The barbarism of the Third Reich and the cataclysmic wars that Hitler unleashed in Europe in 1939 continue to influence global academic inquiry until this day. The horrors of its years continue to hunt the German national identity and its repercussions continue to reverberate beyond the borders of its traditional theaters.
So sporadic and dramatic were those years of German history that anyone who looks at them tend to ask the same question: How did a nation as culturally rich and intellectually progressive as a 20th century Germany depreciate so much as to elect (To those that know him) a nonentity like Hitler into Power: This is a man that showed right from an early stage of his political life that he is capable of lawlessness and whose unguarded hubris drove the German civilization to the brink of destruction.
Answering such a question had never bothered my head until i found myself struggling to explain the sociological factors that has shaped and likely to shape the strategic spasms of Presidential elections in Nigeria.
As demographically incomparable Germany is to Nigerian, the likely outcome of the Nigerian presidential election come February 2015 like every other of such exercise in the past shall depend heavily on uncontrolled social factors of the day: One that remind historians of the events that precipitated the emergence of Adolf Hitler as the German Chancellor in 1933.
This is not to say that the present presidential contestants in Nigeria exhume the characteristics of Hitler, emphasis is on the time sustained sociology of presidential elections in Nigeria: A phenomenon that has lived long in the list of Nigeria’s developmental woes and which seem to have garnered the label of a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Like in Germany in 1933, what dominate the discussion of periodic Presidential elections in Nigeria are the personality and regional affiliations of contestants and never the party ideology that tutored their loyalty in the first place. Nigerian party politics are not ideologically based. They are identity based: A choice that relies on the regional affiliations of a flag bearer to win elections and which as a result accommodates a great degree of political tension.
A tacit acknowledgement of this deficit and a psychological move away from it can be felt in the choice of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate General Muhammadu Buhari to accommodate an Igbo name in his Campaign tours: A strategy invented by the People Democratic Party (PDP) when President Goodluck Jonathan took on an Igbo name as a way of giving the Igbos a pseudo-traditional place in his administration. As much as these ethno-psychological tilts had paid off, one should never forget its long-term incentive to underdevelopment. Such political culture not hinged on a socially inclusive ideology has the capacity of electing a throwback like Hitler into power.
Like in Germany in 1933, the social factors that made it possible for a minority Party like Hitler’s NSDAP to be elected into power namely; the ascription of divine forces to the emergence of a leader, the perceived prescience of political accidents like the sudden death of Late President Umaru Musa Yaradua in the case of Nigeria and the political death of the Weimar Republic in the case of Germany all come together to simmer superstitions into politics. Thus the people can blindly accept that a leader is divinely chosen and might give in to violence in order to redeem the perceived infallibility of such a messianic mindset.
Like in Germany in 1933, owing to the length that poor governance and instability ate through the sanity of the system and which in turn ushered in a great degree of economic upheaval, the helpless electorates in Nigeria find it hard to confront the sheer irrationalism of their ethnic powered political choices. Here we see a pool of electorates interpreting leadership from the prism of their own personal experiences as against the empiricism of facts on ground.
The list of these sociological similarities goes on and on and as omnidirectional as their consequences were felt in Germany after 1945, one can easily trace the genesis of Hitler’s arrival to the economic slump that beset Germany prior to the advent of Nazism. It created a mixture of despair, anger at the outside world for the peace of Versailles and the fear of communism and in turn nurtured an Aryan triumphalist ideology in the majority of German people’s heart. It is only in such circumstance that a bad student of Power like Hitler could emerge as a leader.
In Nigeria such feelings imbue an unhealthy survival mentality, ethnic anger and the fear of domination. These social ailments find expression during presidential elections and had led to the inability of Nigerian electorates to usher in and sustain a quality change via their votes. It has always deprived Nigeria of the best brains in leadership and tilts her close to conflict in every election year. Some experts maintain that the 2015 election is a “Tinder Box awaiting a spark”. The validation of such a position depends on how much Nigerians can learn from other people’s history.
As put forward by Herman Goering in defense of Nazi irrationalism in 1933, “You cannot make an omelet without breaking eggs”. Used positively here, Nigerians cannot have a sound democracy without a sacrifice for the common good. There is a great need for an ideology: One that accommodates the common good of its ethnic diversity and presents a common vision to the world. There is a need to ally its ethno-diversified interests and create a compact cluster of national interests: One that can be sold to the world as a single dream and one that will grant Nigerians the peace that Germany enjoys today.
Nigerians should not go through what the Germans went through to learn the sociological lessons of its history.