Going into the rescheduled 2019 presidential election in a few days, Nigerians are presented with clearly contrasting choices in the two frontline candidates. Before investing their democratic capital on either President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling APC or Atiku Abubakar of the opposition PDP, Nigerians should be aware of the implications of the actions of their thumbs on voting day in the next four years and beyond. For those who are either undecided or contemplating voting for APC’s Buhari, it is important to ponder an a few realities associated with his presidency thus far.
In APC’s Buhari, Nigerians are served a dish of a far right political figure whose candidacy is buoyed by the most conservative ethno-geographic and religious elements from the Muslim North. This is notwithstanding the fact that Northern Nigeria currently bears the greatest burden of Buhari’s four-year rule. As far as these conservative elements are concerned, it’s power for its symbolism only, even at the expense of socio-economic development of their part of the country. Buhari enjoys the endorsements of a faction of the ultra-conservative Izala Muslim sect, which is an off-shoot of the Wahhabi inspired Sudanese brand of Salafism and is generally considered to be the ideological incubator of the current Boko Haram insurgency. For several decades, the Izala sect has been the vanguard of puritan Islamist revivalism in northern Nigeria and has been the vessel of mass radicalisation, wherein the ideals of a global Islamic state are a cluster of Sharia administered geo-entities. To achieve this ideal of a global Islamic state, the scriptural status of Christians and Jews as people of the book [believers] had to be changed to unbelievers while also equating actions they interpret as innovation by fellow Muslims to disbelief. These are the ideals the Boko Haram insurgents are struggling to forcefully achieve through warfare.
President Buhari is also supported by the Miyetti Allah Pan Fulani socio-cultural group, on whose behalf it is believed that killer herdsmen drawn from all over the Sahel are ravaging farmer communities throughout Nigeria, in displacement to allow for more grazing land for cattle. The group has variously justified mass killings in the Benue-Plateau trough on either the encroachment on ancient grazing routes or the enactment of anti-open grazing laws by affected state governments. President Buhari, himself an ethnic Fulani, appears to share these sentiments as discernable from statements from his government.
As a result of President Buhari’s provincial proclivity as reflected in his elevation of northern sectionalism to a near state policy, he has been able to inspire a wave of ethno-geographic and religious populism, leading mass hysteric support in the Muslim north. Deploying his integrity as a façade, President Buhari has been able to retain the conviction among his support base that every of his actions are predicated on his good intentions.
As with typical far right political figures, President Buhari considers differences in opinion as dissent, which must be crushed as seen in his government’s intolerance of criticisms and opposition. If Buhari abhors fundamental hallmarks of liberal democracy such as the competition of ideas on governance, then he considers the legislature and judiciary, which are the super structures of democracy, an anathema to his own definition of good governance. At every opportunity, Buhari demonizes the principle of rule of law as the main enabler of indiscipline and corruption. It is as though Buhari is frustrated by democratic governance and in turn wants to frustrate Nigeria’s democracy.
The media is not also spared of the president’s contempt. Openly ignoring, maligning and demonizing the mainstream media, President Buhari has greatly diminished its influence as the mirror of the society, and is fast losing its hold on the accountability of government to the people while paving way for hate speeches to thrive through the vessel of alternative but mostly fake news media. President Buhari has displayed an impervious disposition to local news reportage thereby rendering the free press impotent much like a dog, which barks but can’t bite. The occasional responsiveness of government to publicised questions of national importance only gets a response when it appears to agitate President Buhari’s support base following concerted effort from non-partisan non-initiates.
Going into election with a basket of rotten mix of far right fruits has heightened tension in the polity with hate speeches flowing freely from the pulpit and ethnic champions’ positioning for electoral victory through violence, a victory for Buhari will have far reaching consequences for the Nigerian state beyond 2019. Apart from the fact that a victory for Buhari will mean a vote of confidence on his leadership of the current state of the Nigerian nation, which is the poverty capital of the world, the third most terrorised nation on earth and escalating corruption, permeating the entire system, there are other consequences. The renewal of Buhari’s term as president in the coming presidential polls will be tantamount to an endorsement of his provincial proclivity with its attendant sectionalist tendencies that promoted mediocrity over expertise thereby derailing the Nigerian state on to the path of socio-economic disarray.This would translate into the triumph of Buhari’s armada of far right forces whose disruptive and retrogressive aspirations will influence the directive principle of state in Buhari’s post 2019 Nigeria.
A victory for Buhari in the coming presidential polls will most certainly extinguish the light of liberality in Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. Having come under a barrage of executive harassment and humiliation in Buhari’s first term, the legislature and judiciary as well as other ancillary democratic institutions are most likely to cave in under the mortal fear of renewed intensity of executive bullying. This will greatly blur the lines of separation of power, resulting into a rubber stamp legislature and a judiciary that will interpret laws not according to the constitution but in line with the body language, mood or utterances of the president. Buhari’s seeming inability to make a clear distinction between issues of political party and government as demonstrated by his drafting of partisans to head sensitive ministries, departments and agencies of government in his first term may assume his victory at the coming polls is a green light to stretch this abnormality further by conscripting heads of security agencies into the National Executive Committee of his ruling APC.
With the advantage of a well-oiled fascist propaganda machinery, the opposition, which has been consistently demonized as ‘’looters’’ and ‘’enemies’’ of Nigeria, will most certainly cease to exist. The on-going mass systemic indoctrination that has created a mob of supporters for President Buhari, to whom he is infallible and does not falter nor fail, will in a feat of triumphalism drown any remaining reasonable voices of rational minds.