By Ambali Abdulkabeer
On January 22, 2022, a seemingly terse letter by one Muhammad Rabiu Jibril to the perennial critic of Nigeria’s asphyxiating political system and its enablers was published by The Daily Reality, an online news medium headquartered in Kano. In the letter, Bashir writes about Kperogi’s consistent verbal umbrage at Nigeria’s geriatric political stagers and asks him to recommend a candidate for Nigerians in the 2023 elections. Bashir implicitly hints that faulting our leaders alone won’t suffice. More worryingly, several people who commented on the letter challenge Kperogi to, in lieu of writing belligerent, “big grammar” articles to condemn all the candidates currently available for Nigerians to pick from in 2023, come out and participate in the laborious task of choosing a leader for Nigerians during elections. That, to me, seems ignorant at best and unwarranted at worst. Here is why.
We need to understand that political participation is in layers. In other words, our involvement in politics, as significant as it is, can take various forms. Some of these include voting during elections, participating in mature political campaigns, conducting political sensitisations especially in places far removed from the mainstream politics, holding political positions, donating money to a political cause (in the interest of collective prosperity), participating in meetings that keep citizens close to their leaders and blogging writing about political happenings.
It’s unarguable that Prof. Farooq Kperogi is renowned for one or all of the above. As a dyed-in-the-wool political commentator and justice advocate, he writes consistently about political issues. His writing has propelled many public decisions that have shaped the country’s economic, social, cultural and political trajectories. His weekly political columns are devoted to critically analysing the myriad of sociopolitical issues bedevilling Nigeria in the last three decades or more. For me, this is a heavier role to assume by someone who, despite not being directly affected by several political diseases in the country, takes his country’s progress as a priority.
The fact that Kperogi has taken it upon himself to right the wrongs of the monsters in power by exposing their egregiously corrupt practices, not minding the consequences, should be enough for us to know that he wants the best for the country.
Ngugi wa Thiong’o, the Kenyan man of letters, aptly reminds us about the responsibility of a writer in his essay “Writers in Politics: The Power of Words and the Words of Power” when he argues that writers in politics operate within complex forces. He refers to them as people who risk many things to create a befittingly just world. One of the paragraphs in the strongly-worded essay is worth quoting here:
“He (writer) must reject, repudiate and negate his roots in the native bourgeoisie and its spokesmen, and finds his true creative links with the pan-African masses over the earth in alliance with all the socialistic forces of the world. He must, of course, be very particular, very involved in a grain of sand, but must also see the world past, present, and future in that grain. He must write with all the vibrations and tremors of the struggles of the working people in Africa…behind him. Yes, his work must show commitment, not to abstract notions of justice and peace, but the actual struggle of African peoples…and be in position to lay the only correct basis for real peace and real justice”.
In all fairness to Prof. Farooq Kperogi, his writing has always been within the prism of the above-identified responsibilities of writers, especially those who are caught up in the terrible sociopolitical conditions of countries like Nigeria. Nigeria is plagued by existential problems, including bad leadership, mass ignorance, and smelling regional biases exemplified in people’s attitudes toward the establishment and others. Therefore, for anything, any writer that informs their people and unrelentingly writes to challenge the status quo by giving the blueprint for emancipation and genuine leadership, which Nigeria truly needs, doesn’t deserve ill-founded condemnation.
This is not to argue that Prof. Kperogi’s political essays are watertight recommendations; it’s hard to discredit the courage and foresight his work forges for concerned Nigerians. Perhaps, this is what Breyten Breytenbach means in his polemical essay titled “The Writer and Responsibility” when he says, “a writer, any writer, to my mind has at least two tasks, sometimes overlapping; he is the questioner and the implacable critic of the mores and attitudes and myths of his society, but he is also the exponent of the aspirations of his people”.
Those who have commented on Jibril’s letter by calling Prof. Kperogi out should know that it takes massive grit to do what he is doing. They should know that his writing is really helpful. Even though he is not in Nigeria, he is doing what many Nigerians who are direct victims of the mess the country is enmeshed in can’t or fail to do. Of course, many scholars in Nigeria should have taken it upon themselves to inform the public through writing and go against the grain in the interest of a better Nigeria.
I would end this essay this way: Voting during elections isn’t the only way to participate in politics. Before voting, voters need to have the required knowledge of the process and understand the qualities a responsible political aspirant should possess. They must also come to terms with the power dynamics in the country and know who is fit to say this and that on their behalf. This is the leitmotif in Kperogi’s writing. So, before launching baseless ad hominem digs at a patriotic Nigerian who is voluntarily doing his part to fight for a country we can all cherish, we should understand that the role of a writer, first and foremost, is to inform. And that is exactly what Prof. Kperogi is doing.
Ambali Abdulkabeer is a writer and critic of contemporary writing. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.