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

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Nigeria’s Season of Anomie and Okonjo-Iweala’s WTO DGship Bid

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In the aftermath of the infiltration, suppression, and suspension of the #EndSARS protests, Nigeria is now contending with the spontaneous nationwide eruption of what I call a subaltern revolt against the greed and hardheartedness of Nigeria’s elites.

All over the country, “palliative warehouses” (where foodstuffs donated by the private sector to help the government provide relief to citizens during the COVID-19-inspired lockdown of the country months ago) are being raided. Unlike the #EndSARS protests, the raiding of “palliative warehouses” is pan-Nigerian. Call it unity in adversity, if you will.

While discussing this with a childhood friend of mine in Nigeria, he bewailed the widespread “looting” of foodstuffs all over the country as the definitive signal of the erosion of Nigeria’s moral core and of the younger generation’s total divorce from the ethical verities that held the society together.

 I told him he was guilty of chronocentricity, that is, the often wrong-headed, evidence-free idea that one generation or era is better or worse than the other. There is no evidence there was ever a golden age of moral perfection in any society. The evidence we have is that people in every era tend to sentimentalize the past as better and to disdain contemporary eras as worse.

This is usually wholly a product of our imaginations. There will always be criminals and pious people in every society and in every era.

Since we are both from Borgu, I reminded my friend that until colonialism stopped it in the early 1900s, Borgu princes used to be highway robbers on the Trans-Saharan trade route. It was called “swa dibu,” which literally translates as “eating the road.” We were told stories of Borgu princes’ highway robberies as brave and heroic feats, even though they robbed innocent people of their possessions like modern-day armed robbers do.

The mass, unprecedented repossession of foodstuffs from warehouses by both genuinely poor and criminal people isn’t proof of a new moral degeneracy in the society. It is rather evidence of the collapse of the unwritten social contract between the rulers and the ruled.

The idea that organized societies are founded on a social contract between the governors and the governed was first proposed by Plato and elaborated by other philosophical treatises such as Thomas Hobbes' Leviathan. 

Social contract rests on the idea that everyday members of a society have agreed formally or informally to give up some of their natural rights and to recognize the authority of people in power in exchange for security and basic economic liberties. 

Social cohesion and the sustenance of social order are guaranteed when both parties keep their side of the bargain. Anomie results when either side fails to live up to the terms of the contract. That is why citizens get thrown into jails or fined for offenses ranging from misdemeanors to felonies. 

When those who control the levers of the power structure, who enjoy the privilege of being rulers, provide neither security nor basic economic liberties for everyday citizens who give up their natural rights for the sake a common social order that works for everybody, you get rebellion, insurrection, revolt, or even revolutions.

That is precisely what is happening in Nigeria. In both the North and the South, particularly in the North, oceans of innocent blood flood the land, and the government has shown itself to be either unwilling or unable to protect people.

Amid biting and rising mass hunger in the land, governors chose to hoard foodstuffs that were donated by the private sector. Since self-preservation is the first law of nature, most people would do anything, including risking death, to stay alive. It’s one of the existential paradoxes of human life.

This anomie, this disruption of the habitual order of society, won’t abate as long as the conditions that drive them persist. But Nigeria’s political elites don’t seem to grasp what’s happening. They are still cocky, callous, and calculating.

 The same governors who couldn’t go from house to house to distribute foodstuffs to citizens under a government-mandated lockdown have now said they would go from house to house to retrieve forcefully taken foodstuffs that were meant for them. These guys are sowing the seeds of a revolution the kind of which their impoverished minds can’t conceive.

However much we may like to characterize it as a “revolution,” #EndSARS wasn’t a revolution. It was merely a rebellion. Disparate resentments against police brutality, particularly in the South, quickly coalesced into a mass resistance, then blossomed into a protest, and culminated in a rebellion without ever achieving the status of a revolution.

 In a revolution, a vanguard takes ownership of the rebellion and uses it as a ladder to climb to substantive power. But all that #EndSARS did—and could ever do—was cause discomfiture to an oppressive power structure while leaving intact the power structure itself. 

