The Gravity of Taraba’s Political Plagiarism

suntai-return“A matter that becomes clear ceases to concern us.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Nigeria must be the only theatre on earth where performers are born with awareness of their roles in every act and scene of our unending plays; we grow up in a segregated theatre in which our understanding of tragedy is any scene that entertains just a section of the audience. Every character is in a way flat, every action is predictable but the denouements still manage to leave you heartbroken, on realising that these comedies are actually based on you, your realities, your shame.

Our stories no longer shock the attentive audience, always being plagiarised versions of previously “enjoyed” tragedies as they are. I think our stories just embarrass the critics, and make them even pity the cast involved in the acts of rubbishing the intelligence of the easily dazzled or hoodwinked members of the audience who follow every play in expectations of a cliched entertainment or tragedy. Our inauthenticity is not forgivable, which is why critics are already questioning the imitation of the late President Umar Musa Yar’adua’s story by the people of Taraba State.

Our plays refuse to evolve because the motto of this big theatre called Nigeria is “That Which Provokes you, Pleases Another”, and this sensitivity to performing for a polarised audience encourages political plagiarism. Every performer knows that inside this dark theatre, among the gullible audience, are those whose only criteria for rating excellence are the religion, ethnicity, region and even affluence of the performers. Once the performer is of our ethnic descent or regional extraction or religious belief, his flaws are overlooked because every section of the audience wants members of his group to dominate the stage. We have been witnesses to near academic approvals of plagiarism by a section of this audience, only because it pleases them, only because whatever provokes the others is a victory!

This dangerous division was at its peak when the late Yar’adua, from whose history Governor Suntai’s people stole their script, was lying unconscious in a hospital bed overseas. Yar’adua, a Muslim, Hausa Fulani and northerner was not wanted out of the political stage by a section of the audience who share at least a background with him. This dangerous division was also at its peak on the passing of Kaduna State’s Governor Patrick Yakowa. It is though not surprising that the mood of those moments were rightly plagiarised in our reactions to Governor Danbaba Suntai’s (in)capacitation. Yakowa was seen as a taboo to be a lead character in a Muslim-dominated play, just as Suntai’s deputy is also being despised by fanatical Christians who had not expected a Muslim to lead in Taraba!

These sentiments of alliance with our own dispossess us of the power to be rational and true to our conscience. This is the reason, I find the campaign by a section of the audience for immediate return of a recuperating Governor Suntai to the stage an inverted understanding of wisdom. The ongoing is actually an offshoot of the Muslim – Christian rivalry that dominates the socio-political dramas of Taraba State, a disaster largely experienced in the north-central Nigeria where the Hausa – Fulani, from their dominations and perceived posturing on the larger stage, are stereotyped as villains!

What we lose in our chase of the sentimental is a fact that our trouble in this theatre is merely our ignorance of Nigeria’s stagecraft. Our trouble is neither the Hausa Fulani or Muslim nor the Christian reactionaries who are needlessly quick to shout “marginalisation” and condemn an entire people for a crime of its elite. Yes, our people are being deceived and shown that the villains are those who possess and portray any identity different from ours. No, the actual villains are those who edit a perfect script to favour their ends, those who seek to entertain just a section of the audience. Like an Alhaji Sulaiman who whips up sentiments to score a political goal even when his performance is terrible, like a Reverend Solomon who edits his script to highlight the villainy of the Muslim in order to be seen as the emancipator of a “marginalised” Christian community. But that’s just how the political elite manage the stage, to keep the audience quiet on their flaws. Political elitism is a very dangerous form of gangsterism, where the main interests are the gains of the members, where religious and ethnic badges which are worn for electoral or communal supports are dropped to conveniently share booty.

The Suntai Cabal correctly plagiarised Yar’adua’s in abiding to our motto and gullibility. Because, here is a theatre where every crime has its supporters packed in sections labelled “Church” and “Mosque”, counting beads of sentiments to perpetuate selfish interests. Sadly, the sentiments are vain because respective localities wouldn’t have been a hub of poverty, destitution and unemployment if the elite are actually on stage to impress us. Their dramas are distractions, and because we refuse to harmonise our criticisms, similar scripts are being interpreted anew to dare our provocations. We have been seated too long in this theatre, we fail to gauge the gravity of Suntai’s plagiarism. The play being directed by a Cabal in Taraba reveals that our Constitution is just a collation of rhetoric on the shelves of lawyers, which allows the offending people to refuse to leave the stage even when the curtain is drawn.

