By Donu Kogbara

EVEN mild and valid criticisms of the North seem to be classified as “hate speech” nowadays. Yet many Northerners are unrepentant peddlers of real hate speech when it comes to Shiites.

Ask the average Sunni what he or she thinks of Shiites and you’ll receive a barrage of unhinged verbal bile or a politely hostile comment.

Meanwhile, not one of these anti-Shiite elements has been able to explain his or her hatred of Shiites in a rational way. Nigerian Shiites are legitimate Muslims like the Sunni majority, but they are treated like a dangerous demonic cult; and their leader, Sheikh Zak Zaky, has been incarcerated. And it’s so unfair.

Members of Shiite on the road along Kubuwa Expressway in Abuja. Photo by Gbemiga Olamikan

Advertising ban

I’VE seen a Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, election advert that is currently airing on AIT. And it’s pretty good – creatively depicting Nigeria, after sustained exposure to Buharism, as a critically ill hospital patient on a life support machine who can only be rescued from death by a new doctor – Alhaji Atiku Abubakar!

When I told an Atiku Campaign Team member that I liked the advert, I was taken aback to be told that it can only be seen on AIT because other TV channels have not agreed to screen it.

How disappointing and uncivilized! If I owned a TV channel, I wouldn’t allow my personal political preferences to colour my judgement to the point of pushing me to practise censorship.

In the interests of journalistic balance and democratic principles, I would not deny any non-extremist candidate or party a voice. I’d feel duty bound to expose my viewers to a broad range of viewpoints.

Having said this, I can just-about tolerate the idea of privately-owned TV channels refusing to be even-handed with candidates who aren’t on the same page as the owner(s) of the TV channel.

But the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA – which is currently awash with adverts that loudly applaud the ruling All Progressive Congress, APC, and Mr President – is publicly funded and should, therefore, be legally barred from discriminating against Opposition candidates and behaving as if it is the government’s PR agency.

Let us please never forget that the money that keeps NTA going belongs to all Nigerians, including Opposition candidates!


Black, white and grey

SOME Nigerians are so scarily extreme, it’s unbelievable! When I say that I am pro-Atiku but respect or am simply fond of some APC stalwarts and the Young Progressives Party’s Kingsley Moghalu, some of the other inhabitants of the pro-Atiku camp frown disapprovingly or tell me off for harbouring such “disloyal” thoughts.

One guy even coldly accused me of “sitting on the fence in case Buhari wins the election”!!!

Motivational speaker

He flatly rejected my sincere claim that I am just being objective because he does not have an objective bone in his body and judges everyone by his own standards.

Meanwhile, some APC fans are just as fanatically uncompromising. This type is wedded to the “All Or Nothing” mantra and feels that you should either unquestioningly worship Buhari with the blind passion of educationally challenged talakawas (impoverished Northern masses) or go to hell or drink poison or both!

There is no middle ground permitted whereby you might, for example, genuinely like (as I do) Buhari’s abstemiousness but dislike his nepotism. It is either you absolutely adore their Great Leader Who Can Do No Wrong Ever. Or you are an evil enemy and dirty liar.

And, by the way, don’t even dare to suggest to them that Buhari, is elderly enough to be suffering from cognitive impairment! As far as they are concerned, his brain is as sharp as a razor and he’s smarter than a university lecturer and as eloquent as a motivational speaker.

As for those who are convinced that Buhari’s failures prove that Jonathan was fantastic on every single level: I have given up on reasoning with them.

Let them continue to believe what they want to believe, while I will continue to say a) that it is possible for two heads of state to be inadequate and b) that the replacement’s inadequacies do not automatically eliminate the predecessor’s inadequacies.

At any rate, I find people who are unconditionally pro-APC or unconditionally pro-PDP or unconditionally anything strange because life is not always about pure black or pure white and it is sometimes necessary to acknowledge that several shades of grey exist between the two extremes of the colour spectrum.

I simply don’t understand how some folks can be so biased and so devoid of intellectual honesty and emotional maturity that they cannot admit that a rival party might contain some OK human beings or admit that their own party sometimes makes mistakes.

If you listen to the more rabid APC and PDP advocates hailing themselves or dissing their adversaries and just generally banging on as if both organisations are either packed with desperate devils or stainless saints, you will begin to wonder whether you and they are on the same planet. Talk about alternative realities!


Politicians’ promises

AFTER a recent meeting with Kaduna State’s Commissioner of Police, the American Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Stuart Symington, said: “I have talked to your President, I have talked to the leading candidates and they have all reassured me personally of their commitment to every vote counting, to people being able to cast their votes and for those votes to be counted lawfully.”

This seems like an appropriate time to use a popular American phrase – Tell It To The Marines!!!  In other words, if Symington believes any promises made by Naija politicos – most of whom have never kept any major promise in their entire lives and most of whom are feverishly perfecting their election-rigging techniques as I write – he will believe anything!

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