What is brewing, and which the political elites are exacerbating, is far greater in ramifications than anything Nigeria had ever seen. Nigerian rulers should know that they can’t continually fail to fulfill their duties and obligations in the social contract and expect the governed to accept their dehumanization with listless abandon. 

Okonjo-Iweala’s WTO DGship and Trump

Almost every Nigerian news outlet inaccurately reported that Dr. Ngozi Oknonjo-Iweala had been appointed Director General of the World Trade Organization at a time that international media outlets reported that US’s opposition to her consensus nomination had threatened her chances.

For instance, Bloomberg reported that preparatory to the WTO General Council "tentatively set for Nov. 9" during which a final decision will be made, the WTO reached a consensus decision to appoint Okonjo-Iweala as its DG, but that "the Trump administration said it won’t back the appointment of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala to be the WTO’s next director-general"  and "will act as a veto that disrupts” her consensus nomination.

Okonjo-Iweala became a US citizen in 2019, yet Trump is more comfortable with a Korean than with his compatriot.  Trump’s calculations for rejecting Okonjo-Iweala may be geo-political, but he is also a dyed-in-the-wool negrophobic racist.

For instance, of the 220 federal judges he has appointed since he became president, not a single one is black or nonwhite. 

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.”

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.”

 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.”

 In 2020, to appease his racist base, he banned Nigerians, along with other non-white countries, from immigrating to the US. And now, his government is the only government in the world that will vote against a smart, accomplished black woman’s choice as the DG of the World Trade Center.

Trump is far and away the most racist president America has ever had in modern history. We can only hope that his racist, nightmarish presidency comes to an end on November 3.

Saturday, October 24, 2020

Buhari’s Trumpian Propaganda to Cover Up the Lekki Massacre

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

On October 20, I couldn’t sleep in my base here in the United States because I was glued to social media monitoring livestreams of the agonizing state-authorized mass massacres of peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos.  I was crushed and despondent beyond description.

My situational insomnia was triggered by vicarious pains. The sights and sounds of young men and women being felled by live bullets by uniformed homicidal thugs caused me to imagine— and vicariously experience— the pain that the parents of the children who were being killed would go through when they find out about the murder of their children.

Although this Buhari-sanctioned, Tinubu-supported mass murder of unarmed and defenseless protesters was captured in real time on social media, archived on the web, and reported in the domestic and international media, the government isn’t only denying it now, it is causing people who witnessed it to question their own perceptual stimuli, recollections, and even sanity.

That is the propaganda tactic Donald Trump routinely deploys in America. He tells outrageous lies (he has told more than 50,000 lies since becoming president, according to several media houses that are keeping records!), repeats them ad infinitum, ignores rebuttals, and causes otherwise normal people to question the reality they live in and the evidence around them.

This propaganda and mind management tactic is called gaslighting. Its goal is to defamiliarize reality and the truth through intentional, in-your-face obfuscation of the facts—or through the popularization of what Trump’s former counselor Kellyanne Conway once called “alternative facts.”

In a January 2017 article for Psychology Today, Stephanie A. Sarkis, Ph.D., defined gaslighting as “a tactic in which a person or entity, in order to gain more power, makes a victim question their reality. It works much better than you may think. Anyone is susceptible to gaslighting, and it is a common technique of abusers, dictators, narcissists, and cult leaders. It is done slowly, so the victim doesn't realize how much they've been brainwashed.”

I’ve seen otherwise intelligent, critical people fall victim to the Nigerian government’s Trumpian gaslighting propaganda tactic over the Lekki massacre. Even though videographic evidence exists of the shooting of protesters in Lekki—and of real-time reports of military officers hiding corpses to conceal their murderous cruelty—I’ve seen a surprising number of people asking for evidence of the deaths of protesters in Lekki.

Before writing this column, I observed social media conversations about the government’s audacious denial of the Lekki massacre, and I was amazed by the number and types of people who were gaslit by the government.

Although gaslighting was initially studied in interpersonal settings, it has now been expanded to account for how people with political and coercive authority (such as presidents, heads of military organizations, etc.) and even symbolic power (such as celebrities and public intellectuals) can use their positions to muddy the waters and confound otherwise self-aware people.

The website “Healthline” tells us that gaslighting can cause people “to question their thoughts, memories, and the events occurring around them,” adding that “A victim of gaslighting can be pushed so far that they question their own sanity.”

