Muhammadu Buhari and birth of the far right in Nigeria
We are very quick to denounce Marine Le Pen, when she says, “Multi cultural societies are multi conflict societies’’ and her National Front political party is commonly criticized as far right. Her open opposition to the unbridled diversity of the French republic often depicts her as intolerant if not discriminatory of Africans, other peoples of colour and Muslims. Similarly, President Donald Trump of the United States often come under fire for failing to out rightly condemn White supremacists, Neo Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan for their hate filled racially divisive speeches in the recent Charlottesville demonstrations against the planned removal of the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, the commander of the anti-slavery emancipation army in the American civil war.
In a civil protest that turned bloody, when a member of the far right coalition drove a vehicle into a large crowd of protesters in support of the removal of the now controversial statue and in the process killing a woman identified as Heather Heyer. In all of these unfortunate incidences, President Trump placed the blame for the violence on ‘’both sides’’ claiming ‘’there are good guys on the sides as well as bad.’’
From Myanmar comes Ms Aung San Su Kyi, another fast rising star of the far right. The leader of Myanmar has been criticized throughout the globe for her long silence and failure to condemn the violent ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims by her fellow Burmese Buddhists nationalists. Like, Trump, when Su Kyi finally spoke, she attempted to place the blame on both sides when she said “There have been allegations and counter-allegations … We have to make sure those allegations are based on solid evidence before we take action.” She also urged members of all communities in the Rakhine state of Myanmar to live in peace.
Far right politics is characterized by racial or ethnic supremacy leading to prejudice, hate discrimination and in extreme cases, genocide. Its leading figures are often divisive and polarize their nation states by turning diversity to fault line. Whenever far right figures are propelled to power, they often make more efforts to strengthen sectional interest, which inevitably leads to marginalization of groups and individuals other than their own. They deploy the resources of state to satisfy their populist base of political support to the detriment of the unity and stability of their nation. Therefore, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari deserves a well-earned seat besides Marine Le Pen of France, Donald Trump of America and Aung San Su Kyi of Myanmar of the high table on the far right.
Whereas France has the fortune of not having Marine Le Pen resident at the Elisee Palace and America’s strong democratic institutions serving as an effective check on the excesses of Donald Trump, Myanmar and Nigeria are unfortunate to be saddled with far right leaders whose excesses cannot be curtailed as a consequence of very weak institutions of state leaving both nations with the terrible consequences of underdevelopment, instability and insecurity. Muhammadu Buhari, have never hidden his sectional agenda, in this case northern Nigeria, once he assumed the mantle of leadership. From his appointments to his close cycle of associates and developmental agenda, his northern Arewa interest comes before the interest of the Nigerian state. Typical of all far right figures, his body language, public statements and state policies under his leadership often betrays Buhari’s sectional tendencies. Whatever doubt that existed about Buhari’s northern agenda should have been put to rest with the recent revelation by the World Bank Chief about the President’s appeal for a special’’ focus’’ on northern Nigeria.
If Marie Le Pen is against a racially diverse France, Muhammadu Buhari does not pretend to be a good manager of Nigeria’s ethnic diversity. His insensitivity to the feelings of marginalization by other groups in Nigeria clearly illustrates this. The recent revelation by Ibe Kachikwu, the minister of state petroleum about his redundancy in the affairs of oil resources management clearly shows that Buhari’s cabinet is in negation of the spirit of the 1999 constitution, which provides for at least a minister from each of the thirty six federating units. By appointing a fellow northerner, Maikanti Baru as the GMD of Nigeria’s state owned oil company, NNPC, who reports directly to him in his capacity as Petroleum minister, Buhari has not only rendered Ibe Kackikwu redundant and irrelevant in the affairs of the petroleum ministry, he has also left the southern oil producing state of Delta without a ‘’minister’’. In this instance, the president failed to appreciate the necessity of carrying along in his government every section of the country in line with the wisdom behind the spirit of the constitution.
Muhammadu Buhari also has something in common with Donald Trump. For the first time since the administration of George Bush snr, when General Collin Powell was appointed as the first African American as the Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, the White House is truly ‘’White’’ as there is no African American, from among whom Donald Trump got the least support is occupying any of the top jobs in the Trump administration. From the kitchen cabinet to the State Department and Pentagon, all top positions are occupied by White Americans, from among whom Donald Trump got the most votes to become President. Similarly, relying on his ‘’97 per cent and 5 per cent’’ of support as a basis for his appointments, President Buhari has appointed a disproportionate number of northerners into his government, to the dismay of most Nigerians.
In Aung San Su Kyi, Muhammadu Buhari has a soul mate. Her long silence on the plight of ethnic Rohingya Muslims, whose condition have degenerated from being persecuted to being mass murdered in a state supervised ethnic cleansing agenda, by members of her own Burmese community, is similar to Buhari’s long silence on the murderous activities of killer herdsmen among his own ethnic Fulani, who are pillaging farmlands and killing members of farming communities in central and southern Nigeria. When eventually pressured to speak, like Aung San Su Kyi, Muhammadu Buhari blames both sides.
The same way Aung San Su Kyi refuses to acknowledge the murderous activities her fellow Burmese Buddhist nationalists as genocide, Muhammadu Buhari also fails to address the murderous activities of killer herdsmen as terrorism against the Nigerian state. On each unfortunate occasion of mass killings by killer herdsmen, such as happened recently on the Plateau, the government’s reaction such as this “Buhari is devoted to the sanctity of Nigeria’s unity, and he encourages Nigerians of all groups to learn to live together in peace and harmony” reduces a clear case terrorism by one group against another to a matter of farmer-herdsmen clash.
And while the security forces in Myanmar appears powerless if not complicit by failing to prevent the murderous mob of Burmese Buddhist from unleashing terror against ethnic Rohingya Muslims, Nigeria’s northern dominated internal and defence security apparatus appear similarly powerless in the face of killer herdsmen terror. Whereas the full might of the state was deployed to crush the separatist agitations of Nnamdi Kanu’s IPOB before they were even declared a terror group, no decisive military operation has been launched against the marauding killer herdsmen. The murderous activities of marauding herdsmen, is a form of secession by elimination. The feeling of apartness from the Nigerian state by ethnic Fulani herdsmen in solidarity with their armed kith and kin from all over the Sahel is no less treasonable.
Far right leaders often leave their nations divided against each other. Their style of leadership often leads to hardening of extreme positions by all conflicting groups, with those feeling marginalized and unprotected resorting to self-help. Just as Trump’s silence has emboldened far right groups in the United States, Buhari’s inaction have emboldened killer herdsmen to continue their murderous activities throughout central and southern Nigeria.
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