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

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Corruption is Thriving Not in Spite of Buhari But Because of Him

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

To be sure, there was never a time in Nigeria’s history when corruption was not an issue. In fact, corruption can be said to be one of Nigeria’s congenital birth defects. Nonetheless, in all the years that Nigeria has existed, I don’t recall a time when corruption has been as overpoweringly pernicious in its depth, breadth, rottenness, impunity, and frequency as it has been in the last five years.

There is no one in the Buhari regime who isn’t stealing astronomical amounts of money and luxuriating in epicurean pleasures while the vast majority of the people slide deeper into punishingly crushing poverty. The only "honest" person in the regime is the uncaught one.

An emergent— and increasingly defining— feature of the regime is that its honchos entertain the country with whirlingly blinding accusations and counter accusations of eyewatering corruption against each other. Abubakar Malami says Ibrahim Magu is an unconscionable “relooter” of recovered loot, and Magu says Malami is a worse crook than he is, and that in addition to his crookedness, he abuses his position to featherbed his corrupt friends.

 From the Ministry of Power to the Ministry of Works, from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to the Ministry of Finance, from the NSITF to the NDDC, from the North-East Development Commission (NEDC) (where N100 billion “vanished in one year”) to everything in between, corruption is prowling menacingly unchallenged.

People who made pious noises about probity and morality, who rode to popularity on the strength of their preaching against the comparatively smaller corruption of past administrations, are now neck-deep in the nadir of some of the worst forms of venality we have seen in the country.

Now people are desensitized to news of corruption. Everyone has concluded that the Buhari regime will go down in the records as the most malodorous manure for corruption in Nigeria. Most people think it’s ironic that corruption is thriving profusely in the government of a man who likes to superfluously draw attention to his putative intolerance of corruption, who claims to embody “integrity,” and who promised to make Nigeria’s governmental soil infertile for graft.

Well, people who are astonished by the malodor of corruption that’s wafting from every crevice of the regime haven’t been paying attention to Buhari’s character. Since 2016 when it wasn’t popular to do so, I have called Nigerians’ attention to a major character flaw in Buhari that conduces to the luxuriation of corruption.

For instance, in a December 24, 2016 column titled, “Tragicomedy of a Corrupt ‘Anti-Corruption’ Government,” I wrote the following:

“In spite of the awful performance of the Buhari government on the economic front so far, it was usual for people to say that the one thing that was still going for the government was the president’s integrity and intolerance of corruption. No more.

“The past few weeks have shown that the president isn’t the anti-corruption crusader Nigerians thought he was. Both the optics and the substance of his ‘anti-corruption’ fight would go down in the annals, at least so far, as the most brazenly compromised and selective since the restoration of democratic rule in 1999.

“As corrupt as the Jonathan administration was, it was once railroaded by the force of public opinion to ‘accept the resignation’ of former Aviation Minister Mrs. Stella Odua over her controversial purchase of BMW armored cars worth $1.6 million. Even Obasanjo, not exactly an apotheosis of integrity, fired a number of his ministers accused of corruption.

“But a man who rode to power on the strength of his credentials as a dogged anti-corruption fighter is looking the other way when his close aides are accused of corruption. The president, it’s now obvious, is only interested in fighting corruption if his political opponents are the accused.  So we have graduated from ‘stealing is not corruption’ under Jonathan to corruption is not corruption when the people accused of it are the president's ‘anointed.’

“Firm, undeniable evidentiary proofs of Gen. Tukur Yusuf Buratai's alleged corruption have been published. So have Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Dambazzau's, and now Babachir David Lawal's. Rotimi Amaechi has been accused of bribing judges, and Abba Kyari has been accused of accepting a N500 million-naira bribe from MTN, among others.

“The president’s first public reaction to allegations of ethical impropriety against his associates was to defend them, a privilege he doesn’t extend to others. ‘Terrible and unfounded comments about other people’s integrity are not good,’ he said through his media adviser. ‘We are not going to spare anybody who soils his hands, but people should please wait till such individuals are indicted.’

“But he appears to be ‘sparing’ some sacred cows.  SGF Babachir David Lawal of the multimillion naira ‘grass-cutting’ infamy is the latest sacred cow enjoying privileged presidential protection. The evidence against him is so demonstrably damning that a serious anti-corruption government would fire him forthwith and prosecute him later.

“People who are intimate with President Buhari told me several months ago… that he was morally and temperamentally unsuited to fight corruption. They said the undue premium the president places on ‘personal loyalty’ causes him to ignore, excuse, and even defend the corruption of his close associates.

