The New Wave Of Populism In Nigeria

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Ogadinma Nkem

Politicians all over the world are now retreating to the cocoon of populism exploiting the fears and enthusiasm of their electorates. For example the American president Donald Trump fulfilled one of his electoral promises of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, this attracted global condemnation especially from countries and individuals that are sympathetic to the course of the Palestinians, though that may not be a popular decision to the Arabs, Muslims and others, but the core base of Trump are over excited about it, global outcries will not add a single vote to Trump neither will he be at the receiving end.

Populism can be defined as a political philosophy that supports the right and power of the people in their struggle against the privileged corrupt elites. President Muhammadu Buhari rode on the crest of populism to depose President Jonathan and his People’s Democratic party PDP by exploiting the fears and anxieties of Nigerians then; Security, Employment and graft. Intelligently the All Progressive Congress APC made it their cardinal pillars of their 2004 Cas Mudde, a political scientist at the University of Georgia, offered a definition that has become increasingly influential. In his view populism is a ‘thin ideology’ one that merely sets up a framework: that of a pure people versus corrupt elites. This is what president Buhari and his APC have been exploiting portraying the previous administration as the most corrupt, maligning and harassing those that served with the previous government. This does not exonerate the PDP’s administration, but the manner in which the government embark on media and public trials subtly suggest that the government is more interested in retaining power than genuinely fighting graft. Another dangerous dimension this government is taking it was clearly explained by Jan-Werner Muller, a political scientist at Princeton university who defined populists by their claim that they alone represent the people and that all others are illegitimate. Little Wonder that you see the Vice President Yemi Osinbanjo taking up the role of; ‘Mr fix it’ traveling the Middle Belt ravaged by the marauding ‘Libya Fulanis’ the Vice President is sent to this places because the if Buhari is allowed to speak the truth he will certainly offend his core electoral base the Hausa-Fulani Islamic supremacists who are the major drivers of his populists vehicle.

The lopsided nature of the president’s appointments especially in the military and paramilitary Agencies gives credence to the extreme version of populism that is called exclusive populism that focuses on shutting out perceived 5 percenters especially the South East and South South. The South West are lurking around him praying fervently for ‘Goodluck’ to happen for them to take over.

Populists tend to define the ‘people’ as only those that are with them, that is why in Nigeria today especially core North if you criticize Buhari you are considered an apostate and enemy of the people, if you dare call for accountability and good governance you will be given a ‘Denoic’ (Dino Melaye) treatment by accusing you of ‘gun running’ Sen Shehu Sani, Bukola Saraki and co will soon face the music.

Populist regimes portray themselves as victims they blame their failures on the sabotage of shadowy corrupt elites at home and abroad, that is why the current administration will always pass the buck to Jonathan and PDP. The anti corruption czar was seen wearing the re-election lapel pin of Buhari, yet to all the good governance activists non saw it as an anomie and aberration for an anti corruption chief to be partisan.

Finally, the tokenism of banning Codeine was done to opiate the core base of Buhari without recourse to the unintended consequences of driving the trade underground and generating more harmful alternatives. populists are dividers not uniters, their stock-in-trade is ‘divide and rule’ we need a leader that will unite this county and give the Youths a sense of belonging not give them ‘ultra modern shoe shiner kits’ and wheel barrows as empowerment tool.

God bless Nigeria.

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