Saturday, May 29, 2021

COAS Appointment as Missed Opportunity for Unity

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

The appointment of my namesake, Major General Farouk Yahaya, as Chief of Army Staff to succeed the late Lieutenant General Ibrahim Attahiru who died in a plane crash on May 21 is yet another tone-deaf but entirely predictable mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity at a time it desperately needs to be cared for with deliberate symbolic nourishment. 

There is no question that General Yahaya is qualified for the job. His CV shows evidence of immense professional and academic preparedness for the position. But the alternatives to him are just as qualified, so this is never about competence for the job. It’s about symbolism and the politics of representation at a time of heightened national storm and stress.

Many people had hoped that the regime would appoint Major General Benjamin Ahanotu from Anambra State as Attahiru’s successor both to water the perishingly shriveling tree of national unity in the country and to pacify the Southeast whose sense of alienation in the last five years is resurrecting the ghost of Biafra secessionist agitation.  

Since Ahanotu is just as professionally and academically prepared as Yahaya is, a lot more would have been gained in symbolic and substantive terms if the regime had chosen to not appoint another Northern Muslim to succeed a northern Muslim who succeeded a previous northern Muslim.

In no previous civilian administration has this ever happened. Former President Shehu Shagari had ethnic and religious diversity in his choice of Chief of Army Staff. He started with Lieutenant General Ipoola Alani Akinrinade, then appointed Lieutenant General Gibson Jalo, and finally Lieutenant General Mohammed Inuwa Wushishi.

Although Obasanjo’s choices of Chief of Army Staff didn’t reflect religious diversity, they reflected regional and ethnic diversity. Goodluck Jonathan also chose only Christians from the South-South and the Southeast, which we condemned, but his security council was more broad-based than Buhari’s is.

Many well-placed northern politicians who are disturbed by the widening intensity of fissiparity in the Nigerian polity told me they intervened to ensure that the regime appointed someone other than a northern Muslim as Chief of Army Staff. One man told me he was part of a group that reached out to Professor Ibrahim Gambari, Muhammadu Buhari’s Chief of Staff, to persuade him to advise his boss to appoint Ahanotu—or another qualified southerner—as Chief of Army Staff.

Perhaps, that was where the group erred. Gambari has no powers to influence consequential policy decisions in this regime. A personage who is intimately familiar with the workings of the Presidential Villa told me a few days ago that Gambari was recently caught dozing off in the waiting room of Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf, the 30-something-year-old cousin of Buhari’s who is also his special assistant. 

The man said the fact of Gambari drifting off in Yusuf’s waiting room was indicative of the extended minutes, perhaps hours, that he had been waiting for the young man. But, for me, it emblematizes Gambari’s powerlessness and lack of access to the man he is supposed to be Chief of Staff to.

As dramatic as this revelation was, it wasn’t shocking to me. I have always known that Sabiu “Tunde” Yusuf, whose highest work experience prior to joining his cousin’s government was a phone recharge card seller, is the real successor to Abba Kyari.

In my November 23, 2019 column titled “Government of Buhari’s Family, By His Family, and For His Family,” I described him as “one of the most powerful people in Nigeria today. He determines who sees and who doesn’t see Buhari. Only Mamman Daura and Abba Kyari can overrule him.”

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

A May 25, 2020 exclusive Daily Trust story titled “How Buhari’s Chief of Staff, Gambari facilitated removal of TCN boss” proved me right. “The Special Assistant to the President (President Secretariat), Sabi’u Yusuf, the same day, wrote a letter referenced PRES/65-I/COS/3/750, addressed to the CoS, Prof. Gambari, conveying Buhari’s approval of his earlier memo,” the story said.

So, unlike Abba Kyari who had a direct access to Buhari and whom Buhari said all ministers should meet if they wanted anything from him, Gambari has an intermediary between him and Buhari, and that intermediary is a blood relative of his planted there by Mamman Daura, his Trinity College, Dublin-educated nephew on whom he has always been emotionally and intellectually dependent. 

