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I am Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired By Farooq A. Kperogi


I am Sick and Tired of Being Sick and Tired By Farooq A. Kperogi

When I sat down to write my column this week, I was overwhelmed by the multitude of issues I wanted to address: the presidency’s pushback against New York Time’s factual reporting on the unprecedented economic crunch in Nigeria that was exacerbated by President Bola Tinubu’s twin policies of subsidy removal and floating of the naira, the political and judicial shitshow in Kano regarding emirship, the unabating suffering in the land, minimum wage, etc.

Every country, including the United States where I live, has problems. I always recognize that. But it seems to me that Nigeria’s problems are peculiar because they are always the same year in, year out, and people who should solve them don’t even pretend to be interested in solving them. They repeat the same motions, mouth the same sterile and predictable defenses, and hurl the same insults at critics.

So, I asked myself if there was even any point in my writing. Who reads what I write anyway? Of those who read, who cares? Of those who care, who is in a position to change anything? Am I wasting my time by writing about issues that won’t change? Should I take an emotional break from Nigeria?

This isn’t the first time I am grappling with these questions publicly and privately. I am sure I am not the only person who struggles with these questions.

Many people have wondered what I stand to gain from my passionate interventions in Nigerian affairs when I am not a direct victim of the dysfunction of the country and won’t be a direct beneficiary of the systemic overhaul I desire for the country.

I used to think people who asked me these questions were shortsighted. I still think they are.

But I am, right now, just sick and tired of being sick and tired. We owe debt for this colorful expression to the late African-American civil rights activist from Mississippi by the name of Fannie Lou Hamer.

At a memorable speech she delivered at a rally with Malcolm X in Harlem, New York, on December 20, 1964, in support of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party’s Congressional Challenge, Ms. Hamer said, among other things, “And I’ve been tired so long, now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change.”

My own emotions are different from Hamer’s. I am not even in the emotional state to ask for a change because I’ve been doing exactly that for more than 20 years. I think I am once again suffering from what I called outrage fatigue in a 2021 column.

It is, as I pointed out, instigated by sustained sensations of powerlessness, hopelessness, mental exhaustion, and cynicism, which ultimately lead to indifference and even compassion fatigue.

My outrage usually flows from a wellspring of righteous indignation over injustice, avoidably missed opportunities, elite cruelty, and preventable existential catastrophes. It is nourished by expectations that its forceful ventilation will jolt people to act and cause policymakers to make amends for the good of the society.

That was what Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist James Earle “Jimmy” Breslin meant when he said, “Rage is the only quality which has kept me, or anybody I have ever studied, writing columns for newspapers.”

But outrage, rage, and even compassion, are not a permanent condition; they are intrinsically temporary. It’s impossible to keep your sanity while you are in a perpetually agitative emotional state. In other words, outrage fatigue is an unconscious self-defense mechanism. It’s the mind’s way to decompress and regain equanimity.

It’s bad enough when outrage changes nothing and when both the people on whose behalf you’re outraged and the people whose bad behavior activated your outrage use you for target practice in throwing vituperative darts for daring to be outraged. But it’s worse when people pretend that the consequences of ignoring well-intentioned outrage are unanticipated.

I wrote scores of articles warning that the neoliberal path to development that the Tinubu administration has now wholeheartedly embraced would result in exactly what Nigeria is going through. In fact, before Tinubu was sworn in as president, I wrote that removing petrol subsidies would instigate an unmanageable economic catastrophe that would make governance difficult.

It turned out that more than a decade ago Tinubu himself had written almost exactly what I have been writing about the consequences of subsidy removal on the economy. Now his media aides are pretending that they don’t know that his policies are responsible for the unexampled inflation that’s destroying the lives of common people.

Today, every section of Nigeria is enveloped in profound existential turmoil thanks to both the inability and unwillingness of the government to confront the problems that afflict the country.

In Kano, we now have two emirs, a federal emir and a state emir, and the judiciary just added fuel to the kingship fire raging in the state through what Professor Auwalu Yadudu fittingly called a “strange and baffling” judicial pronouncement.

Meanwhile, Kano State governor Abba Yusuf (who I used to like) has reverted to his default destructive vengeance that I advised him against in previous columns. He has reportedly sent bulldozers to tear down the palace where the “federal” emir lives. Recall that the governor’s first major “project” upon being inaugurated as a governor was to go on a frenzied destruction spree of opponents’ properties.

In my September 23, 2023, column titled “Why the Kano Verdict Can’t Stand,” I wrote:

“After its expected victory, though, NNPP’s Abba Yusuf and his benefactor Rabiu Kwankwaso need to rule with grace and maturity, not vengeance and infantilism. Destroying buildings is no governance. Plotting the dethronement of monarchs that didn’t support you is a page from Ganduje’s sordid playbook. They need to be different. Success, they say, is the best revenge.”

Like the federal government, they didn’t listen. Well, the law is clearly on the side of the Kano State government on the controversy regarding who is the emir of Kano. Although I think Sanusi Lamido Sanusi is a debauched egomaniac, he is right now the rightful emir.

The federal government has no power to determine who is a king in any state of the federation. Femi Falana has also pointed out that federal courts have no jurisdictional competence to sit in judgement over kingship matters.

So, the Kano State government just needs a little more maturity to let the judicial process play itself out. Destroying the residence of Aminu Ado Bayero is the sort of destructive infantilism I counseled against, but which seems to flow in the DNA of the governor.

To be honest, I am just tired. A popular leftist American bumper-sticker slogan says, “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” Well, I am paying attention. It’s just that I have reached the elastic limit of my outrage because Nigeria’s tragedy is self-inflicted, predictable, and preventable.

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