"WR6_gUnUj-ztiW07KQcOCnTel9A"/> Notes From Atlanta: January 2021

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Ibrahim Gambari’s New Insidious Assault on the Media

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

It emerged on January 26 that a higher-up in the Buhari regime has instructed Nigeria’s major telecommunications companies—MTN, Glo, Airtel, 9mobile, etc.—  to block access to the website of the Peoples Gazette, an up-and-coming, uncompromisingly hard-hitting, evidence-based, digital-native investigative news reporting outfit headquartered in Abuja.

The news site is reminiscent of the advocatorial, muckraking editorial temperaments of the New York-based Sahara Reporters in its earliest incarnation. Peoples Gazette has published PDFs of the illicit financial transactions of Nigeria’s morally decadent political elites and has broken several exclusive, consequential stories that have shaped national discourse. And the paper started publishing only on September 25, 2020, that is, just a little over four months ago.

Perhaps the paper’s stickiest story, from the perspectives of Aso Rock toadies, was its October 31, 2020 revelation that Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff, is too old for— and is uninterested in— the tiresome clerical drudgery and exertions his job requires and has farmed it out to his son, Bolaji Gambari, who has parlayed his unconstitutional positional surrogacy into an illegitimate political sinecure to lead a new cabal that determines who gets and who is denied government contracts.

“He has no official role and has not taken an official oath to be privy to the highly classified documents we have seen with him recently,” Peoples Gazette quoted an Aso Rock source to have said of Bolaji Gambari. Neither the older and the younger Gambari nor Buhari’s spokesmen took advantage of the opportunity the paper offered them to deny the authenticity of the story or to state their side.

As the story circulated online and became the subject of frantic social media chatter, Peoples Gazette said officials from the office of the Chief of Staff to the President pleaded with them to take it down from their website. When they rebuffed the request for post-publication censorship, they were enticed with “financial offers,” which they also repulsed. Then they were subjected to “severe security pressure,” the paper said.

This month, about three months after the story came out, Gambari’s Oxford-educated adviser on electric power initiatives by the name of Lai Yahaya was fired on suspicion that it was he who leaked details of Gambari’s incompetence and nepotism to the Peoples Gazette, but the paper insisted that Yahaya was not the source of its scoop on Gambari’s shenanigans in the Presidential Villa. 

The paper’s sources said the directive to block its website from being viewed in Nigeria emanated from the office of the Chief of Staff to the President, and that it’s a retaliatory strike against it for bucking pressure to take down the unflattering story it wrote on Gambari and his son. I suspect it’s also because of its unceasingly critical stories on the grievous graft and grift in the Buhari regime.

Already, international media rights groups such as Reporters Without Borders, Committee to Protect Journalists, Paradigm Initiative, and Gatefield have condemned this targeted media strangulation of an intrepid news outlet. In the coming days, I expect more local and international pressure groups to join calls for the rescission of the blockage of Peoples Gazette’s website.

The online newspaper is gaining traction in Nigeria because it fills a void that has been created by the near absence of evidence-based investigative journalism. In a period of unaccustomed quietude and media capitulation in the face of grinding tyranny and moral putrefactions in the highest reaches of the current power structure, the Peoples Gazette has chosen to be a watchdog that not only sniffs and barks at corruption in high places but that also bites the ankles of its perpetrators.

It’s not surprising that government-appointed regulators of the telecommunications industry would pressure telephone companies to throttle or outright block traffic to a news website like that. More than that, Peoples Gazette’s current experience gives a presage for how critical media outlets in the country will be censored henceforth since most news is now read on the internet rather than on hard copies.

 If the government gets away with its blockage of this news site, there’s no telling which news website will be the next victim. That is why every journalist and every advocate of press freedom should resist it with every splash of vim and every ounce of vigor that they have.

Where governments used to seize and burn copies of newspapers that published critical stories, they now tell telecommunication companies to block the URLs of news websites. This insidious media censorship appears to have been going on surreptitiously on a small, barely perceptible scale longer than most people realize. For instance, several readers from Nigeria tell me they have a hard time accessing my blog from their phones.

 I used to wonder why that was so. I was unpersuaded by people who suggested that my website was being blocked by the government through telephone companies. I thought it made no sense to do that because many websites republish my column and the contents of my blog.