This desperation indeed confirms that the stage is a goldmine for which death itself must be outsmarted, and this makes it more difficult for a section of this theatre to empathise with the ailing Returnee. We must understand that this theatre is nobody’s family property and that unless the provoked and the pleased sections of the audience realise that the performers are simply there for their selfish interests, this plagiarism will become a script for every unfortunate actor in this compartment of “Fresh Air”. May God save us from us!

Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (30/08/13)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Nigeria: Interpretations of Racism

Holding Hands

I will call him Smith, my White friend. I admired him, in my days of naiveté, for once berating a waiter who attended to him, with overdone courtesies, before turning to know the junk I cared to eat. Smith was a conscious expatriate who suspended his curiosities over things he found exotic and checked his tempers in reacting to provocations just to fit into a social box and to blur the thick lines that give him away as “alien”, “privileged”, “special” and even “white”. He does not like labels especially when it’s not earned by his individual identity or reputation. He lives like a man apologising for the persecutions of the entire Black race by his ancestors. Frankly, he was oversensitive and some of his actions seemed too much like affectations, constrained to an idea of good behaviour. The relations between the white and the black in Nigeria are tragedies of inferiority complexes shown by the blacks, especially when the whites are tasked with overseeing a project in which blacks are rank-and-file members. Several cases of the white being hailed as “Master” and given special attention and treatments wherever they seek a service are depressing. It’s almost like watching slavery in its subtlest form, but with similar degradations.

My neighbourhood at Life Camp, Abuja is the headquarters of such shame of tensions around race, it’s the biggest place where you find politically insensitive Whites, mostly management staff and engineers in various construction companies, living in fear of integration, in fear of Black people, and thus fenced in separate estates that bear severe warnings: “Private estate, do not trespass.” “Keep off, defaulters will be penalised.” “Beware of electric fences.” “No entry without ID card.” These methods of exclusion are responses to awareness of their “specialness”; there can’t be any explanation for living as though your Black neighbours, who are largely members of the middle-class, are criminals, other than agreement with the unwritten ethic of racial superiority.

My worst nightmare in the neighbourhood was on the day I strolled out to see Smith. The Black maiguard, perhaps having me stereotyped as an unworthy human being, another mistake of creation, shamelessly declared that I can’t go into the estate unless I’m in the company of a white person. The unlettered Blackman and his lack of education of race politics and history, which powered him to accept his place as a social slave, is a reason the Whiteman finds the “attitudes” of the educated Blackman disturbing, and complex. Many educated blacks on the other hand also live like people seeking apology from the whites, just waiting for a faux pas; they are quick to corrections, quick to highlight a joke on black people or culture taken too far they themselves would freely indulge in and laugh over, quick to cut short anything likely several sentences down the line to become stereotypical… The educated Blackman must be somewhat responsible for Smith’s inability to be free with his words, and be loud as well. So, there is a tension.

An interesting experience of this racial tension was at the bank: a queue of about twenty waiting to carry out their transactions was almost static until a middle-aged white man walked in and went straight to the counter. There was a murmuring, but the man who spoke out not only adopted a British accent, to highlight his education, but also employed language I found very political. “My friend, we don’t do that. Go back and join the queue.” The language rightly portrays the white man as a moron who doesn’t know that jumping queue is an insult and in the use of “My friend”, the white man was humbled and pulled back to the rung of equality. Or, in over-interpreting this in regard to Nigerian context, referring to someone as “my friend” is mostly an act of condescension by a fellow too important to be one’s actual friend. The teller was displeased by what seemed an unfair treatment  and was not ashamed to say, “He’s possibly in a hurry!” to which the queue reacted with unkind words, with rage, with one even joking about beating up the Whiteman if he had refused to join the queue.

