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

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Abati, Arise TV’s PR Show, and Buhari’s Dementia

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

That even the vaguest pretense to traditional watchdog journalism is in throes of death in Nigeria’s institutional news media was instantiated by the interview Arise TV’s crew had with Muhammadu Buhari last week. It was out and away a PR job that masqueraded as journalism.

 The questions were feeble, obvious follow-up prompts were ignored, the questioners were diffident, and the viewer was left scratching their head about what they had just watched. It was the journalistic equivalent of a bad circus.

I am glad famous Punch columnist Sonala Olumhense clinically dissected the interview in his Sunday column and showed what a tragic professional theater the interview was. Even though I was initially inclined to comment on the poor quality of the conduct of the interview, I chose to cut the interviewers some slack because I thought managing to get reclusive and tight-lipped Buhari to talk after nearly six years of ignoring the domestic news media was praiseworthy.

But Reuben Abati’s cloying, self-aggrandizing, and mind-bendingly eulogistic post-interview column removed all doubts that Arise TV was merely conscripted as an instrument of presidential propaganda and mind management in the aftermath of the growing global reprobation that Buhari’s ill-thought Twitter ban has activated. Who better to recruit for the job than two previous presidential propagandists and mind managers?

 So, in retrospect, it makes sense that the “interview” did not have the haziest resemblance to a professional journalistic interview. It was a predetermined, duplicitous public relations performance that stole and wore the garbs of journalism to give it undeserved professional legitimacy. 

Now let’s look at the print version of Abati’s presidential propaganda project that he called a column. Although the interview was clearly pre-recorded and edited, which gave Buhari more verbal clarity than we have become accustomed to lately, he was still repetitive, cracked the same humorless jokes, avoided questions that required him to demonstrate familiarity with the nitty-gritty of contemporary events like the Twitter ban, and gave and got away with puzzlingly off-center responses to questions he was asked.

Yet Abati wants Nigerians to disbelieve what they saw, transport themselves to an alternate universe, and persuade themselves that Buhari was “alert, alive, informed, confident, relaxed, witty and capable of disarming humour” during the interview. This is classic gaslighting. Many people who read Abati’s column were compelled to re-watch the interview to see what they’d missed. They found that they were being psychologically manipulated by a professional mind manager.

 The presidential propaganda project won’t be worth its while if it wasn’t deployed to impugn the growing evidence that Buhari is held hostage by dementia, which I have called attention to since 2018.

Abati wrote: “Commentators like Farooq Kperogi, claiming insider knowledge of Aso Villa and its actors, in seductive prose, told Nigerians many tales about how their President had succumbed to a combination of dementia and senility and government had been taken over by unscrupulous persons who call the shots in the President’s name.”

I know Abati is earning his pay, which is fine by me, but he should not promote ignorance in the process of doing so. A choreographed one-hour interaction isn’t what you need to disprove that someone has dementia. The doctor who met Buhari and alerted me to his dementia years ago also has a father with dementia. He reached out to me because he read my June 20, 2015 column titled “Criticizing Buhari Over ‘President Michelle of West Germany’ Gaffe is Ignorant.”

He said contrary to what I wrote, Buhari’s gaffes during his trip to Germany (or, as he called it, “West Germany”) wasn’t age-induced memory lapse, which everyone over the age of 40 is apt to suffer occasionally, but dementia. He listed signs to look out for, which I did and chronicled in many columns (see, for instance, my January 19, 2019 column titled “Buhari’s Physical and Mental Health is Now a National Emergency”). So, it wasn’t based on “tales” but on verifiable observations.

If Abati has no idea what dementia means, he should look it up on the web. He might learn a thing or two. Dementia doesn't mean people who suffer it can't grant an interview. But it means even when they grant one, they can't answer the questions they're asked if the questions are very current, as Buhari often does.

The short-term memory of people with dementia is often weak and unreliable, so they rely on old memories, which makes them boringly repetitive. That's why Buhari keeps saying the same things since 2016.