“I was regaled with troubling tales of the mind-boggling corruption against close, loyal aides that he swept under the carpet at the PTF, The Buhari Organization (TBO), and at the defunct CPC. Babachir Lawal was a dominant figure in CPC; he knows President Buhari well enough to know that nothing will happen to him for all his villainous rape of vulnerable IDPs in Borno and Yobe as long as he can impress the president that he is irrevocably ‘loyal’ to him.

“I had hoped that the president would learn lessons from his past and change— at least for the sake of his personal legacy, given that he is old and has the privilege of a second chance to rule Nigeria. Apparently, I was naive.  Now ‘anti-corruption fight’ has become the sauciest joke in Buhari's Nigeria.”

You would think I wrote the above column a few days ago, not almost four years ago. Even though Babachir David Lawal was grudgingly fired on October 30, 2017, he has not been indicted to this day and is still a denizen of the Presidential Villa. He, in fact, headed Buhari’s reelection campaign in his home state of Adamawa.

So everyone who works in the regime has got the memo: So long as you can convince Buhari that you are “loyal” to him, you can pilfer the national till to your heart’s delight without the slightest fear of consequence. And, as I've said several times in the past, there's no greater enabler of corruption than the knowledge that there's no consequence for it.

Since it doesn’t take much to demonstrate loyalty to an effete, insecure, and incompetent dictator, every “loyal” regime honcho is stealing with unrestrained gusto. They know they’re immunized against consequences. The only people who get in trouble for stealing are people whose loyalty to Buhari is suspect.

The dog-eat-dog world of Malami and Magu

The Nation of July 16 reported suspended acting EFCC boss Magu to have said, “What I have gone through is a case of dog eats [sic] dog." In July 8, I said of the Malami/Magu fight: "I have no dog in the dog-eat-dog food fight between two dogged scammers."

I'm glad Magu agrees with me that he's a "dog" that another "dog" is eating. In other words, he isn't innocent. He is himself a dog that eats other dogs but whom a bigger dog is now eating. In a dog-eat-dog world, dogs do whatever it takes to get the upper hand. Malami is now the top dog. Magu is the underdog. But they're both bad dogs.

Dog-tired Nigerians are asking the same question that the Baha Men asked years ago: who let the dogs out?

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Sunday, July 19, 2020

Why Only Nigerian Women Are "Pregnant For" Men

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

It is only in Nigerian English (and perhaps in Ghanaian English since both varieties share a lot in common) that woman say they are "pregnant for" a man.

Native English speakers usually say they are "pregnant by a man" to show that the "man" is responsible for the pregnancy. Americans (both wife and husband) now say "we are pregnant!"

It seems to me that the tendency for Nigerian women to say they are “pregnant for” a man is a reflection of their internalization of and capitulation to the dominant patriarchal arrogance in the Nigerian society.

There is also evidence that it is a direct translation of many Nigerian languages. For example, in the Edo language,  o ranmwan mẹ  (or o ranmwan nẹ imẹ) translates as, "She is pregnant for me." In Yoruba, moloyun fun e translates as, "I'm pregnant for you."
Translated into English, however, the phrase gives ownership of the child to the man— to the exclusion of the woman. Since a child is biologically half of both its father and its mother, it is illogical to say you’re pregnant “for” a man. 

In fact, only the mother can logically claim ownership of a pregnancy. As my Anglo-Cameroonian friend Samira Edi once said, “A woman cannot be pregnant for somebody else except for herself!” 

Being responsible for a pregnancy doesn’t give a man exclusive ownership of it; at best it gives him part ownership. Maybe a surrogate mother can correctly say she’s “pregnant for” another woman-- or for a couple--since the woman or the couple takes ownership of the child after delivery.

Saying you’re “pregnant for” a man is especially problematic because while a child’s maternal connection is often never in contention (except in rare cases of child swapping in hospitals), its paternity is never always indisputably self-evident except through DNA testing or noticeably striking resemblance. 

That’s why Americans humorously say, “Mommy’s baby, daddy’s maybe.” 

This isn't so much about grammar as it is about the intersection of culture and usage. Being "pregnant for" somebody shows the pregnancy isn't yours, but the person whom it is "for." Being "pregnant by" somebody shows who "caused" it, not who owns it.

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Saturday, July 18, 2020

Three Things Ruining Nigeria’s Future

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

As chaos and corruption continue to careen out of control in Nigeria, thought of three emergent— and progressively worsening— problems fill me with deep existential anxieties about Nigeria, particularly for the next generation of Nigerians.

The first is the increasingly unusual, corruption-ridden path to getting government jobs in the country. It is now almost impossible to get any government job without paying for it. It is becoming the norm to pay hundreds of thousands, and in many cases millions, of naira to government officials before people get employed in government ministries and agencies.

