hitherto fringy, informal but nevertheless robust narrative that Abacha didn’t steal Nigeria’s money.

Led by Sahara Reporter’s Omoyele Sowore, Nigerians on social media pounced on Malami’s tweet and compelled him to retract his incompetent attempt at revisionism. In a woolly, shamefaced, error-ridden retraction, Malami said, “It is to be noted that by way of antecedence [sic] that Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, SAN has been consistently describing the recovered funds as ‘Abacha loot’ at several fora during the process of recovery of the looted funds, particularly before the eventual repatriation of the funds.”

But it didn’t stop there. Buba Galadima, a former Buhari protégé who is now at loggerheads with him because he has been shut out of the orbit of governance, has taken off from where Malami backed off. In a May 17, 2020 interview with The Nation, he said the estimated $5 billion Sani Abacha stole from Nigeria's trough was actually "saved" for Nigeria—on the advice of Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein—in anticipation of US sanction against Nigeria so that "even if Nigeria's account was blocked by the US, there won't be panic."

Galadima, who was Director General of the National Maritime Authority during the Abacha junta, said the notion that Abacha stole from Nigeria’s till is “based on ignorance.” When an editor forwarded excerpts of the interview to me on WhatsApp, I’d dismissed it as fabricated. I was wrong.

As I pointed out on social media on May 17, the idea that the Abacha loot was “saved” for Nigeria stands logic on its head, considering that Abacha "saved" some of that money in the US whose impending blockage he was allegedly plotting against. How do you "hide" something from someone by "saving" it in his house?

Plus, even Buhari, the choirmaster of the Abacha sanitization chorus, has grudgingly conceded that his former boss stole from Nigeria’s public treasury. For example, in an April 27, 2016 tweet, Buhari said, “Nigeria is awaiting receipt from Swiss Govt. of $320 million, identified as illegally taken from Nigeria under Abacha.”

“Illegally taken” is merely a synonym for stealing. In a February 4, 2020 statement from the US Embassy in Nigeria about the repatriation of the “Abacha loot” from US banks, the US government was unambiguous in stating how the money got to its banks.

“The monies were laundered by [Abacha’s] family, including his sons Ibrahim and Mohammed, and a number of close associates,” the statement from the US reads. “The laundering operation extended to the United States and European jurisdictions such as the UK, France, Germany, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Luxembourg.”

One of those associates who helped Abacha launder huge sums of money is Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu to whom the Buhari regime wanted to hand over $100 million of the recovered money, according to Bloomberg, but for the resistance of the US government. If the money was “saved” for Nigeria, why did Buhari want to hand over some of it to a person who has been identified as an accomplice in its theft?

The US Department of Justice identified Bagudu as one of Abacha’s network of proteges that, “embezzled, misappropriated and extorted billions from the government of Nigeria.”

It isn’t only the US that unequivocally describes the repatriated funds as the product of Abacha’s criminal despoliation of Nigeria’s resources. In a June 12, 2017 Radio France International report titled “Swiss make deal with Nigeria on final payout for Abacha loot,” we learn that “The cash was originally frozen in Luxembourg and confiscated by the Swiss as part of a criminal investigation into Abba Abacha, Sani Abacha’s son. Switzerland had already returned some 700 million dollars following appeals by Nigeria.”

In a “Stolen Asset Recovery Initiative - Asset Recovery Watch” bulletin, there’s also a case against “Family of former President Sani Abacha,” where we read that, “In 2006, the World Bank was involved in a similar framework, providing institutional support for the return and use of approx. $723 million in public funds that had been corruptly diverted by General Abacha.”

Not all the money Abacha stole has been recovered. Of the $5 billion that Abacha looted and squirreled away—or "saved" for Nigeria, to use Galadimian logic—in the banks of countries that wanted to "block" Nigeria's money, $3.624 billion has been recovered so far. Can Galadima help Nigeria recover the rest of the money since he appears to know where the money has been "saved"?

The purveyors of the transparently fraudulent narrative that Abacha “saved” money for Nigeria in foreign banks which his detractors have decided to call “loot” should be told that they can’t rewrite history.

People, mostly young northerners who hadn’t come of age when Abacha’s evil regime reigned, have sent me private messages asking that I help stop the “demonization” of Abacha. For them, it’s a regional and religious project. But that’s misguided. Islam teaches us to be fair, just, and truthful. It doesn’t teach us to lie to salvage the image of a dead thief among us.

 The unvarnished truth is that Abacha did NOT save money for Nigeria; he STOLE from it with conscienceless glee. It’s distressing that one has to even say this in spite of the clear evidence that stares us in the face.

Monday, May 18, 2020

Gambari: “Off the Record” is a Journalist’s Worst Nightmare

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In journalism, there are broadly 5 kinds of attributions for news sources: “on the record,” “not for attribution,” “background,” “deep background,” and “off the record.”