 In 2020, when a journalist asked him in an impromptu interview about the probes of the EFCC and the NDDC, he started talking about Single Treasury Account. Garba Shehu was caught on camera frantically telling the journalist who interviewed Buhari to cut the interview. It wasn’t a “tale.” It did happen. And the evidence exists on the Internet. There were many such examples even in his Arise TV interview.

Having dementia also means that while the sufferers may have occasional moments of clarity, they are usually mostly lost. And that describes Buhari. Why do you think he failed to show up at Government Science Secondary School in Kankara in the aftermath of the kidnap of schoolboys there even though he was in Katsina at the time?

Why do you think he failed to show up at the funeral of the Chief of Army Staff even though he had no other engagement that day and was only a few minutes away from the venue of the funeral?

When COVID-19 became a pandemic in March 2020 and there was public pressure for Buhari to address the nation, he was absent. When his minders couldn’t resist the pressure any longer, they pre-recorded a speech that lasted only a couple of seconds in which Buhari mispronounced COVID-19 as "Kovik one nine"! As I pointed out at the time, there was no sentient, living being on this earth— and certainly no world leader—who didn’t know that there was a global pandemic tipping over the world that was called the new coronavirus or COVID-19.

Again, during the #EndSARS revolt, which convulsed the foundations of Nigeria, Buhari was absent. Then on October 13, 2020, a video surfaced on the Internet of Lagos State governor Jide Sanwo-Olu briefing Buhari on what the Inspector General of Police was doing about the EndSARS protests. Buhari stood like a breathing, insentient mannequin and intermittently laughed vacuously. 

More disturbingly, when Sanwo-Olu said the IGP recommended that governors set up commissions of inquiry into SARS brutality, Buhari interrupted him. “I said that,” he said and looked at Ibrahim Gambari, his Chief of Staff, for assurance. “I said that in my speech.” He hadn’t given any speech at the time.

Recall, too, that when Buhari visited the family house of the late President Shehu Shagari to commiserate with them over the death of their patriarch, he didn’t have the presence of mind to write anything on the condolence register; he just signed his name and couldn’t even get the date right. 

And he also appended his signature to a memo to then Senate President Bukola Saraki appointing two justices to the Supreme Court in which his first name was spelled as “Muhammdu.” People who are close to Buhari know he has (or used to have) an obsessive-compulsive urge to spell his name as “Muhammadu.” That he missed the misspelling of his name and appended his signature to it pointed to diminished sentience.  

Plus, dementia also sometimes comes with a degeneration of the muscles, which explains why Buhari falls without explanation, as we saw during the 2019 campaigns in Lokoja and in Kaduna. His close aides who caught him when he fell in Lokoja didn’t seem shocked, which indicated that they were already habituated to it.

A 45-minute propaganda interview can’t erase all the evidence of dementia we see in Buhari.

Anyone who wants to believe that Buhari has no dementia and that he is the picture of perfect mental and cognitive health because he didn’t drool during a choreographed PR show called an interview is free to do so. But it takes nothing from the truth of his progressive mental degeneration and his unfitness to be president of a complex, developing country like Nigeria with no solid institutions to withstand a dementia-plagued president.

Related Articles:

Reuben Abati’s Violence Against Metaphors

Grammar of Reuben Abati’s Semantic Violence

Buhari’s Only Job is to Prove He Isn’t Dead

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Making Sense of Buhari’s Nonsense Now Senseless

 By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

As I pointed out in my Facebook and Twitter status updates in the aftermath of Muhammadu Buhari’s June 10 interview with Arise TV, Buhari’s thought-processes, whenever they’re publicly expressed, are often so devoid of basic rhyme and reason that to even try to make sense of them is a painfully senseless waste of one’s senses. 

Let’s ignore his responses that had not the remotest affinity with the questions he was asked and blame it on his dementia. Let’s focus instead on the substance of the interview—if that’s possible. For instance, how do you make sense of Buhari’s understanding that the #EndSARS protest (thank God he even knew and remembered that there was a protest) was a plot to remove him from power? As someone pointed out on Twitter, if protests against police brutality threaten his hold on power, is he implying that police brutality is the essential condition to keep him in power?

