Road To Making Buhari the Fuhrer -By Festus Adedayo

Filed under: Political Issues |

There has been a raging debate on what drove President Muhammadu Buhari or what the president drove to the Abuja venue of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA)’s 58th Annual General Conference on August 26, 2018. Don’t get me wrong: the president must have been driven to the event in a long convoy of SUVs, cosseted on all sides by security aides. However, the question at issue today is: Was President Buhari driven to that event by the devil, patriotism or the demonism that is often the driving force of despots? If you break the flurry of arguments and analyses of his speech at the NBA event into their brass-tack, a consistent query from within you will emerge regarding what actually resides in, or what resided inside of the president as he made the controversial speech at that event. Before we answer these seemingly metaphysical questions that some will swear are beyond the purview of our human sight, let us collectively go on a voyage as recent as the last century. The journey will enable us answer the above questions.

Ever heard of Benito Amilcare Andrea Mussolini? He was born in July 1883 and died on April 28, 1945. Mussolini was an Italian journalist, politician and leader of the National Fascist Party, later on becoming, until 2014, the youngest Italian prime minister, a position he occupied from 1922 to 1943. He was expelled as a leader in the Italian Socialist Party called PSI in 1912 on account of his anti-party activities, through his advocacy for a military intervention, rather than the neutralism which the PSI stood for. Having been wounded in World War I, Mussolini was eventually discharged in 1917 and his views, like Buhari’s, again began to tread a very dangerous path. For instance, he advocated nationalism as against the socialist outlook of his party. He founded the fascist movement, which stood against egalitarianism but for revolutionary nationalism. His reign began by eliminating all opposition, empowering the secret police to embark on sting operations in Italy. He outlawed strikes, enacted fascist laws and transmuted into a brutal one-party dictatorship. He had hitherto constitutionally led Italy until 1925, when he shed himself and his rule of all pretenses to democracy and bared his totalitarian fangs. Defeated, Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, were captured in April 1945 while fleeing to Switzerland and were summarily executed by a firing squad on April 28, 1945, with his body hung upside down.


Festus Adedayo

If you hadn’t heard of Mussolini before now, you must have heard of Adolf Hitler. Leader of the German Nazi Party, Hitler was also a demagogue and politician who, as chancellor, reigned from 1933 to 1945 and administered Germany as Fuhrer (leader) of Nazi Germany from 1934 to 1939. He also fought in WWI and while in prison, wrote his first autobiography entitled Mein Kampf (My Struggle). In 1924, after his release from prison, Hitler became very popular among the people by attacking the Treaty of Versailles and promoting Pan-Germanism, anti-semitism and anti-communism through charismatic oratory, just like Buhari did at the NBA conference. To him, communism and international capitalism were Jewish ideologies and this won him so many converts. As Fuhrer, he motivated Germany along a racial ideology and was responsible for the genocide of at least 5.5 million Jews. Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945 at the approach of the Soviet Red Army.

Coming back home in Africa, there was the man called Idi Amin Dada. Born in 1923, Dada ruled Uganda with an iron fist as a military despot from 1971 to 1979. In the early years of his rule, like Buhari at that NBA conference, he espoused a pro-Western relationship and got considerable support from Ugandans and the Israeli. All of a sudden, however, Amin shifted his friendship to alliances with despots like Mobutu Sese Seko of Zaire, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and attracted the huge sympathy of East Germany and Soviet Union. His rule was characterised by gross human rights abuses, extra-judicial killings and gross corruption. Between 100,000 and 500,000 people were reportedly killed under him. Amin’s overreach in 1978 into the Kagera Region of Tanzania’s Julius Nyerere was his last straw, as the Nwalimu drafted troops which promptly invaded Uganda and captured the capital, Kampala. Amin had to flee into exile where he died in August, 2003.

I have gone the whole hog to profile leaders in history who transmuted into despots, so as to show that the road to hell is sometimes paved with good intentions. In that controversial NBA speech, President Buhari had said: “The rule of law must be subjected to the supremacy of the nation’s security and national interest. The law can only be optimally practiced in a Nigeria that is safe, secure and prosperous. Our apex court has had cause to adopt a position on this issue and it is now a matter of judicial recognition that; where national security and public interest are threatened or there is a likelihood of their being threatened, the individual rights of those allegedly responsible must take second place, in favour of the greater good of society.”

Expectedly, the president has received unprecedented barbs on account of the above. Why the barbs became unsparing is due to his unflattering rule of law credentials. Buhari, one will recall, was one of the most despotic military rulers in Nigeria, coming only on the heels of the late General Sani Abacha. His three years-plus as a civilian leader have even been salted by some dosage of intolerance, which verges on despotism. For instance, his administration has filibustered on all fronts in obeying court orders in respect of the release of the former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, citing all manners of nebulous clichés to keep the man in a detention reminiscent of gulags – the symbol of the lawlessness, slave labour and tyranny that the Mussolini era represented.

By definition, the rule of law implies the authority and influence of law in society. It is the equality of all before the law, as against the ascendancy of monarchs and emperors in earlier centuries. It presumes that all members of society, not minding their earthly attainments or facts of birth, are equal in the face of law and all are subject to the same legal code. By contrast, national interest/national security implies that the security of an amorphous and inanimate entity called the State is in need of protection and as such, it must be safeguarded from instruments capable of limiting its inviolability. In Nigeria, the phenomenon of national security was deployed extensively by the military, with the ruler made to personate the State. Many were jailed or hauled into detention to protect the so-called national security. The military ruler was not expected to go into details or explain any of his actions, as they were in the defence of national interest. In the 21st century world, however, national security has gone beyond this narrow confine to approximate even non-military dimensions. It now includes economic security, energy security, environmental security, food security, cyber security, among others. What this means is that, even when a government is unable to provide food for its citizens, it is endangering national security.

