Saturday, July 22, 2017

Re: USA Africa Dialogue Series - Fiery Kenyan Politician Miguna Miguna has Captured Nigeria’s Imagination

Thanks for this thought-provoking write-up, Farooq. You have a way with words that always keeps me spellbound whenever I am reading you even when I disagree with your positions occasionally. 

To be fair, though, it's hard to compare any African country to Nigeria. Kenya is just about the population of seven Nigerian states – Kano, Lagos, Kaduna, Oyo, Rivers and Bauchi combined.  Nigeria has its complications and complexities that defy every rule of conventional wisdom for a developing (nay, underdeveloped) country that we are. It's a class by itself. Trust me, it is.

Let us face it: You and I can critique the Nigerian polity from outside-looking-in; it's a different ball game for those who are there, sitting in the same room with their political opponents or occupying the same legislative chambers with their colleagues, the majority of which are a part of the thievery culture. In a culture where there has never been a "Jomo Kenyatta," or any model politician, instead all you've got is a bunch of Boko Haram sponsors, godfathers of Evans, the notorious kidnapper, employers of untold assassins, and everything in-between, would you have the audacity to stand up (or sit down) and point to the proverbial naked emperors as did Miguna?  I don't think so. 

If I may ask, did you really say this?:

"Nigeria needs an independent, non-partisan commission to organize debates before every electoral contest so that voters can have a sense of the character and background of the people who will make policies that will affect their lives."

I can't dismiss your views with a wave of the hand only because you just don't write to be seen or heard on the cyberspace, you put thoughts to your postings; but why on earth would you recommend this so-called debate? Would it amount to anything in Nigeria? Nigeria is not there yet, my friend! You don't bother teaching a pig to sing; it will waste your time and annoy the pig. Do you think if it were to be today's Nigeria, Miguna is going to win? (we don't even know yet if he will win in Kenya, but he is ten times more likely to win in Kenya than in our present Nigeria). Have you heard of anywhere in the world where a politician accused of murdering a national figure won a senatorial seat while in jail and almost became the governor of a state? Have you heard of another place in the world where a one-time governor left the office and transferred most of the state's assets to his personal family holding? Have you heard where a politician would make a product manufactured in his state of leadership to be paid to his family 10% of the product in perpetuity? Do you know why the moderator of this group said it is forbidden to utter insults on this listserve except if it were to a politician?

Debate ke? 

What we need in Nigeria is not a one-time elite's bombardment of elites in the humorous speak of Miguna. What we need is the movement of the people. I am talking of when the masses - iya oniru, iya alata, the street hawkers, the working class, the retirees, all the antitheses of Nigerian politicians, can rise up and say with undaunted authenticity and firm resolve that enough is enough; the madman has been pushed to the wall and is ready to bite even a standing pillar of the iroko tree to shred! 

Of late, someone sent me the video of the poor retirees of Osun State protesting the political leadership of their state, and I breathed a sigh of relief that there is hope for our people; or when K-12 students are on the streets of Oyo State shouting down their governors and their uniformed politicians, then I see hope. That is what I am talking about! When that happens, and continues to happen, and continues to happen, and soon becomes the Nigerian "Arab Spring," then we will finally arrive. Until that happens, don't look up to the heavens, certainly not to Abuja; look straight at (and to) the working class in Okuta, Shaki, Sepeteri, Ido-Ani, Osogbo, Lalupon, Zonkwa, Auchi, Agwochukwu,  etc. Trust me, our salvation cannot come from those who have enslaved us. They can't hear, no matter how much we cry; and they can't relieve us, no matter how much we beg. Bob Dylan said it well and he is right on the money:
Yes, 'n' how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky?
Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry?
Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died?
The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind
The answer is blowin' in the wind.

Michael O. Afolayan
From the Land of Lincoln

On Saturday, July 22, 2017 5:22 AM, Farooq A. Kperogi <> wrote:

Fiery Kenyan Politician Miguna Miguna has Captured Nigeria's Imagination

By Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.

Nigerian cyberspace is being lit up by a wildly viral video of Kenyan politician Miguna Miguna brutally taking down his political opponents in a televised debate that took place in early July. There is probably no Nigerian on social media who hasn't watched the nearly two-minute video. It's being shared on WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and everywhere else Nigerians congregate online. I've probably watched it a million times myself! It's my new comic relief and guilty pleasure.

The video captures a moment during a debate between four contenders for the position of governor of the county of Nairobi. The contenders are Evans Kidero, the current governor of Nairobi who was CEO of Mumias Sugar Company for eight years; Mike Sonko who is the current senator of Nairobi; Peter Kenneth, a former presidential candidate who is currently an Assistant Minister; and the tautonymous Miguna Miguna, who is an author, columnist, activist, and former presidential adviser.