How about telling Nigerian youth to “behave” if they want jobs? "Nobody is going to invest in an insecure environment. So, I told them, I said they should tell the youth that if they want jobs, they will behave themselves," Buhari said. "Make sure that the area is secure. So that people can come in and invest." So, security is now the responsibility of unemployed youth and not the government?

Or take his justification for building a railway in Niger Republic while most parts of Nigeria are devoid of basic transportational infrastructure. “I have first cousins in Niger,” he said. “There are Kanuris, there are Hausas, there are Fulanis in Niger Republic just as there are Yorubas in Benin Republic and so on. You can’t absolutely cut them off.”

In which world does this make sense? So, he isn’t building infrastructure in Benin Republic, Cameroon, and Chad because he has no cousins there? And, perhaps, he hasn’t built infrastructure in other parts of Nigeria because he has no cousins there? 

 Buhari is supposed to be “president” of Nigeria. It is to Nigeria and its constituents that he owes allegiance, not his cousins and kinfolk in another country. It is borderline treasonable to deprive a country you lead of its resources and wealth in order to develop another in which you’re not even a legal citizen just because a part of your ancestry is traceable to that country.

 Yes, colonialists arbitrarily imposed unnatural borders on the African continent and created nation-states without regard to pre-existing polities. I also come from a border community. Borgu, where I am from, used to be a confederacy that stretched from parts of what is now Kwara State, Niger State, Kebbi State to what is now northern and central Benin Republic. More than 80 percent of the people who speak my native Baatonu language live in northern and central Benin Republic.

Most people from the border states of Lagos, Oyo, Ogun, Kwara, Niger, and Kebbi have relatives in Benin Republic. Just like people from the border states of Cross River, Taraba, and Adamawa have relatives in Cameroon. People from Borno, Yobe, Jigawa, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, and Kebbi have relatives in Niger Republic, and Borno also shares borders with the Republic of Chad.

But our nation-states have existed for more than five decades and have acquired independent identities in spite of their unnaturalness. Niger Republic is a Westphalian sovereign state like Nigeria is. Buhari’s emotions can’t override that fact. If everyone from Nigeria’s border states becomes president and decides to divert resources from Nigeria to develop their kinfolk in a neighboring country, what will become of Nigeria?

This is particularly concerning because Buhari has shown time and again that he has more emotional investment in Niger Republic (because his father migrated from there to Dumurkul in the Daura Emirate of Katsina State) than he has in Nigeria which he leads. (He might as well go the whole hog and build infrastructure in Senegal since it’s the ancestral home of the Fulani, his paternal relatives).

He talks about Igbo people, his Westphalian compatriots, with unconcealed animosity and genocidal fury but builds infrastructure for his kinfolk in a foreign country using resources derived from a part of the country his openly disdains supposedly because they gave him only “5 percent” of their vote. That’s not the way to run a modern state.

He described the Southeast, using IPOB as a rhetorical crutch, as a mere “a dot in a circle,” adding “Even if they want to exit, they’ll have no access to anywhere.” You know he equated IPOB with Igbo people because he also talked about “the way they are spread all over the country having businesses and property.” 

Interestingly, he enabled and popularized IPOB and its vulgar, mentally ill thug of a leader by the name of Nnamdi Kanu. At a time when most people hadn’t heard of Radio Biafra in July 2015, Buhari’s government bragged that it had jammed the radio station’s signals, which it actually didn’t, but which nonetheless helped popularize the station.

As I pointed out in my July 18, 2015 column titled “Why Buhari Should Leave Radio Biafra Alone,” “What is probably worse than jamming—or claiming to have jammed—the signals of the radio station is the presidency’s issuance of a press statement on July 15, 2015 disclaiming an alleged anti-Igbo statement credited to President Buhari by the station. That’s a huge, unearned presidential validation of the station.”

It went downhill from there. After popularizing and lionizing Radio Biafra and later Nnamdi Kanu, the government arrested Kanu when he visited Nigeria, and then allowed him to get away, which made him even more popular. His secessionist message is now resonating in the Southeast even among otherwise committed Nigerian patriots of Igbo extraction because of Buhari’s intentional, even if senseless, Igbophobia.

