First, he ran on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, against the then President Olusegun Obasanjo. He also faced late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua in 2007 presidential election but lost. Later 2010, he formed the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. On that platform, he contested in 2011 but also lost to outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party, PDP.
By the middle of 2013, Buhari’s party, CPC, joined forces with three others to form the All Progressives Congress, APC. He contested on this new platform and won the March 28, 2015, presidential election.
Faced with similar daunting electoral challenge, the APC’s gubernatorial candidates of Taraba and Akwa Ibom in the last April 11 governorship polls, Mrs. Aisha Alhassan and Mr. Umana Umana within the week besieged Buhari’s house in Abuja, crying to him about the charade of an election they had in their respective states, informing him of their separate resolve to contest the outcome of the elections at the Election Petitions Tribunal.
But unknown to them, they provoked Buhari, reminding him of his own experience and the endless legal voyage that followed suit. And as expected, the now president-elect told his story, first to Alhassan on Wednesday and Umana on Thursday.
According to him, his journey from the tribunals down to the Supreme Court was an indication of his firm belief in the tenets of democracy.
Hear him: “It is a battle well fought and I am very pleased that you have taken the honourable way. According to the Nigerian constitution, you may go to court. I was there three times and ended up in the Supreme Court. Sometimes, people wonder why I tried so hard. I tried so hard because it is a system I believe in. I believe that multi party democratic system is the best form of governance with a big caveat that election must be free and fair.
“Really, this is why I am in it. I was in APP. I joined partisan politics in April 2002 and on that date, at my ward, I said that those who knew me, and myself, following my career and antecedents in the military, if I tell people that I will participate in partisan politics, people would not believe it and I will not also believe it. But I found myself in it and I never turned back.
“Within one year, APP gave me the ticket. There were governors, senators and much older people than me, but all the same, I got the ticket. I lost; I was in court for 30 months. In 2007, we tried to have a limited merger and became ANPP and again, I participated and was told I lost.
“I went to court for 20 months up to the Supreme Court and I felt that my party was not fair to me. While I was in court, the leadership of the party proceeded and took two marginal ministries in late Yar’Adua’s cabinet and an Adviser. For that disgraceful behavior by the party leadership, I left the party and we floated the CPC.
“Again, I attempted in 2011 and lost and again, I was in court for about eight months and I contested now for the fourth time on APC’s platform having successfully gone through with the merger of the three legacy parties.
“So, Aisha, don’t give up. You are younger and this is your first attempt. I contested three times and this is my fourth attempt. I hope that you succeed in the court. I am impressed by the quality of Taraba people you brought here.”
Were it not for the advent of the technology of card reader and the unprecedented expression of desire for change from the status quo by the Nigerian people, Buhari said that the election that made him the winner would have also followed the ways of the previous ones.
“I think that 2015 will go down in Nigeria’s political history as a glorious year. Nigerians have deliberately understood what is multi party democracy. But we thank God for technology – PVC and card reader.
If not this luck we had with technology and the insistence of constituencies to make sure they are used, in two geopolitical zones where they were subverted, the people wanted to vote, but they were not allowed to vote.
“They continued with what they used to do in their party offices or their sitting rooms, write the results, go to radio house and television house and announce the result and say whoever does not want the result should go to court.
“How many people can go to court when they are struggling to get the next day’s meal? Where will they get the millions to give to those Senior Advocates of Nigeria? I was able to do it because of the goodwill of Nigeria which again demonstrated itself this year.
“People agreed that I am not a very rich man, but I was lucky that Nigerians believed in me and they put their strength together, voted and made sure that their votes counted. I say thanks to the technology. Please continue to support those among you that you feel will go and work for your state and for the country. I assure you that the government of the APC, when eventually put in place will be a competent Nigerian government.
“We will never betray the people because they have risked everything. Some even lost their lives in this course to make sure that APC succeeded and that we have a leadership in place that they can trust is what multi party democracy is all about,” he said.
‘How I became a born-again democrat’
Buhari, a retired Major-General in the Nigerian Army also gave an insight on his conviction to become a true democrat.
“I will tell you what made me a multi party democrat. In 1991, after coming out of detention, I was sitting at home and the Soviet Union collapsed. They were the world power fighting the western world. They had more sophisticated weapons, but something happened.
“There was confusion and everybody went away. Today, there’re 18 countries in the former Soviet Union. That was when I believed that multi party democratic system is a superior form of governance and that is why I joined democracy”, he said.
I am in politics to fight corruption, insecurity and unemployment
Religious intolerance and tribal sentiments are not the worst enemies of Nigeria. The common enemy is corruption. And Buhari demonstrated this in the story of how Supreme Court Justices that presided over his case got sharply divided. He, perhaps, had thought that his Fulani brothers would have sided with him but no. It was others who showed courage and reasoning.
Now, for a man who has suffered from several electoral and judicial strokes with little or no financial muzzle to meet the expectations of SANs or their Lordships, reforming the electoral process, and fighting corruption should be his priority once he assumes office. And this is what Buhari promised the Akwa Ibom delegation on Thursday.
“Now the records are very clear. Anybody who wants to study the political development of Nigeria cannot do without getting the Supreme Court’s judgments of those years, 2003, 2007 and 2011. If you could recall in 2007, the Supreme Court was split into two. Six panel of justices were divided. Six justices led by Justice Oguntade, a Christian, a Yoruba man, Justice Aloma Mukthar, I think she’s a muslin but a Yoruba woman and another justice from Delta State said that election of 2007 was null and void because it was not conducted according to law.
“But the former Chief Justice, Mustapha, a Fulani Man from Jigawa and another Justice from Taraba, also a Fulani Man said well, the election was not flawless but all the same PDP has won and then the Chief Justice, a Muslim, cancelled the votes with them so it was four against three. So the point I want to make here is that the problem of Nigeria is not ethnic or religious. You know what it is.
“This is what we are fighting, that is why corruption is number three in my campaign. The first one is security, the north east, the delta areas where people are kidnapped and ransom is demanded which people cannot afford. The second one is unemployment, sixty percent of Nigerians are youths, most of them, whether they went to school or not are unemployed and that is dangerous.
“So we have to get the issue of the economy right to make sure the jobs are made available and we should try to kill corruption before corruption kills Nigeria. Let us practice what we preach as well. Whoever wins as a governor too has a lot of work to do because corruption is fast becoming a culture and to try to caution people is not an easy task but it must be done. I know you all represent various constituencies, please pass our message and give them hope that we’ll do our best in the interest of all. I wish sincerely those that are going to tribunal the best of luck.
“We have made a big stride this year and I assure you God willing, if we survive the next four years, Nigerians will be in a position to confidently raise their heads up and elect their own representatives and leaders.
“They will choose those they want as their representatives from local government, states and to the centre. I will fight for free, fair and credible election because that is why I remained in politics. I thank you very much for the sacrifices you have made to make sure we succeeded”, he said.