The best possible outcome for a journalistic conversation with sources is “on the record,” which means every information can be used, and the source of the information can be identified. The next best option is “not for attribution,” which means the journalist may use the information but should neither quote nor identify the source, usually for fear of job loss and retribution from people who’ll be negatively impacted by the revelation of the information.

Then you have “background,” which is similar to “not for attribution,” but where the reporter is given the latitude to use vague attributional identifiers such as “a close presidency source.” This is broad enough to conceal the identity of the source but close enough to give the reader a sense of where the source emanated from.

“Deep background” occurs when a confidential source tells a reporter they can’t use the information and may never even use imprecise identifiers like “a close presidency source” because the pool of people with knowledge of the information is small enough that the source can be narrowed down and identified.

The source shares the information with a reporter as “deep background” only so that the reporter may use it to pursue other leads. If there’s massive stealing going on everywhere in the Presidential Villa, for instance, and the source has intimate familiarity only with the malfeasance in Aso Rock Clinic, the source may share the information as “deep background” so that the reporter can use it as a guide to investigate other wings of the Presidential Villa.

Finally, you have “off the record,” the absolute worst fate a journalistic conversation with a source can suffer. It basically means the reporter cannot use the information at all, cannot identify the source by any means, and cannot use the information to pursue other leads.

Usually, the source shares the information with the reporter only because of the personal relationship that exists between them. Most ethical journalists choose not to betray sources who request “off-the-record” privileges. Violating the terms of the request, which we call “burning your sources,” can endanger the life of the sources at worst and dry up your source of information at best.

After my column on Ibrahim Gambari was published, someone who has privileged access to him (and who is also personally known to me) called to share more information that affirms, contextualizes, extends, and in a few cases contradicts what I wrote. He shared many pieces of information as “background,” some as “deep background,” and yet others as “off the record.”

My quandary is that some other sources independently shared his “off-the-record” information with me, but I have no way of convincing him that he isn’t the only source of the information, so I’ll let time reveal everything.

Related Articles:

Real Reason the Buhari Cabal Picked Gambari as CoS

Ibrahim Agboola Gambari: A Presidential Babysitter Who Won’t be as Powerful as Abba Kyari

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Real Reason the Buhari Cabal Picked Gambari as CoS

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Few appointments have generated as much excitement— and entranced the imagination of Nigerians— as the appointment of Ibrahim Agboola Gambari as Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff.

The Emir of Ilorin thanked Buhari for it even though there is no record of him publicly thanking Olusegun Obasanjo when Abdullahi Mohammed, another Ilorin son, was appointed Obasanjo’s Chief of Staff in 1999—and reappointed by Umar Musa Yar’adua in 2007.

The Northern Governors’ Forum also congratulated Gambari on his appointment even though they had never congratulated two previous northerners who had occupied the position.

And then you have mostly Yoruba irredentists who are intensely apoplectic about Gambari’s appointment for both legitimate and utterly asinine reasons.

The office of the Chief of Staff to the president, an ordinarily unremarkable secretarial job in the presidency, is attracting this quantum of outsized attention because of what it became when Abba Kyari held it.

As I noted in my May 13, 2020 social media update titled “Ibrahim Agboola Gambari: A Presidential Babysitter Who Won’t be as Powerful as Abba Kyari,” “The only reason the position of CoS to the President has become uncharacteristically visible in the last five years is that Buhari is both too cognitively incapacitated and too splendidly incompetent to function as president, so he needs a proxy or, as I pointed out in my April 22 status update, ‘a babysitter, a political and intellectual babysitter.’

“As a military dictator, Tunde Idiagbon was Buhari’s political babysitter from 1983 to 1985. The late Salihijo Ahmad’s Afri-Projects Consortium (APC), was ‘the sole manager of the PTF projects,’ according to Ray Ekpu’s June 5, 2018 article titled, ‘Petroleum Trust Fraud.’ In other words, Buhari couldn’t even manage a government agency as small as the PTF without needing babysitting. Of course, most people know that since 2015 until his death, Abba Kyari was Buhari’s proxy.

“Mamman Daura, on whom Buhari is intellectually and emotionally dependent, ‘created’ Abba Kyari for Buhari but Kyari later grew into a Frankenstein that almost devoured his ‘creator.’ Daura wants no repeat of that and sees a potentially dutiful factotum in Gambari who was Buhari’s external affairs minister from 1984 to 1985.”

In other words, Gambari was appointed CoS precisely because the intellectual and political powerhouse behind the Buhari regime chose to return the office to its previous lusterless, clerical drudgery. The Buhari cabal initially proposed a northern Christian as a replacement for Kyari to ensure that the position is stripped of the atypical influence Kyari brought to it—and to bring a little dash of token diversity to the Presidential Villa.