As I pointed out in my May 30, 2020 column titled, “Gambari: Embrace and Alienation of an Outsider on the Inside,” “The real Chief of Staff to Buhari is Sabi’u ‘Tunde’ Yusuf (of course, acting on Mamman Daura’s behalf) while Ibrahim Gambari is only the public face of the office— with some legroom to do the most obvious official requirements of his job.”

I’ve gone to this length to rejig the reader’s memory just to make the case that anyone who wanted to influence the appointment of the new Chief of Army Staff should have gone to Mamman Daura who is the real, if unofficial, president of Nigeria. But Daura has a really retrograde and fossilized understanding of Nigeria’s ethnic and religious diversity.

Nonetheless, in case people who can influence Daura are reading this, he should be made self-aware that in moments such as Nigeria is going through now, even little symbolic acts of inclusion go a long way. At the twilight of his life, he has become the luckiest Nigerian alive. He has unofficial presidential powers without winning or rigging an election, staging a coup, or even being appointed. Even for the sake of his grandchildren, he should snap out of his provincial cocoon and save the country from avoidable implosion.

Nigeria’s chance for continued existence going forward will be dependent on intentional symbolic gestures that nurture national cohesion. National cohesion doesn’t magically emerge out of thin air because people who are luxuriating in the decadent orbits of power facilely proclaim Nigeria’s unity to be “settled” and “non-negotiable.” Nation-building is never “settled”; it is always in a state of negotiation and renegotiation. 

Unity is not an article of faith to be internalized and accepted unquestioningly. It is consciously sowed, watered, and nourished by acts of kindness to the disadvantaged, by equity and justice to all, by consensus-building, by deliberate healing of the existential wounds that naturally emerge in our interactions as constituents of a common national space, and by acknowledging and working to cover our ethnic, religious, regional, and cultural fissures. The efforts will never be perfect or fool-proof but doing something about a problem is always better than complacency and smug self-satisfaction.

Most progressive Muslim northerners I know are embarrassed to no end by the extreme and unprecedented Arewaization of appointments in this regime. They are embarrassed and worried because the lopsidedness of the appointments invites unearned hate to innocent northerners who don’t materially benefit from them, line the pockets of a privileged few, and alienate our compatriots from the South. That’s not sustainable if we still want a country. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Between Malami’s Spare Parts and Southern Governors’ Cows

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Attorney General and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami aroused people, particularly from the South, to seething fury when he said on May 19 during a ChannelsTV interview that Southern governors’ May 18 resolution to ban open grazing in their part of the country would be synonymous with northern governors banning the sale of spare parts in their own gubernatorial spheres of authority.

“For example, it is as good as saying, perhaps, maybe, the northern governors coming together to say they prohibit spare parts trading in the north,” he said. “Does it hold water? Does it hold water for a northern governor to come and state expressly that he now prohibits spare parts trading in the north?”

This was a dreadfully mistaken analogy that instantiates the age-old English expression, “comparisons are odious.” First, the governor of Benue State, which is in the North, has also signed a law banning open grazing. It isn’t unlikely that other northern states will follow suit with some version of an open-grazing ban at some point. So, it’s not exactly as cut-and-dried, north-versus-south binary as Malami makes it seem.

Second, as I pointed out in my May 20 social media update, Malami’s imperfect contrast of contexts is an invidious and wholly gratuitous dog-whistle ethnic jibe at Igbo people even though it wasn’t just Igbo governors who endorsed the banning of open grazing; Yoruba, Ikwerre, Bini, Ijaw, Ibibio, and Obanlikwu governors endorsed it, too.

Although the expression “dog whistle” originated in Australian English, it was popularized and exported to the rest of the world from America, and it means the devious, loaded use of words and imagery in ways that seem harmless and innocent on the surface but that actually send a special, often bigoted and divisive, message to an intentionally preselected group of people.

“Biafra boys,” “IPOB people,” “spare parts dealers” are well-known dog-whistle references to Igbo people. My April 3, 2021 column titled “Umar’s ‘BIAFRAN Boys’ Dig Part of Nigeria’s Unofficial Igbophobia” shows how the Buhari regime’s honchos have adopted Igbophobia as an unofficial policy.

