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Facebook Hausa: Zuckerberg’s Comment Sparks Debate Between Femi Fani-Kayode & Reno Omokiri



​The comment made by Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, on his love for Hausa language and his decision to put Hausa language software on his website, on Wednesday, sparked a debate over whether or not it signals a sinister move against Southern Nigeria, between former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode and former presidential aide Reno Omokri.

Zuckerberg made this known while speaking on the first day of his visit to Nigeria, which began in Lagos state; the visit was his first to Sub-Saharan Africa.

The debate started after, the former minister wrote a piece about US secretary of state John Kerry and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg’s visit to Nigeria & how it has something to do with the Hausas.

Transcript of exchange between Omokri and FFK. 

From FFK

Kerry comes to the north and sees the Sultan of Sokoto, northern governors and Buhari.

One week later Facebook founder comes to Nigeria and says Hausa is a “unique language” which he has included on Facebook.Think Nigerians think.

Reno Omokri responds

Olufemi Olu-Kayode I do not understand why Kerry did what he did, but as for Zuckerberg, all he did was state a fact. After Swahili, Hausa is perhaps the most widely spoken language in sub Saharan Africa.

That is why BBChausa, Voahausa, Deutschewelle and other world radio services all have broadcasts in Hausa. We must applaud what Zuckerberg has done and not cast suspicion around it.

Doing so may encourage him to add other indigenous Nigerian languages as Facebook languages. That said, I appreciate a lot of your writings and suggestions. Well done.

FFK responds to Omokri

Reno Omokri , nice to hear from u. Permit me to begin by saying that I never miss ur write-ups and I thank God that we still have people as discerning and as bold as u in our country. Pl keep it up.

Now to the business of the day. I wrote: “Kerry comes to the north and sees the Sultan of Sokoto, northern governors and Buhari.

One week later Facebook founder comes to Nigeria and says Hausa is a “unique language” which he has included on Facebook.

Think Nigerians think”. You responded as follows.

“Olufemi Olu-Kayode I do not understand why Kerry did what he did, but as for Zuckerberg, all he did was state a fact. After Swahili, Hausa is perhaps the most widely spoken language in sub Saharan Africa. That is why BBChausa, Voahausa, Deutschewelle and other world radio services all have broadcasts in Hausa.

We must applaud what Zuckerberg has done and not cast suspicion around it. Doing so may encourage him to add other indigenous Nigerian languages as Facebook languages. That said, I appreciate a lot of your writings and suggestions. Well done”.

Thanks for taking your time to respond to my post. Perrmit me to respond to you very briefly.

What Mark Zuckerberg said about the Hausa language being “unique” is not a fact but an opinion. And it is an opinion which, in fairness to him, may well be honestly held.

It is also an opinion which you evidently share and which both u and he u are perfectly entitled to. I am, however, entitled to disagree with u on that opinion especially where I have good reason to do so.

You see unlike most I do not post, speak or write lightly. I take my time, I do my research and I am very precise. That is my style and nature.

The choice of hausa being put on Facebook is not just a matter if “linguistic uniqueness” I assure u. And to honestly believe that it does borders on pure naivety.

There is nothing unique about the number of coutries in west Africa that speak Hausa and I do not believe that Hausa is the most widely spoken language in west Africa though many often say it is.

It is rather like the common refrain that the hausas number more than any other nationality in Nigeria when we all know how and when that particular dirty lie came about and how the British constructed it by counting the cows of the north and adding them to the number of northerners that they counted in the first census.

If the truth be told even then and up until now the Igbo and the Yoruba are more than the Fulani and the Hausa.

If u doubt my assertion about the lack of uniqueness of the Hausa language pl do the research and find out how many countries that Yoruba, for example, is spoken in both in West Africa and outside of the African continent in South America and the Carribean.

Also read up on the history of the BBC and VOA Hausa Service and why they were set up by their respective governments. Ditto the German hausa radio service and others.

It made perfect sense because most hausa men carried radios around with them everywhere they went whilst their southern compatriots, being far more advanced and educated, prefered reading newspapers and watching television.