They later chickened out and settled for Gambari because, although he is a brilliant, globally connected scholar-administrator, he is also notoriously malleable, manipulatable, and usable. (Anyone who can defend Abacha’s tyranny and deride Ken Saro-Wiwa and his comrades as “common criminals” in the aftermath of their horrendous judicial slaughter can do and defend anything.)

 Most importantly, although he self-identifies as the descendant of a Sokoto Fulani man who migrated to Ilorin in the early 1800s, he is too culturally removed from members of the Aso Rock cabal to be an insider.

In Nigeria—and elsewhere—identity is performed mostly through language. Gambari doesn’t speak Hausa. When he appeared in the Presidential Villa on Wednesday, for instance, Buhari’s protocol officers welcomed him in Hausa, but he responded to them in English.

 When the Presidential Villa correspondent of an international Hausa broadcasting station asked to get a soundbite from him in Hausa, he said he wasn’t proficient enough in the language to give one. This isn’t surprising for people who have studied his biography.

Gambari spent his formative years in Ilorin and Lagos where he was exposed to only Yoruba and English. When he came to Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria as a senior lecturer in 1977, he was already in his 30s by which time the window of opportunity to learn a new language had closed for him. So he will always be an outsider on the inside.

This is particularly significant because Buhari has difficulty forming deep informal interpersonal relationships with people who don’t speak Hausa. In my October 21, 2017 column titled, “World Bank, Buhari, and Presidential Subnationalism,” I referenced this trait of socio-linguistic insularity in Buhari.

I wrote: “Buhari’s interpersonal discomfort with, and perhaps contempt for, Nigerians who are different from him—often expressed through awkward snubs and linguistic exclusivism—go way back. On page 512 of Ambassador Olusola Sanu’s 2016 autobiography titled Audacity on the Bound: A Diplomatic Odyssey, for instance, we encounter this trait:

‘I was asked by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs… to accompany Major-General Buhari on a trip to West Germany when he was Petroleum Minister in 1978,’ he wrote. ‘During the flight, to and fro, [he] did not say a word to me even when we sat side by side in the first-class compartment of the plane. When we got to Germany and went to the Nigerian Ambassador’s residence, [he] spoke entirely in Hausa throughout with the Ambassador-in-post. He did not speak to me throughout the trip. I was deeply hurt and disappointed.’”

As far as Buhari and his handlers are concerned, Gambari is only a little more culturally familiar than Sanu because of his Muslim faith. The fact that they settled for him to lend a veneer of “diversity” to the face of the presidency is all the proof you need to know that they don’t regard him as one of them.

In other words, people who are congratulating Gambari because they think he’d be another Abba Kyari who would overstep the bounds of his office and represent Nigeria abroad to negotiate deals, invite the INEC chairman to his office and tell him how to conduct elections, remove the Chief Justice of Nigeria and replace him with a dunce that is amenable to his wiles, determine who gets a government appointment and who is excluded, etc. would be disappointed.

And Yoruba irredentists who are imputing motives to, and delegitimizing, his middle name because they think he’d be another Abba Kyari should have their hackles down. He doesn’t bear Agboola because he needs the validation of Yoruba people in the southwest. He bears it because there is no Ilorin person who doesn’t bear a Yoruba name.

In a two-part column I wrote in August 2018 titled, “Ilorin is an Ethnogenesis: Response to Kawu’s Anti-Saraki Ilorin Purism,” I said, “I know of no Ilorin person, whatever his or her ancestral provenance, who does not have a Yoruba given name.”

The current emir of Ilorin, who is the son of Ibrahim Gambari’s older brother, was known as Kolapo throughout his professional career. He only became “Ibrahim” after his ascendancy to the Ilorin emirship. Although Tunde Idiagbon traced patrilineal descent from Fulani ancestors, he never identified with his Muslim given name, Abdulbaki, throughout his life. In fact, he gave all his children Yoruba names: Adekunle, Babatunde, Ronke, Mope, and Bola.

Contrary to what Gambari’s Yoruba critics allege, Yoruba names are the authentic appellative identities of Ilorin people. Their Muslim—and sometimes Fulani—first names are often, but not always, opportunistic appellative appendages to court the acceptance of political power wielders from the far north.

I have lost count of the number of times my Ilorin friends’ parents unintentionally disowned their children when I went to look for them in their homes using their Muslim names as their only identifiers. They recognized their children only when a younger relative who understood the people I was describing identified them by their Yoruba given names.

What both the cheerleaders and critics of Gambari are missing is that he was appointed to his position because the people who “own” the Buhari regime have decided to return the position to its former unremarkable, pre-Abba Kyari state. Let Gambari be.