 Sometime last year, representatives of Glo and MTN denied on Twitter that my website’s URL was being blocked when people called them out. Their denials, apparently, aren’t worth much because they also denied blocking Peoples Gazette’s website even though it isn’t accessible in Nigeria.

Because of continuing complaints from my readers that they couldn’t access my blog from their phone’s internet connection, I decided to be sharing my entire column on Facebook. But readers still tell me my website is inaccessible to them when they want to read my archives. Now I know why.

It’s disgraceful that a former top diplomat and international civil servant who spent a lifetime preaching the virtues of human rights and freedom (never mind that he served Abacha and cheered the judicial mass murders of Ogoni environmental activists) would countenance—or perhaps instruct—privately owned telecommunication companies in the country to block the URL of a news site that published an accurate but unflattering report on him.

 But the blocking of the web addresses of critical news sites is dumb for at least three reasons. One, people who are determined can circumvent the blockage through Virtual Private Networks (VPNs). Citizens in authoritarian states do that all the time.

Two, as my own example has shown, the material the toads in government don’t want people to read on websites can be published and accessed on social media, which defeats the purpose of targeted URL blocking, unless, of course, the government will go the way of China and block Facebook and Twitter in Nigeria. Peoples Gazette now publishes its stories on Facebook and has enlisted the support of like-minded websites to republish its content.

Three, it’s elementary public relations that you don’t dispel a negative story by amplifying it. Blocking the URL of news websites in hopes of suppressing the uncomfortable stories they published will only give wings to those stories when news of the blockage becomes public knowledge, as has happened with the Gambari story.

Experience tells us that stories that are suppressed by the government almost always become “social stories,” that is, stories that go viral because they are voluntarily shared by users on social media platforms.

When Gambari was appointed Buhari’s Chief of Staff, I described him as “A Presidential Babysitter Who Won’t be as Powerful as Abba Kyari.” Well, it has turned out that Gambari himself needs babysitting and is being babysat by his own son. When a babysitter who has been employed to babysit an invalid person needs to be babysat by his own son, you know you have worse problems on your hands than you had anticipated.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

3 Fallacies in Falola’s “Diss” of Diasporan Academics Over ASUU

 By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

I initially resisted responding to Professor Toyin Falola’s trending essay titled “IS THE DIASPORA NOW ABOUT RUBBISHING THOSE AT HOME?”— which he wrote partly in response to the guest column I invited Professor Moses Ochonu to write— for three reasons.

One, the article was so atypically self-aggrandizing that I thought the Professor Falola I’ve known since 2004 couldn’t possibly be its author. Falola, like all greats, has a reputation for self-effacement and for disarmingly self-deprecating humility.

 But the article wasn’t just gratuitously self-conceited (particularly for someone who is already sitting pretty at the mountaintop of enormous scholarly accomplishments and has no need to toot his own horn), it was also an invidiously below-the-belt symbolic violence against unnamed targets Falola perceives as less privileged than he is, which ironically vitiates his charge of superciliousness against diasporan critics of ASUU’s enablement of mediocrity in the Nigerian university system. I thought someone fraudulently appended his name to lend unearned gravitas to a flawed apologia.

Two, after confirming that he wrote it, I said, well, Falola is a fecund, stellar, far-famed, and generous scholar who has become the patriarch of African academics in North America— and who has earned the perquisite to get away with some benign indiscretions without being challenged. 

Three, I discovered that the article wasn’t meant for public consumption; it was a private email to a select group of Nigerian academics. It was meant, as I understand it, to flatter them and soothe their bruised, brittle egos in the aftermath of searingly stinging but entirely warranted animadversions against ASUU by diasporan academics—and to respond to an address by a diasporan scholar who had excoriated toxic PhD mentorship practices that have taken deep roots among Nigerian academics.

However, because Falola’s private communication has been unethically divulged and is now being lazily weaponized as a counterblast to legitimate, well-intentioned diasporan critiques of the atrophy in Nigerian universities, I am compelled to correct three particularly egregious misconceptions in the article for the benefit of people who desire the unvarnished facts.

1. Folola claimed that diasporan critics of ASUU “teach in schools that are far below any Nigerian public University. How can someone from a US Tier 2 school be talking down on professors at the University of Ibadan?”

That is flat-out incorrect. I take no joy in saying this, but the truth is that the worst university in the US is light-years better than the best public university in Nigeria.

I don’t say this to deride Nigerian universities (which are foundational to what I am today), but to lay bare the multiple layers of self-delusion that this kind of bewilderingly erroneous claim represents. 

