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Obi seems to be poverty-shaming the North, but is he? – Farooq Kperogi



Farooq Kperogi

Obi seems to be poverty-shaming the North, but is he? – Farooq Kperogi

In a series of tweets on April 18, Labor Party presidential candidate Peter Obi said, among other things, that he was “committed to lifting people out of poverty and I remain committed to transforming Nigeria starting from the North to every part of the nation.” This predictably rankled many northerners, particularly northern Muslims, who understood the tweet as a backhanded, stereotypical vilification of their region.

Why did Obi isolate the North for special focus in a tweet about poverty and the transformation of Nigeria? Why wasn’t he region-agnostic, i.e., not single out any specific region of Nigeria for negative attention?

Why did he come across as articulating a local and economic version of the nineteenth-century racist European doctrine known as the “white man’s burden,” which basically asserted that the unexampled civilizational superiority of the white race imposed on them the moral duty to enlighten the backward and benighted nonwhite populations of the world?

Obi’s spotlight on the North is, of course, balanced on a thick thread of irrefutably solid statistical evidence. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), of the 133 million Nigerians who writhe in unspeakably stifling multidimensional poverty as of the end of last year, 86 million (which represents 65 percent) live in the North.


The North constitutes 54 percent of Nigeria’s population (and 70 percent of its landmass), so if the region makes up 65 percent of the nation’s poorest population there’s clearly an imbalance. Given that context, it’s reasonable that Obi chose to call attention to the poverty in the North, as he had done many times in the past, and to invoke it as the launching pad of his commitment to transform Nigeria. (Had he spotlighted the South, he might also have been accused of regional self-centeredness!)

But to expect all northerners to process Obi’s message the way I’ve done is to have a limited understanding of human behaviors and motivations. You see, every region in Nigeria, as I’ve pointed out in the past, has its stereotypical vulnerabilities about which it is sensitive.

From religious extremism to endemic child abandonment, from 419 email scams to “baby factories,” from child trafficking and prostitution in foreign lands to disabling alcoholism, from credit card scams to kidnapping, etc. Nigerians can, and often do, easily territorialize crimes and negative traits within their national space.

These stereotypical territorializations of crimes and negative stereotypes are often considered offensive when they are uttered by “outsiders” but tolerated, sometimes praised even, when they are uttered by “insiders.”

Many northerners have called attention to the endemic poverty in the North and got praises for it. Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, for instance, has been brutal and unsparing when he calls attention to poverty in the region and the culture that conduces to it.

When he spoke at the fourth Kaduna Investment Summit on April 3, 2019, Aliko Dangote, the world’s richest Black person who is incidentally a northern Nigerian, also said way worse things about poverty in the North than Obi could ever say.

“Nigeria is ranked at 157th out of 189 countries on the human development index. While the overall socio-economic condition in the country is a cause for concern, the regional disparities are in fact very alarming,” he said. “In the Northwestern and Northeastern parts of Nigeria, more than 60 per cent of the population lives in extreme poverty.”


No northerner had a problem with Dangote for what he said. In fact, many northerners lauded his forthrightness. Northerners are resentful of Obi’s oblique references to the poverty in the North because he is an “outsider” who is in addition resented for asking the “Church” to “take back” its “country” and for characterizing the 2023 election as a “religious war” between Muslims and Christians.

But southerners are also hypersensitive to even the mildest references by “outsiders” to negative indices that are exclusive to them. For instance, in March 2015, Mrs. Aisha Buhari stirred up a hornet’s nest when, during a campaign speech in Benin City, she said the biggest problems confronting Nigeria’s deep south were girl child trafficking and the mistreatment of widows.

“In each zone of the country, we have peculiar problems. Our problems differ,” she said. “For me, in this zone, girl child trafficking should be considered one of our problems, though I know there is unemployment…. There must be a design, a cultural design, that can accommodate the widow, and then a design that will make a girl child feel comfortable wherever she is in this country. She doesn’t need to leave her country to go and prostitute elsewhere. It is not her potion; her potion is to have a highly standard moral society for her to live, get married, have children, train them, and to support them to become the future of our leaders.”