It is not just a matter if linguistic uniqueness I assure u but evidence of the fact that the British particularly always had, and still do have, a strong partiality for the Hausa Fulani compared to any other nationality in Nigeria.

The reasons for that are legion so I won’t go into them here. Needless to say though, the history on this matter is very clear and I suggest you read up on it.

It appears that the American authorities, at least the Obama/Kerry/Clinton brigade, are following in the footsteps of the British colonial masters in terms of their preferred friends in Nigeria and indeed American private companies like Facebook, just like British private companies did in the former British colonies before them, are towing the line of their governments. It is not too difficult to work that one out for the intelligent.

I guess only time will tell if I am right but these are my views. In any case I wonder how many hausa-speaking people are on Facebook when compared to Yoruba and Igbo.

I read far more into this matter than u do because I am not just a politician but a historian. I also have my views about the social media generally, its link to the top western intelligence agencies and what its ultimate objective is.

I have been proved right in the end on most of my assertions about unfolding events in this country and indeed world affairs as u may or may not know. I doubt that this will be any different. Unlike most people I do not let my friendship or personal-liking or disliking of an individual becloud my judgement.

My reasons for believing what I believe will be made manifest at the appropiate time.

If u are really interested in knowing what those reasons are I suggest you exercise a little patience and u will find out.

U may even learn something from it. By the way unlike u I think it would be an excellent innovation if Facebook introduced other Nigerian languages like Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw etc.. As far as I am concerened the more inclusive it is the better.

I wish u well and please keep writing those excellent essays on the situation in our country. Shalom.

Omokri responds to FFK

Dear Olufemi Olu-Kayode

Thank you for your kind rejoinder to my response to your take on Mark Zuckerberg’s comment on the Hausa language. Here is my response.

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That Mark Zuckerberg called Hausa a unique language is not born out of any conspiracy against the Yoruba, Igbo or any Southern Nigerian ethnic nationality. The Hausa language is not an invention of the Hausa people. The language was invented by God and so whenever anyone praises it, they are not praising the Hausa people, they are praising God.

You say I am naive for accepting, as Zuckerberg does, that the Hausa language is unique. Really? Hausa language is the only indigenous African language that is officially spoken in five African nations including Nigeria, Niger, Ghana, Cameroun and Sudan.

If your argument is true and I am indeed naive then you would have to agree with me that BBC News, Radio France Internationale, Voice of America – VOA, DW Deutsche Welle, China Radio International and Voice of Russia are equally naive, because, like Facebook, they all have a Hausa language service.

You may be right about the British/American conspiracy. I never delved into that and I defer to your superior knowledge of history and statecraft. Your father, Remilekun Fani-Kayode, QC, was a first class statesman and the apple did not fall far from the tree. My point of departure from you was strictly and solely as touching your insinuation against Mark Zuckerberg.

By including Hausa as an official Facebook language, Zuckerberg recognizes the fact that while there are literally tens of millions of Yoruba, Igbo and other indigenous Nigerian language speakers who can communicate in both their native language and English, the same cannot be said about Hausa speakers. In Benin,

Togo, Brazil and other nations where you have a large concentration of Yoruba speakers, these omo oduduwas can express themselves in English, French, Spanish or Portuguese.

There are literally tens of millions of Hausa speakers who can only communicate in Hausa. This does not make them illiterate. Indeed, long before we in the South could read and write, these Hausa speakers have been reading and writing Hausa in the centuries old Ajami script.

It is to accommodate these particular class of Hausa speakers that, in my opinion, Facebook added Hausa as an official language, and not as part of some conspiracy of Britain and America to undermine the Southern parts of Nigeria. You may recall that Zuckerberg and his wife recently invested $25 million in Andela.

That would be a most strange way to undermine the South given that all of Andela’s founders and most of their fellows are from the South. Talk is cheap but money makes things happen. Zuckerberg talked about Hausa, but he put his money in a Lagos tech hub. Does that not say something to you?