Because of America’s wealth and investment in education, students and teachers in even the lowest-ranked American university (to the extent that there is any ontological utility in school rankings outside of the elitist and capitalist impulse to hierarchize and stratify) have access to every imaginable research and pedagogical tool they need to succeed.

 The periodic, rigorous accreditation exercises of such regional accrediting bodies as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Middle States Commission on Higher Education, New England Commission of Higher Education, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, etc. ensure that accredited U.S. universities don’t fall short of minimum standards of excellence.

Plus, PhD is the minimum requirement to teach at most U.S. universities, but the NUC said in 2016 that only about 60 percent of Nigerian university teachers have PhDs.

To compare any accredited U.S. university with any public university in Nigeria is to take wild escapist and nativist fantasies to a tragicomically risible realm.

2. Falola wrote: “Someone who has no PhD student and has not produced one will go to the University of Abuja to lecture people how to mentor students.” Well, you don’t have to supervise PhD students in your school to be qualified to mentor PhD students in another school. You only need to have a PhD to be qualified to mentor PhD students. 

PhD mentoring isn’t some esoteric art that is open only to a specially initiated intellectual cult. That is why scholars who spent lifetimes teaching at undergraduate institutions in America can—and do— seamlessly transition into mentoring PhD students in research universities when they change jobs. It only requires, at the minimum, replicating how you were trained.

 In fact, in the past, particularly in British universities, experienced scholars without PhDs mentored PhD students. For example, Professor Wole Soyinka has only a BA, but he mentored famous African-American Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. when he did his PhD at Cambridge University.

Besides, because of the structure of the university system here, it’s impossible for every university teacher in America to mentor PhD students. Out of America’s nearly 5,000 colleges and universities, only 131 are "R1: Doctoral Universities" and only 135 are classified as "R2: Doctoral Universities."

 In other words, most American universities don’t offer PhDs in most courses even though most American university teachers have PhDs. That means there are only limited opportunities to teach in universities that offer PhDs even for those who desire to mentor PhD students. 

But not offering graduate degrees is not a measure of quality but of a difference of missions. While a few universities want to be known for research, most are devoted to undergraduate teaching.

For instance, liberal arts colleges, which are expensive and prestigious, are committed entirely to excellence in undergraduate teaching. Most of them don’t even offer master’s degrees. To claim that PhDs who teach in one of these undergraduate institutions are incapable of mentoring PhD students elsewhere because they don’t teach PhD students in their schools is to stretch the truth.

It is this misbegotten idea that PhD supervision is a sine qua non of scholarly machismo that has led to the grotesque perversion of doctoral education in Nigeria. Every newly established university— and every poorly staffed department in older universities— now strains hard to create PhD programs so that egoistical academics can graduate PhD students just to bolster their claims to scholarly virility.

 It has led to the creeping but wholly philistine tradition in Nigerian universities that institutes PhD supervision as a prerequisite for promotion to full professor. This has conduced to the relentless spawning of hordes of nescient, intellectually ill-equipped PhDs who reproduce themselves in the system with a deplorably self-replicating virality that annihilates even the littlest pretense to scholarship. 

It’s OK to be an excellent teacher and a middling researcher or a terrific researcher and a passable teacher. Of course, it’s great to be both, but universities in the US know it’s not every day that you find people like Toyin Falola (who is both a supremely innovative teacher and a matchlessly prolific researcher.) 

3. Falola equated criticisms of the bad scholarship and ethical infractions of Nigerian university teachers by their diasporan counterparts as “anti-African” and as “a pandemic to destroy Africa.”

That’s a tad too melodramatic, even a bit dissimulative. These critiques, which Falola himself engages in, come from tough love, passion for change, impatience with inexorably diminishing standards, and an intense awareness of what universities ought to be, which universities at home aren’t.

 Diasporan critics of homeland universities also draw from their own experiential data because they were once victims of instructional unaccountability and what I once called “pedagogical dictatorship.” 

Criticism of certain perverted practices in Nigerian universities isn’t synonymous with a blanket condemnation of all Nigerian university teachers. There are certainly several outstanding researchers and exceptional teachers in Nigerian universities who are also ethical and a match for their peers anywhere in the world.