It is the reason millions of Americans have become suckers for Trump’s absurd, easily refutable lies, and why millions of unreflective Talibangelical African Christians worship and believe him even though he isn’t a Christian and hates and disdains them because of their race.

Psychologists say the most potent solution to gaslighting is to recognize and accept that you’re the victim of a carefully planned emotional manipulation by people who have conscious and unconscious political, symbolic, or interpersonal dominion over you.

That acceptance frees victims from the burden of self-doubt and allows them to examine the facts and evidence around them. The unvarnished fact is that on October 20, CCTV cameras were turned off in Lekki and scores of protesters were shot at with live bullets by the Nigerian military. An undetermined number of protesters died.

The Punch of October 21 reported that “no fewer than seven persons” were murdered at Lekki and that “Many protesters were said to have sustained bullet wounds as a result of the attack that suddenly came just after the billboard on the tollgate and the streetlights around the premises were switched off.”

The paper also reported an eyewitness to have said, “They have killed more than seven people that I have seen with my eyes. They were killed with real bullets...”

Premium Times of October 23 also reported “Nigerian artiste, DJ Switch, who was present when soldiers shot at peaceful protesters in Lekki, Lagos, [on] Tuesday” to have said, “at least 15 people were killed in the shootings and that she and other survivors took the victims’ bodies to the soldiers who took them away.”

The Peoples Gazette, a professional, up-and-coming digital-native news outlet, reported that “the police in Lagos turned down [the] Nigerian Army’s request to hand over nine bodies from Tuesday’s massacre” and pointed out that “Amnesty International had reported 12 persons were killed by security forces on the same night, including 10 from Lekki military shooting.”

So the murder of protesters in Lekki by the Buhari regime is real. It isn’t mass hallucination. And it is disrespectful to the memories of the people who were senselessly murdered by the Nigerian military to question the truth of their death.

The blame for this gaslighting, of course, rests entirely with the government. Many of the peddlers of the government-approved falsehood that no one died at Lekki—or that accounts of what happened there are hyperbolized— are also victims of sophisticated emotional exploitation.

Tinubu is Complicit in the #LekkiMassacre

In an October 21 phone interview with Channels TV, Bola Tinubu tried to dissociate himself from the mass murder of EndSARS protesters in Lekki by asking, “Why will they use live bullets?” and proclaiming he “will never, never be part of any carnage. I will never be part of that.”

His condemnation of the massacre is refreshing, but he advertently or inadvertently enabled it in his blind pursuit of an increasingly implausible presidential ambition.

On Oct. 17, it emerged that clueless Aso Rock insiders said Tinubu was behind the #EndSARS protests as a bargaining chip to get the APC presidential ticket in 2023. I pointed this out on social media, and Tinubu himself acknowledged it days later in his ChannelsTV interview where he said he was “being accused and reported to the Presidency that I was behind the protests, that I was a sponsor of the protests.”

To persuade Aso Rock power brokers that he was on their side, he issued a forceful press statement on October 18 disclaiming any connection with the protesters, saying the protests, in fact, "affected the "economy of Lagos State" (read: Tinubu's bottom line since he practically owns the Lagos State government).

But his disclaimer did little to assuage the suspicions of his Aso Rock masters. So on Oct. 20, he issued an even more forceful statement where he, among other things, said the Buhari regime had the right to "act with the requisite decisiveness and FORCE to restore law and order."

In other words, he gave his imprimatur to the military to murder protesters. What else can “decisiveness and FORCE to restore law and order” mean but state-sanctioned lethal violence?

On the night of Oct. 20, several unarmed, defenseless young men and women were murdered in cold blood in Lekki by the Nigerian military. Of course, given Buhari’s bloodstained history, he didn’t need Tinubu’s greenlight to extrajudicially murder citizens who challenged his dreadful ineptitude, but Tinubu’s endorsement made it easier.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

#EndSWAT/#EndSARS Youth Steamroller and Theory of Rational Ignorance

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

An unprecedently seismic youth-led force is convulsing the foundations of Nigeria, which once and for all settles the widespread notion that Nigeria’s youth are lazy, ignorant, and detached. I call this the EndSWAT/EndSARS youth steamroller.

