I’m not a big fan of Farooq Kperogi, the Nigerian born university professor in Atlanta, United States, who writes a weekly column in the Nigerian Tribune. Although he has a good grasp of language, Kperogi’s incessant resort to flippancy, speculations and gossips is a turn off for me. A good columnist in a major national newspaper should stick to facts, verifiable facts, and be guided by logic and sound judgment. A good opinion writer seeks to influence his readers and set agenda, and so he has no business spoofing fiction as facts, pandering to sentiments and dishing insults and innuendoes. Founded in 1949, the Tribune is one of the nation’s oldest newspapers that were in the forefront of our fight against colonialism and military rule. The paper will have to be a lot more circumspect in what it allows into its pages.
I have resisted the urge to rejoin some of previous articles until the one titled ‘’Patami is my friend, but he can’t be defended’’ published in the Saturday Tribune of April 17, 2021. In it Kperogi attacked Isa Ali Patami, Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, for the incendiary utterances and inciting religious preachments he made before he became minister. Kperogi argued that he could not in good conscience defend the minister whom he described as a friend because of the minister’s past entanglements with terrorists groups and religious bigots. The piece would have been a perfect harangue for a cabinet member who had brought so much odium to the government in which he serves. But midway into the piece, the writer curiously brought in the Vice President and alleged that Prof Yemi Osinbajo is equally guilty of religious and ethnic bias. He said the VP’s staffers are mostly Yoruba and Christians, and most are members of Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). I will not dignify the drivel by reproducing the full paragraph here, but suffice it to say that Kperogi’s assessment of the VP is faulty, wrong facetious.
Many others, including some Presidency officials, have since risen in stout defence of the VP. Dr. Balkisu Saidu, Special Assistant to the President on Legal, Research & Compliance Matters, Office of the Vice President, has gone further to publish names and positions of key staff in the VP’s Office to prove their religious and ethnic mixture. Although an ordained pastor in RCCG long before he became Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo has never held extremist views or displayed an act of ethnic bias. Right from his days as a practicing lawyer, Osinbajo has kept a wide circle of friends across the country and built a network of personal associates in every corner of Nigeria. As Vice President in the last six years, his staff and the few political appointments he’s made reflect the diversity of our nation. His speeches, comments and public statements are in moderation. It is on record that the VP has never been provoked by the religiously inflamed mood of the times to express extreme statement. If anything, Prof Osinbajo has over time emerged, through actions and words, as the humane and compassionate face of the Buhari administration. He’s the one who goes around the country to comfort, condole and offer succor to the afflicted members of our besieged communities.
Faced with torrents of backlash since the column came out, Kperogi issued a rebuttal on an online platform in which he acknowledged that ‘’to his credit (the VP) hasn’t been associated with extremist and exclusivist religious rhetoric in his past homilies’’. It is notable that the platform soon yanked off the halfhearted rebuttal when the full picture of the VP’s unblemished records was presented to them. But the damage has been done. Kperogi has once again allowed his emotions to becloud his judgment. How could a scholar of Kperogi’s exposure not enquire to ascertain his facts before he dragged the VP’s name into the Patami controversy? How can an intellectual who teaches communication in a US university be driven by illogic, hearsay and idle talk in his commentaries? My guess is that the writer only wanted to create a storm by adding the VP to the piece. Kperogi believes that a good article should be controversial, even if an innocent person is maligned. Farooq Kperogi should leave the Vice President out of the Patami controversy. The VP is a decent, loyal public official who has carried himself so admirably well in the last six years. Rather, Kperogi should focus his attention on how many other ‘Patamis’ are in the government and how the DSS, our ever vigilant and eagle-eyed secret police, could have missed spotting them out during their background checks.