The Man, Mohammadu Buhari

imageMuhammadu Buhari, Major-General and military Head of State between January 1985 and August 1985, will make history again today. More than 31 years after he was ousted from power by former military President Ibrahim Babangida, the Daura, Katsina State born-light skinned soldier is back in the saddle. He is the hero of the new dawn. Much has been given to him as the custodian of a popular mandate. Much will also be expected of him as he navigates the ship of state.
In 1984, he rode to power through the barrel of gun. On March 28, he bounced back through the ballot box. Then, he was a dictator who brooked no opposition. But now, he describes himself as a repentant democrat. However, his vision for a better society has remained constant. So is his disdain for corruption and other social vices. In 1984, he was 42. Now, he is 73. When he was young, he demonstrated an aversion for primitive accumulation. In the twilight of life, he more or less sees life as vanity.
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When he sacked legitimate authorities to assume the reins three decades ago, he rationalised his forceful seizure of power in a nation-wide broadcast. Buhari blamed the Shagari administration for leadership failure, ineptitude, and graft. The economy was on its knees. Hospitals, he said, had become mere consulting clinics. The nation was in a state of hopelessness. The ship of state was sinking. The dividends of democracy were scanty. There were cries of despondency, despair and loss of hope. Buhari was burning with patriotic anger.
Today, the situation is worse. The nation is battling with insecurity, decayed infrastructure, soaring unemployment, power outage and corruption have assumed high proportion. The last month of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) administration has been worse. The scarcity of Premium Motor Spirit has paralysed social and economic activities. The question on the lips of people is: how will Buhari restore order into a state of pandemonium?
Buhari’s foray into politics betrayed his training, tendency and exploits as a soldier. In retirement, he was comfortable. But, the national drift terminated that comfort. He had complained that Nigeria had suffered from poor governance under former President Olusegun Obasanjo. When he threw his hat into the ring, he mocked his antecedent as a combative soldier, who had earlier declined to put in motion any transition programme, thereby denying civilians who legitimately yearned for civil rule under his military administration.
Principled, strong willed, disciplined and focused, he has never looked back since 2003. When he was defeated by Obasanjo, he took his case to the court. In 2007, he also contested against former President Umaru Yar’Adua. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) led by Prof. Maurice Iwu, Buhari lost the election. But, the General protested. The late Yar’Adua acknowledged that the poll was severely flawed. The PDP dangled some carrots at the leaders of the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), who later labeled Buhari as a blind fighter. But, he was undaunted. When he was deserted by the big shots, he turned to the masses for support.
In 2011, Buhari had left the ANPP and formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). That year, he garnered over 11 million votes at the presidential election. But, he was still defeated by Dr. Goodlick Jonathan.
Ahead of the recent general elections, the General went back to the drawing board. He came out from his shell to embrace the indisputable fact that only a formidable opposition party can halt the 16 years of misrule by the PDP. Unlike in 2011, when Buhari rejected overtures for the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), he accepted to proposed mergers. The sacrifices made by the legacy parties-ACN, CPC, ANPP and a section of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) culminated into emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC). READ MORE
However, there were bumps on the way. When the parties agreed to merge, it was evident that they could not retrace their steps into the disbanded platforms, except the PDP. But, the first hurdle was the party registration. Many thought that the various caucuses in the proposed merger would find it difficult to agree on a name. They overcame the hurdle. Later, an amorphous group sprang up, challenging the APC. Its grouse was that the new party had adopted its acronym. The proposed association later went with the wind. APC survived.
Next was the Abuja convention for the election of pioneer party officers. The die was cast between two prominent politicians from Edo State-Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Chief Tom Ikimi. When Oyegun was elected, Ikimi left for the PDP. The fortune of the APC did not plummet.
Also, there was tension at the presidential primaries held at the Teslim Balogun Stadium, Lagos. Many thought that the contest involving Buhari, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Sam Nda-Isaiah and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar would mark the end of the party. The Convention Committee headed by former Ekiti State Governor Kayode Fayemi conducted a very transparent shadow poll. Buhari emerged as the flag bearer and other aspirants resolved to support his bid.
Then, the choice of a running mate. Without any categorical statement on zoning, the university don, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), former Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, emerged as the running mate without controversy. It was evident that Buhari and the APC were on course. READ MORE
When it was clear that nothing could stop the party, the PDP and its agents resorted to blackmail. Buhari was labeled a religious bigot, who will take Nigeria to the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). He was described as the defender of Islam who will be an obstacle to the growth of Christianity. But, the agents of destruction were silenced, following the disclosure that Buhari’s cook and driver of 20 years are Christians.
Simultaneously, Buhari was also described as an ethnic champion; Northern irredentist, who was insensitive to the legitimate aspirations of other ethnic groups. But, everywhere he campaigned, he came across as a true Nigerian who will be President of all Nigeria.
