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Buhari, Populism and the June 12th Mandate.

By Elempe Dele

The June 12th, 1993 election was adjudged by watchers as one of the freest and fairest presidential election ever held in Nigeria, which was however summarily annulled by the then president, Gen. Babandiga. Historical facts behind the annulment still remain shrewd in mystery up till date but legend would have it that Gen. Abacha was behind the cancellation because of his ulterior motives. On the 6th of June 2018, to the chagrin of most Nigerians, the government of General Buhari announced that 12th would henceforth become known as Democracy Day, and conferred the purported winner, Late MKO Abiola, though posthomourly, the highest honour in Nigeria, GCFR.

This act by the Gen. Buhari sent the ruling party into a frenzy of mass hysteria, like those who are excited in a public concert or circus. But to me, and to those who understand the underlying reason for this suspicious appeasement, its an after thought, a political joystick, a diversionary tactics and most importantly, a populist political approach.

Buhari came into power with the aid of populism and his acceptability has since dwindled to all time low due to a lot of factors and he wish to continue to sustain his stay in power through more populist approaches as at 2018.

Populism is on the rise worldwide. In political science, populism is the idea that the society is split into two groups; the commoners and the corrupt or political elites. These groups are at odds with each other. And coming from 2015, Buhari claim to represent the will of the people by promising them anti-corruption against the corrupt, he promised them ‘Change’; security, better economy, schooling, millions of jobs, token for the jobless…Yes, Buhari, in his populist approach to wining the 2015 election positioned himself as one who stands in opposition to the enemy of the people, aiming at tackling elitism.

But after taking over power, his populist approach became an excuse for authoritarianism; I am god for I am the people. The people are just now finding out that all the promises of Change are fantasies, just ploys to winning the election. The promises through propaganda, lies, deceit…were all bad mannered politics, they were mostly unattainable, and they all went into vapour immediately, even the
I Belong To Everybody And I Belong To Nobody: that inspirational patriotic voices of President Muhammadu Buhari then has since gone into the dust bin of history.

Since coming to power, Buhari, who got to power through populist campaigns have been permanently trying to convince, without results, the people that he is not part of the elite, and never will he be. How can you say you are not an elite but a commoner when you fly jets to the UK for medical attentions when 70% of the population cannot access public medical services in the country? And this foreign medical attention for public servants was parts of what you said you would abolish. How can you say you a commoner when your son who has never worked in his life fell from millions of Naira super bike and was flown abroad for treatment when the minimum wage of a worker in the same country is 30 thousand Naira? How can you say you are a commoner when you condone your cronies who steal from the commonwealth of the commoners yet chase after others who you felt did the same? How can you say you are a commoner when you call the commoners ‘lazy youths’ who gave you a huge percent of your votes?

Yes, Buhari has used the strength of populism to secure victory from the ordinary people who believed in his rethorics but the burden is how to sustain those claims and promises. And the one and very dangerous disadvantage is that due to desperation to succeed; he dislikes seeing the complicated democratic system of modern governments, compared to his military system back in the 80s. And this dislike have vetured him into authoritarianism, and that’s why the frequent run-ins between him and the National Assembly under the then leadership of Senator Saraki, an arm of government that is supposed to check and balance the excesses of the executive arm of government. That’s why Buhari will dip his hands into the federal accounts for extra budgetary expenditure without the approval of the National Assembly in the name of buying military hardwares fast that was said would be delivered in 2 years time. That’s why he does not follow due process and does not obey court orders. That’s why he would keep suspects in chains without convictions even when the courts rules otherwise. That’s why people with dissenting voices are being framed up. That’s why he will ban Twitter easily and try to gag free speech.

These are political bad manners and are not acceptable in traditional democracies anywhere in the world. He think himself infallible, as a strongman. And these heats up the political space because there must be dissenting voices as it is today, and Nigeria looks scary and frightening – the climate of fear. Those who hold democratic tenets justly would always speak against his unruly and ‘me first attitude’ and that self-righteous mein.

Today, Buhari is viewed with so much disdain and suspicion from the same people he is representing (there were videos of purported protests against him flying round from his own state, Kastina) These suspicions and disappointment are not far-fetched because he has promised too much and has delivered too little. In other to garner support, he quickly made offers that in close inspections are not feasible.

Now, the June 12th populist bait was for the Yoruba race because of the 2019 presidential election. Buhari has never spoken about his support for that mandate even as he profited from that annulment through his military cotraveler, Abacha, who gave him the Petroleum Trust Fund juicy job after Abiola was residing in their jail and his wife had been killed by their assassins in broad day light making their children orphans all of a sudden.

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