Like the literal steamroller, this Nigerian youth steamroller is massive, resolute, persistent, fearless, implacable, and determined to crush everything and everyone that stands in its way. Its momentous passion is energized by the vigorous eruption of years of raw, pent-up rage over the murderous impunity and crippling incompetence of the Nigerian state.

Its confidence is buoyed by its lack of fear of loss because it has nothing to lose. The vast majority of young Nigerians feel indestructible because they have already been destroyed. You can’t destroy what is already destroyed.

 When a young man pays through his nose to get a crummy higher education that was perpetually punctuated by strikes and, after graduation, is required to pay hundreds of thousands, sometimes millions, in bribes to get a hopelessly low-wage civil service job, he has nothing to lose by confronting the state.

When a man defies the odds, surmounts the state-imposed structural impediments placed in his way, and takes advantage of the global digital economy to earn a decent living but automatically becomes the target of ignorant law enforcement agents who torture him based on evidence-free suspicion that he is an internet fraudster, he has nothing to lose by fighting.

When a smart, hardworking young lady with as good qualifications as—or even better than—the next person can’t get a job without being trapped in the lecherous snares of arrogant and degenerate bureaucrats and politicians, she has nothing to lose by fighting.

When the annihilators of the Nigerian state transcend the dysfunctions that they created at home by misappropriating public resources to go abroad for services their incompetence deprives the less privileged of, they enkindle the fury of young people who are condemned to deal with the insensate cruelty of the elites.

Young people see that the elites send their children to overseas schools while public institutions wither away irreparably. They see that as healthcare gets progressively worse, the elites have become perpetual patrons of foreign hospitals.

They see insatiably greedy, short-sighted, senescent geezers in government relentlessly borrowing and stealing massive amounts of foreign loans they won’t be around to repay. They know they would be burdened with and compelled to repay these foreign debts they didn’t benefit from. They know their futures are being literally mortgaged. So they have nothing to lose by fighting.

In a January 21, 2012 column titled “Labor’s Treachery against the ‘Occupy Nigeria’ Revolt,” I despaired that the revolutionary fire of a splendidly promising, spontaneous, unscripted, and unexampled mass insurrection against an evil ruling class was extinguished by Nigeria’s thoroughly compromised labor movement.

I ended the column with the following ominous warning: “Lastly, this battle isn’t over yet.  The suicidal and clueless Nigerian elite are unlikely to relent in their cowardly and egomaniacal violations of the poor. When the combustion does erupt again, it would take a decidedly different course. Labor leaders would no longer be able to stop what they didn’t start. A wise government would learn from this, retrace its steps, and respect the will and wishes of the people it claims to govern. But is any Nigerian government wise?”

My warning turned out to be accurate. The current #EndSARs/#EndSWAT revolt is a recrudescence of the 2012 #OccupyNigeria protests that the Nigerian labor movement betrayed and squelched from within. As I predicted, the current face of the revolt of the Nigerian youth excludes labor and the traditional wheeler-dealing “pro-democracy” and “human rights” entrepreneurs. It is fierce, decentered, leaderless and yet intensely consequential.

 As I pointed out on social media recently, the current #EndSARS/#EndSWAT revolutionary ferment in Nigeria has been successful precisely because the Nigerian Labor Congress and its evil twin, the Trade Union Congress, aren’t in it.

The debauched labor aristocrats in NLC and TUC habitually hijack, neutralize, and extinguish the people’s revolt. They didn’t just do precisely that in the #OccupyNigeriaProtests in 2012, they’ve been doing it ever since. They did it again a few weeks ago. There is now no doubt that the Nigerian labor movement is officially an extension of the government.

But why are young people now waking up? The seeming complacence and self-satisfaction of the Nigerian youth in the face of their continual rape by a rapacious, decaying elite class—and their curious obsession with sports and entertainment—had worried me and caused me to question my confidence that a second OccupyNigeria rebellion in a newer, more ferocious, less predictable form would materialize someday.

 In trying to understand why the Nigerian youth appeared disengaged, “ignorant,” fixated on strategies of emotional escape such as binge-watching BBNaija but suddenly energized to confront their oppressors, I encountered a concept in economics called “rational ignorance.”

