In May 2015, with some fanfare, Muhammadu Buhari reassumed his throne as president of Nigeria. This time, though, he won the prize in a democratic fashion—and he was keen to tell the world just so. The former dictator, who ruled this West African nation as a military man for a brief spell in the mid-1980s, was now, in his own words, a “converted democratic.”
“I cannot change the past,” said the 72-year-old, “but I can change the present and the future.”
Hope was high for Africa’s most populous and pluralistic country. Today, estimates put the population at 180 million, made up of almost 420 ethnic groups. And depending on which economists you consult and which numbers you believe, Nigeria in 2014 became Africa’s largest economy—worth about $500 billion. South Africa has recently reclaimed the title of “Africa’s biggest economy,” but, as we speak, the economic outlook in both countries is less than impressive.
Nigeria’s outlook for freedom of expression is similarly dire, following the same downward trend as its currency, the Naira, which continues to slide against the US dollar.
My questions on free expression, mostly, led me to Tade Ipadeola, poet, lawyer, and president of PEN Nigeria Centre. Ipadeola’s poetry collection The Sahara Testaments won the prestigious Nigeria Prize for Literature in 2013.
Via email, I asked Ipadeola if President Buhari is the born-again democrat that he claims to be and what the future holds for Nigeria. We also delve into questions of religion, terrorism, media, politics, dogs, and more.