The more “lucrative” a government ministry or parastatal is, the heftier the bribe required to get employment in it. This culture has permeated political appointments. Even ministerial appointments are now literally auctioned off to the highest bidder.

If people are required to pay money as a precondition to be employed or appointed into political positions, they’re basically being invited to a corruption bazaar. They’ll have to raid and pillage the national treasury to recoup their “investment.” That explains why corruption is getting bolder and more audacious these past five years than it has ever been.

Of course, there has always been this sort of corruption, but I don’t recall it ever been this mainstream. It is now a displacement of routine for people to get government jobs through a transparent, merit-driven process. I am filled with dread for the children of poor people if this culture isn’t stamped out.

My second anxiety is about the widening social stratification in the Nigerian society. Up until the early 2000s, public universities used to be laboratories for social leveling. Those of us who attended small-town secondary schools met with people who attended pricey private secondary schools in big cities at the university.

When I went to Bayero University in Kano in the 1990s, for instance, some of Sani Abacha’s children went there. Children of governors, ministers, and other high-ranking bureaucrats from Kano and surrounding areas went there as well. 

This was true of other public universities elsewhere. Public universities horizontalized the social landscape. I made friends and acquaintances at BUK that my humble background would not have allowed me to make had I not had the privilege to go to the university. Everyone I know in my age range and older says the same.

With the profusion of private universities in Nigeria and the popularity of foreign university education for the children of the wealthy and the powerful, opportunities for social flattening in public universities are diminishing. This ensures the intergenerational perpetuation of the cycles of privilege and poverty.

Sure, social media provides opportunities for social horizontalization, but it can’t replace the deep, meaningful interpersonal friendships that people form in universities. And this leads to my last worry.

Even public universities that the children of the powerful are now abandoning are growingly getting out of the reach of the poor. Getting excellent grades in school certificate exams and high scores in university entrance exams is no longer a guarantee to gain entry into universities. (I’ve been told that the University of Ibadan is still a merit-driven institution).

Again, this isn’t a new problem, but it’s getting worse. Just like job applicants are now required to pay extortionate amounts of money to be employed, slots for undergraduate education are sold to the highest bidders.

A few years ago, I encountered an extremely intelligent young man from Borno by the name of Abdulmalik on Facebook. We had been friends for a while, and I’d taken note of his dexterity with the written word, the admirable analytical rigor of his thoughts, and his independent mindedness. I’d assumed that he was a lecturer.

One day he sent me a private message requesting that I follow him on Twitter. His message gave me an opportunity to ask about where he worked. He told me he completed a diploma course and had applied to the University of Maiduguri for his undergraduate degree but hadn’t heard from the university.

He had eight credits including English and Mathematics and scored 230 in his UTME. He should have been admitted on merit and, because he is from Borno, should have benefited from being in the University of Maiduguri’s “catchment area,” not to mention that Borno being an “educationally less developed state” should have been an advantage for him.

It turned out that his “crime” was that he lost his father at an early age and his mother was ill and poor. He worked as a “maiguard” to put himself through polytechnic and didn’t have any money to bribe anyone to help him get admission at the University of Maiduguri.

His story made me shed a tear. My reaching out to my friends at the University of Maiduguri to help Abdulmalik didn’t help. I was told that the admission exercise had already been concluded. Through the help of a genial friend who is a top-ranking official at a Northeast state, Abdulmalik is now studying political science at a state university.

His story emblematizes the hundreds of thousands of young men in Nigeria whose odds of success in life are being dimmed before they’ve had a chance to start. We’ve been taught that education is the most reliable ladder to climb to success, but access to it is rigged against the poor, and people who managed to beat the rigged system to graduate from university are now required to bribe to get jobs.

For many people, Nigeria has become the graveyard of dreams and the government has become the annihilator of hopes. If hope is the last thing that dies in a person, Nigeria is risking the death of everyone if it sustains a system that murders the hopes of the vast majority of its people.

Tribute to Chief (Mrs.) Phoebe Chiadi Ajayi-Obe

On June 28, 2020, Mrs. Phoebe Ajayi-Obe, an illustrious and luminous legal colossus died in Ibadan at the age of 92. She was the first ever female Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) from Eastern Nigeria and the second female SAN from the whole of Nigeria. She is also the first female law graduate from the University of Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University).

Her death is personal to me because I’ve met her at least two times here in Atlanta when she was alive. She is the older sister of my wife’s father. That made her my aunt-in-law. When she visited her children in Atlanta in early 2013, my wife (who was then my girlfriend) and my first daughter visited her.

Then in late 2014 when she visited again, she invited my family and me to her second daughter Folahan’s home in Atlanta. In both times that I had the privilege to visit her, I found her to be extremely convivial, generous, kindhearted and, of course, sharp-witted and acutely discerning. 

