Tuesday, 10 January 2017


As published by POLITICS TODAY NEWSPAPER Saturday, January 07, 2016

Whereas with the incarceration of the likes of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and increase in the numbers of PDP’s stalwarts in DSS and EFCC’s custody while under investigations and trials over alleged looting of the nation’s treasury, it is not really surprising at all that the PDP and other opposition elements in Nigeria are blaring out the emerging dictatorial propensity of President Buhari. What have been the premises of their arguments? Is their argument tenable? In what ways has Buhari manifested dictatorship? Fundamentally, I am here to do a rethink of some of these argument lines. What are Buhari’s dictatorial antecedents? What are the socio-political and economic conditionalities in Nigeria that could facilitate emergence of a dictator? What do Nigerians tend to gain or lose with Buhari’s dictatorship? Judging by the antecedents of some historical benevolent dictators, can we allow Buhari to become a democratic dictator? If Buhari’s dictatorship will help Nigeria achieve progress and development, while can’t we allow him to become one? Can Buhari’s dictatorship help the country to recover looted funds? Too many questions begging for answers and we may not exhaust them all in this (single) piece

With almost two decades of uninterrupted democracy in Nigeria, many had argued that it will be very difficult for a dictator to emerge in Nigeria. Some opined that this is impossible since the nation’s constitution is anchored on democratic principles. Many pointed to the complexity and complicatedness inherent in Nigeria’s heterogeneity. However, dictatorship has surfaced where it is least expected.  It had arisen among prosperous, educated and civilized people who seemed safe from a dictatorship – in Africa, Europe, Asia and South America. Historically, Nigeria has had her dose of dictatorship through military leaders such as Abacha, Babangida, Buhari, etc. The first thing I want to dissect is to reconsider some of the imperatives that can trigger the dictatorship of Buhari.
Consider Hitler’s Germany as one of the most paradoxical and striking cases. While there was some German anti-Semitic agitation during the late 19th century, Germany did not seem the most likely place for dictatorship to thrive.  Hitler manipulated the polity by arousing Germany’s nationalistic jingoism to promote his dictatorship. Likewise, Russia, after all, had pogroms in terms of anti-Jewish rioting and persecution for decades.  In the same manner, Russia’s Bolshevik regime dedicated itself to Karl Marx’s hatred for the ‘bourgeoisie’ blamed for society’s ills.  Afterwards, Lenin’s subtle dictatorship became exemplified through his ‘command economy’ he executed during the Russian Civil War between the White Army and the Red Army. Lenin’s successor, Stalin (a brutal dictator) pushed that philosophy farther, exterminating the so-called ‘corrupt rich’ who came to include rich peasants (kulaks) through his ‘purge’. It is germane to point out that economic recession/depression suffered by Germany and Russia also promoted the dictatorships of the leaders mentioned above. This was applicable to the emergence of Mussolini’s dictatorship in Italy.
Boko Haram’s insurgency/terrorism in the northeast, Niger-Delta Avengers’ attacks on oil facilities in the Niger Delta, and discordant secession demands for the Republic of Biafra in the southeast can push a president to seek for ‘emergency power’ to deal with the problems. Evidently, these aforementioned national challenges had drastically increased the military involvement in governance particularly in the public and political domain. With a president who has military background, this portends a call for dictatorship. Incessant Fulani herdsmen attacks nationwide, communal clashes in the middle-belt, religious massacre in Southern Kaduna and other maligns are also currently invading and besieging Nigeria’s suzerainty. Thus, amidst these cacophonous seas of conflicts and challenges pervading Nigeria’s polity, the country remains vulnerable to emergence of a dictator. Many had pointed to the seemingly ambivalence of Buhari’s presidency to some of these ethnic-based clashes particularly to those orchestrated by his marauding kinsmen (the Fulanis) and Islamic chauvinists. If as alleged, Buhari is truly a stark promoter of Hausa/Fulani agenda or Islamic fundamentalism, the current situations can increase his propensity towards dictatorship.
Beyond the above discussion, with the incessant unveiling of the looting spree of previous government and the connivance of the judiciary, then it will not be out of place for the president to mature into embracing or unleashing his dictatorial propensity to fight corruption  - one of the major monsters invading the nation’s fabrics. . In the same vein, politicians commonly demand arbitrary power to deal with a national emergency and restore order, even though underlying problems are commonly caused by bad government policies. In the same vein, in hard times, many people are often willing to go along with and support totalitarianism that would be unthinkable in normal democratic times. Bad economic policies and foreign policies can cause crises that have dangerous political consequences which could promote dictatorship. Aspiring dictators sometimes give away their intentions by their evident desire to destroy opponents.

Those who dismiss the possibility of a dictatorial regime in Nigeria need to consider possible developments that could make our circumstances worse and politically more volatile than they are now – like endemic corruption, soaring taxes, pogroms, inter tribal wars, inflation and economic collapse. No doubt, the Nigerian political system with a separation of powers and checks & balances as entrenched in the Constitution does make it more difficult for emergence of a dictator. Like my readers, I am fully aware of the 1948 fundamental human rights and the rights entrenched in our constitution. As an advocate of social justice, I strongly believe in freedom of speech, association and expression, freedom of every person to worship God in his own way, freedom from want, freedom from fear according to Roosevelt’s understanding of a ‘moral democracy’. This discussion shall continue here next Saturday.  I wish you all happy New Year once again.

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