My inferences from these interpretations of racism come from conversations with Blacks working with Whites, and also from a mix of the two races. The expatriates find educated Nigerians overly judgmental, which is why there are too many Smiths among them. The educated Nigerians wear their badges of racial equality so colourfully they too pass for racists. By over-interpretation. Usage of Language is often the easiest slip to be at the mercy of race police, and this was understood on the day Smith advised that I also needed to sign up at the gym he frequents. “We don’t eat junks,” I cracked with a grin. “‘We?'” He challenged, and I knew that innocent slip would cause me a lecture on race relations. Again I was a racist by over-interpretation, for thinking that gym-going whites are diet-ignoring consumers of junk. And this means I also have to be more critical of Smith’s use of language, and this means the subtle tension between us is only waiting for a slip to be interpreted unto racism. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (23/08/2013)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Atiku, and the Cheers of Needy Masses

Atiku-Abubakar

If our historical records are not blown out of proportions, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was the most audacious civilian that has ever occupied that office. Audacious not only in his guts to rebel against his boss’ excesses when the going got tough, but also for almost creating a sort of mini government to stand his ground to Obasanjo’s victimisation in his efforts to succeed his equally ambitious boss. Despite being in the league of that breed of politicians one could dubiously label “veterans”, his strategies always failed to demolish the fences built around him by loyalists of his former boss. Surviving those political checkpoints at all, from charges of corruption to those of insubordination, owes a debt of gratitude to the clout he established, especially his touted discipleship to the late Shehu Musa Yaradua, which was ever extolled to assert his supremacy in that dirtiest of engagements: political antagonism.

But it’s not the politician behind the name that attracts my attention this time, it’s the philanthropist he aspires to be and this becomes news in gauging the reactions of Nigerians to his proposed scholarship scheme where a single candidate will be chosen in an essay contest open for about 50 million youth. Disappointment is the least to expect from a section of Nigerians on Twitter to whom the scholarship scheme is either a publicity stunt or a cruelly stingy sharing of “looted funds”. These Nigerians have no conscience, even where they pretend to exhibit that, as their excuse ends up as grumblings of the needy. Some were just angry because the politician’s money is not enough to go round. And I ask, To what end?

I think it’s a wrong idea to encourage politicians, especially those still active, to fund or even set up a private cause. Doing so does not only legitimise their loots, for those who see every politician as thief, but makes politicking more expensive such that when contenders for political office finally get elected, their primary concern becomes to recover all they wasted on mere parasites who lose their senses when distracted by easy cash. Prebendalism has done enough damage to us already, so we must let politics be strictly for those who can manage public funds and trust, those ready to bring us desired changes. Politicians aren’t fools, they don’t pluck money from trees. The more you task them with sponsoring your PRIVATE projects, the more PUBLIC funds disappear from the treasury. But this is just the situation the Nigerian elite create to keep the masses needy and also to justify their thefts of the common wealth.

Politics in Nigeria is so expensive that whoever manages to scale past the demands of the sycophantic lots only strategises to recoup his finances on being elected. With interest, in quantum. This is the same thing with every political appointment, seen by needy masses as an opportunity by “one of our own” to bring back “our” share of the nation’s resources. And the psychological unrest of the appointees whose houses become tribal convergence centres inspire them to use public funds to settle their friends and tribesmen who are always around to receive the aforementioned share of the dividends.

It is, however, needless to pity the politicians and appointees as many actually convert such patronages to their strengths; the ceaseless stipends doled out earn them the trust and political solidarity of the needy masses who find nothing wrong in, say, a Minister of Education, using funds budgeted for national projects for personal issues. This is the Nigeria the public servants prefer really, a Nigeria of economically dependent masses, a Nigeria where our sycophancy affects policy implementation.

Unless we ally as citizens to demand for a nation of fishermen, not distracted fish-eaters, fishermen who know the boundaries of their rights, this tradition would remain a drawback. There is no hope that we would realise this Nigeria if such dangerous responsibilities are placed on politicians such that they compromise on a functional Nigeria. Unless we recognise that we lose our right to bully our politicians to work as expected when we see them as our private ATMs, we’re forever chained to the feet of elitism. Unless we recognise that we don’t need a kobo from Atiku or any politician to support private causes, there will be no free democracy, and no sympathy for our sufferings. May God save us from us!

