President Buhari and the cult of personality

President BuhariaAnything that involves talking about Nigeria’s current leader, President Muhammadu Buhari is often a landmine, populated by diametrically opposed views.

I suspect that reactions to this article will be similar.

A personality cult is built when an powerful individual uses media (social media, mass media) and other means to create an image of a hero, someone with almost divine power and with an ability to do almost the superhuman. Often a personality cults utilizes state resources in creating, promoting and maintaining this persona.

Personality cults often flourish in totalitarian regimes, especially where the regime is perceived to be “transformative” and with “good intentions”.

Nigeria, under the President Muhammadu Buhari is right under the grasp of a rapidly growing personality cult. This is very obvious and very very dangerous.

It is only a personality cult type leader that can be ascribed to be fixing refineries and power supply via “body language” a really superhuman feat.

It is only under a personality cult type leader that ONE person can claim to run a country for close to seven months and have no executive council to take national decisions.

However, for me, these acts are actually not the most worrisome. The most worrisome traits are those that ascribe to President Buhari and a close circle of cult follower, the role of judge, jury and executioner. This is extremely dangerous, especially in a young democracy like what we have in Nigeria.

In promoting his cult of personality, President Buhari declares those he considers corrupt, passes judgement and moves in for execution.

Declarations are made via mass and social media (even presidential twitter handles dish out information), judgement is passed via mob mass hysteria and certain government agencies (like the DSS) move in for “execution”. Note that the judicial arm of government is often brushed aside in these acts.

However, this is not the end of this cult of personality we are witnessing under President Buhari. We now have people ascribing to this government the right to TOTALLY bypass the judicial arm of government and try alleged corrupt people by tribunals. This is extremely dangerous.

I ask people that espouse this view, where will the tribunal members be selected from? Will they be totally altruistic? What have we learned from past tribunals under military dictatorship?

Maybe a few examples will suffice.

Under dictator Abacha, we had the failed banks tribunals, judging those that caused the collapse of banks under his regime. However, while these trials were going on, Abacha himself was stealing Nigeria blind!

Further back, during the first incarnation of President (rather dictator) Buhari, in 1983-85, we had tribunals judging those that were alleged to be corrupt under President Shehu Shagari’s government. Then vice president Alex Ekwueme ended up in jail, but President Shagari was under “house arrest”.

These two examples buttress my point that Nigeria can not afford a personality cult driven “anti corruption” war via tribunals or any such extra judicial means for the simple fact that those doing the judgement or trials are suspect themselves.

A democracy as young as our in Nigeria does not need a personality cult leader for president.

Nigeria needs a president that works hard in building the institutions of state. We need a president that does not undermine the judicial arm of government by serially and willfully disobeying court orders.

Nigeria can not afford a cult of personality where prime members of that cult are setting economic and/or government policies that are not within their mandate (like we witnessed with the CG of customs, Hamid Ali). This is not how to build a serious country.

In closing, for those that are not aware, President Buhari is human and is just ONE person. He will get some things right and miss some. President Buhari will come and go and the only thing that will outlast and outlive him will be the institutions of state that he helps to build.

Let President Buhari build institutions and not a personality cult.

God bless a fair and just Nigeria


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