The world has lived through great civilizations and civilization itself has had its worst enemies. Man driven by lust for power and personal aggrandizement plays god to others and we have encountered with so many of them through the ages. The historic tripartite pact of 1936 saw a fusion of power blocs. Benito Mussolini ruled by caprice in fascist Italy, in Nazi Germany Adolf Hitler allied with Emperor Hirohito of Japan in a bid to bestride the world like a colossus.
Other outposts of tyranny include Jordan under King Abdullah, Libya under Ghaddafi, Cuba under Fidel Castrol, the rogue regimes of North Korea and Iran, Iraq under Saddam, Uganda under Amin the late despot and Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe who has ruled the country for nearly four decades.These were cold-blooded brutes who hid under a cause to unleash fury on their subjects and silenced dissenting voices in their political domains.
A lot of lives were lost and the world and most regions experienced unprecedentedly abysmal demographic change calling to mind the attempted extermination of the Jewish race out of which six million Jews gassed to death where they were held in death camps and other millions of lives that were lost in World War11. Thousands of unarmed civilians mainly Kurds were killed in Halabja poison gas attack by the regime in Baghdad under Saddam Hussein, Iron-fisted Benito Mussolini clamped down on his own people while he ruled over Italy.
Back home in Africa, the State Research Bureau, Amin’s secret agents killed many Ugandans some of whose flesh he fed on like a cannibal. These were all dark moments in human history. As luck would have it they all methodically took their unceremonious exits from the earth under unfortunate circumstances.
Would one be right to exempt Nigeria from one of the outposts of tyranny either in the present, distant or immediate past? Has Nigeria ever witnessed any iron-fisted rule? Under totalitarian governments powers are assigned to the authorities to imprison and kill without circumscription and we have seen these at play in Nigeria which qualifies Africa’s biggest democracy south of the Sahara as one outposts of tyranny. Kudirat Abiola was taken by a storm of bullets by men believed to be Abacha’s secret agents. Pa Alfred Rewane was killed and so were other eminent Nigerians that forced this writer to take to flight at the time to avoid being devoured by a raving mad lion that had probably broken loose from its den.
Between 1984 and 1985, we had a junta which exported state-linked crime beyond our territorial borders. Those who kidnap in Nigeria today only try to ‘teach grandfather Buhari to suck eggs’ because in 1984 Buhari transgressed the bounds of decency and authority in a futile bid to violently kidnap late Dr. Dikko to answer for his alleged crimes instead of retaining a diplomatic channel to file for his extradition from the United Kingdom. Objectively speaking, you do not commit a crime to solve a crime for that single act he ought to have stood trial at the international criminal court.
So many things have gone wrong in rapid succession within seven and a half calendar months of his taking the reins of power. We had prayed for him to succeed but God does not answer prayers devoid of auxiliary actions or embarking on actions borne out of lies and deceit to demonize others all in a bid to save one’s face or cover up one’s incompetence. Soldering is not the same things as governance after all.
It is no more in dispute that Nigeria under the present administration lacks qualified and competent technocrats the reason why everything is spiralling downward and his apologists downward into gross irrationality. Against every casual sense of rationality and decency his actions are commended by partisans which are opposed to the social norms and patterns of a civilized world. Dictators often wield unlimited powers, run a dictatorial presidency, decide cases and convict dissenting voices even before trial calling to mind the conviction of the British journalist by the legendary Amin before his trial in a Ugandan courtroom. The Chief Judge freed this victim of ineluctable fate for which he later paid the supreme price.
I had before now stood mouth agape with incredulity how our memories could be so short. About thirty years ago in his first stint as a military ruler, we saw all these traits at play that caused Nigerians so much misery until that regime was terminated sometimes in 1985 and Nigerians who groaned under his military jackboots heaved a sigh of relief. The papers were awash with criticisms and widespread jubilations with each victim of Buhari’s reign of terror recounting ordeals. Many of us who fled the country then had to return with the self-styled evil genius in charge, Nigeria’s legendary IBB, an effective ruler who relatively embarked and carried out sweeping reforms – that administration would be remembered for its open-door policy it adopted. Bigoted critics were not thrown off the radar but were extended the Olive Branch to come on board and pilot the Ship of State.
Today we are again caught in another agonizing web under a despot who is intolerant of opposing political views. This is what we had escaped by a twist of fate some thirty 30 years ago a period of time which brought Nigeria to the edge of chaos. Some of his present apologists from which came the bulk of the votes that shot him to power had not been born. Barely eight months into his four years tenure we have a similar scenario unfolding marvelously.