Many southern Nigerians seethed with raw rage in the aftermath of Aisha’s speech. They reviled, ridiculed, and besmirched the North in retaliation. They told her to first take the plank out of the North’s eye so she would see clearly enough to remove the speck from the South’s eye.

Well, many northerners are returning the favor to Obi. There is nothing in Obi’s eight-year record as governor of Anambra State to suggest that he can help people exit poverty. Data from the National Bureau of Statistics, which Charles Soludo referenced in a 2015 article, showed that Obi took Anambra from the most prosperous state in Nigeria to one of its poorest.


In 2004, according to the NBS, poverty in Anambra was 20 percent, which was the lowest in the country at the time. By the end of Obi’s first term as governor of Anambra in 2010, poverty rose to 68 percent. His post-gubernatorial social media deodorization campaigns conceal this sordid fact.

It is easy to see why he impoverished the people of Anambra. He was by far one of Nigeria’s most virulently anti-worker governors, which makes his being a candidate of the Labor Party one of the biggest paradoxes of the 2023 election.

He merged the school fees of three terms into one and required that they be paid at once, which forced children from poor homes to drop out of school, refused to pay the minimum wage and fired workers who went on strike, caused patients to die in hospitals because doctors went on strike for 13 months over a demand for a 60 percent raise in their take-home pay, caused ASUU at the then Anambra State University to go on strike for 6 months and fired the Vice Chancellor for supporting them, etc.

So, if he couldn’t transform Anambra, if he actually took the state from the least poor state in the country to one of its poorest until his successor reversed it, how could he possibly save the North from poverty? I think that’s a legitimate query.

Obi’s other claim to machismo in governance is that he saved and left N75 billion in the coffers of Anambra State. However, his handpicked successor, Willie Obiano, said the claim was a “hoax.” The secretary to the Anambra state government who served in Obiano’s administration also said, “The N75 billion was not there; it was not handed over to anybody.”

Let’s, for the sake of argument, accept that Obi’s claims were genuine, but what’s the sense in depriving workers of their just dues while “saving” money? Money has no value except what you make of it. There is no wisdom in being parsimonious while real living people starve and sink to depths of poverty.

Well, even if Obi has the capacity to lift northerners out of poverty, he could do with more tact and discretion in saying this because people tend to take exceptions to being told home truths about themselves by outsiders. That’s why, for instance, Black American hip-hop youth call themselves “nigga” but will go to war if a white person as much as says “nig.”

I had an interesting conversation about this with my American students some years back. A white student wondered why American Blacks call themselves the derogatory name “nigga” and tolerate being told unpleasant things about their culture by Black celebrities but take offense when a white person does the same.

A Black student in the class gave a perfect analogy in response. He asked the white student if she ever fights with and insults her siblings, and she answered in the affirmative. He then asked her if she thought it would be OK for another person to fight with and insult her siblings just because she does the same. His point sank in.

Obi seems to be poverty-shaming the North, but is he? – Farooq Kperogi

Farooq Kperogi is a renowned newspaper column


Ooni: The public displays of a king (1)



Tunde Odesola

Ooni: The public displays of a king (1) (more…)

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Tinubu: The Crowning of the Spiderman



Tunde Odesola

Tinubu: The Crowning of the Spiderman

Tunde Odesola

(Published in The PUNCH, on Friday, June 2, 2023)

From football to jollof rice, and other sundry striving like music and acting, I love the healthy rivalry between Nigeria and Ghana. But truly, Ghanaians know which is the giant of the two countries just as Nigerians know that the tattered singlet of Musa at the gate is worthier that the starched khaki of the brain-lazy, woebegone retired Major-General.

Though farther than Benin Republic, Togo, Niger and Cameroon in terms of geography, Ghana is closer to Nigeria in terms of shared experience and colonial language.

“Imagination is better than knowledge,” I agree with this wisdom of Einstein, who expatiates that, “Knowledge is limited to what we know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there will ever be to know and understand.”

Through the trickery of the Tortoise, Nigerian folklore imagines connectivity between the dead and the living, weaving together a world of equality, freedom and dignity, where intelligence trumps force.

Similarly, Ghanaian mythology imagines the world through the labyrinth of the silk-spinning Spider, whose squishy body contrasts with the carapace of the Tortoise but both creatures’ legends secure a place for the weak in the society.

