Buhari’s Nigeria is a suffocatingly fascist, illegitimate rigocracy, and it will only get worse in the coming years. Dissent is now violently suppressed. Opposition is pathologized and criminalized. Elections are militarized and rigged blatantly—and with criminal impunity. Rule of law and due process are officially disdained and murdered at the highest levels. The judiciary is now a pitiful poodle of the presidency. Rank nepotism and total disregard for even the wispiest pretenses to meritocracy are now normalized.
I’d called attention to several times in the past), there was no condemnation, much less a protest. Of course, when he coerced INEC to declare him winner of an election he clearly lost, everyone who should talk has looked the other way.
The next phase of Buhari’s fascism is to perpetuate himself in power beyond 2023—if he is lucky to survive the mandate he stole this year, that is. The incoming National Assembly will be a pliant, slavish, rubber-stamp congress of yes-men that will tweak the constitution to legitimize and even prolong Buhari’s tyranny. Opposition parties will be decimated and Nigeria will become a one-party state.
Since Nigeria’s intellectual, cultural, and political elites are already compromised, resistance to Buhari’s fascism is a forlorn hope. Most people know that Nigeria is in the throes of economic collapse, that the slenderest tinctures of democracy are being eroded every day, and that there is more division now than at any time in Nigeria’s history, but they feel helpless and appear to have come to terms with this depressing reality with listless surrender.
A newspaper editor told me last week that, “People here are carrying on like a conquered people.” There is no doubt most people in Nigeria outside the circle of the bloodstained buccaneers who are ruthlessly fleecing the nation now are overcome by a sense of helplessness and have developed ego defense mechanisms to justify their indifference to the creeping totalitarian fascism in the nation.
Michael Rivero, an American journalist, actor, and activist, once captured it this way: "Most people prefer to believe their leaders are just and fair even in the face of evidence to the contrary, because once a citizen acknowledges that the government under which they live is lying and corrupt, the citizen has to choose what he or she will do about it. To take action in the face of a corrupt government entails risks of harm to life and loved ones. To choose to do nothing is to surrender one's self-image of standing for principles. Most people do not have the courage to face that choice.
“Hence, most propaganda is not designed to fool the critical thinker but only to give moral cowards an excuse not to think at all."
In other words, in order to free themselves from the twin burdens of critical thinking and direct action to change or challenge a bad government, people become willing suckers of sterile government propaganda. Nowhere is this more nakedly apparent than in Nigeria. Many otherwise sober, clearheaded people are making peace with the fascism in the country.
They legitimize their moral cowardice by swallowing the propaganda of the regime: Buhari is fighting corruption; it gets worse before it gets better; even though Buhari is bad, the alternative is worse; in the interest of stability, let’s not rock the boat; Buhari will hand over power to the people of my region, so we can wait out his incompetence for another four years; and so on.
I warned several times in the past that Nigeria might not survive a Buhari second time in its present form. Although he did clearly lose the election, he rigged himself back to power in ways never seen before in Nigeria’s entire history, and will be sustained in power by people’s moral cowardice. Then he’ll complete the destruction of the country he started. I hope people of conscience act before it’s too late.