Moses Ochonu and I, for instance, wrote a joint tribute in my May 19, 2018 column in honor of our undergraduate professor at Bayero University titled “Prof. Saleh Abdu: Appreciation to an Exceptional Teacher.” In several previous interventions on ASUU, I have also isolated remarkable teachers who made a difference in my life, who took their craft seriously, and who would be exemplars anywhere in the world.

But exceptions don’t invalidate the rule; they prove it. The fact that Obafemi Awolowo University produced Toyin Falola in the 1970s is no defense against the facts of the heartrendingly systemic decay of the Nigerian university system and the inculpation of lecturers and governments in this decline.

Related Articles:

A Comparison of Nigerian and American University Teachers (I)

A Comparison of Nigerian and American University Teachers (II)

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Problem of ASUU and the Way Forward

 There’s probably no more pressing issue that imperils the collective destinies of Nigeria’s aspirational middle-class youth than the naggingly disruptive violence of never-ending ASUU strikes. This week, I’ve decided to invite Professor Moses Ochonu, my friend of nearly three decades who has invested tremendous emotional energy on this issue, to write a guest column on the just suspended ASUU strike. I hope his dispassionate diagnosis of the issues and his thoughtful counsel to ASUU will ignite a soul-searching conversation about pedagogical accountability in our universities and about productive alternatives to strikes. Enjoy:

By Moses E. Ochonu

ASUU has called off its strike. The strike will predictably be spun as a success, but it was largely a failure. It cost the union an enormous amount of societal symbolic and perceptual capital while yielding few returns.

ASUU won a few modest concessions, but most of them were in the form of government promises. We know how these promises usually turn out. The government reneges on them, leading to another strike, and another poorly implemented “agreement.” And on and on it goes in a rinse and repeat cycle that torments and shortchanges students and their parents. 

What’s more, the latest “resolution” does not break any new ground and is largely premised on the old MOU and the entitlements enshrined therein. The strike essentially reaffirmed the status quo.

What this means is that ASUU has not achieved much from the strike and merely cut its losses when it realized that it had no leverage and was losing the PR battle in the public domain. 

Speaking of losing support, ASUU loses a large slice of public opinion with each strike.

It shouldn’t be so because, all things considered, ASUU has been a net benefit to the Nigerian university sector. 

The problem is that it is a union moored to an outdated method of struggle, rigidly unwilling to acknowledge the limitations and diminished public appeal of its actions and rhetoric. For good or bad, most Nigerians now blame strikes as much as they blame government inaction for the problems in Nigerian universities. They no longer see strikes as a solution but as part of the problem. 

More tellingly, most Nigerians consider lecturers to be self-absorbed, tone-deaf, insensitive, and navel-gazing operatives who are incapable of seeing how they have become part of the problem and how they’ve become the primary culprits for the absence of moral and instructional accountability and the decline of academic quality control in the system.

Unless lecturers look inward, become self-critical, and begin to live up to their familiar claim that they are saviors of a comatose university system, they will continue to lose public support and will eventually become irreverent objects of scorn with no moral sway and only the power to blackmail and take hostages, the hostages being students.

Where is ASUU when Nigerians discuss the problems of poor and non-existent teaching; rampant sexual harassment; poor supervision and mentorship; corruption and ethical violations; plagiarism; a flawed academic staff recruitment process; lax and politicized academic staff promotion requirements; the absence of merit pay for productive and exemplary lecturers; tyranny towards students; and pedagogical poverty?

Not only is ASUU often missing from and uninterested in such discussions, it usually supports and provides refuge for its members accused of failing in these areas. The union is happy to be an incubator for and rewarder of mediocrity and nonchalance among its members.

And yet, to neutrals and independent stakeholders, the aforementioned issues, for which lecturers are culpable, and which are directly within their purview, are as responsible for the decline of university education in Nigeria as the funding and infrastructure issues often privileged in ASUU propaganda.

If you ask the question of why standards are falling, research quality and quantity declining, and graduates getting worse despite ASUU “winning” significant salary and funding increases over the last three decades, ASUU deflects by blaming the poor quality of admitted students; that is when its goons are not attacking you for daring to pose such a “sacrilegious” question. ASUU never takes responsibility or accepts blame.

It is no longer enough for ASUU people to deflect these issues by saying that these are policy and governance issues under the remit of regulators and universities management and that ASUU is a trade union that is only concerned with the pecuniary interests and institutional comforts of its members. 

If that claim is true then why does ASUU preface and bookend its statements and rhetorical expressions with the claim that it is fighting to save the university system for the benefits of everyone—students, parents, and society? 