 Related Articles:

Ibrahim Agboola Gambari: A Presidential Babysitter Who Won’t be as Powerful as Abba Kyari

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

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

“Mesu jamba,” a Slur against Ilorin People, is a Linguistic Fraud

“Mesu Jamba,” the Question of Etymological Fallacy, and Other Reactions

Fulani and Origin of the Names “Yoruba” and “Yamuri”

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Ibrahim Agboola Gambari: A Presidential Babysitter Who Won’t be as Powerful as Abba Kyari

By Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D.

On paper, Professor Ibrahim Agboola Gambari’s choice as Buhari’s Chief of Staff is so far the regime’s most luminous appointment. Gambari is undoubtedly one of Nigeria’s most credentialed and globally visible citizens for whom the position of Chief of Staff to the President is actually a positional, even symbolic, downgrade.

Ordinarily, the office of the Chief of Staff to the President is informal, discretionary, and of no consequence. Its inconsequence is underscored by the fact that the constitution does no recognize it and does not require the president to appoint anyone to perform its duties. That was why Umar Musa Yar’adua didn’t have one.

The only reason the position of CoS to the President has become uncharacteristically visible in the last five years is that Buhari is both too cognitively incapacitated and too splendidly incompetent to function as president, so he needs a proxy or, as I pointed out in my April 22 status update, “a babysitter, a political and intellectual babysitter.”

As a military dictator, Tunde Idiagbon was Buhari’s political babysitter from 1983 to 1985. The late Salihijo Ahmad’s Afri-Projects Consortium (APC), was “the sole manager of the PTF projects,” according to Ray Ekpu’s June 5, 2018 article titled, “Petroleum Trust Fraud.” In other words, Buhari couldn’t even manage a government agency as small as the PTF without needing babysitting. Of course, most people know that since 2015 until his death, Abba Kyari was Buhari’s proxy.

Mamman Daura, on whom Buhari is intellectually and emotionally dependent, “created” Abba Kyari for Buhari but Kyari later grew into a Frankenstein that almost devoured his “creator.” Daura wants no repeat of that and sees a potentially dutiful factotum in Gambari who was Buhari’s external affairs minister from 1984 to 1985.

He seems like a person who would do a good job of concealing Buhari’s cognitive and mental infirmities from the public and from government officials, which is what the position of CoS to Buhari has now been reduced to.

Although Gambari has intimidatingly impressive academic and professional credentials, he has no reputation for lofty, high-minded principles, which explains why he would even accept this position, which relegates rather than elevates him.

He defended IBB’s ruinous invalidation of the June 12 presidential election, justified Abacha’s heartrending judicial murder of Ken Saro-Wiwa and other Ogoni activists, and, according to the New York Times of Oct. 5, 1997, opposed something as innocuous as a planned renaming of a New York street after the late Kudirat Abiola who was murdered in cold blood by Abacha’s junta, which Gambari served.

He also evinces what I call the overzealousness of the identitarian periphery, by which I mean people who are on the margins of a desired identity tend to go overboard to assert their membership of that identity in order to impress people who are rhetorically constituted as the core of that identity.

Gambari is an Ilorin prince, but his middle name (and the name by which his close family members call him) is Agboola. “Ibrahim” is just for show. Although he traces patrilineal descent from the Fulani, he is culturally (and obviously genetically) Yoruba and doesn’t look anything like a Fulani man, yet Yoruba people won’t accept him as one of them.

He’s on the geographic, symbolic, and cultural fringes of western and northern Nigerian identities, but he identifies as, and indeed is, a northerner. People who know him say he works excessively, if quietly, hard to prove his “northernness” through exaggerated subnationalist gamesmanship of the kind that someone from Kano or Sokoto with a similar educational and experiential exposure as he would find a little too extreme.

People like that are often happy and willing tools of puppeteers who come from the identity they want to be seen as central to but to which they are marginal. My sense is that he won’t be nearly as powerful and as influential as Abba Kyari was for as long as Mamman Daura is alive.

The only silver lining I see is that he probably won’t be as lazy as Abba Kyari was. Kyari was an indolent, self-absorbed presidential gatekeeper who allowed files that required urgent presidential attention to gather dust and who attended only to issues that feathered his nest.

I hope Gambari would at least bring his considerable experience to help lubricate the rusty wheels of governance even while doing the bidding of his benefactor(s).

Related Article:

Saturday, May 9, 2020

8 Free Education Lessons for “Gambari Progressives Society” on KWASU VC

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Today's back-page column in the Saturday Tribune may not appeal to a mass audience, but it's important nonetheless. It tackles a group of ignorant, regressive rubes known as "Gambari Progressive Society" who have zero knowledge about how the university works but who are lyrical in their ignorance. The column also exposes the real etymology of the term "Gambari." Enjoy:

I recently became aware of a press statement by an Ilorin group that calls itself “Gambari Progressive Society.” The press statement attempted to justify the discriminatory and widely condemned appointment of Professor Muhammed Mustapha Akanbi as Vice Chancellor of Kwara State University by maligning Professor Sakah Saidu Mahmud who came first in the interview for the job and who was acting VC after the expiration of the tenure of the past VC.

