Going into the rescheduled 2019 presidential election in a few days, Nigerians are presented with clearly contrasting choices in the two frontline candidates. Before investing their democratic capital on either President Muhammadu Buhari of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) or Atiku Abubakar of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Nigerians should be fully aware of the implications of the actions of their thumbs on voting day, for the next four years and beyond. For those who are either undecided or contemplating voting for APC’s Buhari, it is important to ponder on a few realities associated with his presidency thus far.

In APC’s Buhari, Nigerians are served the dish of a far right political figure, whose candidacy is buoyed by the most conservative ethno-geographic and religious elements from the Muslim North, with a sprinkling of desperate power-mongering collaborators from other parts of Nigeria. This is notwithstanding the fact that Northern Nigeria currently bears the greatest burden of Buhari’s four-year misrule. As far as these conservative elements are concerned, its power for its symbolic ethno-geographic and religious denotation, alongside the domination of others, even at the expense of the socio-economic development of their part of the country. Buhari enjoys the endorsements of a faction of the ultra-conservative Izala Muslim sect, which is an off shoot of the Wahabi-inspired Sudanese brand of Salafism, generally considered to be the ideological incubator of the current Boko Haram insurgency. For several decades, the Izala sect has been the vanguard of puritan Islamist revivalism in northern Nigeria and the vessel of mass radicalisation, wherein the ideals of a global Islamic state is being coordinated and grown through a cluster of Sharia administered geo-entities. To achieve this ideal of a global Islamic state, the scriptural status of Christians and Jews as people of the book (believers) had to be changed to that of unbelievers, while also equating the actions they interpret as innovation by fellow Muslims with unbelief. These are the ideals the Boko Haram insurgents are struggling to forcefully achieve through warfare. Recall that President Buhari was an ardent supporter of the Sharia movement in Nigeria in the early years of the Fourth Republic.

President Buhari is also supported by Miyetti Allah, the pan-Fulani socio-cultural group, on whose behalf it is believed that killer herdsmen drawn from all over the Sahel are ravaging farming communities throughout Nigeria, to allow for more grazing land for cattle through human displacement. The group has variously justified mass killings in the Benue-Plateau trough on either the encroachment on ancient grazing routes or the enactment of anti-open grazing laws by affected state governments. President Buhari, also an ethnic Fulani, appears to share these sentiments, as discernable from statements from his government, as well as the clear lack of political will to rein in on the killer herdsmen.

As a result of President Buhari’s unrepentant provincial proclivity, as reflected in his elevation of northern sectionalism to a near state policy, he has been able to inspire a wave of ethno-geographic and religious populism, leading to mass hysterical support for him in the Muslim north. Deploying his dishonest integrity as a façade, President Buhari has been able to retain the conviction among his support base that each of his bad actions are predicated upon his good intentions.

As with typical far right political figures, President Buhari considers differences in opinion as dissent, which must be crushed, as seen in his government’s intolerance of criticisms and opposition. If Buhari abhors the fundamental hallmarks of liberal democracy such as the competition of ideas on good governance, then he considers the legislature and judiciary, which are the superstructures of democracy, an anathema to his own definition of good governance. At every opportunity, Buhari demonises the principle of the rule of law as the main enabler of indiscipline and corruption. It is as though Buhari is frustrated by democratic structures of governance and, in turn, is determined to frustrate Nigeria’s democracy. Buhari’s disdain for the due process of rule of law is an open secret.

The media is not also spared the president’s contempt. Openly ignoring, maligning and demonising the mainstream media, President Buhari has greatly diminished its influence as the mirror of society, which is fast losing its hold on the accountability of government to the people, while paving way for hate speech to thrive through the vessel of alternative but mostly fake news. President Buhari has displayed an impervious disposition to local news reportage, thereby rendering the free press impotent, much like a dog, which barks but can’t bite. The occasional responsiveness of government to publicised questions of national importance only gets a response when it appears to agitate the President Buhari’s support base, following concerted effort from non-partisan, non-initiates.

Going into election with a rotten basket of far right fruits has heightened tension in the polity, with hate speeches flowing freely from the pulpit and ethnic champions positioning for electoral victory through every means, including violence. A few days to the presidential polls, President Buhari has refused to take to the now famous Goodluck Jonathan message of peace, which clearly elucidates that “his or anyone’s ambition is not worth the blood of any Nigerian”, while also making a commitment to concede victory if defeated at the polls. Rather, President Buhari has declared that he is undefeatable ahead of the polls, at a recent APC caucus meeting, and in what can best be described as grandstanding, he pronounced a death sentence on ballot box “snatchers” – what many observers believe to be a veiled reference to an opposition he feels can only resort to election malpractices to win. This refusal to commit to the Jonathan doctrine may be a strategy to keep his base irately agitated enough in the event that the polls result goes the other way. Therefore, a victory for Buhari will have far-reaching negative consequences for the Nigerian state beyond 2019. Apart from the fact that a victory for Buhari will mean a vote of confidence on his leadership and the current state of the Nigerian nation, which has been reduced in worth to the poverty capital of the world, the third most terrorised nation on earth with escalating corruption permeating the entire system, there are other lethal consequences. The unlikely renewal of Buhari’s term as president in the coming presidential polls will be tantamount to an endorsement of his provincial proclivity with its attendant sectionalist tendencies that promoted mediocrity over expertise thereby derailing the Nigerian state on to the path of socio-economic disarray. This would translate into the triumph of Buhari’s armada of far right forces whose disruptive and retrogressive aspirations will influence the directive principle of state in Buhari’s post 2019 Nigeria.

A victory for Buhari in the coming presidential polls will most certainly extinguish the light of liberality in Nigeria’s fledgling democracy. Having come under a barrage of executive harassment and humiliation in Buhari’s first term, the legislature and judiciary as well as other ancillary democratic institutions are most likely to cave in under the mortal fear of renewed with higher intensity of executive bullying if ever his tenure is renewed. This will greatly blur the lines of separation of power resulting into a rubber stamp legislature and a judiciary that will interpret laws not according to the constitution but in line with the body language, mood or utterances of President Buhari. Buhari’s seeming inability to make a clear distinction between issues of political party and government as demonstrated by his drafting of partisans to head sensitive ministries, departments and agencies of government in his first term may assume his victory at the coming polls is a green light to stretch this abnormality further by conscripting heads of security agencies into the National Executive Committee of his ruling APC.
With the advantage of a well-oiled fascist propaganda machinery, the opposition, which has been consistently demonised as “looters” and “enemies” of Nigeria, will most certainly cease to exist. The on-going mass systemic “Buharimania” indoctrination that has created a mob of robotic supporters for President Buhari, to whom he is infallible and does not falter nor fail, will in a feat of triumphalism drown any remaining reasonable voices of rational minds. Now forced to shut down or join the “Buharimaniac” choir of ignorance, Nigeria effectively transforms into most populated black animal farm in the world where Buhari is always right.

Majeed Dahiru, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached through dahirumajeed@gmail.com.