For people who haven't seen the video, below is a transcript of Miguna's ferociously forthright squelcher of his opponents that has got people talking and laughing:

 "Cartels are central to the problems of Nairobi, and the three colleagues of mine, actually, are part of the cartels that I want to deal with [laughter from the audience]. I will tell you who the cartels are. The cartels are people who have made money through shady business deals.

"My friend Evans Kidero has made his billions through shady deals. There's no industry he has, but he has become a billionaire, having been an employee throughout his life, because he has looted every institution he has joined [rapturous laughter from the audience]. Mumias [Sugar Company] has collapsed, and Nairobi is not a going concern anymore, according to the auditor-general.

"My friend [Mike] Sonko is looting every land in Nairobi [laughter from the audience]. He has a criminal record from Mombasa where he was jailed because of fraud, forgery, and drug dealing. Then he ran away from jail. So he is a cartel because he has a criminal record [laughter from the audience]. And, right now, he's grabbed many pieces of land and then stages a PR show, a PR stunt, where he videotapes and pretends he's come to rescue.

 "My friend Peter Kenneth bankrupted Kenya Re [roaring from the audience]. He basically looted a public institution to death [more laughter from audience]. And when he was in Gatanga, he never promoted a motion in parliament, never sponsored a bill, never chaired a committee of parliament. Then, he is saying we need a manager. Nairobi needs a leader, not a manager [laughter from audience]. I will hire managers to deal with different sectors—competent, ethical managers.

 "And these three [pointing to his opponents] represent the worst of our country. Where you make money in shady deals, and because of those money—that money— that you've made, and because you can give handouts, you're considered a manager. A manager of corruption is not a leader!"

Why have Miguna's no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle rhetorical punches against his opponents resonated well with Nigerians and caused Kenyan politics to reverberate in Nigeria? It is apparent that Nigerians who are excitedly sharing the video exult in a vicarious satisfaction that a bold, brash, brilliant, and brutally frank activist-politician had the gumption to mercilessly tear the already tattered reputations of crooked career politicians to shreds.

Nigerians see uncanny parallels between the politicians Miguna so brilliantly characterized in the clip and their own politicians at home who, unlike their Kenyan counterparts, are shielded from critical scrutiny, who have never had to face opponents in televised debates, who are defiantly corrupt, conceited, and unaccountable because their positions are handed to them on a silver platter.

The intense popularity of the clip on Nigerian cyberspace is also a clear demonstration of Nigerians' thirst for a robust, untrammeled institutionalization of a culture of public political debates before elections. It's embarrassing that in spite of Nigeria's claim to sophistication and leadership of the African continent, contenders to political offices don't participate in debates as a matter of routine. That's why we are always taken aback by the piteous quality of characters that our elections throw up.

For instance, Andy Uba, a school certificate failure who has forged every higher education certificate that there is, is a senator and is angling to become the next governor of Anambra. Muhammed Kazaure Gudaji, a barely educated clown who has no business in politics and governance, is a member of the House of Representatives. The examples are legion.

 These characters ascended to positions of political authority because their constituents never had a chance to even know who they were, what they knew, etc. A public debate prior to elections would have exposed them. Of course, it won't guarantee that they won't win because a multiplicity of factors account for why people win and lose in elections, but people would at least know what they were getting. The current system is akin to what the English call buying a pig in a poke, that is, getting something without an informed awareness of its true worth and form beforehand.

Nigeria needs an independent, non-partisan commission to organize debates before every electoral contest so that voters can have a sense of the character and background of the people who will make policies that will affect their lives.

Another interesting fact about Miguna that registered in the consciousness of Nigerians is that he is an independent candidate. A Kenyan TV station, in fact, called him "Kenya's only 'true independent'" candidate for office because other candidates became "independent" only after they lost the nomination of their parties. Nigeria, too, is ripe for independent candidacy. Political parties aren't a sine qua non to run for office in a democracy. It's a crying shame that Kenya allows independent candidacy but Nigeria, Africa's largest democracy, does not.

The Nairobi governorship election will take place on August 8. Miguna may well lose, given the odds against him, but he and his supporters can at least find comfort in the knowledge that his forthright, hard-tackle rhetorical kicks against careerist politicians has captured the imagination of Kenya's bumbling big brother, Nigeria.

Farooq A. Kperogi, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Journalism & Emerging Media
School of Communication & Media
Social Science Building 
Room 5092 MD 2207
402 Bartow Avenue
Kennesaw State University
Kennesaw, Georgia, USA 30144
Cell: (+1) 404-573-9697
Personal website:
Twitter: @farooqkperog
Author of Glocal English: The Changing Face and Forms of Nigerian English in a Global World

"The nice thing about pessimism is that you are constantly being either proven right or pleasantly surprised." G. F. Will

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