By Ewaen Edoghimioya
Fascism as a political system that was adopted in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal particularly in the interwar years took the Second World War and the loss of millions of lives to destroy and to which the world always say “never again.” Fascism is one of the most obnoxious political terms that no self-respecting political figure want to be associated with on account of the enormous losses and suffering it visited on humankind. The American Political prisoner George Jackson of Soledad Brothers gave it a most appropriate definition by which characterizing it political criminality, militarism, racism and demagogy. Fascism in Europe emerged largely through democratic elections (as Mussolini in Italy, Hitler in Germany attests) and was driven by desperate sections of the bourgeoisie to save their rule from collapse and disillusioned middle class elements. The term was used in Nigeria during the decolonization era to characterize some political parties and was not used again until recently when Alhaji Balarabe Musa characterized General Muhammadu Buhari’s 20 months dictatorial rule of Nigeria from 1984-5 as fascist.
In spite of the bitter experiences, purposelessness and failures of Buhari’s regime, some frustrated power mongers are exploiting the present democratic dispensation to attempt a repeat of that dark episode in Nigerian history. They are supported by some elements of the middle class with nostalgia for that regime which Femi Falana at public talk in ABU in 1985 described as a malevolent dictatorship. Some of the younger members of that middle class bereft of knowledge of that era just parrot the lie that was the grandeur of Buhari’s iron fist rule to deceive the masses into supporting a man who snatched the little welfare the masses had from previous governments. Buhari’s rule was never care for the masses, but about an excluded section of the bourgeoisie from NPN rule. A government that really cared about the masses would not have destroyed the kiosk and “counters” of the small petty traders (remember APC’s Oshiomhole’s GO AND DIE insult to the widowed petty trader), re-instated Jangali /Haraji and poll taxes on peasants, reintroduced school fees in primary and secondary schools and removed subsidies from higher education, closed down thousands of rural schools, retrenched over two million workers and proscribed trade unions and professional associations and detained people who dared to ask for a democratic transition programme.
The deceitful proponents of Buhari’s messianism hinge their campaign on President Jonathan’s alleged “cluelessness”, failure to curb corruption and Boko haram, insurgency. But the underlying force behind their campaign is ethnicity, religion and power hunger particularly in the far north and a section of the Southwest bourgeoisie who believe that they can ride on Buhari’s popularity in the far Muslim North to smuggle themselves into power.
What these Southerners behind Buhari do not realize is that they cannot control Buhari once he obtains power. The Nigerian Presidency is an executive one, which allows monopoly control of power once it is captured. Obasanjo did it by ditching those who brought him to power and produced an imperial presidency. Buhari as a military man who has once tasted power and conscious of his past mistakes will definitely not behave differently from Obasanjo. His unrelenting quest for power in the past twelve years is not without a purpose and ulterior motive. The whole niceties of patriotism and nationalism are suspect as Buhari obviously have a mission that is driving him to contesting every election since 2003. Now in 2014/15, he gives the impression that he is being literally begged to come and rescue Nigeria from the precipice which fifteen years of PDP rule have pushed Nigeria to. He is being portrayed as the long awaited and indispensable messiah of Nigeria with the midas touch that will take Nigeria to the promised land.
Given the presentation of Buhari as the needed indispensable leader and the blind and fanatically violent followership in both the Muslim North and South west, backed by a political cabal that have perfected the exploitation of lumpen area boys and almajiris to enforce their will, political criminality is the modus operandi of pursuing and achieving both the hidden and open political agenda of the party in the forthcoming elections and the government, if Buhari wins. Already Buhari’s fanatical followers have not only started threatening his opponents in the North but have actually embarked on violent destruction of PDP properties in the Hausa-Fulani Muslim dominated Bauchi Road area of Jos where PDP campaign vehicles have been torched and Muslim dominated Tudun Wada area of Kaduna where violence has been unleashed on people pasting posters of PDP candidates.