Ahead of the poll, PDP campaign strategists also called his certificate to question. The General, who had served as a Military Secretary, insisted that his certificate was with the military. Buhari, who served in the Army for 24 years was denied by the military. Former Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Alani Akinrinade said that the military lied. He said his own certificate was also kept with the Army. It took the patriotic intervention of the Principal of Government College, Katsina, before the matter was laid to rest. He obliged Nigerians with the photocopies of the General’s WASC certificate.
Later, PDP chieftains said that Buhari was not fit to rule on account of old age. They lied that he had health challenges, making him to travel out of the country to seek medical attention. In addition, there were also hate advertisements which provoked public uproar and condemnation. READ MORE
When reality dawned on the President Goodluck Jonathan and hi9s co-travelers that their days in power were numbered, they instigated the postponement of the election for six weeks. Despite these challenges, Buhari was waxing stronger on daily basis.
He towers above many in resilience and political luck, having weathered the storm four times to fulfill his destiny. Even, if he has not come back to rule, his place in history is assured. Indeed, Buhari has seen it all before as a civil war hero, military governor, federal commissioner, military secretary, military General Officer Commanding (GOC)commander and Head of State. But, necessity has compelled him in retirement to embark on a rescue mission. His victory at the historic presidential election underscored the power of courage.
But, the euphoria of victory must fizzle out in the face of the challenges that will confront the new President. Buhari will inherit many assets and liabilities. The components of the national burden include a disunited polity, an empty treasury, a huge foreign debt, an army of unemployed youths, dilapidated infrastructure, wobbling health system, and insecurity.
To many observers, Nigeria, nevertheless, may be on course. The reason is that, for the first time, Nigerians elected a leader who is perceived as an incorruptible leader. His integrity, credibility and disdain for corruption are legendary. The new President is also lucky. He will work hand in hand with a resilient deputy, a man of ideas, a silent worker, planner, organiser and result-oriented technocrat.
Buhari is not the first former military Head of State to return to power through the ballot box after disengagement from the Army. His former boss, Obasanjo, who handed over power voluntarily to the civilian regime in 1979, was elected President 20 years later. Other former military Heads of State-Gen. Yakubu Gowon and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida-also made futile efforts in the past. Even, the late maximum ruler, Gen. Sani Abacha, wanted to perpetuate himself in power. However, Buhari’s second coming is more significant. He is the first politician to defeat an incumbent in a critical election that had aroused domestic passion and the interest of the international community.
As the custodian of a popular mandate, much is expected of his administration. According to analysts, Nigerians may not be patient with him because they want a quick action.
Buhari was born on December 17, 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, to his father Adamu and his mother Zulaihat. He is the twenty-third child of his father. He was raised by his mother, after his father died when he was about four years old. In 1971, Buhari married his first wife, Safinatu (née Yusuf). The marriage was fruitful. The couple had five children; four girls and one boy. In December 1989, Buhari married his second wife, Aisha (née Halilu) Buhari. They also have five children, a boy and four girls
Buhari joined the Nigerian Army in 1961. He attended the Nigerian Military Training College in February 1964. The school was renamed the Nigerian Defence Academy, Kaduna. From 1962 to 1963, he attended officer cadets training at Mons Officer Cadet School, Aldershot, England. In January 1963, he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant and appointed Platoon Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion, Abeokuta. Between November 1963 and January 1964, Buhari attended the Platoon Commanders’ Course at the Nigerian Military College, Kaduna. In 1964, he attended the Mechanical Transport Officer’s Course at the Army Mechanical Transport School, Borden, United Kingdom. From 1965 to 1967, Buhari served as Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion. He was appointed a Brigade Major, Second Sector, First Infantry Division, April 1967 to July 1967. He was made Brigade Major of the Third Infantry Brigade, July 1967 to October 1968 and Brigade Major/Commandant, Thirty-first Infantry Brigade, 1970 to 1971.
Buhari served as the Assistant Adjutant-General, First Infantry Division Headquarters. That was between 1971 and 1972. He also attended the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India, in 1973. Between 1974 and 1975, he was Acting Director of Transport and Supply, Nigerian Army Corps of Supply and Transport Headquarters. Buhari was also Military Secretary, Army Headquarters, from 1978 to 1979. He was a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) from 1978 to 1979.
As a colonel between 1979 to 1980. Buhari attended the US Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States, and obtained a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies. He was the General Officer Commanding, 4th Infantry Division (August 1980 – January 1981), General Officer Commanding, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Division ( January 1981 – October 1981) and General Officer Commanding, 3rd Armed Division (October 1981 – December 1983)
In August 1975, after the late General Murtala Mohammed took over power from Gen. Yakubu Gowon, Buhari was appointed as the military governor of the Northeastern State. In March 1976, the Head of State, Gen. Obasanjo appointed him as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created in 1976, Buhari was also appointed as its Chairman. In 1983, when Chadian forces invaded Borno State, Buhari mobilised soldiers to chase the invaders out of the country. Shagari was infuriated. But, on second thought, he acknowledged that the General acted in the national interest.