It’s just like how “terrorist” has now become a dog-whistle reference to northern Muslims among southerners. For instance, in December 2014, Mrs. Rose Chinyere Uzoma, the then Comptroller General of the Nigeria Immigration Service, told members of the National Assembly that she subverted the laws and conducted a widely condemned, secretive, regionally skewed recruitment into the immigration service because she didn’t want to “unknowingly employ terrorists.”

Well, it turned out that northern states with Muslim majority populations were the least represented in Uzoma’s secretive employment exercise. I called her out in a December 29, 2012 column titled “Terrorism and Recruitment into the Nigeria Immigration Service.” Malami is as guilty of invidious dog-whistling as Uzoma was.

Another reason Malami’s comparison is odious is that it’s at once wildly inaccurate and factually impoverished. As many people have already pointed out, it is cows, not herders, that are banned from uncontrolled grazing because they destroy farmlands.

Spare parts don’t destroy anything. On the contrary, they supplement the middle-class indulgence of car ownership for Nigerians.

The southern governors’ resolution, as I understand it, is, in fact, not an attack on cows or on herders. It’s merely a restriction on an act: open grazing. Ranched cows are not affected by the resolution. And the constitution guarantees the rights of Nigerian herders, as individuals, to move to any part of Nigeria—like everybody else. (Of course, this excludes non-Nigerian herders in Nigeria whose proliferative presence even the government has acknowledged many times). 

Chapter4, Section 41 of the Nigerian Constitution says, “Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom.” The resolution of the southern governors hasn’t violated that.

But several governors have, in the past, violated this constitutional guarantee without as much as a whisper from Malami.  In August 2019, the Lagos State government accused some northerners of “illegal mass movement” into the state and arrested them. I passionately condemned this in a September 7, 2019 column titled “Victims of Xenophobia Abroad, Culprits of Xenophobia at Home” and contributed to their unconditional release.

In April 2020, in contravention of both common sense and well-established conventions, the Kano State government also “deported” a man from Kano to Jigawa State after he tested positive for the coronavirus. As I pointed out in my May 2, 2020 column titled “COVID-19 Dramatizes Nigeria’s Countries-Within-a-Country Conundrum,” Kano later opened the floodgates for the recriminatory “deportations” of almajirai in Nigeria’s northwestern states by first “deporting” more than 1,000 children to their home states.

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

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

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

Malami was unseen and unheard when all of these violations of the constitution occurred, but he is suddenly interested in these matters because cows and regional politics are involved. That, in my opinion, bespeaks reckless and extreme irresponsibility, not to mention toxic incompetence and bigotry.

In any case, the harm of open grazing disproportionately affects more northern farmers than it does southern farmers since farming is the North’s mainstay and open grazing hurts farming. I know of scores of relatives, friends, and acquaintances from all parts of the North who have stopped farming because of the increasingly lethal dangers of open grazing.

In a January 20, 2018 column titled “Existential Threats of Nomadic Pastoralism to Nigeria,” I wrote:

 “To give just one example of how this anachronistic practice is ruining and displacing lives, in my local government, most peasant farmers have abandoned farming (and I know this is true of most traditionally agricultural communities) because of the menace of cattle herders. Farmers toil day and night to tend to their crops only for herders to destroy them in a day.

“Last year, one of my younger brothers expended time, money, and energy to cultivate huge yam, peanut, and corn farms. He returned from school (he is an undergraduate) one day to find that almost all of his crops had been eaten by herds of cattle. Now he says he will never farm again. And he is not alone.”

 The consequences of the mass desertion of farming are only just now manifesting in the form of food shortages and high costs for food. This will only get worse if nothing is done.

Malami’s “spare parts” comparison is faulty for another reason: Many state governments— including Kano, Kaduna, the FCT, Lagos, etc.— have actually banned the use of motorcycles and minibuses for intra-city mobility in what I once called a “Transportational War on Nigeria’s Poor” in a February 2, 2013 column. That directly affects spare parts sellers.