However, comeuppance awaits the Tortoise or the Spider whenever either wishes to take advantage of the vulnerable through wit and cunning.


In the worldview of African forebears, before things fell apart, intelligence always triumphs whenever brute force runs naked, making the Yoruba say, “Ogbon ju agbara lo,” wisdom is greater than power.”

The story of former President Muhammadu Buhari and incumbent President Bola Tinubu is similar to the Ghanaian myth about Nyame and Anansi.

Anansi is a spider who wants to be the owner of all the stories known in the world, but all stories belong to Nyame, the sky god. Anansi tells Nyame of his wish to buy all the stories from him but Nyame tells the spider the price is unaffordable.

When Anansi insists, Nyame attempts to outfox him, saying Anansi could have all the stories of the world if he could capture the four most dangerous creatures in the world. An excited Anansi assures Nyame that he would capture all the four creatures, and even offers his own mother, Ya Nsia, to boot!

The four creatures include Onini, the python; Osebo, the leopard; Mmoatia, the Fairy; and a hive of Mmoboro Hornets.

Anansi has a beautiful wife, Aso, who is super cunning, and whom he listens to. With his wife’s advice, Anansi beguiles all four creatures, one after the other.

To capture Onini, his wife devises a plan, and they both set out for the brook where Onini lives. There, they began to argue loudly about Onini’s length. Onini comes out and Anansi tells him about their argument.

Onini brooks no contest with the majesty of its length, it quickly stretches out beside the branch which Anansi brought with him. To get an accurate measurement of Onini, Anansi advises that one end of the python be tied to the palm tree branch while the other end should be tied against the other end of the tree branch.

After tying the head of the snake to the branch, it was easy to persuade the snake to have its tail tied to the other end of the stick. And the python became more vulnerable than a sitting duck.

To capture the leopard, Anansi digs a hole in the ground along the path which Osebo treads, covering it up with brushwood. Returning home after dark, Osebo falls into the pit. Anansi, the Good Samaritan, offers to get Osebo out of the hole through his web. But when the leopard got out of the hole, he remained a prisoner in Anansi’s web and was subsequently carried to Nyame’s palace.

The spider entraps the Mmoatia Fairy by making a doll covered in glue and placing it in the prairie where the fairy plays. She sees the doll and gets attracted to it, touches it with both hands and becomes glued.


Anansi lures the Mmoboro hornets into his gourd by pouring water on himself and telling the hornets that a dangerous rain that had beaten him in another community, was fast approaching. He advises them to get into his gourd for safety. They obliged and became Anansi’s victims.

The Spider goes to Ya Nsia, his mother, and reminds her about the promise he made to the Sky god. Ya Nsia agrees to go with Anansi to Nyame.

Boxed in by the Spider’s achievements, Nyame summons the elders and his army, tells them about Anansi’s conquests, which no one else or kingdom could do, and thus pledges all stories to Anansi, the Spider. So, every story became known as a Spider story.

I’m almost sure scaling the hurdles wouldn’t have been smooth sailing for Anansi. There might have been moments of despair and frustration when he angrily shouted, “E gbe awon stories yi wa, EMI LOKAN!”

Unlike the world of Buhari and Tinubu, the world of Anansi was a law-abiding world, where crime was punished, and virtue rewarded.

It was a world, where the elephant, though mighty, couldn’t usurp the rights of the ant, and the lion, despite being the king of the jungle, dared not take what didn’t belong to him.

It was a world that would ‘open the calabash’ of death to a brainless, callous and nepotistic king who recently plundered the land for eight years of misgovernance – just like they ‘opened the calabash’ for wicked kings in the old Oyo Empire.

In the olden days when the Tortoise and the Spider counted among the wise men, people voted without let or hindrance, and their votes counted. The electoral umpire, even if it was the glasses-wearing YAK, dared not fail to upload the results of the presidential election as ARTICUlated in the electoral law.

During the days of the fabled Tortoise and the Spider, Umpire YAK dared not cause disaffection within the polity, as he did yesterday, without being summoned to the king’s palace, and bagging an outright banishment to the Evil Forest or the severance of his head from his neck at Imogun, the Place of Skulls.