During his Arise TV interview, Buhari also hit Bola Tinubu who expects to be Nigeria’s next president as a reward for helping Buhari to power. Buhari took a wild, unmistakable dig at Tinubu when he said, “You cannot sit there in Lagos…and decide on the fate of APC zoning.” 

This not-so-subtle public humiliation of Tinubu has obviously caused some uneasiness in the Tinubu camp (as if some of us hadn’t warned several times that Buhari won’t hand over to Tinubu), so Buhari’s spokesman pretended to walk back his boss’ impolitic rhetorical barb at Tinubu through a news release on Friday.

 “The President, the Asiwaju and the rapidly growing members of the party, want a dynastic succession of elected leaders,” the release said. For people who don’t know, “dynastic succession” simply means family members taking over leadership from other family members.

The Oxford Reference defines dynastic succession as “The transfer of power and authority from father to son throughout the generations.” When I first brought this to the attention of my social media followers, some people pointed out that Buhari’s spokesperson probably had a different meaning of “dynastic succession” from what it means in conventional English. 

Someone even said the spokesperson probably wrote in Nigerian English! Well, I am a scholar of Nigerian English and have even written a book on it. Dynastic succession in Nigerian English means exactly what it means in every other variety of English: transfer of power and authority from one family member to the other, typically from a father to son. That’s why Nigerian historians write about dynastic succession battles among obongs, emirs, obas, obis, and other monarchies. 

In politics people talk of dynastic succession only to refer to the circulation of power within the same family, such as in Togo where there’s a hereditary monocracy around the GnassingbĂ© family. Or in Gabon where Ali Bongo Ondimba succeeded his father, Omar Bongo, in 2009. Or nearer home in Chad where Mahamat DĂ©by succeeded his father Idris Deby.

That means Yusuf Buhari—or any of Buhari’s children or relatives, since Yusuf will be only 31 in 2023— will succeed Buhari in 2023. In other words, the presidency didn’t really walk back Buhari’s verbal dart at Tinubu; it doubled it down. It’s telling the nation that there won’t be a transfer of power at the presidential level to anyone outside the Buhari family. 

It’s probably also reminding Tinubu of his own longstanding dynastic entanglements in Lagos. His wife is already a senator and his children control the commanding heights of the Lagos economy. He alone determines who becomes governor of Lagos. 

So, yeah, Tinubu “cannot sit there in Lagos” and change Buhari's “dynastic succession” plan that he already practices. But, then again, it’s senseless trying to make sense of Buhari’s nonsense, more of which his spokesman said he will spill on Friday when this column was written.

Monday, June 7, 2021

False Dichotomy Between an App and a Country

By Farooq Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

A pro-regime apologist said he’d rather lose an app (i.e., Twitter) than lose a country. Nonsense! That’s called a false dilemma (or a false dichotomy) in logic. A false dilemma imposes an unnatural and deceptive limit on options. 

You can have both an app and a country—like many countries do. You can lose a country without an app—such as Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, etc. And you can simultaneously lose an app and a country, such as Buhari’s Nigeria seems pigheadedly moving towards.  

But if your country’s fabric is so brittle that it can be dismantled by the mere dissident chatter of disaffected citizens on an app, then you have no country to lose in the first place. If you really want a country, go do some work to have one so that mere insurgent chatter on an app can’t undo it. 

Start with building virile institutional safeguards against systematically excluding people from government on the basis of their ethnicity, political persuasion, region, or religion. Then you won’t be scared of the shadows of social media apps.

Every stimulus rouses a response. The stimulus that’s rousing Nigeria’s current raucous dissension is Buhari’s inept and exclusionary style of "ungovernance." Banning an app won’t change that fact.

Sunday, June 6, 2021

You Can Ban Twitter, But You Can’t Ban Rebellion Against Injustice

By Farooq Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

You can ban Twitter, or even the Internet, but you can't ban the righteous emotions that injustice animates. Or the rage and angst that people ventilate on social media as a consequence of injustice.  Only justice, equity, tact, respect, good governance, etc. can ban them.