The ban on commercial motorcycles not only inflicts misery on and halts internal mobility for millions of the urban working poor and the people who survive on it, it also deprives spare parts sellers of a huge chunk of their clientele. Why has Malami not come out in defense of commercial motorcyclists and spare parts in the same way he has come out in defense of cows?

Again, several states in the North habitually seize and destroy alcoholic beverages belonging to other Nigerians who have a constitutional right to sell them to willing customers. Malami has never protested this violation of their rights.

Malami clearly allowed his prejudice to overpower his mind. As a wise man once said, prejudice deceives when it talks, distorts what it sees, and destroys when it acts. 

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Dementia, not Buhari, Fired NPA’s Bala Usman

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Muhammadu Buhari’s “suspension” of Hajia Hadiza Bala Usman as Managing Director of the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) four months after prematurely approving a second term for her (months before the end of her first term) is yet another powerful instantiation of his dangerously degenerative dementia.

Think about this: which half-way self-aware and sentient human being would approve a tenure extension for a CEO six months before it expires but then turn around and suspend the same person two months to the end of the first tenure over allegations that date back to more than four years? Before you extend someone’s tenure, shouldn’t you first audit their current one and be satisfied that they have no ethical and moral stains that would warrant a reversal of the extension?

Well, the truth is that Buhari has literally no mind, and any aide, associate, minister, or even friend who has exclusive access to him can get him to sign off on anything. Hadiza Bala Usman’s backers initially had access to Buhari and caused him to buck convention by hastily approving a second term for her. Then Rotimi Amaechi had another chance to meet with Buhari and got him to temporarily fire her. I can guarantee that when her backers have an opportunity to meet Buhari again, they will make him sign off on a reversal of her suspension. 

You see, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out since 2018, dementia has made Buhari a pitiful puppet who is easily manipulated and swayed by anybody with private access to him. I called attention to this more than two years ago in hopes that it would alarm people enough to work to prevent the catastrophe of a dementia-plagued Buhari second term, which is now unraveling.

In my January 19, 2019 column titled “Buhari’s Physical and Mental Health is Now a National Emergency,” which I encourage people who missed it to read and people who read it before to re-read, I wrote:

“People around the president are intimately familiar with his considerably diminished sentience and his notoriously declining short-term memory. As a consequence, he is being taken advantage of by several people close to him. Aso Rock insiders say Buhari doesn't remember anything, so no one even obeys his instructions—if he gives any at all. The last person to see him gets him to do whatever they want. Someone from the Presidential Villa told me it’s precisely because of this fact that governors frequent the Villa several times in a week; they are in a race to be the last people to see the president before he takes decisions and signs off on them.”

The pendular swings in the tenure elongation and then sudden suspension of Hadiza Bala Usman as MD of NPA is only the latest example of an uncomfortably lengthening cascade of inscrutable, dementia-fueled presidential decisions that Buhari has taken in the last five years.

For example, in my February 22, 2020 column titled “The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency,” published about two months before Abba Kyari’s April 17, 2020 death from COVID-19 complications, I brought to light how Kyari manipulated Buhari’s dementia to get him to sign off on his shady, unexampled appointment as a member of the NNPC Board.

Here’s what I wrote: “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 an insensitive Buhari to sign off on it!

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

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

Sahara Reporters also reported on March 24, 2021 that Buhari’s driver by the name of Sa'idu Afaka got Buhari to sign off on fraudulent documents for an NNPC contract from which the driver made millions of naira. He was betrayed by Buhari’s former ADC who was initially in on the fraud but who got furious because he was out-schemed by Afaka, according to Sahara Reporters. 

“SaharaReporters further gathered that it is generally known in the President's circle and among his cabinet members that Buhari has been showing some symptoms such as forgetfulness, limited social skills and impaired thinking abilities,” the paper reported, confirming what I wrote more than two years ago. “Therefore, he does not go through the rigours of reading reports or properly vetting documents as required of his office.”