I have cited the history of despots in some parts of the world, first to joggle our memories on the nefarious routes once taken by some rulers and to also postulate that these rulers did not all of a sudden present the faces of a Dracula but began as innocuously as Buhari did at the recent NBA conference. It is even very difficult to understand Buhari’s beef. Political scientists have told us passionately that Nigeria is not a nation but at best, a nation-state. As far back as 1947, in his book, Path to Nigeria Freedom, Chief Obafemi Awolowo had dissected this issue. Nigeria, he wrote, is not a nation but a mere geographical expression. “There are no ‘Nigerians’ in the same sense as there are ‘English’ or ‘Welsh’ or ‘French.’ The word Nigeria is merely a distinctive appellation to distinguish those who live within the boundaries of Nigeria from those who do not.” Nothing has changed since then. So if there is no Nigerian nation, whose national interest/security was Buhari proposing to defend? Because there is no Nigerian nation, Nigeria belongs to nobody and nobody sees any act done for the collective State as acts done for any of its components or individuals. Even Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) and John Stuart Mill, (1806-1873) authors of Buhari’s utilitarian concept of “the greatest happiness of the greatest number” have been critiqued for their imprecision as no society has come to a consensus on what is the “greater good of society.”

More complicating, as I said earlier, is Buhari’s human rights pedigree. Allowing him go the route of his proposal is to assist him grow the seed of despotism latent in him. There are fears that topmost on Buhari’s mind at that NBA conference was his craving to keep Dasuki and Ibrahim Yaqoub El Zakky Zakky – people he presumably nursed pre-office grouses against – in his gulag till The Kingdom comes. It is our collective responsibility to stop Mr. President from walking this road of a Fuhrer, which though means ‘leader’ in German, is symbolic of Hitler’s rule. This road is strewn with blood, manacles and shackles, which Mussolini, Hitler, Amin and their progenies trod in the past.

The Lifeless Debate

There have been all manners of comments on the alleged statement made by America’s President Donald Trump about his Nigerian counterpart, Muhammadu Buhari. The highly influential Financial Times had alleged that Trump told some unidentified persons after his meeting with Buhari at the White House last year that he never wanted to meet a country’s leader as lifeless as Buhari again. If we conduct a semiotic analysis of that purported statement of Trump, it really synchronises with the flippant and unguarded character of the current POTUS.

Some have berated Trump for, by that statement, deriding Buhari’s health status which is in the global public domain. Some have also spoken about that statement’s racist inclination. But when it is realised that Kenya’s Uhuru Kenyatta just returned from a similar visit to the White House, what becomes clear is that even though a president with glaring racial bias, Trump will continue to play host to his ‘coloured’ colleagues all over the world.

My take is however to reason that Trump’s lifeless comment may not necessarily be borne out of Buhari’s recuperating frame and the feeble gait that comes with it. The lifelessness in Trump’s comment may just be Buhari’s incapability to connect with the American president at the mental level in conversation during the visit. This may not strictly be because of Buhari’s highly ‘coloured’ accent which I even find very difficult to penetrate when listening to him, but due to the general suspicion about our president’s mental depth. This is why all of us must be concerned about what President Buhari tells his local and foreign guests because he is representative of all of us. The Buhari we all know, unlike President Olusegun Obasanjo and even Goodluck Jonathan, doesn’t seem to measure up in terms of output and depth.

This is also why, as there seems to be another European scramble for Africa – both Theresa May and Angela Merkel were in Abuja to see Buhari – one wonders what our president is telling these people and how he is telling it to them. What could be the global estimation of his elan and mental makeup? That is why saner societies choose the best to represent them. I think this is an issue that should be more fundamental to us than the lifelessness of the president’s gait or health.

Kelani Yesufu on Olubadan’s 90th

Of all the tributes I have listened to in honour of the Olubadan of Ibadan, Oba Saliu Akanmu Adetunji, Aje Ogungunniso 1 on the 90th anniversary of his birth, none is as enrapturing as that done to his persona by the late progenitor of Yoruba Sakara music, Kelani Yesufu. Yesufu, the Egba music impresario, in company of Lefty Salami Balogun and others, is a renowned forefather of today’s Fuji music. Someday, I will bring on the cadence of Yesufu’s song as he paid unmatchable tribute to the then pestilence of the venereal disease called gonorrhea and how he had brokered truce between another Sakara music legend, Yusuf Olatunji, alias Baba Legba, and Egba music great, S. Aka Baba Wahidi, in 1972.

Anyway, in his vinyl entitled Emu Oguro, Yesufu sings about an accident the then young Adetunji was involved in on a journey from Lagos to Ibadan in which his car became a total write-off and how he escaped from the accident on a Monday morning in July 1972. If Adetunji had died in that accident, no one would have been talking about him as the Olubadan today. By the way, Yesufu was one of the musicians who sang on the label of Omo Aje Records owned by the current Olubadan. The interventionist role that the Olubadan has always played in moments of crises was also captured in another track done by Dauda Epo Akara in the very early 1980s, when Epo was accused of insulting the then Olubadan, Oba Theophilus Akinyele. Worried about what he called a frame-up, Epo the Awurebe music exponent, had ran to then Alhaji Adetunji to help buy him out of the impending trouble with the monarch. Here is wishing the Olubadan more years on the throne of his forefathers as he clocks 90th.

Festus Adedayo is an Ibadan-based journalist.