Our once vibrant economy has become stagnant and comatose and blatant lies are being told to save faces, the Naira, Nigeria’s monetary unit has fallen drastically in value and now exchange for over N300 to the US dollar. Never have we experienced this unprecedented decline in the value of our domestic currency coupled with International Monetary Fund outright refusal to accede to his loan demand but instead mounts a pressure on the Abuja regime for further devaluation of the Naira. This inability to manage the economy resulting from sheer incompetence is tantamount to giving the already sapped and pauperized Nigerians the hangman’s noose.
It would be recalled that Stalin in the defunct Soviet Union in 1934 began a series of ‘purges’ in which millions of people died. The purges known as the Great Terror began when Sergei Kirov was assassinated. He was probably murdered on Stalin’s orders. Nevertheless Stalin used it as an excuse to eliminate his enemies or anyone he thought might be a threat. This was a period in Soviet history that saw many prominent communists put on show trials and thereafter thrown in stir or executed which Nigeria could be taking her cue from before long. Millions of ordinary people were sent to labour camps and forced to work in appalling conditions.
In 1937-38 Stalin ‘purged’ the officers in the red army. About 80% of the generals and 50% of the colonels were executed. Buhari has ordered a similar purge of serving officers in the armed forces whose fate only hang in the balance. So the red army was weakened just when Russia was facing a threat from Nazi Germany.
Furthermore in the 1930s, under Stalin the churches were persecuted. Still recall his stance on Sharia? Many Nigerians are being framed up again and left to rot in dungeons under the guise of prosecuting the anti-graft war. This was exactly what happened about 30 years ago. Professor Alli, the then first Executive Governor of the defunct Bendel State and many others were unduly incarcerated after a kangaroo court trial though released much later, thanks to the magnanimity and benevolence of the Iyayi and Igbinedion families, went blind and died shortly afterward from complications he suffered during a custodial sentence. Alas, Prof Alli died with only a bungalow of two flats to his name at his Emaudo village home, Ekpoma, Edo State!
The writer shall now focus his binoculars on the purported $2.1 billion arms deal which the Daura-born overlord clings to for his inability to run the country rocked by economic depression and instability calling to mind the separatist aspirations mounting in the southeast and jihadist insurgency in the north-east. The staggering $2.1 billion arms procurement funds like the Chibok girls story is a scam manufactured or cooked up to extenuate incompetence and abysmal failure which we all spot on the horizon.
$2.1 billion is over N600 billion by the current exchange rate. How many people have been indicted and how much has each of them been asked to refund? If Buhari decides to arrest everyone that has served between 1999 and 2015 in connection with the non-existent $2.1 billion, can he recover as much as N200 billion? The answer is NO in block letters if we all need reminding. Hence, I wonder from where and how the $2.1 billion came. Can Nigeria afford to part with $2.1 billion at one blow for a transaction of any form without screeching to a halt? I wonder why some of us are so gullible to fall hook, line, and sinker for his personal inadequacies and blatant lies.
An accused is presumed innocent until proven otherwise but Amin’s version of crying injustice is being re-enacted in Africa’s biggest democracy with flagrant abuse of power, disregard for court orders considering the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu and Ibrahim Dasuki on Buhari’s order who have both been granted bail by courts of competent jurisdiction. This, I dare say, is tantamount to tyranny!
It is time the teething problems besetting Nigeria like a series of devastating plagues were addressed instead of employing tricky manouvres that will not yield any fruitful dividend in the end. Killings under Buhari’s administration have systematically begun and now on the ascending order of magnitude considering the mass murder of 300 Shi’ite Muslims in Zaria, Kaduna State. Killing of defencess MASSOB & IPOB members on peaceful demonstration, and the aerial bombardment sometimes in June last year of Cross Rivers creek communities which killed many civilians including women and children which are typical examples of totalitarian regimes. Amin’s despotic rule recorded 500,000 deaths before he was kicked out of power by a coalition of Tanzanian troops and forces of the Uganda National Liberation Front in 1979.
Sad to say, the democracy we all laboured and doggedly fought for has been hijacked by the Daura-born overlord and his trusted lieutenants while dissenting voices are being hunted and crushed by brute force. Under the existing circumstances, it is either one aligns oneself with the tyrant in Abuja or there will be the devil to pay.
Iyoha John Darlington, a social activist, Turin-based scholar, a public commentator on national and global issues writes from Turin, Italy.