When Sahara Reporters reported that on March 24 that Afaka was arrested and detained by the DSS, there was no official response. But when he died on April 6, 2021, in typical manipulative, mind management fashion, the presidency said Afaka died “after a prolonged illness.” And after Sahara Reporters said he “was tortured by the DSS before he was rushed to the State House Clinic, Abuja, where he later died,” the DSS was instructed to deny this.

Sadly, there are many more instances of Buhari’s insentience being weaponized and used for all kinds of things by people who are close to him that the public isn’t privy to. The truth is that Buhari is in an inexorable cognitive and mental free fall. His dementia-powered presidential pendulum swings are merely outward expressions of a deeply decrepit and dysfunctional personality who shouldn’t rule any country. 

Alas, it’s too late to do anything now. The only legitimate course of action at this point to salvage the situation is for the National Assembly to invoke the constitution to impeach and remove him. But everyone knows there’s not a snowball’s chance in hell of that happening. Certainly not with the unscrupulously servile automatons who currently head the Senate and the House of Representatives. So we’re stuck.

Connecting the Dots Between Aisha Buhari and Armed Invasion at Aso Rock

When Sahara Reporters reported on December 5, 2020 that Aisha Buhari fled to Dubai because of "insecurity in Aso Villa," it sounded both incredulous and humorous. 

Well, on May 10, Peoples Gazette reported that "armed men" "invaded" the Aso Rock residences of Ibrahim Gambari, Buhari's Chief of Staff, and Abdullahi Maikano, an Aso Villa admin officer, and carted away "valuable assets." 

The presidency all but confirmed the story but added the obligatory official lie that it was only a "foolish attempt" at burglary. Well, connect the dots.

If even the most fortified place in the country isn't secure enough for Buhari's wife to stay in—and his Chief of Staff is vulnerable to armed raids in it—where's safe? 

It’s worse when the person who should be most concerned about this isn’t even alive enough to know what’s happening around him, much less what’s happening in the country.

Related Articles:

Buhari’s Physical and Mental Health is Now a National Emergency

The Tragedy of the Abba Kyari Surrogate Presidency

Abba Kyari's Death, End of a Surrogate Presidency, and the Coming Chaos

Coronavirus: Why Buhari Won’t Address Nigerians

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

Saturday, May 8, 2021

Celebration of Kabiru Yusuf’s Election as NPAN President

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

I’m certain that many people will be astonished by the thematic core of today’s column: the extolment of someone who isn’t dead and whom I have a good reason to resent for capitulating to pressures from the Presidency to squelch my voice in his paper.

In December 2020, two significant events happened in Nigerian journalism: Malam Kabiru Yusuf, the founder and majority shareholder of Media Trust, which publishes the Daily Trust, was elected president of the Newspaper Proprietors' Association of Nigeria (NPAN) and Mr. Sam Nda-Isaiah, Chairman of the Leadership Newspaper, died.

I wrote this column in December 2020 to reflect on these events but kept putting it off because more pressing issues kept emerging that eclipsed it. 

Well, people who’d said the unkindest things about Nda-Isaiah when he was alive wrote eloquent praises about his incomparable professional, moral, and intellectual strengths. But I’m unaware of anyone who used the occasion of Yusuf’s election as NPAN president to write about his character, professionalism, and intellectual vitality.

Why do we see the good in people only when they’re dead but obsess over their foibles when they’re alive? I think part of the reason we’re reluctant to celebrate the living is the fear of being misunderstood as angling to win their favor through flattery. Well, people who are familiar with the breakdown of my relationship with Daily Trust know that if I were to obey my gut inclinations, my reflections on its owner would be clouded by negative emotions. But I choose to transcend that.

I have known Malam Kabiru Yusuf since 1998 when he employed me as a reporter— on the recommendation of Professor Attahiru Jega, his childhood friend who was my mentor at Bayero University, Kano. In more ways than he is aware, he taught me a lot, shaped my professional sensibilities, and fast-tracked my journalistic growth and maturity.

He loves to give a chance to young people almost as an article of faith. He prizes competence and youth over longevity of experience for its own sake. A lot of the people who have held important positions in the Trust newspapers were in their late 20s. He appointed me news editor at the Weekly Trust (and later of the Daily Trust) when I was in my 20s and nominated me to represent him at places where older, more experienced editors gathered. 