In smearing Professor Mahmud, the association revealed egregious ignorance, particularly of the American university system after which KWASU is modelled. Let me educate them—and hopefully educate others who swim in the same ocean of ignorance as they do.

1. The association said it took Professor Mahmud 10 years to complete his Ph.D. and that it took Professor Akanbi two years to complete his. It then implied that the length of time it takes to complete doctoral studies has a bearing on competence. Here’s why they got it wrong.

Akanbi has a UK PhD; Mahmud has a US PhD. The UK has no coursework for doctoral studies. It’s just research. In the US, doctoral coursework alone takes between two and three years. At the end of doctoral coursework, students take a comprehensive exam, typically in their third year. Some people take up to a year to prepare for the exam after coursework.

After students pass the comprehensive exams, they take another year to write up their proposal and defend it, after which they start work on their dissertations. For most humanities and social science courses, getting a PhD takes between five and seven years.

But Mahmud’s case was different. His doctoral dissertation was an ambitious comparison of post-independence Nigeria and early Meiji Japan, which required him to live in Japan, learn the Japanese language, and acquire sufficient proficiency in the language to be able to read and make sense of primary sources in it. That lengthened his studies.

He should be praised, not ridiculed, for his admirably challenging but ultimately rewarding scholarly adventure. How many people can learn a completely different language as adults and conduct research in it?

2. The association said Mahmud was elevated from Lecturer I to Professor. This is flat-out false. He left Transylvania University as an Associate Professor, which is equivalent to a Reader in the British system. The American university system has no rank called “Lecturer I.”

He was overdue for the rank of full professor at Transylvania University, but he didn’t apply for it, which is common in the US and Canada. Being full professor (equivalent to professor in the British system) is no big deal. It doesn’t increase your pay by much, doesn’t change your title (unlike in the British system where being addressed as “Professor” confers titular privilege), and requires a lot of mind-numbing paperwork.

Many accomplished, tenured academics don’t apply for full professorship. For instance, when Professor Donna Strickland of the University of Waterloo won the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2018, people were surprised that she wasn’t a full professor. She was an Associate Professor. In an October 7, 2018 interview with The Chronicle of Higher Education, she said she had "never applied" for a full professorship even though she was qualified for it because "it doesn't carry necessarily a pay raise… I never filled out the paperwork… I do what I want to do and that wasn't worth doing."

3. The association belittled Mahmud for not having graduated a PhD student and suggested that scholars who don’t supervise PhD students can’t be professors. First, Mahmud supervised two PhD students to completion at KWASU. Second, Transylvania University, where he spent most of his professional life in the US, is a liberal arts institution that is focused on undergraduate education.

In the US, different universities have different missions. Universities that are called “liberal arts colleges” emphasize undergraduate education. They may have a few master’s degree programs, but they hardly have any PhD programs. There are comparatively few doctorate-granting institutions in the US.

To suggest that scholars can’t be full professors until they have mentored PhD students is to betray ignorance of how the university system works.

At Transylvania University, which was established in 1780 and has the distinction of being the oldest university in the state of Kentucky and the 16th oldest in the US, academics are judged mostly by the quality of their teaching. While research is important, it isn’t the main criterion for promotion. In 2003, Mahmud was voted Transylvania University’s “Outstanding Faculty of the Year” based mostly on the excellence of his teaching—and, of course, the quality of his research and service. (“Faculty” is the generic term for a university teacher in US academe).

4. The association inflated Akanbi’s publication count to 90 and undercounted Mahmud’s. It then went ahead to imply that, based on their publication records, Akanbi is more qualified than Mahmud to be KWASU VC. But Akanbi’s Google Scholar profile page shows that he has 14 published articles, seven of which are co-authored, and most of which were published in local journals with lax or zero standards. Mahmud’s two single-authored books alone—not to talk of his other journal articles and book chapters— eclipse Akanbi’s entire publication record. But that’s even irrelevant.

5. The main issue is still that Akanbi came third in the judgement of the (Ilorin-dominated) committee set up to fill the position of KWASU VC. He scored a measly 63.2 % against Mahmud’s 86.4%. Professor Mohammed Gana Yisa scored 74%. But, somehow, in the “wisdom” of the Kwara State governor, the third became the first.

6. How can a regressive association that defends injustice and champions the perpetration of unfair advantages to undeserving people because of where they come from call itself “progressive”? The association must not know what “progressive” really means. KWASU is owned and funded by the whole of Kwara State, but the school’s VC, registrar, pro-chancellor, and visitor are all from Ilorin. How can an association that calls itself “progressive” defend that?