Why not stick to the rhetorical script of members-only priorities? Why pivot self-interestedly and strategically to the mantra of bringing salvation to university education for the benefit of all?

ASUU cannot have it both ways. If they’re only a trade union then they should stop assaulting us with claims of caring about and trying to save our universities from ruin. 

ASUU people cannot insist on being judged as a trade union with a members-focused mandate when matters of ethics, abuses, and dereliction of duties are mentioned but then turn around, when they desire support for their strike, to claim that they are fighting for all stakeholders and trying to save the university. 

Clearly, ASUU is plagued by a crisis of identity and rhetorical confusion that it needs to resolve.

If ASUU people are truly concerned about the salvation of our universities, they have to start addressing the failings of their members and commit to helping to hold failing and erring members accountable. 

Only then will they win back the support of Nigerians who have become disillusioned with ASUU’s rhetorical claims and its increasingly counterproductive and fruitless industrial actions.

Let me sketch out what ASUU needs to do to win back public support and reacquire lost social capital.

ASUU needs to articulate a clear, unequivocal opposition to the problems of sexual harassment in Nigerian universities. For starters, it should drop its opposition to the sexual harassment bill being considered in the National Assembly and work with the bill’s sponsors to refine it. ASUU should articulate an equally clear opposition to plagiarism among its members. 

In both the plagiarism and sexual harassment domains, ASUU should abandon its odious practice of defending and protecting the accused and in some cases even threatening to go on strike on their behalf when they are punished.

The union should take the lead in stemming the problem of poor class attendance, nonchalant teaching, and poor research supervision, which are common practices among its members. 

The union should stop standing in the way of disciplining lecturers who fall short in these areas. 

ASUU should protest the irregular and corrupt recruitment of academic staff with as much fervor as it protests the nonpayment of earned allowances, and the union should insist on the implementation of rigorous academic promotion criteria, which would help rid their ranks of ineffectual and uncommitted lecturers. 

ASUU should support the implementation of merit pay, a system in which, in addition to base pay set uniformly by rank, lecturers who distinguish themselves through their teaching and research outcomes/output are given salary increases as a reward and as an incentive to catalyze excellence in teaching/supervision and research. 

ASUU should support and help develop the modalities for the implementation of student teaching evaluations in all universities.

Finally, ASUU should support and help champion the development of what I call a Students Bill of Rights (SBOR), which would outline the rights and protections students enjoy in their academic relationships with lecturers, and which would protect students against abuses, tyranny, unethical exactions, exploitation, and vindictiveness.

Doing all these would buttress ASUU’s claim that it is not only concerned with the welfare of its members but also with saving a collapsing higher education system.

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

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Kukah, Pantami, and Self-Interested Government Critics

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Bishop Matthew Kukah’s Christmas message, which called attention to the deepening depths of death and despair that Nigeria has been dangerously degenerating into in the last few years, attracted the commendations of critics of the Buhari regime and invited the condemnation of regime honchos and defenders.

The impassioned, partisan responses the bishop’s message provoked was predictable, which explained why I didn’t think it was worth commenting on it even though several of my readers asked for my opinion.

However, Professor Jibrin “Jibo” Ibrahim’s January 1, 2021 Daily Trust column titled “Bishop Matthew Kukah: Can a Partisan Tell Truth to Power?” inspired this intervention. Ibrahim, who is a Christian (or at least a non-Muslim) from Kano (and an apologist for the Buhari regime, I should add), argued that Kukah’s criticism of Buhari’s incompetence isn’t disinterested since he not only didn’t criticize PDP governments that were headed by Christians, he also condemned people who did exactly what he is doing to Buhari now.

To back up his claim, Ibrahim reproduced a 2014 exculpatory and excusatory Kukah quote about the Goodluck Jonathan regime’s incompetence in securing the county. The quote uncannily mirrors what Lai Mohammed, Femi Adesina, Garba Shehu, or any Buhari regime propagandist would say today in defense of Buhari’s own incompetence.

 “Nigerians love to criticize their country perhaps far more than any nation I know of in the world,” Kukah was reported to have said during Professor Wole Soyinka’s 80th birthday lecture in 2014. “The President and the security agencies have become the objects of attacks and vilification and yet, there is very little that is being done to point at the way forward. I know that as day follows night, we shall pull out of this tragedy that we face as a nation. But the least we can do is to stand in the comforts of highways and homes that someone else constructed and thrown stones at ourselves and our people simply because we are living off someone else’s sweat.”