Although I was one of the youngest people in the newsroom, he recognized my professional journalistic training and would occasionally devote a good portion of the editorial meetings to request me to teach my colleagues and my seniors about professional news writing conventions. This both flattered me and boosted my professional self-confidence.

Abdulaziz Abdullahi, Habeeb Pindiga, Nasiru Lawal are other examples of Daily Trust editors who didn’t have extensive reportorial experience before they became editors and who were in their late 20s/early 30s when they became editors. The paper’s current Editor-in-Chief, Naziru Mikailu, is in his mid-30s.

I think Yusuf’s almost compulsive thirst to thrust young people into positions of leadership draws from his own biography. He was editor of the Daily Triumph in Kano in his 20s. When he was editor of the Today newspaper in Kaduna, he was also in his 20s. By all accounts, he gave a great account of himself.

Yusuf also embraces the unconventional. When he started the Weekly Trust in early 1998, he hired a smart, quick-witted political science university teacher with no prior journalism experience by the name of Isyaku Dikko as editor. Dikko’s professional “outsidedness” gave him fresh, out-of-the-box perspectives that made the paper stand out.

He also appointed Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, an accomplished broadcaster with no prior print journalism experience, as Daily Trust’s second (and first substantive) editor. It wasn’t just an unconventional move designed to creatively disrupt settled and familiar professional boundaries in print journalism; it was also, I suspect, an intentionally expansionist move to centralize the margins of the North in the paper. Kawu is a Yoruba-speaking Kwaran from Ilorin who traces distant patrilineal descent from the Fulani but who speaks neither Fulfulde nor even Hausa with any proficiency.

And this leads to another attribute of Yusuf’s that is rarely recognized. Although he has his own primordial loyalties like most Nigerians, he is extremely cosmopolitan and urbane. That’s why the Daily Trust has more “federal character” than the Federal Character Commission—and any newsroom in Nigeria. I heard him on more than one occasion tout the virtue of ethnic and religious diversity in the reportorial corps of newsrooms for practical reasons.

Yusuf challenged his reporters to think big and had no hesitation to let them materialize their ideas. One day in 1999, we debated what our cover story would be, and a lot of people suggested we do a story on the cries of “marginalization” by the elites of the North only a few months after Obasanjo was in power.

Just when everyone thought we had a good story, I opposed it. I said political exclusion from the orbit of the power structure was not a faithful rendition of the real meaning of “marginalization,” insisting that the only truly marginalized people were the underclass, the economically and socially disaffiliated: people who slept under bridges, Ogoni people whose land had been despoiled by years of oil exploration, communities on the edge of existence, etc.

Marxian notions of injustice were still fresh in my brain and, as a former ABU- and Toronto University-educated Marxist himself, he nodded and said he would give me a chance to bring my idea to life. He approved my request to travel to Ogoni land, including Ken Saro-Wiwa’s hometown of Bane, rural communities in central, southern, and northern Nigeria, and so on. It turned out to be one of our most consequential cover stories.

He also showed empathy in ways that weren’t always apparent to people who looked at his cold surface. I recall in 2000 that he assigned me to cover the raging Kaduna Sharia riots where scores of people were being murdered.

After the editorial meeting in his office, I came to the newsroom and told my then girlfriend who later became my wife that Malam Kabiru wanted me dead. I didn’t know he had left his office, was in the newsroom, and heard everything I’d said.

I froze when I saw him. But what he said and did touched me so deeply it’s still as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. He said, “Farooq, I cherish you too much to want you to die, but I do understand your reluctance. To show you I don’t want you to die, I’ll go with you to do the story.”

He was calm and had no hint of anger. He drove me around Kaduna amid the killings. I wore a shirt and trousers and could be mistaken for a southern Christian. Wherever we were stopped in Muslim-dominated areas, he would make sure to say in Hausa I was “dan Kwara” or “dan Ilori” and that I was a Muslim. 