In his book titled “Against Democracy,” Jason Brennan explained rational ignorance as the intentional avoidance of knowledge that has no immediate utilitarian value. “When the expected costs of acquiring information of a particular sort exceed the expected benefits of possessing that sort of information, people will usually not bother to acquire the information,” he wrote.

Nigerian politics is a source of unrewarding emotional strife and distress, so the youth chose to disengage from it, not because they don’t understand the power of knowledge and engagement but because they realize that they are and will always be systematically excluded from the orbit of power and influence. They also realize that conventional engagement with the state would do nothing to assuage their continued structural exclusion.

Now they’ve come to the realization that their very lives depend on their unconventional engagement with the state. Malcolm X once said, “Preserve your life. It’s the best thing you’ve got. And if you gotta give it up, let it be even Steven.”

 The Nigerian youth are fighting back with vigor and defiance because it’s their only chance to live. They are suddenly engaged because they are enraged. The only thing they have to lose is their oppression. That’s not a loss anyone regrets. The political elites should be wise enough to know that they can’t crush a people whose only hope of living is to risk death.

In Monarchs and Mendicants, Dan Groat said, “Not interested in scarin’ anybody, but people with good sense are afraid of a man with nothin’ to lose.” Lance Conrad captured the same sentiment in The Price of Nobility. He said, “Only a fool would underestimate a man with nothing to lose.”

The #EndSWAT/#EndSARS are only the trigger of a much deeper youth resentment against the Nigerian state. The protests aren’t just against police brutality; they are also against the oppressive and obscenely unequal character of the Nigerian society.

Although I live in America, my heart is with the valiant and resilient young men and women who are risking everything to take back their humanity from wretched scoundrels in the seat of power.

Related Articles:

Fuel Subsidy Removal: Time to “Occupy” Nigeria!

Labor’s Treachery against the “Occupy Nigeria” Revolt

I'm Shocked People Are Shocked by NLC's Treachery

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Litigious Terrorism of Ortom, el-Rufai, Fani-Kayode and Osinbajo

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

There is an abysmally low legal literacy in Nigeria. And Nigerian political elites have discovered that they can exploit the fear and ignorance of the law in the general population to terrorize their critics into silence and self-censorship through the threats— or actual institution— of meritless lawsuits.

American defamation lawyers call this “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation” (SLAPP). But I choose to call it litigious terrorism. I think that is a more evocative and fitting description than SLAPP. Litigious terrorism is the intentional intimidation, coercion, or instilling of fear in journalists and critics through frivolous lawsuits that are designed to shut down scrutiny of plaintiffs’ questionable lives.

In Nigeria, litigious terrorism also comes in the form of infuriating litigious frivolity. Take the case of Benue State Governor Samuel Ortom for example. On October 4, he sued young, smart, fearless human rights activist Sesugh Akume (for N150 million) for suing him “over abuse of the local government system [particularly] the powers to sack local government chairmen and control local government funds, especially federal allocations”!

He also sued Sahara Reporters (and its owner Omoyele Sowore) for reporting on Akume’s lawsuit! The governor’s lawyer said the lawsuit against his client and its publication on news websites such as Sahara Reporters constituted “defamatory words or hate speech [sic] capable of lowering the reputations, [sic] undermine the integrity of the plaintiff, inviting disloyalty and bringing the name of the plaintiff to obloquy.”

This has to rank as by far the silliest and most ignorant lawsuit in the history of litigation worldwide. Even with the wildest stretch of the most febrile fantasy, it’s impossible to imagine a more absurd lawsuit than that.

In law, there is something called absolute privilege, which is the privilege granted to certain people in certain places to say whatever they want without legal consequences. For instance, people can’t be sued for whatever they say (however libelous it may be) while a court is in session or during National Assembly hearings.

There is also what is called “qualified privilege,” which is the privilege extended to reporters to report on what people with “absolute privilege” say without legal consequences. It’s called “qualified,” i.e., limited or restricted, because it is only guaranteed if the reporter reports exactly what the person with absolute privilege says.

