It is no longer news that I am very close to Professor Farooq Kperogi, who in his own words once said, I was close enough to be counted as a member of his own family. I started reading his then Weekly Trust column since the time it was known as “Notes from Louisiana”, and I never wavered in reading him even after his column metamorphosed to “Notes from Atlanta” when he moved to Atlanta, in the US state of Georgia, from his previous base in Lafayette in the US state of Louisiana.
Because of my dream to travel to the US for further education upon graduation from the University of Maiduguri where I was having my undergraduate education, I remembered sending an email to Farooq to let him know that I was a passionate follower of his weekly articles which then, mostly portrayed his experience as an African and academic sojourner in the US. The reply he sent to me was encouraging. In his response, he wrote that he knew I would eventually fulfil my dream of having a US education if only my writing ability was any indication of my enthusiasm for scholarship. I later sent his wife, Zainab, an email to tell her how much I admired her husband because of his brilliance and how much I was learning from his articles such that I could safely call him a mentor. Though Zainab did not reply my email, but when I had a chat with Farooq several days later, he told me that his wife told him she really appreciated the email I sent to her. Several years later, after the death of Zainab in a car crash in Nigeria in June 2010, I even got closer to Farooq. Farooq would later meet his present wife, Maureen, through me. Although my dream—and his wish for me—to have a US education could not be realised, nevertheless, I was opportune to have access to a UK education, which is obviously at par with a US education that I had dreamed of.
Having known Farooq this far, I do not believe that he hates President Muhammadu Buhari—because of his very critical opinions about Buhari—simply, and as his accusers say, he only focusses on the negatives, as opposed to the positives of the Buhari administration. From the private conversations that I had with Farooq recently, if he hated Buhari, there are certain narratives that he would have since written about Buhari—which he refused to do, even after being encouraged to do so by many people from Nigeria. In any event, there are several published articles Farooq had written in defence of the president in the past, and a simple search over Google is enough to vindicate him.
That said, there is no compelling moral force that says that to be objective in your arguments, you must strike a balance between praise and criticism. That, simply is an argument for the unintelligent—how is preference or speciality a problem, and how does this make a person less objective? We are at liberty to choose whether we want to focus on the positives or the negatives of every situation in life. In fact, as it is obvious to beginning students of communication—of which Farooq is a professor in the discipline—most of the time, normalcy (read positives) is no news, abnormality is. What, then, is there to report about the positives of any government in the world since they have not sent men to land in Jupiter for an economically profitable expedition? For example, what is there to report if the president is constructing roads and hospitals for his subjects—a duty for which he swore to do, and for which he is being paid to do, and for which, ultimately, our legal status as citizens grants us a social responsibility to hold him accountable? What is objective, is, for us to be truthful in what we say and do about whosoever we choose to criticise or praise. Therefore, there are no problems for me at all if Farooq focuses on the negatives of the Buhari administration provided he is saying the truth about the administration.
I am not a diehard supporter of President Muhammadu Buhari or ex-President Goodluck Jonathan. But between Buhari and Jonathan, I am yet to be convinced that Jonathan was a better president especially since I have seen how very irresponsible the Jonathan government was in their response toward the Boko Haram insurgency in the Nigerian northeast where I come from. On the day Mubi—the second largest town in my home state of Adamawa was taken over by Boko Haram insurgents—there was not a single item on NTA news that reported the unfortunate event, but NTA was brazen enough to project an oft-repeated advert in favour of Jonathan’s second term presidential bid. Alex Badeh, a very uncharismatic soldier, and the head of the Nigerian military at the time, who is a native of Mubi, had ordered military helicopters—which were maintained by Nigerian tax payers’ money—to evacuate his extended family members in Mubi on the day the Boko Haram insurgents took over the town, so that all other Nigerians there can die. Thus, I must be very imprudent to wish that Jonathan had won a second tenure to lead Nigeria. By his thoughtless performance as president, Jonathan, to me, had no business being president of any country in the world.
While Farooq is being ostracised today by the very people—mostly of northern Nigerian descent—who used to praise him, and were even fond of the choice adjectives he had used in criticising Jonathan, there is a lesson which we could learn from this turn of events. If anything, what we have learned from the Buhari and Jonathan administrations are that intransigent bigots exists from both the Nigerian north and south. When you make Facebook posts or publish articles against the Buhari administration, you have a barrage of likes and praises mostly from bigots from the Nigerian south who have sworn—for reasons best known to them—to never like Buhari in their lives. The same happened during the infamous reign of Goodluck Jonathan such that your criticism for Jonathan became the index for which you are endeared to bigots in the Nigerian north. Bigots from both sides have now been well identified, as by their fruits we now know them. In the future, serious minded Nigerians should not take either the intransigent Buharists or the intransigent Jonathanians seriously. There are brilliant Nigerians with well-balanced sense of judgment from all sections of the country with whom you can engage with in a non-bigoted and civil discussion about the events and the personalities in contemporary Nigeria.
Mohammed Dahiru Aminu