Gimba Kakanda
Blueprint Newspaper (16/08/2013)
@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

Scholars of Misinterpretation, Misquotation and Blackmail

 

 

 

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“Don’t waste your time with explanations. People only hear what they want to hear.” Paulo Coelho 

This, sadly, may pass for an explanation. Certain things are not worthy of one’s attention let alone a response, and these were pointed out in some private messages to me over my stance in the debates stirred up by the anti-child bride campaigns.  In my column last Friday (Rumble in the North, August 2, 2013), I blamed Ahmed Yarima’s shariah, an insidious political stunt, for highlighting our religious differences, especially in my place where religion and fanatical practice of it was not a social aberration until 1999. “Highlighted”, that was my word. But a dishonest scholar of misquotation, obsessed with a passion to represent the indefensible, replaced my word with “initiated.” Doesn’t matter to him that I had previously written on the intolerance of our Salafi brothers. This sophisticated illiteracy is not only lazy but a measure of how intellectual indolence and hypocrisy have dominated the scholarships of these tribal warlords who see themselves as advocates of a people or region. The duty of an advocate is to explain, not to distort or exhibit elemental ignorance simply to bamboozle their audience.  

In our interactions on social media, certain contributors correctly expressed my views. What has shariah got to do with non-Muslims when it’s not imposed on them, someone asked. It tasks citizens with voting for governors who will perpetuate or discontinue the legacies of sharia, and this means divisions among the electorates, and this means Muslims will no longer vote for non-Muslims and vice versa, and this, yes this, highlights our differences.  I grew up in a Minna where religion did not succeed in dividing voters. I grew up in a Minna where Peter Sarki, a Christian, was elected Council Chairman, where religion did not stop the Nupe people of Niger state from electing Jerry Gana as lawmaker, and where ethnicity did not stop the larger ethnic groups of Niger state from electing Musa Inuwa, a man from the minority Kambari ethnic group, as governor. All before 1999, all before the imposition of shariah into our conscience by a gang of politically insecure Muslims who manipulate our gullibility, our lack of ability to see through frauds wrapped in religious garments, for the purpose of conveniently abusing public office and trust. The psyche of our people has now been programmed to stop any intrusion of a candidate who is not “one of us”!

I have been sensitive to this dreadful transformation of a once harmonious Niger state to one of polarised indigenes. As a Muslim, I should be excited about this, this supposed jihad for the elevation of the Muslim, only that this risky politics threatens my conscience and safety. This risky politics, I had seen in action in Jos. I lived in Nasarawa Gwong quarter of Jos for some years, with Christian neighbours and friends, and none was suspicious of the other, despite efforts of minor extremists, until this politics permanently tore them apart. Today there is no SINGLE Christian in Nasarawa Gwong, just as there is no more Muslims in Christian-dominated Anguwan Rukuba quarter. This is what politics does to us, it destroys our humanity and reduces the man who practises a different religion, or belongs to a different ethnic group, to an animal whose elimination is seen as a triumph over evil.  

I had seen the effects and wrecks of religious antagonisms, and I actually felt like a dead-man walking on the day I mistakenly visited Anguwan Rukuba, unaware of the order of segregations in the new Jos. I was afraid of being seen there by old friends, you don’t know what this meant. I felt like a stranger in my own country. This version of Nigeria was invented by politicians whose interest is to scam people with the things that dazzle them: money, religion, and ethnicity. If you can’t trust politicians with public funds, and they make it clear that we dare not, doing so with our religions is a walk into a hellish hypocrisy! 

My stance against child bride is unshaken; leaving an insecure girl to any man in this patriarchal society has no guarantee for her empowerment, educational and economic, and thus I consider it a disservice to Islam. Of what relevance are street beggars and educationally primitive Muslims to Islam? This is a century for which we must be in the frontlines of every invention to secure and represent the interests of Islam. Let’s stop blackmailing those who risk their sanity by pointing out the shames of our dangerously indoctrinated brothers. Columnist Adamu Adamu’s criticisms of prominent Muslim scholars as agents of polarisation are realities to which I testify. Nobody should blackmail this man, at least not with a resort to forcing membership of a sect on him. If membership of Shia disqualifies a Muslim as ambassador of Islam, then the Muslim world has lost Britain’s Mehdi Hasan, who’s perhaps the most prominent defender of Islam in recent time. Medhi is not a religious scholar, but he’s far more intelligent and knowledgeable than the so-called scholars I know. And of the sham Yarima intended to create, the same Medhi argues, “It’s difficult, if not impossible, to identify a Muslim-majority nation that could plausibly be identified as a modern, viable and legitimate ‘Islamic state‘” and that “contrary to popular Muslim opinion, there is not a shred of theological, historical or empirical evidence to support the existence of such an entity.” I wish that northern Nigeria realises its mistake on time. The world is not waiting for us to crawl out of this hard shell of religious and cultural ignorance. It is on the move.