I also remember his humility. It isn’t self-conscious, self-advertising humility. It’s natural humility. During production nights in Kaduna, he stayed the nights and dined with us. He hated red tape, excessive bureaucracy, and elaborate formalities. He’s had the same (and only one MTN) phone number since mobile telephony started in Nigeria!

When a now late colleague of mine at my university returned from a world journalism conference in 2014 from somewhere in the Middle East and told me he met a former “colleague” of mine there who sent his hellos to me, I frankly didn’t think it was Yusuf, although I know him as someone who disdained vainglory. 

It turned out that Yusuf recognized that he taught at Kennesaw State University and asked if he knew me. My friend asked how he knew me, and he said I was his “colleague.” When I told my friend that Yusuf was not only my boss, he owned at least 40 percent of the newspaper I worked in, he said that was some sky-high modesty even by American standards!

It’s also not often known that Yusuf is one of Nigeria’s finest prose stylists in English. It’s sad that he has stopped writing. I was fortunate to read not just his occasional pieces in Weekly Trust and Daily Trust but his past columns in Today and Citizen. He has a distinctive style that privileges freshness in word choice and imagery, and that shuns clich├ęs with what seems like a religious zeal. 

When everyone overused words and expressions, he’d choose everyday but nonetheless distinctive alternatives, which gave his writing originality and admirable stylistic sparkle. He was probably a poet in his youth.

I congratulate him on his election and hope that he brings his extensive experience to bear in the running of the NPAN.

Related Articles:

Psychology Behind the Unexpected Beatification of Abba Kyari

Femi Kusa’s Perverse Dance on Ibru’s Grave

Beyond Yar’adua: Tributes to Little-Known Living Heroes

Tributes to Little-Known Living Heroes (II)

Saturday, May 1, 2021

My Outrage Fatigue About Nigeria

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

In the last few months, I’ve noticeably scaled down the frequency and intensity of my social media involvement with Nigeria, and scores of people have reached out to ask why. The short answer is that I am suffering from a psychological phenomenon called outrage fatigue.

Late African-American civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer colorfully characterized this state of mind as being sick and tired of being sick and tired. It is instigated by sustained sensations of powerlessness, hopelessness, mental exhaustion, and cynicism, which ultimately lead to indifference and even compassion fatigue.

My outrage usually flows from a wellspring of righteous indignation over injustice, avoidably missed opportunities, elite cruelty, and preventable existential catastrophes. It is nourished by expectations that its forceful ventilation will jolt people to act and cause policymakers to make amends for the good of the society.

That was what Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist James Earle “Jimmy” Breslin meant when he said, “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”

But outrage, rage, and even compassion are not a permanent condition; they are intrinsically temporary. It’s impossible to keep your sanity while you are in a perpetually agitative emotional state. In other words, outrage fatigue is an unconscious self-defense mechanism. It’s the mind’s way to decompress and regain equanimity.  

It’s bad enough when outrage changes nothing and when both the people on whose behalf you’re outraged and the people whose bone-headedness activated your outrage use you for target practice in throwing vituperative darts for daring to be outraged. But it’s worse when people pretend that the consequences of ignoring well-intentioned outrage are unanticipated. 

Today, every section of Nigeria is enveloped in profound existential turmoil thanks to both the inability and unwillingness of the Muhammadu Buhari regime to confront the problems that afflict the country. 

Boko Haram, which the regime used to brag about “technically defeating,” has now established a foothold in Niger State; several rural communities there now periodically pay the terrorist group millions of naira that they can’t afford just to buy fleeting peace. And Niger State is contiguous with the Federal Capital Territory. It’s only a matter of time before the group takes over Abuja.

This is in addition to daily and ceaseless mass deaths and abductions in almost every part of the country—and calls for dissolving the Nigerian union in the East and in the West. Even for those of us who live outside Nigeria, the emotional toll is enormous.

But in several past columns, I’d warned about the dangers of allowing Buhari to come back for a second term. I warned that Buhari’s almost congenital incompetence and degenerative mental decline, not to mention the coterie of duncical babysitters that surround him and rule on his behalf, should cause the nation to not allow him to rule for a second term.

