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Buhari, El-Rufai: From democracy to guncracy?


Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai

Kaduna State governor Nasir El-Rufai

No one can easily impugn the sense in making democracy to be responsive to the special needs of the milieu in which it is practised. But such domestication retains its validity to the extent that the objective is to serve the people. We need not split hairs in so far as the reformulation of the concept of democracy is not a precursor to an accommodation of the crude cravings of some benighted leaders. What must, however, trigger vigilance is an attempt to tinker with an essential principle of the democracy – periodic elections.

For here in Africa, we are not unfamiliar with the truncation of democracy through such tinkering. From Zimbabwe, Equatorial Guinea, Angola, Algeria, Chad, Congo, Sudan, to Burundi, there are relics of democracies that held so much promise when they began but were later truncated through the greed of their leaders that made them to choose to perpetuate themselves.

Back home in Nigeria, democracy has been subjected to serial betrayals by the nation’s leaders. Either they are failing to make the people choose those they want to serve them or they are reworking democracy to be amenable to their quest for self-perpetuation through a third term. It is in this regard that we must take note of the contemporary reformulation of democracy by President Muhammadu Buhari and Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State. Yes, they are not yet afflicted with the incubus of self-perpetuation like the Robert Mugabes of Africa. Yet, they have demonstrated a tragic propensity to rework democracy to serve not the people’s interest but their own. What the duo have brought to the table of democracy is neither a celebration of the rule of the majority nor a clarion call for adherence to the rule of law and equality of all. It is rather the reformulation of democracy in such a way that it derives its legitimacy from the barrel of the gun.

Clearly, Buhari and El-Rufai got to their offices on the back of elections that they won. But if they got to offices through elections by the majority, they are not now being sustained in those offices by amenability to the wishes of the majority. What is obvious now is that Buhari and El-Rufai are now beholden to a travestied version of democracy that could be identified as guncracy – a process of legitimising democracy through guns. In no way are guns metaphorical here. For even in unlawful incarceration as in the cases of a former National Security Adviser Sambo Dasuki, whom courts have asked for his freedom many times and the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu, the guns of the state security operatives were used to shove them into prison having been branded as implacable threats to the state.

Buhari has long embraced guncracy. He has demonstrated this in the South South and South East. In the South South, Buhari has deployed soldiers. They are on the prowl and under the guise of searching for militants and safeguarding oil facilities, they are destroying property and killing innocent people. And in the South East, Buhari has deployed soldiers under the portentous rubric of Operation Python Dance. This was shortly after the Amnesty International indicted the military for killing and maiming innocent citizens in that part of the country.

Beyond the government’s platitude that the ongoing militarisation is to secure lives and property, it is clear to the discerning that it is all aimed at cowing the people of the South South and the South East into abandoning their agitations against a plethora of injustices they have been subjected to by successive governments at the federal level. For Buhari, the option of a dialogue to really solve the problems of the people is not important. As far as he is concerned, guns must be used to intimidate the people into silence. Secure in the delusion that guns can do the magic of silencing the people, he only accepted a proposal for dialogue with the Niger Delta elders to mock them. That is why instead of concretising the dialogue, more troops are being deployed in the Niger Delta. And this is why no clear action has been taken after the jamboree of the declaration to begin the cleanup of Ogoniland.

With El-Rufai comes another variant of guncracy. His is the privileging of gun-wielding murderers above peace-loving citizens. This is why instead of punishing Fulani herdsmen who have been killing the people of Southern Kaduna, El-Rufai has only treated them as a special breed of people who must be pampered and bribed to take them from their atrocious path of unconscionable murders. Because El-Rufai believes in the legitimacy of his action, he sees nothing wrong with it. As the chief security officer of the state, he does not see the need to protect lives and property and bring these murderers to justice. El-Rufai is said to be one of the people who are very close to the president.

So his response to the savagery of the Fulani herdsmen is a reflection of the position of Buhari on the issue. To El-Rufai, the killer Fulani herdsmen should be courted while they continue to perpetrate their carnage. They are free to invade farms and mow down any citizen who dares challenges them. The same El-Rufai who considered it necessary to bribe murderers to stop further killings has refused to come to the aid of the victims. And when the victims expressed a desire to help themselves in the face of the threats of more attacks, El-Rufai has vowed to arrest them.

But Buhari and El-Rufai must know that in the long run, the complicitous approach they have adopted would only increase violence and not check it. The Fulani herdsmen who are being given money would feel that they are right to kill, rape and destroy. If carrying guns to kill would not attract the wrath of the state but rather bring monetary compensation why would Fulani herdsmen not be emboldened to unleash more horror and be financially rewarded? The credo that El-Rufai has deliberately enunciated among the Fulani herdsmen is: kill and be rich. No doubt, El-Rufai does not want the Fulani herdsmen to wait for their reward in paradise. And this is why he has carefully chaperoned them from the Boko Haram’s ideology: kill and go to paradise.

The militants in the Niger Delta would continue with the sabotage of oil facilities knowing full well that the government is not willing to deploy a peaceful approach to resolve the crisis in the region. And the agitators in the South East would continue with their agitation knowing that the Buhari government would not guarantee justice for them. Indeed, if Buhari and El-Rufai are not checked by the wisdom of those close to them or do not on their own restrain themselves from the path they have taken, they would only end up fostering a polity in which democracy and guncracy strive and where the odds are in favour of the latter.

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