Another pointer to the ascendancy of political criminality is Buhari continued stand-off with INEC over the presentation of his educational credentials. His disdain for civilized law is becoming legendary with his disobedience of Oputa Panel summons and support for the full implementation of sharia law over and above the Nigerian constitution. The only law that Buhari is known to honor is the law he instituted himself. When it suited him during his regime, he violated sharia and the nation’s constitution with retroactive laws. This is attested by his grouse with the late Sheikh Abubakar Gumi who opposed his use of retroactive laws (which has no basis in Islamic law) to execute drug traffickers.
Buhari’s nationalism and patriotism are only skin deep with his racism (read sectionalism and bigotry) taking precedent over and above all other interests. The sectionalism goes back to his regime days in the 1980s. It was his regime that started the implementation of Federal Character and Quota system to the letter to shut out Southerners from the Federal Civil Service and saw to the complete erosion of merit. Anything that was overtly beneficial to Southern Nigeria was immediately shot down (cancellation of Lagos Metroline, Private Universities in Eastern Nigeria etc for no justifiable reasons) while anything that promoted Northern Nigeria and Islam were uplifted (he started importation of rams for Sallah and no similar importation of Turkeys for Christmas). He even boasted and threatened to deal with the Southern press, which criticized and exposed his sectional policies. Another anti-Southern Nigeria policy was not only the reduction of the Shagari Presidential Task Force 5% derivation funds allocation to the oil producing states of the Niger Delta to 1.5% but refusal to pay the money to the states. He is not known to have reduced or stopped any special funds to the North such as Arid Zone Afforestation program that was enjoyed exclusively by Northern Nigeria.
He is the only Nigerian leader who built a Presidential lodge in his Daura hometown, which is not the capital of any state in violation of existing law. His overlordship of PTF provided the much needed opportunity for implementing his racist policies of skewing all allocations in favour of the North particularly his Northwest Zone and outrightly denying funding of health and educational development to the South West as punishment for opposing Abacha’s fascism, which he was a major beneficiary. (Mrs Abacha financially sponsored his foray into politics since 2003 and so it was right for Buhari to deny that Abacha’s looting of Nigerian treasury).
Since his removal from office, he has continuously expressed outwardly his support for Fulani herdsmen depredations against farmers (by complaining to Oyo State Governor-Your people (Yoruba) are killing my people (Fulani herdsmen). He is not known to have ever condemned the murderous rampaging of the Fulani herdsmen among many Nigerian farming communities. Similar support was shown towards Boko Haram terrorists when he condemned the destruction of their mosques and homes and complained that the Niger Delta militants with treated differently in spite of the destruction of Niger Delta communities like Odi, Kaima, Ogoniland Emuchem etc from Babangida through Abacha to Obasanjo.
His militarist approach to solving of problems is best illustrated by his use of the military tribunals to jail alleged corrupt politicians many of whom were not properly investigated and to terrorize the citizenry. The War against indiscipline empowered military boys to break into stores and warehouses to sell off the goods at their own price, destroy market stores and houses, regiment people into queuing and engaging in environmental sanitation as well as arbitrary retrenchment of over two million workers. He has boasted again to send anyone who steals Nigeria’s money to Kirikiri without telling us how he is going to accomplish it. His incarceration of politicians was not only selective, but also included the unjustifiable detention of politicians and individuals who were never tried (Balarabe Musa, Rufai Ibrahim) or held no political offices like former Biafran rebel Odumegwu Ojukwu, Tai Solarin etc.
With executive power and a cowed money hungry legislature dominated by his fanatical supporters particularly Northerners, we will witness the reenactment of his 1980s fascist governance. We can only expect a reenactment since he is not known to be a deep thinker. His last thirty years out of power has no published paper or address to his name to acquaint us with his thinking or his reform. He has never shown any remorse for his past dehumanization and rape of Nigerians. His comments, interviews and addresses at events are largely demagogic stirring of religious fundamentalists against the nation and denouncing corruption. The anti-corruption of Buhari’s campaign will be the battle cry to use in hounding and destroying any opposition. This is not unexpected given that falsehood and lies are being employed in gargantuan proportions to sell his electability. What stops his handlers from employing such methods in silencing and destroying all opposition and facilitate the enthronement of full-blown fascism. Resist Buharists deceptions and lies, because electing Buhari means a forward march to fascism characterized by sectionalism, violent dictatorship, deprivation, and loss of democratic freedoms.