7. The association said Mahmud’s invidious exclusion was justified because he would be 72 years old when his five-year term would expire. But the job ad for the position didn’t identify age as a disqualifying criterion. In any case, the previous VC, who is from Ilorin, served two terms of 10 years, even though vice chancellors are by law allowed one nonrenewable term. If it didn’t matter that the law was circumvented in the past, why would an additional two years into Mahmud’s term after his official retirement age matter? It’s unjust to shift the goalpost after the goal has been scored.

8. Finally, the association’s divisive rhetoric that suggests that “Kwara south” and “Kwara north” are uniting to oppose Ilorin ignores the fact that Ilorin is peopled by a mixture of ethnic groups from both regions of the state. Contemporary Ilorin people are the product of the fusion of Yoruba, Fulani, Baatonu, Nupe, Hausa, etc. people. No one from any part of Kwara can hate Ilorin people without hating him or herself because Ilorin people embody the state’s diversity. In any case, the association suggested that the previous VC, who is from Ilorin, wanted Mahmud to succeed him. What does that tell them?

The fact that Yoruba people in Kwara south and non-Yoruba people in Kwara north (which includes the Baatonu, the Nupe, and the Bokobaru people) are united in opposing the appointment of Akanbi as KWASU’s VC, which is unexampled in the history of the state, says something.

Interestingly, the word “Gambari” is a Baatonu word, which originally occurs in the language as Gambaru. It literally means “language of someplace.” “Gam” means someplace and “barum” means language in the Baatonu language, which Yoruba people call Bariba. Gambaru initially referred to any ethnic group that the Baatonu people didn’t know, but it later came to be associated with the Hausa. (Gambarum is the language and Gambaru is the people, the plural form of which is Gambarusu).

Oyo people, who are the southern neighbors of the Baatonu, borrowed Gambaru and changed it to Gambari, which is the adjectival form of Gambaru in the Baatonu language. It’s supremely ironic that people who call themselves “Gambari” are antagonizing a Baatonu man whose only “offense” is that he dared to be indignant at being cheated out of what was rightly his.

Related Article:

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Curious Posthumous Deodorization of Abacha’s Grand Larceny

By Farooq A. Kperogi

If you want Nigerians to forgive your iniquities and celebrate you, just die. That’s why Sani Abacha, whose unprecedented theft of Nigeria’s national treasury is the stuff of legends, is being rehabilitated through the backdoor by dishonest revisionists.

Abubakar Malami, Nigeria’s perpetually narcotized Attorney General and Minister of Justice, described recently recovered Abacha loot as “Abacha’s assets,” implying that Abacha didn’t steal the recovered money but saved it for Nigeria for a rainy day. Although he retracted his statement in the aftermath of withering social media pushback, his agenda was unmistakable: he wanted to follow in Buhari’s lead and declare that, in spite of glaring evidence to the contrary, Abacha didn’t steal.

Now, there’s a cottage industry of vile revisionists in the north promoting the transparently fraudulent narrative that Abacha saved money for Nigeria in foreign banks which his detractors have decided to call “loot”! Can you believe that? People, mostly young northerners who were not of age when Abacha’s evil regime reigned, have even sent me private messages asking me to help stop the demonization of Abacha.

For those who are too young to know, Abacha stole Nigeria’s patrimony like no one in the history of Nigeria. He did NOT save money for Nigeria; he STOLE it with conscienceless glee. It’s distressing that one has to even say this in spite of the clear evidence staring us in the face.

I recall a conversation I had with my friend Aliyu Ma'aji (who is now Ma’ajin Zazzau) when we were undergraduates at BUK in 1994. We were walking a long distance and holding buckets in search of elusive water because there had been no electricity for weeks in Nigeria. Vehicular movements had basically stopped, and people were forced to trek long distances because there was no petrol anywhere.

In the midst of the severe deprivation and sense of existential siege we were undergoing, I said, “Aliyu, do you know that a time might come in the future when Nigerians would celebrate and sentimentalize Abacha as one of the best heads of state we’ve ever had?” Aliyu lost it. “Wallahi tallahi, if any bastard ever says a single good thing about Abacha in my presence, I’d beat the living daylights out of him!”

I wonder what Aliyu feels about all the posthumous rehabilitative narratives of Abacha who literally made life a menacing torment for people in the 1990s, who stole the nation blind, whose son used presidential jets like kabu-kabu and died in one, who murdered innocent people like chickens, who repressed the nation with Hitlerite malignancy.

When Buhari says history will be kind to him, he is banking on the legendary amnesia of Nigerians and their predilection to rehabilitate and deodorize dead political elites even if they were evil or dreadfully inept.

Buba Galadima's Impossible Abacha Loot Logic

First published on social media on May 17, 2020.

Buba Galadima has been quoted as saying the $5 billion Sani Abacha stole from Nigeria's trough was actually "saved" for Nigeria--on the advice of Gaddafi and Sadam Hussein--in anticipation of US sanction against Nigeria so that "even if Nigeria's account was blocked by the US, there won't be panic."😂😂😂

This, of course, stands logic on its head, considering that Abacha "saved" some of that money in the US whose impending blockage he was allegedly plotting against. How do you "hide" something from someone by "saving" it in his house?