She was also humble, down-to-earth, gracious, and benign in multiple ways. When she invited us to her daughter’s home, she cooked for us. I had already eaten before we got to the house and was kind of full, but it would be rude to decline the food “personally” cooked by a famous Senior Advocate of Nigeria for a nobody like me, so I told my wife that I’d only eat a little— out of politeness.

But the food was so irresistibly delicious that I asked for seconds! In our postprandial conversation, I told her that I had only intended to eat just a little because I had eaten before we got there but that her cooking was so out-of-this-world that I couldn’t help overfeeding. She laughed so boisterously that her laughter became contagious.

Mrs. Ajayi-Obe was an Igbo woman who married a Yoruba man from Ilesha, Osun State, by the name of Dr. Oyedokun Ajayi-Obe in the UK in 1957. When her family initially resisted her marrying a Yoruba man, Chief J.M. Ajayi-Obe, an NCNC federal legislator who would become her father-in-law, lobbied Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe, the leader of the NCNC at the time, to persuade her family in Okija that their daughter was safe with his son. 

Azikiwe took Chief Michael Okpara along with him to Okija to talk to her family. Who could resist the pleading of Azikiwe and Okpara in 1950s Eastern Nigeria? Needless to say, the late Ajayi-Obe was cosmopolitan, broadminded, and pan-Nigerian in ways you won’t find in people of her generation. May her soul rest in peace.

Friday, July 17, 2020

The Post-Abba Kyari Chaos I Warned About is Here!

By Farooq Kperogi

I ended my widely shared April 18, 2020 social media post titled "Abba Kyari's Death, End of a Surrogate Presidency, and the Coming Chaos" by pointing out that "in the coming days and months, expect the cessation of any pretense to governance and an unprecedentedly factious, dog-eat-dog, recriminatory fight between competing power blocs."

At the time, a lot of people asked what I meant and why I thought that would happen. I didn't respond because the answer was apparent from the write-up.

Read from the third paragraph: "With Kyari's death, Nigeria is now truly leaderless. Buhari is practically in the land of the living dead. He's a breathing mannequin whose only reason for living is to prove he isn't dead in order to justify the continuity of the rule in his name.

"Abba Kyari ruled the country on Buhari's behalf. In my viral February 22, 2020 column titled, 'The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,' this line appeared: '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.'

"Now, he is gone, and the chaos he talked about would start in the coming days and weeks."
Abba Kyari, in spite of the posthumous hagiographic portrayals of him as some genius, was actually a mediocre intellect, but he was the de facto president who brought everyone in government into line through intimidation and manipulation of the system.

People in Nigeria's power circles knew that. Had he been alive, the unprecedented chaos that currently attends the Buhari regime would never have happened--or would have been artfully managed.

Ibrahim Gambari, as I've repeatedly said, is no replacement for Kyari. Mamman Daura, who should have taken Kyari's place, is both too old and formally outside the orbit of governance (he has no portfolio other than being Buhari's older nephew) to exert any influence.

For as long as Buhari is "president," chaos in governance and fissiparity in the polity will endure. You had been warned many times.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Magu a "Multireligious" Man Who Attends a Church?

By Farooq A. Kperogi

I had no idea that Ibrahim Magu, embattled former acting chairman of the EFCC, is a "multi-religious" man who attends a church.  

I thought he was just a Muslim, although northern Nigeria is so complex that merely bearing a "Muslim name" is not sufficient to conclude that one is a Muslim. (Read my December 24, 2017 column titled "Hausa-Speaking Northern Christian Names: An Onomastic Analysis.")

In the 1 billion naira lawsuit Prophet Emmanuel Omale just threatened to file against the News Agency of Nigeria for reporting that he laundered "re-looted funds" for Magu in Dubai, his lawyer wrote, among other things,

"1. That our client is the General Overseer of an Inter-denominational/Multi-religious Prayer Ministry, which Mr. Ibrahim Magu attends."

Note that the verb the suit chose is "attends," which means it is habitual action, not a one-off event.

Assuming that Magu is a Muslim, what does attending "an Inter-denominational/Multi-religious Prayer Ministry" mean? 

There is only meaning I can deduce: What corruption has joined together, let no religion put asunder!

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Historicizing the Soft Racism in Campbell’s Pro-Buhari Image Laundering

Today's back-page column in the Saturday Tribune features my short take on the Malami/Magu drama and a sumptuous, thought-provoking guest column by Professor Moses Ochonu of Vanderbilt University on Dr. John Campbell's rhetoric on Nigeria. Enjoy:

By Moses E. Ochonu, Guest columnist

Last week, Farooq Kperogi’s Saturday Tribune column compellingly debunked Ambassador John Campbell’s coy defense of President Buhari and his inner circle against credible allegations of corruption. Kperogi demonstrated that, contrary to Campbell’s claims, neither Buhari nor members of his inner circle are free of the stain of corruption.