In other words, when Kukah’s co-religionists are in power, he chafes at social criticism of governments, but when people he doesn’t share the same religious faith with are in power he not only countenances criticisms of governments, he actually uses his pulpit to censure them in the severest forms possible. That’s not disinterested criticism; it’s self-interested criticism.

Bishop Kukah is my friend, and I had always assumed that he was an equal-opportunity critic of all bad governments, but now that I think about it, I frankly don't recall him being as severely censorious of Jonathan—or even Obasanjo— as he has been of Buhari even though Jonathan was the absolute worst president we had had until Buhari came to beat his record.

Was Bishop Kukah benign to Jonathan because he benefited from his government in either symbolic or material terms? I don’t know, but it’s entirely legitimate to be suspicious of the intent of his very accurate and unassailable assessment of the Buhari regime. If he wasn't nearly as critical of Jonathan when he also supervised Nigeria's descent into anarchy and precarity, which made Buhari’s emergence possible, his motivation can't be attributed entirely to telling truth to power.

Anyone who defended—or, worse, still defends—Jonathan has no moral right to criticize Buhari and expect to not invite ridicule or a questioning of their motives.

Nothing in Goodluck Jonathan's temperaments and comportment suggests that he is different from Buhari. Like Buhari, he fiddled and engaged in crackpot conspiracy ideations while the country burned. Boko Haram’s fury not only raged in Borno, Yobe, Adamawa, Gombe, Bauchi, and so on, bombs periodically went off in places like Kano, Kaduna, and even the federal capital territory.

Instead of confronting the widening insecurity that engulfed the country, Jonathan sulked—and sucked. He said the insecurity was a plot by the elites of the North to get him out of power, a silly conspiracy ideation that has been undermined by the escalation of the same insecurity—and its intensification in the North— on the watch of a northerner.

"Some of them [Boko Haram members] are in the executive arm of government, some of them are in the parliamentary/legislative arm of government, while some of them are even in the judiciary,” Jonathan said on January 8, 2012 at the interdenominational church service to mark Armed Forces Remembrance Day in Abuja. "Some are also in the armed forces, the police and other security agencies. Some continue to dip their hands and eat with you and you won't even know the person who will point a gun at you or plant a bomb behind your house." 

That was an astonishingly astounding level of presidential cluelessness and irresponsibility that Kukah ignored, defended, or excused.  

 Recall that Jonathan also defended the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND) when it carried out a terrorist attack in Abuja that it owned up to and even forewarned—similar to Buhari's defense of Fulani murderers and mollycoddling of Boko Haram terrorists.

As I pointed out in my October 16, 2010 column titled “A MENDacious President!” MEND had bombed the venue of a two-day “post- amnesty” dialogue organized by Vanguard Newspapers in Warri and even Jonathan’s own home in his hometown of Otuoke on May 16, 2007 after he was appointed Vice President. Why did he insist they didn’t bomb Abuja on October 1, 2010 when they—and even British intelligence agencies—warned that they would strike?

Does anyone who either ignored or defended Jonathan's disaster of an administration, which has been made only more tolerable in hindsight when compared with Buhari's, deserve to be shielded from having their motive questioned when they criticize Buhari?

In other words, if Buhari's successor turns out to be even worse than he is (the one thing no one can say with certainty about Nigeria's leadership is that it won't get worse than it is now), should people who ignored or defended Buhari be allowed to criticize his successor without having their motives questioned? I don't think so.

Bishop Kukah’s defense of Jonathan in 2014 isn’t different from current Buhari apologists’ defense of Buhari’s incompetence. He shouldn't be allowed to get away with selective outrage.

The truth is that every previous administration often benefits from a kind of cognitive bias that psychologists call rosy retrospection, which is the tendency to remember past times more positively as they recede into distant memories. Even Buhari will benefit from rosy retrospection years after his tenure. Should people who defend or ignore him now be given a pass if they come down hard on his successor?

But Kukah is not alone. My good friend Sheikh Dr. Ali Isa Pantami is now the object of Twitter attacks by young educated northerners who remind him that his cold detachment from the horrors that afflict northern Muslims today is such a disconcerting contrast from his erstwhile persistent, shrill, and lachrymose attacks on former President Goodluck Jonathan from his pulpit.

