Buhari and the Birth of the Far Right In Nigeria, By Majeed Dahiru
Far right leaders often leave their nations divided. Their style of leadership often leads to the hardening of extreme positions by all conflicting groups, with those feeling marginalised and unprotected resorting to self-help… Buhari’s inaction have emboldened killer herdsmen to continue their murderous activities throughout Central and Southern 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 criticised as being 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 comes under fire for failing to outrightly condemn White supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan for their hate filled racially divisive speeches, as exemplified 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, killing a woman identified as Heather Heyer in the process. 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”.
In Myanmar is Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi, another fast rising star of the far right. The leader of Myanmar has been criticised 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 Suu Kyi finally spoke, she attempted to place the blame on both sides, saying, “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 characterised by racial or ethnic supremacy, leading to prejudice, hate, discrimination and in extreme cases, genocide. Its leading figures are often divisive and they polarise their nation states by turning diversity into a faultline. Whenever far right figures are propelled to power, they often make more efforts to strengthen sectional interests, which inevitably leads to the marginalisation of groups and individuals other than their own. They deploy the resources of the state to satisfy their narrow bases of political support to the detriment of the unity and stability of their nations. Therefore, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari deserves a well-earned seat besides Marine Le Pen of France, Donald Trump of America and Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar on the high table of the far right.
Whereas France has the fortune of not having Marine Le Pen resident in the Elisee Palace and America’s strong democratic institutions serve as effective checks 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 has never hidden his sectional agenda in favour of northern Nigeria, since he assumed the mantle of leadership. From his appointments to his close cycle of associates and developmental agenda, his Arewa interests come before the interests of the Nigerian state. Typical of all far right figures, his body language, public statements and state policies often betray this sectional tendencies. Whatever doubt 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 for developmental support.
In Aung San Su Kyi, Muhammadu Buhari has a soul mate. Her long silence on the plight of the 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.
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 marginalisation by other groups in Nigeria clearly illustrates this. The recent revelation by Ibe Kachikwu, the minister of state for petroleum about his redundancy in the affairs of oil resources management in the country 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 of the country. 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 the proper sense. In this instance, the president fails to appreciate the necessity of carrying along every section of the country in his government, 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 to serve as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States Armed Forces, the White House is truly “White”, as there is no African American – from who Donald Trump got the least support – occupying any of the top jobs in the Trump administration. From the kitchen cabinet to the State Department and Pentagon, all the top positions are occupied by White Americans, from among who Donald Trump got the most votes to become president. Similarly, relying on his “97 percent and 5 percent” 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 the 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. These are migratory bands pillaging farmlands and killing members of farming communities in central and southern Nigeria. When eventually pressured to speak, like Aung San Suu Kyi, Muhammadu Buhari blamed both sides.
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 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.
The same way Aung San Suu Kyi refuses to acknowledge the murderous activities of 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 of terrorism by one group against another to a matter of farmer-herdsmen clashes. 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 appears similarly powerless in the face of the 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 the 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. Their style of leadership often leads to the hardening of extreme positions by all conflicting groups, with those feeling marginalised 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.