Thankfully, my last words to fellow Muslims were brilliantly expressed in a private mail from a friend. This excerpt is of importance to many of us who love our people, as ethnicities, as religions who yet wish to point a way forward and a way out of the present mire:

“I am not oblivious of how heated the polity has gotten in recent times. On-going debates have shown just how wired our people are hence my previous message to you. I am now aware — more than ever before — that the work that is cut out for us is enormous and even though it is one that must be done (and insha Allah we would do our part) we must adopt methodologies that have the potential to achieve the greatest benefit. I am convinced that an ‘us-versus-them’ approach will only engender animosity and cause us to be estranged to the same folks that we seek to influence. I would therefore recommend a change of tact. To do this, there has to be a fundamental realization that what we profess is Islam, but even within Islam there is the progressive Islam, which I belong to. Hence, I would indulge you to consider this: Is there a way one can promote Progressive Islam that is culturally acceptable to our people? By this, one would be able to promote the accommodation of modernity and critical thinking in Islam. This is necessary for just one reason; if we must bring change to northern Nigeria, and by implication Nigeria as a whole, then we cannot afford to become estranged to our community. The work is enormous, several years of deprivation and faulty of education (both formal and societal) have rendered our people desolate, deflated, abused and devoid of critical thinking abilities. I know that. And I also know that there will always be gifted fellows among a generation who have been blessed with critical thinking abilities — and would as a result be derided and regarded as narcissistic by their immediate community (history is replete with many of such examples). This is the group that you belong to. You shouldn’t be discouraged though. I share similar issues. I however know that a certain wisdom will require that we find novel ways to communicate change even in the most violent of atmospheres. We have to find such a way.”

This is the task set before me. I thank all the Muslims of like mind, and the Christians as well, all Nigerian people, who recognising the dangers of polarisation, have seen my call to action as something essential to be done. Our task is set out for us, our will must be strong even as our compassion for contrary arguments must remain a loving one—to convince our brothers and sisters out of the ruinous, trickle down “conservatism” hoodwinked on us by a dubious elite. I’ll leave you with the usual prayer: May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (09/08/2013)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)

 

Rumble in the North

Senator YerimaThis title takes me back to the last years of 1990s, to those days we used to gather in our Big Man neighbour’s living room for communal viewing of the movie “Rumble in the Bronx”. We would laugh our hearts out at the stunts of Jackie Chan. The Bronx, he didn’t know, being a visitor from Hong Kong, was a hub of street gangsters and standing in their way is a call for a “rumble”. Those movie gangsters of New York are just as dreadful as the religious gangsters of northern Nigeria to whom those of us who call for a cultural revolution are seen as pathetic deviants—they want to “rumble” with us today for standing in their gangster ways. I remember that movie from my late childhood today because I’m a stranger to this new world of religious extremism, being unaware of our differences in those days we used to enjoy our movies and laugh together. I remember this today because our reactions to sensitive issues of and around our region, religion and future are being done with our brains turned upside down. We had evolved from those innocent kids who marked both Christmas and Eid to sophist adult advocates of religious differences. We had lost what used to bind us: love. That community in that living room comprised Muslims and Christians, Hausa and Igbo, Musa and Moses, Minority and Majority… It was the symbolic representation of Nigeria in my childhood, one that remains in my dreams. Sadly, these days, I’m now learning to understand the way of our Islamist Bronx.