I do not intend to re-litigate what Kperogi has analyzed persuasively. Instead I’d like to extend his analysis by establishing that there is a historical pattern to Ambassador Campbell’s pro-Buhari treatise, and that the man has a history of using his platform and perch at the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) to propagate a pro-Buhari agenda rooted in a deeper discourse tradition.

Take Campbell’s recent claim on Buhari’s austerity and the absence of a credible allegation of corruption against Buhari, for instance. This is a recycling of a claim Campbell made in a CFR video posted to YouTube on June 1, 2015, in which he stated that Buhari “has never been tarred by credible allegations of corruption.”

In the same video, Campbell claims that prior to 2015, Buhari lost elections in questionable circumstances, insinuating that in the previous elections of 2003, 2007, and 2011, Buhari could and should have won. This, of course, betrays Campbell’s ignorance of Nigeria’s recent presidential electoral dynamics, which, prior to 2015, marooned Buhari to his northern Muslim base as an unviable provincial candidate incapable of winning national electoral contests. 

This pro-Buhari disposition has now morphed into pro-regime activism, activating in Campbell an impulse to attack and discredit Buhari’s critics. This, in turn, is grounded in a paternalistic zeal to protect and defend the regime from what he sees as the criticism of traducers.

One thing is discernible in Campbell’s writings on Nigeria: He believes that southern Nigerians are out to get Buhari, the allegedly honest, austere Muslim president. That’s the context in which he made the recent claim that widespread corruption in Buhari’s inner circle “is a widely held trope in Southern Nigeria.” 
There is a method and a pattern to Campbell’s proverbial madness.

The former ambassador projects himself as a friend of the Northern ruling class, of which Buhari is the present embodiment, and advances himself as a paternal defender of the North. 

In a March 2015 lecture, he attempted to answer the question of “where did Boko Haram come from?” by repeating the discredited claim that Boko Haram was a Northern protest against bad governance and corruption!

Similarly, in 2014, he signed a letter to then US Secretary of State, Hilary Clinton, urging her not to designate Boko Haram as a terrorist organization, a move now widely considered ill-advised at best and catastrophic at worst.

At the heart of Campbell’s commentaries on Nigerian affairs then is a pro-regime loyalty that is part of a broader public intellectual profile that purports to protect the North from allegedly unfair Southern Nigerian and international actions and narratives. 

Accordingly, Campbell seeks to delegitimize criticisms of Buhari’s incompetence, corruption, nepotism, and provincialism by ascribing malicious and primordial motives to them. In Campbell’s simplistic terms, a critique of Buhari’s failures is a plot by “Christian” Southern Nigerians and their Western sympathizers to get at the Muslim North through Buhari.

Every opportunity he gets he burnishes this public persona of defender of Buhari and the North. Writing in The Atlantic in June 2011, Campbell and Asch Harwood claimed that then President Goodluck Jonathan’s “outreach to the North has so far been disappointing.” 

They were suggesting that Jonathan had been unfair to the North in appointments, a dangerous rhetoric that stoked the grievances of the North against Jonathan, a Southerner, and exacerbated Nigeria’s regional and religious fissures. What’s more, it was not even factual, given how inclusive Jonathan’s administration was in comparison to Buhari’s clannish and unprecedentedly nepotistic regime.

If Campbell’s hypotheses about Southern Nigerian assault on the North and a Northern president sounds conspiratorial, that’s because it is. Not only are Northerners now fed up with Buhari’s failures and not only are they some of his most vocal critics, the idea that there is a Southern Nigerian trope of Buhari’s corruption and incompetence flies in the face of the mess that Buhari has made of Nigeria, a fact which enjoys pan-Nigerian currency and provenance.

Campbell has always postured as a “friend” of the North, but northerners do not need those who condescendingly defend the current corruption and incompetence, of which they are the primary victims. 

Either Campbell harbors animus against Southern Nigeria or his is an incorrigible impulse to defend a North that can and does defend itself robustly. The last thing the North needs at this time is some foreign “expert” telling them that Buhari, who has failed to protect their lives and treasure, is an honest, austere leader who is being maligned by Southern Nigerians.

What are the historical and ideological antecedents of this pro-Northern pretensions?

For those of us who study Northern Nigerian history for a living, Campbell’s attitude and commentaries reveal and recall the British colonial attitude of patronizingly extolling the "authentic Islamic and African" virtues of northerners while denigrating southerners as troublesome, rabble-rousing radicals who were allegedly corrupted and separated from the restraining influence of African culture by Western education and worldly ambitions. Campbell is still operating in that avuncular colonial racist frame.