If Yak followed the electoral process through, the Articulate and the Obidients would probably not go to the Court of Judges to lay their grievances over why the Bat was crowned the king without announcing his victory through the Kakaaki, as required by the law of the land.

Things have turned upside down today. Thorns have grown on the throne in Ife, and the king can no longer sit on the stool of his forebears but go about looking for plastic chairs in Owambe parties, allowing Pete, Tom, Dick and Harry to hug him.

In those days of the Tortoise and the Spider, when the blind Baba Fakunle predicted in Ola Rotimi’s ‘The gods are not to blame’, that King Odewale would marry his mother and kill his father, it came to pass.

Today, Christian and Muslim clerics have turned the church and the mosque into casinos, where forecasts are churned out like locusts in flight, with none coming to pass.

A cleric predicted that he was the incoming President Number 16 and that Buhari would hand over to him. Another one warned witches and wizards not to come to Abuja – as if witches and wizards ever amounted to anything or as if they are the problems of Nigeria.

Many Nigerian pastors and imams are fake men of God who brag about power over all infirmities but none has ever cured either a cough or a headache, not to talk of HIV/AIDS or COVID-19.

The removal of petroleum subsidy is a step in the right direction but the President must not behave like the Tortoise who got all the wisdom of the world in a gourd, which he tied to his neck, without knowing how to get the gourd to the top of a tree. Tinubu must exhibit cleverness and be be prepared to go to war against the oil cabal.

Online reactions trailed the presence of President Tinubu’s wife, Remi, for being present at an official meeting the president held with some officials on Wednesday.

Did Aso, the wife of Anansi, not help her Spider husband solve his riddles? If you don’t know the meaning of presidential monarchy, go to court.

Facebook: @Tunde Odesola
Twitter: @tunde_odesola

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(OPINION) Open letter to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR



President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, GCFR

(OPINION) Open letter to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR. The President Federal Republic of Nigeria.

All existing protocols are duly observed.

My constitutional rights as a Nigerian moves me to write this letter to you our New President – Bola Ahmed Tinubu GCFR.

Congratulations on your assumption to the office as the 16th President of FRN.

These are my inputs to your administration for us all to get the desirable results in your new Government.

In the comradeship terrain it’s said that – Victory for One is a victory for all and injury for one is an injury for all. I pray that may you succeed in your tenure as the First Citizen of Nigeria Aamiin.

First and foremost I say A big congratulations to you and all Nigerians home and abroad for the bold step you took to announced the REMOVAL OF FUEL SUBSIDY.

Sir!!! Nigerians say No to any form of CABALS home and diaspora.

I suggest the below public figures in Nigeria to serve directly under your administration.

According to two of our contemporary democracy founding fathers – late President Nelson Mandela he said that any system that fails to take Education as Priority is a failure.


You the President of FRN said & I quote that you believe in the revolution of our great country Nigeria but not by any form of battle, civil unrest or war but by our intellectuals.

The above mentioned quote tell us the power of education.

On this note, below are my submission to your desk directly sir.

I suggest that Education & insecurity are twins sectors which need urgent attention and have to be in your priority list sir through the below –

1. Prof. Ishaq Olarenwaju Oloyede For Minister of Education.

2. Retired Generals like Alani Akinrinade, Olu Bajowa, Ishola Williams, Jubirila Ayinla, David Jemibewon etc should be consulted for security.

3. Emir SLS & his formidable team for Economy planning.

4. H. E . BRF & his crew for what they are Guru at.

5. Prof. Pat utomi & Senator Kalu orji plus others from the East are also key in PBAT administration.

Note – Education sector has to cover other areas like – Computers, Technology, sciences and Researches etc.

These sectors have to make your priority list after the above to achieve the desirable results Viz –

1. Health sector
2. Power , Petroleum & mines sector.
3. Agriculture sector.
4. Infrastructures sector.
5. Welfare of all the citizens old and young (unemployment, old age benefits etc).

These 7 key points are very vital sir and if you can deliver them to us, Nigerians, your name will never be forgotten in the country’s Best governance list.

Pray that May Allah make it an easy task for us and all yours formidable team Aamiin.

God bless Nigeria Aamiin!!!

I am comrade Hon Akinpeju AIT (National General Secretary ABAT Educational Support Team).


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