Nigeria isn’t dysfunctional and insecure because of social media; it is dysfunctional, insecure, and tottering perilously on the brink of the precipice because of the incompetence, irresponsibility, and intolerance of the Buhari regime, easily the vilest and most insular regime in Nigeria’s entire history.

There was no Twitter when Nigerians fought totalitarian military juntas to a standstill. There was no social media or even mobile telephony when Nigerians organized and resisted the cancelation of the June 12, 1993 election, which ultimately ended IBB’s ruinous 8-year misrule.

 To think that banning social media or shutting off the internet will cause people to suddenly make peace with oppression and injustice is to be guilty of the most vulgar version of technological determinism, which is the wrongheaded idea that technology, not human agency, is the singular motive force of human actions.

People use social media; social media doesn’t use them. People will organize and fight with or without social media. If you don’t want rebellion, remove the conditions that birth and nurture it. It’s that simple. You don’t want a child to cry? Then don’t hit him or her.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

“Fulanization” of the North by the South

By Farooq A. Kperogi

Twitter: @farooqkperogi

Fears of “Fulani domination” have endured since Nigeria’s founding but, more than ever before, there is now an insanely unhealthy obsession with the Fulani in Nigeria’s South. The Fulani are not just routinely reviled with genocidal rhetorical venom, all manner of devious, supernormal political power is ascribed to them.

In the service of the reigning monomania about the Fulani, Northern Muslims, irrespective of their ethnicity, are now labeled “Fulani.” It’s worse if they are also beneficiaries of “juicy” political appointments in the Buhari regime.

Former Chief of Army Staff Tukur Buratai, for example, was habitually called “Fulani” even though he is Babur from southern Borno, a good portion of whom are Christians. The late Abba Kyari was called “Fulani” even though he was Shuwa (but linguistically and culturally Kanuri) from Borno.

When Muhammad Mamman Nami replaced Babatunde Fowler as the boss of the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS), many people in the South said Nami was “Fulani.” But Nami is Nupe from Niger State, and Nupe people are linguistically, historically, and geographically closer to Yoruba people than they are to Fulani or Hausa people.

There is a list doing the rounds on social media of supposed “Fulani” people who are holding strategic positions in Buhari’s government, but most of the people on the list are merely northern Muslims who are neither ethnically nor culturally Fulani. Take Nigeria Customs Service boss Hammed Ali, for example, who appears on the list. He is neither Fulani nor even Hausa. He is from the Jarawa ethnic group from Dass in Bauchi State.

Nigerian Television Authority's boss, Yakubu Ibn Mohammed, is also on the list of “Fulani” appointees of strategic government agencies, but he is ethnically Jukun from Taraba State who grew up in Plateau State. 

NNPC boss Mele Kyari has also been assigned a “Fulani” ethnicity even though he is a straight-up Kanuri man from Borno. 

The only linguistically and culturally Fulani people on the list are FCT minister Mohammed Musa Bello and UBEC boss Hammed Bobboyi who are both from Adamawa State.

A reporter from the South recently interviewed me for a personality profile, and although one of the issues we discussed during the interview was the robust diversity of northern identities and how people mistake me for Fulani, Hausa, “Hausa-Fulani” or Nupe even though I am actually Baatonu from Kwara State, he still went ahead and described me as “Fulani” in his story. This shows how our preconceptions can sometimes distort our perceptions.

I corrected his unintentional mischaracterization of my ethnicity because he was kind enough to let me have a pre-publication readback of his story. 

In other words, the South is relentlessly rhetorically Fulanizing the North, particularly the Muslim North, just to fertilize and sustain a simplistic narrative of superhuman Fulani domination. One of my Fulani friends from Adamawa by the name of Idirisu Alkali tells me he is often simultaneously amused and flattered by the prodigious capacities that southerners endue on his people. 

The Fulani are now lionized in the South as the lifeblood of the North and the sole designers of all that is ill with Nigeria. But at the core of this sociologically impoverished monomaniacal fixation with the Fulani is a deep-seated but unacknowledged inferiority complex, which is fully realized in the tendency to describe as “Fulani slave” anyone who expresses opinions that depart from the forced and false consensus of the Fulaniphobes in the South. 