If, for example, Mr. A says in court that Governor O stole money, but journalist S adds that Governor O also sexually harasses his female aides (which Mr. A didn’t say in court), journalist S can be sued for defamation.

But Mr. A’s claims don’t have to be true for him to be protected from libel lawsuit and for journalist S’s accurate reporting on what Mr. A said to be protected. The idea behind the privileges is informed by the need for untrammeled divulgence of the facts that are critical to the pursuit of truth in court cases, judicial inquiries, parliamentary proceedings, etc.

The judge before whom Ortom filed his thoughtless lawsuit would most likely remind him of the Latin legal maxim that says de minimis no curat lex, i.e., “the law does not concern itself with trifles.”

An even more insidious litigious terrorist than Samuel Ortom is Nasiru el-Rufai who sues every critic he can’t cause to “disappear.” For instance, on August 23, Sahara Reporters reported that the Kaduna State Government sued a Kaduna bishop “for saying Governor El-Rufai will never be Nigeria’s president”!

I observed in an August 23 tweet that the humiliation of el-Rufai by the Nigerian Bar Association must have literally driven him stark raving mad. That was the only way I could make sense of his juvenile litigious terroristic stunt.

Opinion is protected by law. In fact, vigorous, vituperative, unflattering opinion uttered in moments of inflamed passions can’t be defamatory in Nigerian law. There are many precedents for this. For instance, in Bakare v Ishola, the defendant, in a moment of heightened emotions, said to the plaintiff in Yoruba, “Ole ni o! Elewon! Iwo ti o sese to ewon de yi.” English translation: “You’re a thief! Ex-convict! You have just come out of prison.”

Justice C.J. Jibowu ruled that these were vulgar insults that weren’t actionable. “It is a matter of common knowledge of which this court takes judicial notice that people commonly abuse each other as a prelude to a fight and call each other ‘ole! Elewon!... which…no one takes seriously as they are words of heat and anger,” he said.

In another case, Ibeanu v Uba, the defendant was accused of defaming the plaintiff by saying in Igbo, “Josiah, Josiah, Ongi kpo ndi ori bia zulu ewum, bia malu uma najum.” Translation: “Josiah, Josiah, you brought the thieves with whom you stole my goat and you have now come to ask me.” The judge in the case also ruled that this didn’t constitute defamation.

So it has been established in Nigerian law that mere “vulgar abuse” isn’t defamatory. In American media law, vulgar abuse, such as calling someone a “criminal idiot” in the heat of anger, is called rhetorical hyperbole, and is not defamatory.  Saying someone can never be president because of his vicious divisiveness isn’t even vulgar abuse or rhetorical hyperbole; it’s simply innocuous, if uncomplimentary, opinion. Only a litigious terrorist would sue anyone over that.

This is particularly interesting because el-Rufai said worse things about people in power when he was in opposition than his critics say about him now, but no one sued him. He was so proud of his vicious verbal causticity that he described himself as a “certified ruffler of feathers” on his Twitter profile.

Femi Fani-Kayode’s litigious terrorism is less outrageous than Ortom’s and el-Rufai’s but it’s no less indefensible. On September 1, for example, he sued—or threatened to sue— the Daily Trust over a scathingly unflattering opinion article that an occasional contributor to the paper's opinion pages wrote about him.

Most of the unsparingly virulent things the writer wrote about Fani-Kayode, as I pointed out on September 1, qualify as opinion and fair comment in media law and are not actionable. The matter about which the writer wrote, i.e., Fani-Kayode’s unjustifiably primitive verbal violence against a Daily Trust reporter, had dominated the news cycle and generated intense public interest.

The only potentially libelous statement in the piece was the claim that Fani-Kayode is a drug addict who had been treated, without success, in psychiatric hospitals in Ghana (and other places) but who hasn't recovered from his drug addiction.

That's not an opinion that enjoys legal protection; it is a statement that implies a definitive habit of moral turpitude that can be proven to be either true or false.

 Nonetheless, truth is a defense in libel. Daily Trust would be compelled to prove that Fani-Kayode was indeed a drug addict who had been treated at psychiatric hospitals.

In proving this, Daily Trust’s legal team would expose Fani-Kayode to even more public ridicule because whatever evidence they present in court, whether the evidence is false or true, would be legitimate, legally protected material for the news media.