In colonial times, Frederick Lugard and other British colonial officials barred Christian missionaries from setting up schools in the Muslim North. They regularly discussed the need to protect northern Muslims from the alleged dangers of unbridled Western education and from the contagion and criticism of the Southern Nigerian intelligentsia. They were determined to protect the North, a region they “loved” because they claimed it had order, authority, and hierarchy.

Their alliance with Northern emirs and aristocrats further intensified this determination to protect the North from both Western modernity and Western-educated Southerners. The effect of that policy and that colonial attitude exists today in the Western educational gap between North and South.

Colonial officials would lash out at Southern Nigerians who criticized the failures and rapaciousness of the Northern aristocratic and political classes. They would in turn venerate the North and its aristocracy. 

This was a paternalistic racism that infantilized Northern Nigerians, making them out to be naïve, impressionable, vulnerable, and contaminable children who should be protected from the influence and attacks of Southern Nigerians. 

Colonialists were not “protecting” Northern Nigerians because they were less racist towards them but because the North’s sharply stratified society was more amenable to their rule than the South.

This is the historical colonial discourse that Ambassador Campbell is resurrecting. Campbell’s pro-North and pro-Buhari pronouncements are the postcolonial iteration of this colonial avuncular racism. 

Today, this project grows out of several impulses. One of them is white liberal guilt and the accompanying desire to protect supposed Muslim victims of an alleged Western and local Christian Islamophobic conspiracy. 

The other motivation is what scholars of Africa call the white savior complex, a phenomenon in which liberal white “experts” feigning sympathy and empathy for Africans are always looking for vulnerable African groups to “save” and “protect” as a do-good, feel-good endeavor to assuage their conscience. 

The third motivation is what is called the soft bigotry of low expectations, a benign, sometimes well-intentioned, racism in which a Western actor considers African interlocutors to be so incapable that he/she believes that it is better to hold them to a lower standard of leadership, ability, and performance than one would impose on a white person or a black person considered “white” in character, skill, and learning.

Campbell’s insistence on defending Buhari’s incompetent and corrupt regime and on ignoring Northerners who have demonstrated the ability to fight their own battles and hold their kinsman president accountable shows clearly that he is operating in this patronizing neocolonial mode.

Ochonu, Professor of African History and Cornelius Vanderbilt Chair in History at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee, USA, can be reached at meochonu@gmail.com 

Malami/Magu Drama Isn’t Worth My Time

By Farooq A. Kperogi

People have asked for my thoughts on the ongoing drama between Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami and suspended EFCC chairman Ibrahim Magu. My opinion it is isn’t worth anybody’s time.

 When a fundamentally dishonest and morally tainted dissembler like Malami is tormenting a dizzyingly featherbrained fraudster like Magu who pretends to be fighting corruption but who is actually steeped in unimaginable sleaze, why should that bother me? I have no dog in the dog-eat-dog food fight between two dogged scammers.

Anyone who takes a moment to listen to Magu would know that the man has neither the intellectual preparedness nor the moral stamina to understand, much less police, corruption. He is no more than a remote-controllable poodle of his benefactors. He barks only when his remote controllers command him to— and looks away when he’s told to.

 In other words, Magu is a classic metaphoric police dog whose loyalty is only to his handlers. When police dogs are old, unhelpful, or injured, they’re retired and replaced with another one. It is supremely symbolic that all EFCC honchos are, by law, police officers.

 The next EFCC police dog won’t be different from the previous one. So don’t expect Mohammed Umar, the new acting EFCC chairman—or whoever replaces him— to be different from Magu.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Leaving the Diaspora to Take a Gov’t Job is No “Sacrifice”

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

It has now become customary for Nigerians in the diaspora who leave their exilic locations to take government jobs at home to emotionally blackmail the nation into seeing them as irreproachable demigods whose “sacrifice” in leaving their diasporic comfort zones should inoculate them against scrutiny. Here are 6 reasons why this is boneheaded.

1. No Nigerian who benefited from the free or highly subsidized education in the country can ever fully pay back the debt he or she owes to Nigeria. Thanks to my Nigerian undergraduate degree, which I couldn’t afford if it wasn’t subsidized, I am debt-free and doing financially well in my diasporic location. 

My American colleagues aren’t that lucky. Most of them are still paying their student loans.

Obama finished paying his student loan debts just a few months before he became president. Had he not made a fortune from his well-received autobiography, he would have been paying his student loans well into his presidency.

So going back to work in Nigeria after staying in the diaspora is, properly speaking, “giving back”; it is NOT a sacrifice. Sacrifice entails an undeserved loss as a result of giving up something more valuable. 