 In a widely circulated audio tape, he tearfully told Jonathan that, as president and commander-in-chief, he should take responsibility for the daily mass murders of Muslims in the North.

Today, more Northern Muslims are dying and being violently kidnapped than at any time in Nigeria’s entire history, but Sheikh Pantami hasn’t placed the blame for this on Buhari in whose government he served as DG of NITDA and serves as minister of Communication and Digital Economy.

Like Kukah, Pantami’s criticism of Jonathan wasn’t disinterested; it was self-interested. Although they have a right to their religiously tinged selective outrage against governments, those of us whose chronicling and censures of missteps in governance isn't animated by partisan or primordial impulses also have an obligation to call them out.  

Yes, Buhari is worse than Jonathan, but that doesn't erase the fact that Jonathan was also terrible president. No one who defended—or defends—Jonathan has moral superiority over current Buhari defenders.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Why Abba Kyari’s Death Was 2020's Most Momentous Moment

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The year 2020 was a year of incalculable disasters for the whole world, but it was even more disastrous for Nigeria because it was the year all pretenses to governance ceased with the death of Abba Kyari, Buhari’s Chief of Staff who functioned as the actual president of Nigeria.

In this week’s column, I will bring together some of my published thoughts and predictions on Abba Kyari before and after his death.

People who follow my column know I have insisted time and again that Abba Kyari was Nigeria’s de facto president. For instance, in my February 22, 2020 column titled “The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,” I wrote:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And in my April 18, 2020 article titled “Abba Kyari's Death, End of a Surrogate Presidency, and the Coming Chaos,” I wrote the following, most of which is materializing:

“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. Mamman Daura, Buhari's nephew who introduced Kyari to Buhari, isn't only old (he is now in his early 80's) he is also now isolated from Buhari thanks to Kyari….

“There is a yawning, potentially disorienting power vacuum in the presidential villa now, which actually emerged really visibly since Kyari went out of circulation before his eventual death.

“Watch out for Aisha Buhari to assert herself more aggressively and to work to grab power in the fashion that Turai Yar'adua did. In fact, she already started this the moment Kyari took ill.

“One of the first things Aisha did was to cause Jalal Arabi, Permanent Secretary of the State House and Kyari's dutiful protege, to be redeployed from the Villa.

“The remnants of the cabal will, of course, fight back. But the fight between Aisha and members of the cabal, who are merely Kyari's proteges, would be a fight in the dark because Buhari who is supposed to intervene is an insentient being who's barely aware he's alive.

“The in-fighting will create noticeable cracks in the Buhari group that Osinbajo, Tinubu, and other interest groups would exploit to feather their nests and advance their interests. In other words, 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.”

In 2021 Journalists Should Not Help in the Cover-Up of Buhari’s Dementia

If Nigerian journalists do their job and properly attribute stories to Buhari’s spokesmen—and to ministers and heads of government agencies— instead of to “Buhari,” Buhari’s dementia-inspired physical and symbolic absence from governance would be dramatized, and perhaps Nigerians can appreciate the depth of his disaffiliation from the country.

Buhari NEVER says or does most of the things that are often attributed to him. He doesn’t even know about the deaths he is always quoted as condemning or being shocked about—or about the appointments he is often alleged to make or terminate. 

For instance, according to Jaafar Jaafar, publisher of the Daily Nigerian, Buhari was made aware of Sam Nda-Isaiah’s death only when he read Femi Adesina’s press statement in the newspapers where Buhari was reported to have commiserated with Nda-Isaiah’s family!

Headline casters should adopt the universal journalistic practice of news attribution by attributing stories to people who actually originate them.

Examples: “Spokesman says Buhari condemned killings in Zamfara,” “Minister says Buhari fired NDDC board,” “Spokesman says Buhari shocked by kidnap of schoolchildren,” “Buhari’s Twitter handle says Nigeria will rebound,” etc. 

Don’t attribute anything to Buhari unless you actually see him saying or doing it. Maybe a memo with his signature can be attributed to him. Note, however, that his signature is often manipulated or forced by dodgy aides.

That’s the only way to dramatize the absurdity of a “president” who never talks directly to citizens, who never grants interviews to journalists, who never addresses news conferences, who never gives live broadcasts even in momentous moments, who is perpetually babysat and mollycoddled like a toddler, and who physically and metaphorically picks his teeth while the country he supposedly presides over burns and falls apart.