The mistake we in the South often make is to see ordinary Hausas as our enemies. Not true. The Hausas as a people are some of the most decent Nigerians and are to be differentiated from the feudalists who have retarded their progress as an ethnic nationality. What they need from progressive and freedom loving Nigerians is solidarity not hostility. This was the point of view that the late Aminu Kano tried to pass across to us down South.

What Facebook has done deserves commendation and not condemnation. Again, having said this, I must maintain that I have a high regard for your intellect and this intervention should not be interpreted as a confrontation.

God bless you, (Reno Omokri).

FFK to Reno

Reno Omokri, now I am beginning to get a little irritated by you. Is there anywhere that I condemned you, Zuckerberg or Facebook for having your/their views?

If so please point it out. Perhaps you don’t know the meaning of the word “condemned” yet you seem so eager to use it.

If I wanted to condemn you, him or anyone else I would do so loudly, openly, clearly and gladly but I havn’t done that: I simply disagreed with you and I was very civil about it which I really didnt have to be because you don’t deserve it.

In any case are you the spokesman of Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook or indeed that of the hausa people of northern Nigeria?

Is that your new job since you stopped working under my friend and brother Reuben Abati at the Villa and managing social media for the Jonathan administration?

Can those you want to defend today not explain and defend themselves adequately? Do they need you? Could they not have found someone more qualified? Are you really the best they have got?

And if you insist on being their defender-in-chief when were you appointed? Honestly Reno my dear little brother you need to have your little bottom spanked for being so cheeky and naughty.

I have known the north and interacted with northerners far more than you and for far longer so I don’t need lessons from you or anyone else about who or what they are, either for good or for bad.

And neither do I need to say only things that are politically correct about them.or anyone else because, unlike you, I have paid my dues politically and in terms of public commentry for over a period of 27 years.

I worked in the Presidency as President Obasanjo’s spokeman as far back as 13 years ago. I don’t know where you were then.

I ran, not one, but two Federal ministries as the Hon. Minister over 10 years ago and since then I have been in the thick of the political fray and drama.

I know who I am and I don’t need to please anyone with what I say. I was in NADECO risking my life fighting against military rule and for the late Chief MKO Abiola’s June 12th mandate when you were probably still wearing diapers.

I know the north and indeed this whole country far better than you ever possibly could and over the years I have gained and gathered a lot of experience.

I have also suffered for Nigeria far more than you have. I say this all with the greatest humility knowing that it is only God that made it so and that enabled me to survive it. The result of all that is this: I do not suffer fools gladly and I say things as they are.

I have no apology to you or anyone else for that. If others had cultivated the courage to be as bold and forthright as I have been on national issues over the years we would not be in the mess that we are in this country.

You dare to lecture me about northerners and I wonder how many you actually know? I wonder how many you have ever fought for or defended in the past?

I also wonder how many you have stood up against when they crossed the line? I have done both over a period of 27 years and it cost me dearly but I have never shied away from it, whichever way, and I will continue to do so. I have also lived in the north for the last 13 years.

Our mutual friend Nasir El Rufai often warned me about you but I never listened to him. Now you have proved him right and all because you want to please your foreign and new-found northern friends.

Sadly your gospel of appeasement at all costs is shared by many naive souls who come from the same village as you but that does not mean that we should allow you to infect the rest of the south with it.

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That slavish mindset and shameless sentiment has brought much suffering to the people of the south-west and south-south and it is one of the reasons why we made the wrong choice about which side to fight on during the civil war.

We will never make that mistake again if it ever comes to it no matter how hard fence-sitters and appeasers like you try.

The more our people are killed and our churches are burnt in the noth the more we will protest and speak out. And the more we will resist it and warn the radical islamists of the core muslim north together with the Fulani herdsmem from hell to desist from their murderous and genocidal ways.

Not even 100 million Reno Omokiri’s can stop us from doing that and neither can they make us love those that commit these heinous crimes.

You are spouting the sort of drivel that you are throwing up here about how wonderful the core north is even though thousands of southerners, Middle Belters and christians are slaughtered at the drop of a hat in that same core north for no just cause on a daily basis. They even come down to the south in their thousands with their cows to do it these days.