Of the $5 billion that Abacha looted and squirreled away --or "saved" for Nigeria, to use Galadimian logic-- in the banks of countries that wanted to "block" Nigeria's money, $3.624 billion has been recovered. Can Galadima help Nigeria recover the rest of the money since he appears to know where the money has been "saved"?

Sunday, May 3, 2020

Dangote, Premium Times, and Journalistic Ethics

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

Many journalists have asked me to share my thoughts on Premium Times’ ethical entanglements with a recent botched Dangote story. Two high-flying Premium Times reporters by the names of Samuel Ogundipe and Nicholas Ibekwe came across a memo from Dangote’s company informing its staff that the “lockdown period will be regarded as part of leave period and therefore annual leave consuming.”

In other words, if the lockdown period exceeds the duration of the annual leave the company’s workers are normally entitled to, they won’t be paid. Apparently, workers were alarmed by this and decided to leak the memo to Premium Times, one of Nigeria’s leading investigative news platforms.

When Ogundipe and Ibekwe reached out to the Dangote Group about the memo, the company’s spokesperson dismissed it as “fake.” Although many online publications have already published the memo (because workers in the company anonymously confirmed its authenticity), Premium Times’ editors chose to err on the side of caution and “killed” the story. I have a problem with that, but that’s not the point at issue now.

Since the story had effectively been “killed” by Premium Times editors, Ogundipe came on Twitter to reflect on the memo. He wondered aloud how the rhetoric of “fake news” is invoked by companies, governments, politicians, etc. to delegitimize legitimate stories. He also wanted to crowdsource the authentication of the memo.

The usual suspects predictably maligned him. And, here’s where it gets interesting, Premium Times’ well-regarded and globally garlanded Editor-in-Chief by the name of Musikilu Mojeed implicitly endorsed one of the tweets that criticized Ogundipe’s decision to publicly reflect on the memo.

“Thank you very much, Ruona, for calling our attention to this. This is actually a violation of @PremiumTimesng Social Media Behavioural Guideline for staff. We are already reviewing this. We will take appropriate administrative action,” he wrote in response to a tweet to which neither he nor Premium Times was tagged.

Now, the issue is, is it ethical for reporters to publicly discuss a story that has been killed by their news organization? Yes, it is, especially if the story is already public knowledge. The Dangote memo wasn’t exclusive to Premium Times. Even I got it on WhatsApp.

I searched for Premium Times’s Social Media Guidelines for its staff on Google and couldn’t find it, but if the guidelines forbid reporters from crowdsourcing stories and from publicly reflecting on story ideas that have been abandoned, then it’s behind the times and need to be updated.

I teach media ethics and can say this. In the early 2000s, before the advent of social media, the American news media were leery of blogs. In fact, by 2003, reporters who had blogs were either fired or told to stop. But by the late 2000s, which is co-extensive with the birth and flowering of social media, blogging and social media became integrated into the business of reporting. The Associated Press Social Media guidelines, which I teach, would have no problems with Ogundipe’s tweet.

Ogundipe’s tweet— which shares a screenshot of the Dangote memo, reveals why a story wasn’t written about it, and wonders aloud if “people are now taking advantage of ‘fake news’ to deny anythin?”— isn’t unethical or inappropriate by even the most wildly elastic stretch of journalistic ethics.

That was why Mojeed’s unsolicited reply to an inconsequential tweet, which basically amounted to publicly and unjustifiably humiliating his reporter, puzzled me. How do you publicly threaten to take “administrative action” against a reporter—and a smart, prolific, gutsy, go-getting one at that!—for something as innocuous as what he shared on Twitter?

Premium Times is one of only a few news outlets still doing real journalism in Nigeria. It would be sad if it undermines itself—and Nigerian journalism—through avoidable self-cannibalism.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

COVID-19 Dramatizes Nigeria’s Countries-Within-a-Country Conundrum

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

The novel coronavirus is exposing the fragility of our sense of nationhood and accelerating the shredding of all pretenses to national unity. This started more than two weeks ago when the Kano State government “deported” a man who tested positive for COVID-19 to his home state of Jigawa—in contravention of both common sense and well-established conventions.

As the chairman of the Jigawa COVID-19 Task Force by the name of Abba Zakari pointed out on April 17, “The procedure is that wherever a sample is taken for testing, the result, positive or negative, belongs to that particular state where the sample was taken from.”

 There is, in fact, no example anywhere in the world where countries deported foreigners in their land because they tested positive for COVID-19. But in Nigeria, federating units are openly pathologizing and “deporting” citizens without any consequences.