Since most diasporans won’t even have the opportunity of their exilic comfort zones if they didn’t benefit from Nigeria’s free or subsidized education, they aren’t “sacrificing” by going back to the country that nurtured them when they were helpless.

2. Return to Nigeria after a sojourn in the diaspora often comes with the sorts of perks that people don’t usually get in their erstwhile diasporic locations.

 Being head of a government agency, a minister, a special adviser, etc. comes with humongous allowances, a retinue of aides, access to the power structure, etc.

Returnee diasporans who want you to give them credit for taking a pay cut to accept a government job in Nigeria are being intentionally deceitful. I earn more than two times what the Nigerian president officially earns, but everyone knows the president doesn’t even need his or her salary.

3. There is really little that people in the diaspora bring back to Nigeria that doesn’t already exist in superfluity in Nigeria. There are literally thousands of people who can be, and even better than, whatever any diasporan Nigerian does, but they’re passed over because they don’t have access to people who make appointments— and because they don’t have the social and symbolic capital that living abroad confers. So it’s actually a privilege, not a sacrifice, to serve.

4. Self-preservation is the first law of nature. Most people won’t leave their diasporic locations if it would exert a strain on them and their families. I am an example. Professor Attahiru Jega invited me to work with him at INEC sometime ago, but I politely declined because it wasn’t in the interest of my young children to relocate to Nigeria. I’ve also spurned many other offers since then for the same reason.

Should I decide at some point to relocate to Nigeria, it won’t be a “sacrifice.” At worst, it would be “giving back” and at best a privilege. There are thousands of people with my skillset in Nigeria.

5. A diasporan who worked as a contract staff in a country where he was neither a citizen nor even a legal permanent resident is actually enjoying an upgrade if he gets a visible, consequential position in government. 

Instead of arrogantly saying they are "sacrificing" for the country, they should be grateful for the opportunity to do a job that thousands of Nigerians at home are capable of doing.

6. If coming back to work in Nigeria after working abroad for a few years, often as a precarious contract staff, is "sacrifice," what would the returnee diasporans call working in countries they are not citizens of and that never invested in their education? Self-immolation?

Saturday, July 4, 2020

Ambassador Campbell’s Curious Defense of Buhari’s Corrupt Aso Rock Cabal

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Dr. John Campbell, America’s former ambassador to Nigeria from May 2004 to July 2007, wrote a June 24 opinion article titled “Nigerian Media’s Unsubstantiated Claims that U.S. Agencies Investigating Corruption by Buhari's Inner Circle” for the  Council on Foreign Relations (where he works as a Senior Fellow for Africa policy studies) that was basically a puzzlingly evidence-free whitewashing of Buhari and his corrupt cabal.

Campbell impeached the credibility of a Pointblanknews report that said the US State Department is probing Sabiu 'Tunde' Yusuf, Sarki Abba, Mamman Daura, Ismaila Isa Funtua (and his son Abubakar Funtua) for money laundering in the United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom by claiming that it is “rare for the Department of State or the Department of Justice to say that there is an investigation underway, and neither has done so publicly.”

Campbell is a veteran of the US Department of State, so I defer to his judgement on the credibility of the Pointblanknews report. But he went beyond questioning the authenticity of the money laundering report to doing outright image laundering for the cabal.

He said, “Sabiu 'Tunde' Yusuf is known to be very rich, and Nigerian money laundering in the Gulf and the United Kingdom is an old song. President Muhammadu Buhari appears to have little personal interest in money, lives simply, and is rarely accused of personal corruption. But that his inner circle is corrupt is a widely held trope in southern Nigeria.”

That’s a curiously tendentious assertion. First, Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf was, until 2015, a poor recharge card seller. How did he become “known to be very rich” just five years after being a personal assistant to Buhari, his mother’s uncle? Campbell left that part out and made it seem like Yusuf, who is only in his 30’s, had always been rich.

Yusuf unquestionably became rich from serving in Buhari’s government. Since his legitimate monthly earning is lower than 350,000 naira (which is less than $1,000), it is impossible for him to be “known to be very rich” through means other than corruption.

Second, it is inaccurate that Buhari has “little personal interest in money, lives simply, and is rarely accused of personal corruption.” Campbell is merely regurgitating the pre-2015 propaganda Buhari’s campaign caused to be circulated in Nigeria and abroad, but which is now the source of derision in Nigeria in light of what people now know of Buhari.

It’s wholly untrue that Buhari lives simply. The first major project Buhari executed upon becoming president in 2015 was to build a multi-million-naira vanity helipad for his exclusive use in his hometown of Daura, which would be useless after his presidency. Not even Goodluck Jonathan who got a lot of hell from civil society groups for corruption built a helipad for himself in his hometown of Otueke.

