The Muhammadu Buhari regime, in a fit of fascist rage, shut down the African Independent Television (AIT) and RayPower FM for electing to not be an appendage of the Presidential Villa like NTA , FRCN, and other broadcast stations are; for not being a willing tool in an illegitimate government’s fascist, self-serving propaganda; and for providing an outlet for the ventilation of democratic anxieties about Nigeria’s descent into unimaginable depths of hopelessness.
This didn’t come to me as a surprise because I had warned about it several times. In fact, in last week’s column titled “Formal Enthronement of Buhari’s Fascist Rigocracy,” I said, “Because he lacks legitimacy to rule again, expect the official inauguration of fascist totalitarianism in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. All illegitimate regimes brutally suffocate their citizens who stand up to them. That is why François-Marie Arouet, aka Voltaire, famously said, ‘It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.’”
Several decades ago, African-American abolitionist and newspaper editor Frederick Douglas eloquently prefigured the unfolding take-over of the right to public expression by Buhari’s fascist tyranny when he said, “Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down.”
The broadcast licenses of AIT and RayPower FM were withdrawn because the stations reputedly “embarked on use of inflammatory, divisive, inciting broadcasts and media propaganda against the government and the NBC for performing its statutory functions of regulating the broadcast industry in Nigeria,” among other silly, asinine reasons invented by the NBC to mask its willful, preplanned strike against Daar Communications’ constitutionally guaranteed liberty of expression.
One of AIT’s professional infractions, according to the NBC, was that, on January 18, 2019, its presenter for a program called Kakaaki Social “Read out a tweet from @Gold Rush: ‘…Aticulated FC consolidated its position at the top of the table with a huge away win in America…while lifeless FC is battling with relegation at Ogboru Presidential Stadium, Warri. Presenter just laughed.”
This is unnerving pettiness. For people who are not clued in on Nigerian social media lingo, this tweet merely said Atiku (represented as “Aticulated FC”) scored an enormous political capital by traveling to the United States in January even when Buhari’s propagandists had said he couldn’t travel to the country because he would be arrested and prosecuted for an alleged transnational money-laundering crime.
The tweet contrasted the political capital that the US visit conferred on Atiku with the political diminution Buhari (represented as “Lifeless FC”) suffered in Delta State during the same time when, in a fleeting moment of senile dementia, he declared Delta State’s APC governorship candidate Great Ogboru as APC’s presidential candidate.
The NBC was peeved not only because the tweet was read out on air in a program where trending tweets are read out, but also because the presenter laughed when he read it out! How does one even engage with that sort of despotic, overweening juvenility? Well, scholars of fascism have long found that in fascist tyrannies, even humor, especially transgressive humor, is a threat that must be eliminated. Buhari’s tyranny, like most tyrannies, is not only humorless and artless; it is also afflicted by a cripplingly lumbering intellectual deficit, which ensures that it doesn’t even understand the codes it purports to enforce.
Nevertheless, transgressive humor is crucial to critical democratic citizenship and to the sustenance of a healthy state, and there is no greater evidence of Nigeria’s tragic descent into the atrocious pits of totalitarian suffocation of the discursive space than the fact that even oppositional political humor is now treason.
Buhari and his malevolent puppeteers have found a dutifully alacritous minion of fascist monocracy in the morally impaired and explicitly politically partisan Ishaq Modibbo Kawu who, as Director General of the National Broadcasting Commission, vied for the governorship of his home state of Kwara on the platform of the ruling APC.
A man who didn’t have the common decency to resign his position as the non-partisan arbiter of the broadcast industry before running for a partisan political position and, even worse, who returned to the same position after losing his partisan political bid has no moral authority to sit in judgment over professionalism and political partisanship.
As I mentioned in a previous two-part column titled “Ilorinis an Ethnogenesis: Response to Kawu’s Anti-Saraki Ilorin Purism,” Ishaq Modibbo Kawu, whom I knew as Olanrewaju “Lanre” Kawu in the 1990s, is someone I’ve called a friend and a brother for years, not because we come from the same state but because I thought we shared the same passion for a juster, fairer, more progressive society.
I now realize that I didn’t know him. Access to power has exposed the rotten underbelly he had artfully hidden for years. Former US First Lady Michelle Obama, who should know, once said power doesn’t change people; it divulges who they really are. It lays bare their inner core. Kawu is a fawning, servile enforcer of the fascist strangulation of the broadcast industry on behalf of Buhari and Abba Kyari, his equally ethically stained benefactor, because he was never true to the ideals he professed.
As I write this column, he is being tried by the Independent Corrupt Practices and Other Related Offences Commission (ICPC) on 12-count charges, including a N25 billion naira fraud. A man who flouted the provisions of the Nigerian constitution that requires public servants to resign their positions 30 before standing for elections, who is an unabashed political partisan, and who is on trial for colossal financial fraud against the nation and the organization he heads has no moral power to regulate any institution.
But this is Buhari’s Nigeria where people buy immunity with political loyalty, where people evade the legal consequences of their moral indiscretions by not only showing loyalty to the president but by performing it with exhibitionistic glee.
For instance, just a day after he met with Buhari, withdrew his candidature for the position of senate president, and endorsed the president’s candidate for senate president, the EFCC withdrew its N25 billion fraud case against Danjuma Goje and transferred it to the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation, which is now the euphemism for discontinuation of prosecutorial pursuit of malefactors with whom the government is now pleased.
Kawu knows that the only way to earn himself reprieve from his N25 billion fraud trial is to, like Goje and others, perform spectacular partisan loyalty to Buhari. In the coming days and weeks, expect the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation to take over his case from the ICPC. This is a thoroughly corrupt, lawless, and fascist totalitarianism that does not even pretend to spare a split second’s worth of thought for moral propriety and sense of shame. The Buhari regime, as I’ve repeatedly said, will be the undoing of Nigeria.
Farooq Kperogi, Ph.D. is assistant professor of Journalism and Citizen Media at Kennesaw State University, Georgia, USA. This article was first published in Nigerian Tribune. He owns a blog, Notes From Atlanta and tweets from @farooqkperogi.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.