As was briefed by Adebayo Olukoshi and Tajudeen Abdulraheem, the 1980s where a solemn part, economically, politically, and socially, for Nigeria. Nigeria had lost about 50 per cent of its industrial capacity, and this had led to the loss of over a million jobs. The importation of goods were unsustainable, and even though the 1980s was part of the 'oil boom', Nigeria's oil revenue had fallen to half of what it originally was. Even with the loss of jobs and the lack of productivity of Nigeria's industrial capacity, inflation was at an all time high, and the prices of basic goods such as milk, sugar, rice, beans, required for minimal subsistence, was so high that is was practically unaffordable for the average person.
Nigeria also experienced a collapse of social services, such as health and education, and a simultaneous increase and institutionalization of the social ill of corruption and fraud. It was against this backdrop in Nigeria's history that the major general Muhammadu Buhari took power over from Shehu Shagari, the president of the second republic of Nigeria, which lasted from 1979-1983, through a military coup on December 31st 1983. Till date, Nigeria has had four republics, as it has been plagued by various military coups in its history, and the latest republic was just installed in 1999.
Once General Buhari took office, he drastically reduced government expenditure. He removed state subsidies on health, agriculture, and education and he handed these social services over to private contractors. He cut public service jobs and he imposed a wage freeze. He increased taxes, but this tax increase was imposed on the proletariat poor, and was aimed at protecting the bourgeoisie rich. He heavily regulated the importation of goods as this was, apparently, the cause of a lot of the economic problems that Nigeria was facing at the time. During his tenor, he declared a 'War Against Indiscipline', which was supposed to instill nationalistic pride in Nigeria and correct the rampant fraud and corruption that had plagued and still plagues Nigeria. This war against indiscipline included the punishment and humiliation of public servants who arrived late for work. However, as John Maikwano noted, this war was simply an excuse to curtail the civil rights and human rights of Nigerians.
General Buhari systematically repressed freedom of expression through the jailing of journalists, radical public intellectuals, and student protesters. As he increased the revenue of his fellow military personnel and promoted his generals, he also created laws that protected the richest persons in society, whilst simultaneously suppressing those who dared to oppose him. His military regime was draconian, and he was relatively worse than President Shagari, the president of the republic he overthrew and sought to repair. He also imposed laws that created harsher penalties for armed robbery, malpractice, and other petty offences.
He started his own version of the war on drugs and also imposed harsher sentences for drug use and drug peddling. He greatly expanded the security organization, prisons, and maximum-security centres, while legally and morally criminalizing petty offenders in Nigeria. He did all of this under the guise of promoting discipline by individuating the problem, rather than taking hard stances on the institutional problem of corruption in Nigeria, one that he, his military buddies, and the bourgeois Nigerians that he was protecting, were perpetuating. In the face of his draconian regime, General Ibrahim Babangida overthrew General Buhari on August 27th 1985. I understand that Muhammadu Buhari took over leadership of Nigeria during tough times, but he was a perfect personification of the ills that the Nigerian society was fighting against, he was not a great leader, not by any stretch of the imagination.
The All Progressive Congress (APC) has just announced that Muhammadu Buhari will be their candidate for the presidential election, and so he is going to face current president, Goodluck Jonathan, in the elections that are taking place next year. Mr Buhari has run and been defeated in the last three elections, and he has decided to run again, but this time, he might actually have a chance. Owing to his military background and President Jonathan's immense failure, with respect to addressing the insurgency group Boko Haram, many people believe that he is the just the president that Nigeria needs. Now, the all-progressive congress is a very progressive party, both fiscally and socially. They are standing up against corruption, they are for the devolution of power, they want to enhance Nigeria's infrastructures, and they are standing up for free education, women's rights, and human rights in general.
The APC is a more progressive party with more progressive ideologies than President Jonathan, whose track record has been less than ideal, especially concerning human rights. An example of this will be President Jonathan's facilitation and authorization of the anti-gay bill in Nigeria, amongst numerous other human rights violations. However, it should be noted that it is unclear what the APC's stance on gay rights is, but generally speaking, their stances on human rights are more progressive than the People's Democratic Party (PDP), the party of President Jonathan. It remains to be seen how a progressive party, such as the APC, could allow their image to be represented through Mr Buhari during the coming election. Now, it is true that Mr Buhari could very well be a different leader now, than he was back then, with different political, social, and economic ideologies. But, does this mean that we let him off the hook for his past actions, which where horrible and draconian? My answer to that is a categorical NO!
So, come the next election, these are the two choices that Nigerians are stuck with: two leaders with ghastly track records, especially with respect to human rights protection. Mr Buhari can try all he wants to reinvent himself, but his past is as undetachable as his shadow, and it will come back to haunt him, come this next election. People will be made aware of the lengths he went to, in the past, to suppress and repress the voices of Nigerians, if for no other reason than, I will make sure of it.
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