Maybe you should come home and see what is really going on here rather than writing those great anti-government articles from the relative safety of Califiornia.

If you can muster the courage to do that you will discover that political correctness is a very expensive luxury which we simply cannot afford.

Some of us are right here and we have refused to run away from the evil that has gripped the land even when we had every opportunity to do so.

Please endeavour to do the same then perhaps we may take you more seriously. Hundreds of your fellow Niger Deltans and southerners are languishing in jails all over the country today simply because they supported a southern Christian called President Jonathan during the election yet you hsve not even cared to visit any of them.

Have you ever reached out to their families or tried to bail them out? Have you been to the jails and cells to offer them care or words of comfort and encouragement?

Have you even gone there to pray for them and express solidarity with them? Warimpa Dudafa your former colleague at the Villa has been there for over 150 days now.

Have you gone to see him? What about Ikime and Robert when they were there? What about all the others? The answer is no because I have asked.

Yet you were in the last government with them and many others but you couldn’t even stand in solidarity with them when they needed you the most. And if you did you insisted on doing so from a safe distance. It is a shame.

Then you have the nerve to talk about “southerners” making a mistake about northerners in a disparaging and condescending way. What a nerve you have got!

Your sarcastic assertion about the BBC and the other international radio stations being “naive as well” is nothing less than asinine.

The truth is that you are the naive one. You alone and not them. If you really believe the garbage that you wrote here then you are not just naive but dangerously naive and far dumber than I first thought.

I say this because the governments that own and control the BBC, the Voice of America and the others know exactly what they are doing.

If only you knew the history of imperialism in Africa and indeed the Third World and how it evolved and if only you were capable of appreciating the reality of neo-colonialism and history of the African people you would be in a better position to comprehend and understand what I am saying.

If only you knew what we as a people in Nigeria and Africa suffered in the hands of the western imperialists over the last 100 years you would appreciate this intervention instead of attempting to treat it with contempt just to impress your friends at Facebook and in California.

It is the naivity and ignorance of people like you that has put us in the mess we are in today and that has placed us firmlyl under the yoke of our intetnal colonial masters.

I urge you to continue to attempt to appease those that see you and those that think like you as nothing more than glorified monkeys and see how far it gets you.

As for Mark Zuckerberg he may do whatever he pleases with Facebook because he owns it. In the final analysis it means nothing to me.

Like I said earlier, he is entitled to his views. I have no problem with that and neither should you or him have any problem with mine.

It is only in your strange Warri vocabulary that disagreeing with someone or not sharing that person’s opinion is tantamount to “condemning” him.

I am sure that he is very happy with you for attempting to defend him here but surely you could have done a far better job than you did.

Keep writing critical essays against the government from California or wherever you are because it is far easier for you to do so from there.

Those of us that are here and that are not just arm chair critics and political commentators but that are actually in the fray of politics will continue this fight right here in the theater of war: and unlike others we won’t run and hide in Mark Zuckerberg’s California.

My regards to your family.

Omokri responds to FFK

Dear Olufemi Olu-Kayode

Thank you for your last response. Since it has reached the stage where you are irritated with me, I think it is best to leave well enough alone. Let us agree to disagree without being irritated by each other. I have said all I need to say on the matter of Mark Zuckerberg’s description of the Hausa language as being unique. and I have heard all you have to say.

Thank God we are both professing Christ followers and are thus familiar with the advise of Saint Paul in 2 Timothy 2:24 “the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient.”

I believe that affection is better than perfection. I choose to maintain my brotherly affection for you at the expense of perfection in my argument.

By the way, I was in Nigeria two weeks ago. I preached at Holyhill Church, Abuja. The pastor

Sunday Ogidigbo publicized my visit. If I was a coward as you claim and was speaking from the safety of California, why would I visit Nigeria after my strong and very public criticism of the current administration?

Let me drop my pen here. God bless you and yours.

Reno Omokri

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