The Making of a Democractically Elected Dictator, By Majeed Dahiru
NEWS DIGEST – A combination of ethno-regional populism driven by religious fundamentalism in northern Nigeria, an entrenched dogma of party supremacy in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and a mob of supporters whose partisan loyalty has been elevated above patriotism to the Nigerian state, may be paving the way for the transformation of Muhammadu Buhari into a democratically elected dictator. The image of Adolph Hitler, adorning military fatigue has left many with the impression that he was a military leader who came to power through the barrel of the gun. Contrary to this impression, Hitler was a democratically elected dictator, whose rise to power and subsequent authoritarian totalitarianism in Germany was sustained by the same scenario playing out in Nigeria today. Hitler’s strong ethnic Germanic nationalism, which grew stronger with the defeat of Germany in the First World War, can be compared to Buhari’s equally strong ethno-regional sentiments, which boiled over in the wake of the power shift that was brokered by the military authorities in 1999, in what the conservative north considered a loss of power.
Hitler’s rise to political prominence is also similar to Buhari’s political trajectory. While Hitler’s rise was fundamentally predicated on his well-articulated Germanic nationalist aspirations of the rearmament of Germany to free itself from the heavy burden of imposed reparation payments to the victorious allied powers (France, Britain and others), as well as a territorial ambition to secure for the German people a living space through aggressive expansionism. Buhari’s rise was similarly hinged upon his championing of the political cause of the ethno-regional and religious sentiments of the conservative north of Nigeria, which sought to “take power back” from the South. Another strikingly remarkable similarity between Hitler and Buhari is the number of years it took them to rise to power. Between 1921, when Hitler was chosen as Fuhrer (absolute leader) of the NAZI party and when he became appointed chancellor of Germany in 1933 on the strength of his party’s majority in the parliament, approximates the same 12 years of Buhari’s sojourn in political wilderness between 2003 and 2015.
Like Hitler was, Buhari is a charismatic figure whose poise and mien makes up for his lack of the gift of oratory. Where Hitler’s quest for rearmament won him and his party a strong support base among ethnic Germans, Buhari’s championing of the conservative north’s aspiration for power to dominate the rest of Nigeria since 2003, in addition to his open support for the introduction of Sharia law in northern Nigeria have secured for him and his party a strong support base in the Muslim north.
Buhari, a retired military officer and former head of state who wasn’t associated with advocacy for return to civil democratic rule throughout the era of military dictatorship, nevertheless sauntered into the political space in 2003 describing himself as “a reformed democrat”. Again, here is another similarity. Hitler was also a soldier and war veteran like Buhari, who despised the liberal democracy that defined Germany’s post First World War Weimer republic.
Similarities between Hitler and Buhari transcend their tortuous rise to power after 12 years of consistent struggle to the actual styles of their leadership. Nigeria is beginning to experience a similitude of Hitler’s Third Reich in Buhari’s fourth republic.
The final step in the leadership ascendancy of their two countries also bears some semblance. The inability of the Weimer republic to respond adequately to the debilitating world-wide economic recession of 1929, which hit Germany hardest in Western hemisphere, made the majority of Germans turn to Hitler’s simplistic solutions to their complex problems. By 1932, the NAZI party received more votes than any other party in Germany and was allocated the majority seats in parliament to enable its leader, Adolph Hitler, to be appointed chancellor. Similarly, the inability of the former ruling PDP to adequately meet the socio-economic minimum expectations of majority Nigerians was blamed on the entrenched corruption in the system, made the majority of Nigerians to elect APC’s Buhari, whose shunning of PDP’s dining table on the conviction of the higher goal of ethno-regional quest for power, was erroneously misinterpreted to depict integrity. Once elected in 2015 as president after three previous unsuccessful attempts, Buhari was to go back on his proclamation of being a “reformed democrat”, in a manner that is threatening to reverse the gains of Nigeria’s almost twenty years of liberal democracy, whose high point was the loss of an incumbent president to him and the diminishing of the former ruling Peoples Democractic Party (PDP), from being a majority to a minority party at all tiers and arms of government.