But, even worse, if Daily Trust finally proves it, Fani-Kayode's reputation would be so irretrievably sullied that he would become what defamation lawyers call a “libel-proof plaintiff,” that is, someone whose reputation is already so thoroughly damaged that no libelous statement can damage it further. In other words, he would inadvertently open the floodgates to everyone to thrash him in public without fear of legal consequences.

Plus, he is a public figure who seeks out the media, who willfully thrusts himself into public consciousness, who seeks to influence national conversations, and who has the capacity to respond to whatever dirt is thrown at him. Such people have a hard time winning libel cases.

Finally, in a September 28, 2019 column titled “Osinbajo:Unraveling of Nigeria’s Most Overrated Vice President,” I also wrote about Yemi Osinbajo who, “instead of confronting the real demons that are tormenting him… has chosen to transfer his aggression elsewhere by intimidating and overawing soft, weak targets….

“He is now on a wildly frivolous litigation spree. As of the time of writing this column, he has sued—or has threatened to sue—'one Timi Frank and another Katch Ononuju’ whom he said have ‘put their names to’ what he said are ‘odious falsehoods’ against him. He also threatened to sue RootsTV and Google over a YouTube video he said injured his reputation.”

As is obvious by now, litigious terrorists are cowards who derive strength from intimidating weaker targets and who treasure the privileges of being in the public eye but chafe at the scrutiny that comes with it.

Related Articles:

Abba Kyari’s Cowardly SLAPP against the Punch over Alleged Scam

Osinbajo: Unraveling of Nigeria’s Most Overrated Vice President

Fani-Kayode: All Great Journalists Are “Rude

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Who Writes Buhari’s Horrible, Error-Ridden Speeches?

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

A former minister called me a few days ago to say the focus of my columns on Muhammadu Buhari ignores my own 2018 disclosure that he is a captive of an irrecoverably degenerative mental decline that ensures that he doesn’t know what he says and does. “To criticize Buhari is to beat a carcass,” he said.

I see his point, but I disagree. It is the office, not necessarily the person, that is being criticized, although the person and the office converge. Anyway, the former minister said attention should be focused on the people who drive the policies of the regime, who write Buhari’s speeches, who babysit him.

He pointed out, for instance, that CBN governor Godwin Emefiele now almost singlehandedly steers the economic policies of the country without recourse to the presidency—or the presidential economic advisory council— because there is frankly no presidency. It’s just outright anarchy.

But, to get back to the subject matter of today’s column, who writes Buhari’s speeches? Why are the speeches often embarrassingly error-ridden, callous, shallow, cavalier, ignorant, and unpresidential? Buhari’s October 1 Independence Day Speech is perhaps the crowning encapsulation of his speech writers’ utter inner emptiness and cluelessness. I’ll come back to this point shortly.

I know that Mamman Daura and Education Minister Adamu Adamu wrote some Buhari’s signature speeches in his firm term. I know this because when I wrote a June 7, 2015 column in my now rested grammar column titled “A Grammatical and Rhetorical Analysis of President Buhari’s Inaugural Speech” where I both praised and called attention to the speech’s grammatical errors, I got a swift, defensive, ill-informed response from a “Mainasara” who used the majestic self-referential plural “we” in his response to me, which was published in the Sunday Trust of July 12, 2015.

Daura betrayed himself when he made reference to Dublin College Ireland as one of the guardians of the English language, which it isn’t, nor is there any. (He attended Dublin College!). I wrote a rejoinder to his rejoinder and shut him up. A senior person in Daily Trust later confided in me that “Mainasara” was Mamman Daura’s pen name and that Daura took my criticism personally because he was one of the writers of the inaugural. 

Adamu Adamu, who had been Buhari’s speech writer before he was elected in 2015, also contributed to the 2015 inauguration speech, particularly the Shakespearean references in the speech. (Adamu Adamu is a Shakespearean enthusiast and wordsmith who probably wrote Buhari’s famous “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody” line in the inaugural speech, which some people erroneously said was plagiarized.)