Note that Kano and Jigawa used to be the same state until August 27, 1991 and are, in fact, culturally, linguistically, and religiously indistinguishable. Were Nigeria to split, Jigawa and Kano would be in the same country. As we say in Nigeria, if a crocodile can eat its own eggs, what would it not do to the flesh of a frog.

No one of consequence in the Nigerian commentariat or in northern Nigerian political circles condemned Kano State government’s dangerous and illegal act. Neither the Arewa Consultative Forum nor the Northern Elders’ Forum, to my knowledge, have denounced the Kano State government.

The Kano State government also opened the floodgates for the recriminatory “deportations” of almajirai in Nigeria’s northwestern states by first “deporting” more than 1,000 children to their home states. Apart from being unconstitutional, it is aiding in the spread of the virus.

This is particularly troubling because Kano is emerging as not just the new epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic in Nigeria, it is also now the super spreader of the virus in the north. It was no surprise when it came to light that 16 almajirai “deported” from Kano to Kaduna tested positive for COVID-19. We can only imagine what is happening elsewhere.

The Rivers State government has joined the fray and is also going to “deport” almajirai to their states of origin. “We have also directed the Commissioner of Social Welfare to round up and deport all vagrants, including the almajiris, to their states of origin to protect our people from the threat they present to the transmission of this pandemic,” Governor Nyesom Wike said on April 27.

The Osun State government on April 27 also signaled its intention to “deport” northerners in the state, like Lagos State government attempted in August 2019 decision. The Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Osun State by the name of Adeyanju Biniyo was reported to have said northerners were "sneaking" into the state and that "all Northern Youth who had escaped into the state by hiding in trucks" would be fished out and deported.

Recall that in 2019, the Lagos State government also accused northerners of “illegal mass movement” into the state. In an August 31, 2019 tweet, the Lagos State government announced the "Arrest of illegal mass movement of Okada riders to Lagos from the North jointly coordinated by the State Commissioner for The Environment and Water Resources, Mr Tunji Bello and his Transportation counterpart, Dr. Abimbola Oladehinde."

The Zamfara State government is so far the only state government I am aware of that expressed outrage over the planned “deportation” of northerners in Osun state. It said it is “disheartening that Osun State will take the path of isolating assumed outsiders and segregating what should be a common fight by all Nigerians."

The Zamfara State government’s statement was predictably met with widespread scorn because of its hypocritical selectivity. It never expressed similar outrage when the Kano State government “deported” hundreds of almajirai on account of COVID-19.

In fact, the Kaduna State government sensationalized Nigeria’s countries-within-a-country absurdity on April 28 when it closed its “borders” and arrested 100 people “hidden inside a truck coming from Kano, and several others smuggled from Lagos by a trailer conveying goods to Kano,” according to ChannelsTV. No government, as far as I’m aware, has condemned this.

Since states are not sovereign entities, they can’t have “borders.” What they have, according to the Nigerian constitution, are “boundaries,” which they, in fact, have no jurisdictional competence to police. Only the federal government can, under certain circumstances, impose limits on freedom of movement within the country.

States can also not “deport” citizens of one state to another. Deportation means the expulsion of people from one country to another. It’s both semantically and legally impossible to “deport” citizens of a country within their own country. That’s both an abuse of the English language and of the constitution.

Chapter4, Section 41 of the Nigerian Constitution unambiguously states that, “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom.”

Although I resent the almajiri system, which is basically unconscionable child abuse that needs to stop forthwith, no state government has any right under the constitution to “deport” anyone, including the almajirai, to their home states.

That state governments talk of “borders” and initiate “deportations” of Nigerian citizens while the federal government continues to pretend that nothing unusual is going on is all the evidence you need to know that Nigeria has not even started the process of, nor is it even interested in, becoming a country.

Yet, one of the most tediously sterile clichés among Nigeria’s political elites is the notion that the country’s “unity is settled and non-negotiable.” First, as I’ve stated in previous interventions, nation-building is never “settled”; it is always in a state of negotiation and renegotiation. To proclaim that something as potentially fleeting and as emotion-laden as “unity” is settled and non-negotiable is to betray profound ignorance of how nations are built and why nations collapse.

Second, unity is never a given and doesn’t spring forth from the idle fantasies of a country’s self-interested elites. It is consciously sowed, watered, and nourished by equity, justice, consensus-building, deliberate healing of the existential wounds that naturally emerge in our interactions as constituents of a common national space, and by acknowledging and working to tend to our ethnic, religious, regional, and cultural fissures.

The Nigerian political elites are not prepared for such hard work. They merely want to wish “unity” into being by glibly mouthing it. That is why the federal government isn’t bothered by the “deportations” of Nigerian citizens within Nigeria. Of course, the usurpation of its powers, not to mention the blatant violations of the constitution, by state governments doesn’t bother it, too, because it doesn’t border on the sharing of national resources.