Additionally, Buhari’s penchant for going to London to treat even his littlest illnesses (including an ear infection that had already been treated in Nigeria), his high-priced sartorial excesses, and his fondness for extortionately elaborate red-carpet ceremonies each time he leaves the country and returns to it do not square with the profile of a person who “lives simply.”

 And contrary to Campbell’s claim, Buhari has been accused of personal corruption since the 1970s. He was the subject of a popular song by the iconic Fela Anikulapo Kuti because he couldn’t account for 2.8 billion naira of NNPC funds when he was petroleum minister in the 1970s. He was also accused of stealing billions of naira when he headed the Petroleum Trust Fund in the 1990s.

Of course, being accused of something isn’t synonymous with being guilty of it. Nevertheless, although all of Nigeria’s past presidents and heads of state have been accused of corruption, none has been convicted of it. Not even the late General Sani Abacha whom Buhari said never stole any money from Nigeria (but whose recovered “loot” is being perennially repatriated by foreign banks and governments to Nigerian governments, including to Buhari’s regime) has been convicted of corruption.

Buhari also has a history of personally lying in his official capacity to defend the corruption of members of his inner circle. In January 2017, for instance, Buhari signed a letter in his name to the Senate committee that investigated former Secretary to the Government of the Federation Babachir David Lawal for fleecing defenseless people who were internally displaced by Boko Haram terrorists and exonerated him.

 In the letter, Buhari told three demonstrably obvious and easily falsifiable lies to defend his appointee. In the midst of undeniable evidence against Lawal, Buhari was later forced to eat humble pie and fire Lawal. But, although he was fired, he hasn’t been convicted to this day. He was, in fact, chairman of Buhari’s reelection campaign in Adamawa State.

Buhari also recalled, reinstated, and promoted a man by the name of Abdulrasheed Maina who had been accused of embezzling billions of naira belonging to pensioners for which he fled the country.  After news of this scandal caused national outrage, Buhari reversed it and pretended to be shocked by what had happened.

But a leaked memo to the late Abba Kyari, Chief of Staff to Buhari, by then Head of Service, Winifred Oyo-Ita, showed that Buhari was in on the fraud. 

“I sought audience with His Excellency, Mr. President on Wednesday, 11th October, 2017 after the FEC meeting where I briefed His Excellency verbally on the wide-ranging implications of the reinstatement of Mr. A. A. Maina, especially the damaging impact on the anti-corruption stance of this administration,” the HoS’s memo said.

Finally, Campbell’s claim that notions of the eyewatering corruption in Buhari’s inner circle are shared only by people in “southern Nigeria” is both astonishingly mendacious and gratuitously divisive.

I am not a southern Nigerian, but I have called attention to the corruption in Buhari’s inner circle in countless columns and social media posts. Buba Galadima, another northerner and former Buhari protégé, has made series of credible allegations of corruption against Buhari and his inner circle.

Junaid Mohammed, a well-regarded Second Republic federal legislator from Kano, has made numerous convincing accusations of corruption against the Buhari regime and its honchos.

 Even former Emir of Kano Muhammad Sanusi II said in an August 24, 2016 lecture that the Buhari regime created a situation where influential people could sit in their “garden and make billions through forex market without sweat”—precisely the sort of charge being made against the Aso Rock cabal that Campbell has chosen to defend without counter facts.

 A vast multitude of northerners on and off social media chatter endlessly about the stratospheric corruption currently taking place in the Buhari regime.  So to suggest that accusations of corruption against members of Buhari’s kitchen cabinet are animated only by unthinking southern regional animus against northerners is outrageous prevarication that is beneath contempt.

More than southerners, northerners see previously dirt-poor people from their region building glitzy mansions and living large after getting appointments in— or being closely aligned to people in— Buhari’s inner circle. They know legitimate earnings from government jobs are not sufficient to fund and sustain the sybaritic lavishness of Buhari’s appointees.

Campbell obviously knows very little about northern Nigeria. For instance, in a March 27, 2020 article for the CFR, he wrote that Abba Kyari was an “Islamic scholar” because the title “Mallam” is often prefixed to his name!

Campbell doesn’t know enough about northern Nigeria to know that “Mallam” has evolved to a mere courtesy title for a man, any man, and functions as an alternative for “Mr.” Perhaps, it is too much to expect a person who thinks people who prefix “Mallam” to their names are Islamic clerics to know that northern Nigerians also rail against the endemic corruption in Buhari’s inner circle.

It is troubling that Campbell used the possible inauthenticity of the claim that members of Buhari’s inner circle are being probed by the State Department to weaken or dismiss the credible allegations of corruption against Buhari and his cabal.