We used to be beautiful. We were a beautiful people until 1999 when an individual from faraway Zamfara State suddenly pioneered a political ideology that highlighted our differences; a flawed ideology that led to the deaths of thousands of Nigerians who engaged one another to contest the powers of their religions. We lost friends and families, many of them, innocent people, in those explosions of madness over the (il)legitimacy of shariah. Senator Ahmed Yarima, then the governor of that part of Nigeria urgently in need of developments, ought to be congratulated for introducing shariah legal system. Only that his was a joke to which laughter was, and still is, impossible. Introducing a system that exposes the poor to constant harassments of a taskforce charged with penalising “legally” recognised criminals and sinners while the major thieves of which Yarima himself is a member under-utilise public trust and misuse public funds is not only a crime against humanity, but an elitist oppression taken too far. The joke of our reality is that these leaders who play God in the name of politics, manipulating aspects of religion that portray them as defenders of faith, are uncritically embraced by the same people they cheat.

Yarima gets away with his tricks simply because he happens to a part of the country in which people are hoodwinked to see politics as sort of philanthropy, in which sentiments around religions and ethnicities and regions are stoked to gain political influence and in which possible resistances to their mismanagements of our resources have been smartly stopped by their ability to convince the people that they actually are just for Allah. Even when, in the name of the same Allah, they do nothing to redeem the destitute “Almajirai”­—those products of institutional oppression whose oppressed nature is deliberately obscured by the false belief that they are getting an education, whereas the sociology of this century requires more for survivals and true representations of Islam; they build mansions in Abuja and Paris and London and Maryland and Dubai, while the same supporters are left to wither under the thatch roofs of mud-built houses; they rush to India and Germany on constant medical tourisms while ordinary malaria kills their supporters; and while their children are studying for a certain future at Red Brick, Ivy League and similar Euro-American-esque elite schools, their unschooled and unemployed supporters till depleted lands by hand at the countryside or rush to the cities to add to the sufferings of the urban dwellers. In fact, I believe that in the midst of the religious crises these gangster elite instigate, they flee to their castles overseas to laugh at our folly. All in the name of Allah.

The creators of this cycle of deceits and deliberate underdevelopments have taken care to also create a brand of robots that perfectly fit their intentions—countrymen who fail to see that Yarima’s latest move, calling for legalisation of underage girls as constitutional adults on grounds of marriage, is another cheap fraud aimed at establishing himself as the undeserved “Yariman Musulunci”—Prince of Islam—which I gather is now his appellation. In our rash of debates, we failed to highlight that Yarima, who married an underage Egyptian, couldn’t do so in the bride’s country because the law there has outlawed child marriage. And Egypt is over 80 % Muslim! Our abhorrence of child marriage is simply to redeem northern Nigeria whose fortunes have been destroyed by misrepresentations of Islam by these undesirable elements. If some western countries set low age for marriage, that’s because it poses no threat to their economy and healthcare. We are all stakeholders in this; the Ulama can never impose their consensus on us unless we’re consulted, not just because of the flexibility of this religious stipulation, but because we are what they are not: our backgrounds in the sciences are to be sought in the planning of a dependable society, where the benefits of medicine, pharmacy, aviation, computer science, geology, geography, physics, chemistry, biology, zoology, name it, are maximally utilised by Muslims. Every honest thinker knows that this Bronx of ours needs to implement policies to check our devastated human capital, and discouraging child marriage, yes, constitutionally, is one of these!

The least we want from Yarima is to not bellow the fire of religious tensions that have possessed us, especially the barely enlightened or illiterate northerners who lack the ability to see through his sophistries. This has been my frustration, I’ve been possessed by anger and disappointments on the manner this man manages to hoodwink even the supposed intellectuals. I don’t think God gave us brains, to understand and decide, for no reason. Yarima is a dangerous man; I lost two childhood friends in a crisis initiated by his political folly and I’ll forever be emotional and unequivocal in these condemnations of any attempt at turning this potentially beautiful country into a fertile ground of fascist theocracy. We’re trying to build a sane Arewa, and yet our people actually dance to this tune of exclusions. I do believe that stopping people like Yarima from making it to the front rows of Islamic advocacy is itself a form of Jihad. May God save us from us!

By Gimba Kakanda

Blueprint Newspapers (2/08/2013)

@gimbakakanda (On Twitter)