On December 31, 1983, Buhari became the Head of State after toppling Shagari. His Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters was the late Major-General Tunde Idiagbon. Both shared the same vision. It was a perfect combination. Until August 1985, when he was toppled by the Chief of Army Staff, Babangida, Buhari ran an efficient administration. He was frugal. He also loathed corruption. He steadily paid the huge foreign debts. He launched the ‘War Against Indiscipline,’ whipping decadent Nigerians into line. He was a no-nonsense military ruler.
On the economic front, he blocked the loopholes. Buhari wanted to build a thriving economy along the conditions of austerity measures. He encouraged import substitution industrialisation, urging manufacturers to look inwards through the use of local materials. He reduced the penchant for importation. When the International Monetary Fund (IMF) asked the government to devalue the naira by 60 percent, the military leader objected. Instead, he embarked on fiscal discipline, creative financial engineering and prudent management of resources. His Finance Minister, Dr. Onaolapo Soleye, was always rendering accounts every month to Nigerians. It was the height of financial accountability. But, in other areas, there was no accountability. Buhari brooked no opposition.
Many have criticised Buhari for poor human rights record as a military Head of State. During the presidential campaigns, he took responsibility for his past actions, saying that the past cannot be changed. But, he assured that, now that he has become a ‘converted democrat’, he is ready to abode by the rule of law.
The image of the new democrat contrast sharply with the stern-looking soldier of early eighties in Dodan Barracks, Lagos. In those days, Buhari’s word was the law.In fact, observers have described him as the lord of manor. Asked by reporters when he will set up a transition programme, he frowned his face, saying: “May be, in 10 years’ time.” Under his Decree 2 and 4, citizens considered to be security risk, particularly vocal politicians and rights activists, were detained without charges. Popular demonstrations were banned. Two journalists-Nduka Irabor and Tunde Thompson-were even jailed. But, Thompson was among his campaign aides during the electioneering.
The hand of Buhari was heavy on perceived looters of the treasury. Past civilian leaders, including governors and ministers were tried and convicted for corruption by military tribunals. Many of them, including Adisa Akinloye, Emmanuel Osamor, and Umaru Dikko, fled the country. Traditional rulers were also whipped into line. For travelling to Israel without official clearance, the Ooni of Ife, Oba Okunade Sijuwade, and Emir of Kano, the late Alhaji Ado Bayero, were restricted in their palaces for six months. Drug pushers had no place to hide. They were tried and executed under retroactive laws. Illegal foreigners were also sent packing.
There were other excesses. In a controversial manner, the government wanted to bring the fleeing Transport Minister, the late Dr. Dikko, back home to answer corruption charges. Gradually, Nigerians who hailed Buhari’s ascension after ousting Shagari started to grumble. Buhari’s WAI programmes restored order, discipline and public decency. But, the administration was largely perceived to be highly dictatorial.
In August 1985, there was a palace coup. Buhari was overthrown by Babangida. The former Head of State was detained. In retirement, he maintained a dignified silence, until he was made the Chairman of the Committee on the proposed Katsina State University. Later, he served as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) under Abacha, who displaced the interim contraption headed by Chief Ernest Shonekan. His tenure was marked by success, despite the bad image of the government. The infrastructure battle was vigorously fought. Buhari ensured prudent management, transparency and accountability.
Throughout the campaigns, Buhari elevated issues over personality. He never played the ethnic card. He regarded the entire country as his primary constituency. Buhari shunned hate campaigns, refused to visit churches and mosques, unlike the President Goodluck Jonathan and his deputy, Vice President Nnamadi Sambo. Buhari exuded confidence, charisma, carriage, courage and maturity, even when he was provoked. On the podium, he cut the image of a father figure as he canvassed alternative ideas for good governance.
Three decades ago, he rode to power on military populism. The conditions that pave the way for his ascension in 1983 are similar to the current prevailing circumstances. In the eighties, Nigerians groan under an inept administration, making the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the leader of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) to warned Shagari that ship of state was about to hit the rock. Reminiscent of the Second Republic, Buhari has also warned in this Fourth Republic that the country was on the brink. It is an understatement. ‘The economy has been mismanaged. The currency has almost become a worthless paper. A culture of theft and graft has been enthroned. Almost a year after, the abducted Chibok girls are yet to be rescued. Roads are death traps. Hospitals have become mere consulting clinics. The nation lay prostrate.
As a young man, Buhari wanted to change the course of history. He wanted to also make name as a leader who sanitised society and established a decent rule. He was a man in a hurry to sanitise society. But, his colleagues conspired against him and aborted his dream.
Can he now achieve what he failed to achieve 31 years ago? READ MORE
In 1984, there was no parliament to moderate his actions. He was both the legislature and the executive. He ruled by decrees. But, he will now be tamed by the National Assembly and the judiciary. Unlike before, the media and other civil society groups will be active in playing the role watchdogs in democracy. The ruling party, on which back he rode to power, will make legitimate demands from him. In 1984/85, there was no room for dialogue. It is a different ball game in 2015.
Will Buhari adjust fully to the demands of democratic culture? Will he make use of the second chance by imprinting his name in the letters of gold? Will he resolve the national question? Will Buhari live up to expectation? Time will tell.

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