Since only “masters” can have “slaves,” people who call others “Fulani slaves” have clearly accepted the Fulani as “masters,” indicating that they have also internalized their own inferiority before the Fulani.

But the truth is that the Fulani are just as human as anyone else. They are not a stagnant, undifferentiated, unthinking human monolith with no dissensions. They have the same fears, anxieties, and pains as anybody else. They have both good and bad people like other groups. There’s no conspirative conclave where Fulani people meet and plot to dominate everyone else. They battle disunity within their ranks like all ethnic groups. In fact, like the Igbo, they agonize over the progressive erosion of their language and culture in much of Northern Nigeria.

Muhammadu Buhari on whose account the Fulani are ceaselessly dehumanized and vituperated is, in fact, not culturally or linguistically Fulani. In other words, although he traces patrilineal descent from the Fulani, he doesn’t understand or speak Fulfulde (as the language of the Fulani is called) and has no experience with Fulani culture.

Buhari’s father, Adamu Bafallaje, who was an ardo (as Fulani community elders are called), died in his real hometown of Dumurkul in the Daura Emirate of Katsina State when Buhari wasn’t old enough to know him, so Buhari was brought up by his maternal relatives in Daura. His maternal relatives are ethnically Kanuri people who are nonetheless culturally and linguistically Hausa.

As Mamman Daura’s daughter, Fatima Daura, wrote on the occasion of her father’s 80th birthday, Mamman Daura is Kanuri. The family’s forebears migrated from Borno to a town in what is now Niger Republic and finally to Daura. Note that Mamman Daura’s father, Dauda Daura, shares the same mother (but different fathers) with Buhari. So Buhari’s mother, Hajia Zulaiha, was Kanuri.

 Not having grown up with his father and knowing next to nothing about the Fulani, Buhari idealized not just his absent Fulani father but the Fulani people. This is a well-known psychological phenomenon that is encapsulated in the folk wisdom that says, “absence makes the heart grow fonder.” Barack Obama, for instance, idealized his absent Kenyan father—and his Luo people— with an intensity he would never have had if he’d grown up with him.

Buhari’s idealization of his absent Fulani father inspires an exaggerated identification with the Fulani in ways that alienate others and expose innocent Fulani people to unjustified animosity. That’s why I called him the “single greatest threat to the Fulani” in a July 6, 2019 column.

I also pointed out in a January 12, 2019 column titled "Miyetti Allah, Presidential Endorsement and Politics of Fulani Identity"  that “People who are on the edge of an identity tend to be more exaggeratedly aggressive in their assertion of the identity than those who are—or see themselves as being—in the mainstream of the identity.

“For instance, when there was a butcherly communal turmoil that pitted Bororo Fulani cattle herders against Yoruba farmers in the Oke-Ogun area of northern Oyo State in October 2000, Buhari led a group of ‘Fulani’ northerners to Ibadan to meet with the late Governor Lam Adesina where he told Adesina, among other things, ‘your people are killing my people.’ A Fulani person from the northeast is unlikely to say that.”

Nothing in what I’ve said is intended to mitigate the injustice of Buhari’s preferentialist style of governance. I started calling out what I called the “undisguised Arewacentricity” in Buhari’s appointment since 2015 when most people were scared to criticize the regime (read, for instance, my September 5, 2015 column titled “Buhari is Losing the Symbolic War”), but to put the entire moral weight of his wrongheaded choices on the Fulani and proceed to demonize them without let is both reprehensible and unconscionable. 

There’s no denying that northern Muslim elites have benefitted disproportionately in choice appointments in this regime, but “northern Muslim elite” isn’t synonymous with “Fulani.” 

An honest, empathetic role play would probably help. Imagine being from an ethnic group that’s perpetually slandered, maligned, reviled, and vilified as a national pastime because you share ethnic identity with someone—or some people—whose boneheaded policies smolder you like they do your traducers. How would you feel?

Demonizing people based on invariable attributes that are incidental to their humanity, such as their ethnicity or race, is akin to condemning them even before they were born. Malcolm X once called that the worst crime that can ever be committed. Let the toxic, hateful ignorance stop already!