But I no longer see the rhetorical echoes of Adamu Adamu—or even Mamman Daura—in the recent speeches Buhari reads. Whatever disagreements I may have with the duo, I can’t help but concede that they are excellent writers. This is particularly true of Adamu Adamu, who is far and away one of Nigeria’s finest writers in the English language.

I don’t know who writes Buhari’s speeches now. Nor is it possible to tell because the tones and tenor of the speeches change dramatically from occasion to occasion, underscoring the chaos and anything-goes climate in the presidency. 

But whoever the speech writers are, they are illiterate doofuses who have zero appreciation of the power of what we call the rhetorical presidency in communication studies, which I have defined in a forthcoming book chapter as the symbolic and discursive powers of the presidency to frame, reframe, define, and redefine the contours of national conversations and identity formulations and reformulations.

As I pointed out on social media on October 1, Nigeria's Independence Day is supposed to be a solemn, august, introspective moment, and the speech of whoever claims to be president of the country should reflect the dignified seriousness of the moment. It should inspire hope for the future, enliven spirits, and renew faith in the country.

 But what did we see? Buhari’s speech writers chose the moment to visit rhetorical violence on Nigerians, to rile people and foul their mood, to annihilate people’s loyalty in the country, to fertilize hopelessness and despair, and to inspire disabling anxieties about the immediate future.

For instance, during his speech Buhari signaled that he'd yet again hike the price of petrol (and plunge Nigerians into even deeper misery than they're already in) by saying, "It makes no sense for oil to be cheaper in Nigeria than in Saudi Arabia." Which sane person writes that in an Independence Day Speech?

Well, it also makes no sense for the minimum wage in Saudi Arabia to be 3,000 riyals (which is equivalent to N305,149.30) while the minimum wage in Nigeria is a miserly N30,000, which hasn’t even been fully implemented in all states. Nor does it make sense for Saudi Arabia to have generous social safety nets for its citizens while the vast majority of Nigerians are crushed by biting deprivation. Or that Saudis have access to affordable public transportation, while Nigerians don’t.

To compare the petrol prices of various countries with Nigeria and ignore the sky-high differences in minimum wages and standards of living is beyond cruel. In any case, if the government claims it has fully “deregulated” the petrol industry, what business does it have again talking about the prices of petrol? In a deregulated economy, the government has no business fixing prices. That’s the prerogative of the private sector.

You are either deregulating or you are not. There is no in-between. Deregulation means freedom from government regulations. Yet, the government fixes the price of petrol. That’s insane. In a deregulated petrol price regime, the first government agency that should be disbanded outright is the fraudulent Petroleum Products Pricing Regulatory Agency (PPPRA).

I live in the United States where petrol prices are truly deregulated. Different states have different price regimes. In fact, in the same city, different gas stations have different prices. And prices fluctuate from time to time. Prices have been extremely low these past few months because of the slump in global oil prices. Ironically, government-engineered price hikes in Nigeria coincide with a time when prices are low everywhere else in the world.

But, as I've pointed out before, cruelty is now Buhari's official governing philosophy. Denying Nigerians the expectation of relatively cheaper petrol prices is like asking people to hold cream on their hands while their faces and bodies are dry. That’s cruelty. Most Nigerians would be at peace with high petrol prices if their country doesn’t produce oil.

A wealthy parent who starves his children and justifies his cruelty by pointing to the starvation of the children of his poor neighbors is an irresponsible parent who doesn’t deserve his children.

I think one error people keep making, including the former minister who spoke with me, is to forget that even before his dementia-fueled alienation from his government, Buhari had notoriety for sadism. In a response to a previous column, for instance, a Katsina man wrote that Buhari’s nickname as a youngster was "Danliti mugu," meaning "Danliti the sadist."

Another said most people in the Northwest have internalized the fact of Buhari’s sadism by coining the expression "Da sauran aiki; Buhari yaga mai rake da iPhone." Literally: "There's still more to be done; Buhari saw a sugarcane hawker with an iPhone!" In other words, the appearance of even a glimmer of prosperity in people activates Buhari’s sadistic instincts. So his government reflects his person, and his speech writers probably know this.

I wish I could say, "Happy Independence Day" to Nigerians, but that would be heartless. There was nothing to make a song and dance about an Independence Day that was ruined by Buhari's sadism.