Integrity Without Credibility. By Sonala Olumhense

In the same week in which former army chief Alex Badeh was shot to death on an open road, journalism professor Farooq Kperogi was ousted from Daily Trust, the newspaper where he cut his teeth 20 years ago and for which he had continued to write.

The presidency immediately ordered the security agencies to “fish out” Badeh’s killers. They won’t, as sadly, the era of assassinations Nigeria first experienced under the PDP has returned. That era, like this one, had little room for justice.

On the other hand, Kperogi himself identifies those behind the termination of his weekly Daily Trust column: blackmailers in the presidency who think they are protecting President Muhammadu Buhari and enhancing his re-election chances by suppressing informed dissent.

Hopefully, perceptive Nigerians juxtapose the government’s blackmail and intimidation tactics at Daily Trust with its serial failures.

Who is Kperogi? He is the Nigerian journalism teacher and political criticin the United States who was quoted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo in January as he made his case against Buhari, and this is a link to his blog.

Obasanjo was citing a December 2017 Kperogi article in which the writer had characterized a contest between PDP and APC as “a cruel Hobson’s choice…a choice between six and half a dozen, between evil and evil. Any selection or deflection would be a distinction without a difference.”

Obasanjo’s deployment of Kperogi’s meant he became dangerous enough to be hated by Buharists and Buharistas.

But that is because one key problem with Nigerians is our sense of history, as we often pretend that people and events have no ancestry. Kperogi has been a critic for many years, including during the Goodluck Jonathan Years, in which role some of us directly or indirectly cleared the path to Aso Rock for Buhari.

In Kperogi own’s words last Tuesday, “I was infinitely harsher on Jonathan and Obasanjo than I’ve been on Buhari, but neither I nor any columnist [at Daily Trust] was ever told how to write and what not to write during the Jonathan and Obasanjo administrations.”

But Buharists and Buharistas quickly forget, or ignore, sequence. For them, history dates only from when critics began to dress Buhari in his robes rather than the stolen ones they were looting for him.

Everyone knows that Nigerians—in our millions—are comprehensively in condemnation of Buhari’s performance. Kperogi’s crime, I think, is that given his “northern-ness,” he was expected to be permanent applause-leader for Buhari, no matter what.On the contrary, his impatience grew more robust.

You know a man by the things that, over time, he is passionate about, and Kperogi is passionate about Nigeria.

And the thing with people who are passionate is digestion: when they are fed nonsense, they throw up.Often publicly.

In 2011, for instance, the government of Jonathan repeated an offer first made to Chinua Achebe in 2004 by Obasanjo: the national honour of Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic. It was an offer arrogantly made in the belief he would hurl himself over to Abuja to accept it, because there was no prior consultation before it was announced.

But Achebe had wept in the open seven years earlier when the offer was made by Obasanjo, lamenting that the situation in Nigeria was “too dangerous for silence” and citing his home state of Anambra which, he said, renegades had turned into “a bankrupt and lawless fiefdom.”

The disgusted Achebe threw up. Again.

In February 2017, during what I imagined was a visit to Nigeria, Kperogi unearthed what the national media had not: there was an inexplicable 40-man Buhari Media Centre (BMC) in Abuja.

Think about it: a subterranean media operation—in addition to nine media aides in Aso Rock each of whom is served by a team of aides—armed to affirm and protect the president.

Kperogi reported his disgust. How do you support such nonsense, particularly from a government which claimed it was combating corruption and curbing waste? How many other nefarious things was it doing?

Let us go back a little bit. When Buhari took national leadership for the first time in 1983, Kperogi was in elementary school. He probably hadn’t learned to spell “indiscipline.”

That was the era of Buhari’s War Against Indiscipline (WAI), the military-style social orientation scheme that brought him to prominence as a man of order, and perhaps even character and culture.

Over the years, the WAI myth permitted and positioned Buhari to maintain the image of a man of an ethical and patriotic disposition. For younger Nigerians, I imagine that if you grew up or matured in the PDP years, you inhaled some of the aroma of Buhari’s integrity, myths he nurtured as credible and correct towards regaining power.

But you can’t have integrity without credibility, that is: the time comes when you must justify your claims. That is the crisis that has confronted Buhari since that night in May 2015—just days before he assumed the presidency—when he slipped out of Nigeria on a British Airways flight bound for London, with outgoing Petroleum Resources Minister Diezani Alison-Madueke sitting behind him in what was advertised as a coincidence.

It would quickly become clear, contrary to sundry festive dreams and fantasies in the country, that Buhari’s trip back to power lacked substance, as he left Nigerians stunned by his depth of his unpreparedness, insincerity and incompetence.

Indeed, if WAI was all sound and fury, his government of change—all of 31 years later—is a full disco of sound, fury, smoke and mirrors, and political putridity.

It took only months for Buhari to be unveiled not as the lion he claimed to be, but as a deeply-flawed Nigerian politician who would not have been out of place in the PDP.

If WAI was in 1984thought to be indicative of hope, Buhari has dimmed every flicker, as everything is being re-interpreted and regurgitated by people who fly the world in government airplanes they had said were anachronistic and wasteful. They measure achievement in propaganda mileage.

But propaganda is a poor communication strategy that cannot stand the test of facts of time. Kperogi is contributing his vigilance and diligence to denouncing the fiction and documenting the tragedy in direct, no-holds barred language: an onslaught our power-thirsty propagandists hope to stifle through mechanisms of blackmail and intimidation.

But this is really another illustration of how a government that arrived with the best opportunity since independence has reduced itself to the sorriest and soggiest.

Buhari advocates like to raise the flag of “integrity,” one they cannot substantiate. But integrity is when whom you are, is found to be whom you said you were, and credibility is when you are still standing when you are found out.

When you try to shut people up who unafraid and who are passionate about right over wrong, you don’t prove your credibility, you feed that very passion.

It remains true that PDP is wrong for Nigeria. But so is APC, and certainly Buhari, and Buhari himself knows it. To suggest otherwise is to support Nigeria’s continued decay.

Merry Christmas, Nigeria.

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