Similarities between Hitler and Buhari transcend their tortuous rise to power after 12 years of consistent struggle to the actual styles of their leadership. Nigeria is beginning to experience a similitude of Hitler’s Third Reich in Buhari’s fourth republic. Like membership of Hitler’s NAZI party was then elevated above German citizenship, with members of other political parties tagged “traitors”, the membership of Buhari’s APC is systematically being similarly elevated above citizenship, with members of other people parties being demonised as “enemies” of the Nigerian state.
This situation has become aggravated, as loyalty to the personae of Buhari, rather than fidelity to the constitution, is now considered as patriotism to the Nigerian state, as was the case in Hitler’s NAZI Germany. To give life to the dogma of party supremacy in Buhari’s Nigeria, APC partisans have been appointed into strategic government positions, cutting across academia, state run media, the para-military services, law enforcement and national security, in a manner reminiscent of Hitler’s NAZIRIZATION of Germany.
Buhari’s latest proclamation on the rule of law and national security interest to the effect that the former is inferior to the latter, is only a culmination of a long running process of legitimising his civilian democratic dictatorship. That Buhari made this startling proclamation before a gathering…in the Temple of Justice…has further legitimised his technical suspension of the Constitution…
To sustain his hold on power, Hitler deployed the use of an elaborate propaganda machinery under the direction of NAZI initiate, Joseph Goebbels. In the trio of Garba Shehu, Femi Adesina and Lai Mohammed, Buhari has Goebbels in three folds. As Goebbels worshipped Hitler, so are Buhari’s propaganda directors worshiping him. Like Goebbels did for Hitler, the trio of Shehu, Adesina and Mohammed are carrying out an elaborate propaganda scheme that portrays Buhari as an infallible Messiah of the Nigerian people, whose policies, programmes and actions are beyond checks by the legislature and balances by the judiciary. The operational narrative underpinning this grand propaganda scheme is largely premised on Buhari’s definition of corruption and his unique style of tackling it. As was Hitler’s idea of a living space for German people, Buhari’s idea of corruption and his skewed war against it is now the raison d’état of the Nigerian state. This is why Buhari’s Goebbels denounce other political parties as “looters” and react to their differing opinion on how to govern Nigeria as “corruption is fighting back”. This propaganda is being carried out in concert with eminent men of letters, human rights activists, legal luminaries, the clergy and academia, with fascist precision. This has created out of Buhari’s support base an irrational mob of intolerant people in the mould of Hitler’s storm troopers who violently react to criticism of their idolised hero. Anybody who disagrees with Buhari’s definition of corruption or opposes his selective war on it is a threat to national security interest.
Buhari’s latest proclamation on the rule of law and national security interest to the effect that the former is inferior to the latter, is only a culmination of a long running process of legitimising his civilian democratic dictatorship. That Buhari made this startling proclamation before a gathering of ministers in the Temple of Justice, including the head of the judicial arm of the Nigerian government, His Lordship the Chief Justice of the federation, the president of the umbrella body of lawyers and the attorney general of the federation, without a single voice raised in protest, has further legitimised his technical suspension of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Much earlier, the legislature had partially succumbed to torrents of well-orchestrated assault on the image of the National Assembly that openly questions its relevance in Buhari’s Nigeria, by the formation of a parliamentary support group by some loyal law makers. The parliamentary support group of democratically elected lawmakers who have now shirked their constitutional roles of checking the legislature is an aberration that signposts the reign of a democratically elected civilian dictator. The current scenario in Nigeria is not without precedence in Hitler’s NAZI Germany. Upon becoming chancellor, Hitler persuaded German President Paul Von Hindenburg to issue a decree suspending civil liberties and also got a subservient legislature, which was dominated by NAZIS, to enact an enabling law that allows his government to make laws without its approval.
Throughout the history of the modern world, civilian democratic dictatorships are made possible when a people deify their leaders and consider them above reproach. When people allow their sentiments to cloud their rationale minds, they help create a monstrous leadership struggle that ultimately consumes them. Those who are supporting this slide of Buhari’s Nigeria towards a full blown civilian dictatorship with hopes of a smooth transfer of power to their section of the country should be reminded that autocratic totalitarianism comes with prospects of life presidency.