Say No To Buharism
On the 22nd of April, 2015 I penned a panegyric about Muhammadu Buhari, congratulating him on his victory in the March 28th Nigerian presidential elections. To the untrained eye, it sounded like sycophancy, but on close scrutiny one would see I tried to, as politely as I could, state some facts on why I believed the election of the cold, austere, corruption-bashing ex-general was important for the country at that time.
In that article, which I titled “The Democratic Dictator”, I adviced the then president-elect to use his reputation as an anti-corruption crusader to deal with institutionalized corruption in the country. I referred to some of the Asian tigers who had dictators that were benevolent and had the interest of their people at heart, transforming their countries from third world banana republics to developed economies in the 1960s and 1970s.
I tried to make the president-elect understand that he was very different from the quintessential African dictator, whose only interest lie in pillaging his country, turning it into peasant and backwater civilizations.
Some may wonder why I referred to the president-elect who was elected through the democratic process as an anti-graft dictator of the democratic kind. This is because Muhammadu Buhari was the military dictator that ruled Nigeria after the December 31, 1983 coup d’état that usurped the civilian administration of Shehu Shagari.
During his time, he created anti-corruption tribunals and launch social order campaigns that were enforced in the most barbaric manner that even Nobel Laureate Wole Soyinka was known to have said, the campaigns were carried to “sadistic levels, glorying in the humiliation of a people”.
He used the military which he controlled to chair the tribunals and the only right of appeal was to the Supreme Military Council (SMC) which exclusively comprised of military officers. The military became in effect the prosecutor, judge and jury — giving the accused little or no chance to defend themselves. It was so bad that the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) barred its members from getting involved in the tribunals — in effect making the tribunals lose legitimacy.
This is stated in clear terms in my letter to the then president-elect. But as we all know, everything comes into perspective in hindsight.
Max Siollun, a Nigerian historian wrote that “Although the harsh sentences and nature of the tribunals were criticised, it is arguable that Nigeria needed these Nuremberg style trials in order to free itself from its corrupt past. The era of Buhari and Idiagbon was the first, and only time that Nigerian public officials were tried, and held accountable for their actions in office. The trials would have had more legitimacy if they had been held in civilian courts, presided over by civilian legal officers, and open to the public.”
Buhari was the only head of state who was willing to make the Nigerian corrupt elite pay for their crimes. Even though he did not do it the right way, his intentions were good. Until his election, and apart from him running for the presidency three times, he has lived a quiand less-ostentatious life. It was said that he chose to be paid only 10% of the original amount of money paid in salaries to ex-head of states.
But why did I write this letter-like article adulating the then president-elect? I did so because Buhari stated in a speech at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, just before the election that him “a former military ruler and a converted democrat… is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time”.
I believed that with the combinations of a reputation as a no-nonsense ex-general, the political will to effect change, the lack of an overbearing political godfather (which has become a hallmark of Nigerian politics) and with his election in a democratic system of which he has become a believer, he would be able to deliver the country from the cesspool of economic depravity and decrepitude it currently is in.
But just like the Dalton’s theory of the Atom and Lamarckian theory of evolution, facts change or sometimes crumble in the face of new evidence and leads to new facts. This also holds true for the overly optimistic notions I had about Buhari when he was president elect. Hence, in the face of new evidence the facts have changed.
From that time till now, I have not been idle. I have been critical of the policies and lack of, proffered by the Buhari administration since they took office on the 29th of May, 2015. I have addressed some of the economic problems of Nigeria, where I proposed policies that if implemented could elevate Nigeria from the doldrums she is currently going through. Once again, I directed that work to Buhari. I am believe that, at the time of writing this piece, neither him nor his advisers and aides read it or even the panegyric I refer to in this article.
Therefore, I present new facts based on current observational evidence from the Buhari administration thus far.
Wikipedia defines Buharism as the “economic principles and the political ideology of the military government of Nigeria headed by General Muhammadu Buhari from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985. This ideology shares common features with fascism; the government was a right-wing nationalist government that pursued corporatist economic programs and curtailed personal freedoms. Economic reforms were characterised as moving the political economy away from the control of a “parasitic” elite, and into the control of an emerging “productive” class. Buharism represented a two-way struggle: with external global capitalism and with its internal agents and advocates”.
During that time, Nigerians did not just know terror and abuse from their government, they also knew economic hardship. (I have addressed political abuse of this and other kinds commonly experienced by the Nigerian people in a 3-part essay ). The “Nigerian people had to queue to purchase “essential commodities” (milk, sugar, soaps, etc), like an impoverished communist backwater banana republic”. To be succinct, things were bad! Nigeria was in an economic recession and the military dictatorship led by Buhari believed that an extreme implementation of the economic policies championed by Breshnev, within its polity, was the panacea they had all being waiting for.
The similarities between 2017 and 1984 Nigeria are disquieting. With prices of basic commodities, like rice, a staple in the average Nigerian’s dish, increasing by 187.5%, without an increase in wages and salaries — in fact the government has decided to reduce the salaries of civil servants.
When a popular Nigerian artiste called for a nationwide protest, some weeks ago, to sensitize the authorities on the pain and suffering Nigerians are going through, various government officials spoke against it. The Lagos State Commissioner of Police, Mr Fatai Owoseni, said he would not allow this to happen.
Innocent “Tuface” Idibia had to eventually cancel the protest. In his own words: “Dear Nigerians, after due consultations, it has become clear that the ‘One Voice Nigeria’ protest scheduled to hold in Lagos and Abuja on Monday, the 6th of February is under serious threat of hijack by interests not aligned with our ideals. The point I’m intent on making is not worth the life of any Nigerian. It is in fact motivated by the need to demand a better deal for the ordinary Nigerian. I, therefore, announce the cancellation of the planned protest. We will share further information in due course. I appreciate the massive support, and I am convinced our voices have been heard. May God, bless you all and may God bless Nigeria”.
Fellow Nigerians: #LetsStandAgainstBuharism and #StandWithNigeria.