 The persistence of my warnings, in fact, caused the presidency to pressure Daily Trust to stop my column in December 2018, but the paper wrote a front-page comment this week lamenting exactly the same things I prevised the nation of. 

I foretold what is unravelling now since at least 2017. For instance, in a December 16, 2017 column titled “There Must be an Alternative to Buhari and Atiku,” I wrote: “Given Buhari’s provable incompetence and undisguisedly subnationalist proclivities, which have plunged the nation to the nadir of fissiparity, allowing him to rule for another four years could sound the death knell for the country. This is no hyperbole.”

In an April 21, 2018 column titled “Buhari: From Criminalizing and Dividing Nigerians to Dissing Nigerian Youth,” I wrote: “If Buhari’s second term, which he appears poised to get, doesn’t end Nigeria as we know it, nothing ever will again.”

In an October 13, 2018 column titled, “Atiku’s Emergence and End of the Road for Buhari,” I observed that “There is no question that Buhari is the absolute worst president Nigeria has ever had the misfortune to be burdened with. He is thoroughly and irredeemably incompetent, not to mention unapologetically bigoted and lazy. Only a sick country would reward such a person with a second term.”

I ended the column with the following ominous words: “A Buhari second term will end Nigeria as we know it. Of that, I am sure.”

In a November 19, 2018 Facebook update titled, “NextLevel: Follow Detached Leaders to Your Death,” which I later developed into a full-length column, I wrote the following:

“The creativity deficit in APC’s NEXT LEVEL campaign slogan and graphic is truly unnerving, but it powerfully encapsulates, without intending to, the frighteningly escalating sense of foreboding that a Buhari second term would mean for Nigeria. The photo shows Buhari and Osinbajo insouciantly detached from the people they are leading. Buhari appears as a clumsy, clueless leader who can’t even get his steps right: unlike Osinbajo, he skips a step on the staircase as he leads Nigerians to perdition.

“Both the leaders and the led wear sheepish, vacuous grins as they head to their damnation like moths to a flame. The photo shows them climbing up the edge of a cliff from where they'd fall into the cruel, unforgiving blue ocean that surrounds them. This is a depressing graphic, but I give it credit for its fidelity in capturing the ruination that Buhari is inexorably leading Nigeria to.

“The ‘NEXT LEVEL’ slogan is also a powerful linguistic affirmation of the depressing future the graphic evokes. There’s no question that Buhari’s record as president these past three years has been an unrelieved disaster. Nigeria now leads the world from the bottom in almost everything. Insecurity used to be limited to the northeast, but it has now become democratized nationally. Prices of commodities have gone through the roof. Governance has ceased. Governing boards of several federal agencies are still not constituted, which means the nation is literally at a standstill. The economy has tanked, and everyday folks are writhing in unspeakable agony, but the president bragged about never being in ‘a hurry to do anything.’

“Imagine what the ‘next level’ of this would be. That’s what the Buhari campaign is warning you about.”

In a December 15, 2018 column titled “Death of the Electoral Bill and the Coming Electoral Theft,” I said Nigeria and the world “can't afford the tragedy of a war-torn Nigeria, which a Buhari second term will surely precipitate.”

In another update, I wrote: “Buhari isn't even misgoverning; he isn't governing at all. I call it ‘ungovernance.’ Buhari is by far the worst president Nigeria has ever had since independence. And I don't say this lightly. His second term would signal the death of Nigeria as we know it."

There are several such warnings littered liberally in most of my columns and social media interventions before the 2019 election. Of course, as l always remind my readers, I have no prescient or oracular powers. No human being does. But every perceptive person can make informed predictions about the future based on a knowledge of the past and the present.

It was always easy to see that a Buhari second term would spell doom for the country, democratize bloodbath, and push the country to the edge of the precipice. No one deserves admiration for knowing this.

A popular leftist American bumper-sticker slogan says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Well, I am paying attention. It’s just that I have reached the elastic limit of my outrage because Nigeria’s current tragedy is self-inflicted, predictable, and preventable.

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