General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is an enigma viewed in different lights by many. To some he’s a Muslim fundamentalist, while others see a disciplined, honest and modest family man. His reputation is under attack by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) which is facing the first truly competitive electoral contest since the outset of the Fourth Republic. In this piece, YUSUF ALLI and TONY AKOWE tell the story of the soldier turned politician, stripped of myths and caricatures.
But for providence, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (born 17 December, 1942) would have been unheard of. From birth, the odds were not in his favour but he withstood all hurdles to survive and shine in life.
He was born on a Thursday – an anonymous day in the week reflecting his equally unprepossessing roots. About him Abiyamo.com reports: “Unlike many other Northerners who were born into aristocratic backgrounds and climbed up using the prestige of their families and the influence of their fathers, Buhari was born into a humble family, what we call pako in my area…His mum had given birth to a set of twins before Buhari but they both died shortly after birth. That explains one of his nicknames, ‘Leko’ which means ‘someone born after twins who died’, something like Idowu in Yoruba land.”
He was a product of a Fulani father and a Hausa (Habe) mother, Hajiya Zulaihat (nee Musa) who was the daughter of Sarki Dogarai (head of infantry) of Daura military forces. So, Buhari inherited soldiering from his maternal side because his maternal grandfather, Kauran Daura Lawal was the head of Daura’s military forces.
Having lost his father, Hardo Adamu Buhari, at three going on four years, there were limited opportunities for the young Buhari because he was 23rd among his father’s children, but the 13th and the last child of his mother, Zulaihat. Though his father was the Ardo of Dumukorl Village near Daura, the chiefdom added no aristocratic value to his life. The only feasible alternative was to be a cattle herdsman as a Fulani man. Not being the type who easily succumbs to fate, Buhari strove hard to excel in primary and secondary schools as well as at the military cadet institutions he attended.
Although he had contested elections in 2003, 2007, and 2011, the general’s educational attainments have become an issue this time around after he filed an affidavit stating that his credentials were with Nigerian Army authorities. The PDP has sought to make capital out of this. Rather than ask under what circumstances (war, coup , detention, military ethics etc) Buhari’s credentials had been in the custody of the Nigerian Army, political expediency has kept the issue alive – although the PDP failed to take advantage of the one week period of claims and objections to challenge Buhari’s eligibility.
Beyond the political shenanigans, there are two issues to be determined: Did Buhari go to school? Does he have certificate? His profile suggests an affirmative answer. He attended the Central Primary School in Daura and Kankia Primary School (where he completed lower education in 1956) before proceeding to the Provincial Secondary School in Katsina in 1956 after which he enrolled at the Nigerian Military College (now Nigerian Defence Academy) in 1962.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in its latest publication of the list of presidential candidates for February’s polls ascribed West African School Certificate (WASC) to Buhari as his qualification. Possibly, INEC is in possession of what most people don’t have.
Investigations, however, indicate that Buhari earned a Diploma (equivalent of a Master’s Degree) in 1980 from the United States Army War College (USAWC). Responding to enquiries from a Nigerian, Sunday Iwalaiye, on Buhari’s status as a graduate of the college, Carrol Kerr of the Public Affairs Office of USAWC said: “Nigerian Col. Muhammadu Buhari is a graduate of the US Army War College Class of 1980 and earned a US Army War College Diploma. Note: The Army War College first awarded master’s degree to the class of 2000?.
According to a book by the Federal Ministry of Information, “Muhammadu Buhari: Nigeria’s Seventh Head of State,” Buhari went to Provincial Secondary School (now Government College, Katsina) in Katsina. Some of his classmates in secondary school were a former Chief of Staff Supreme Military Council, Maj-Gen. Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Alhaji Fathu Abdullahi. It was at the Provincial Secondary School that Buhari started demonstrating his leadership qualities because he emerged as a Class Monitor in Form 2. The book claimed that he later became a school prefect, a house captain and head boy of his set.
Wikipedia give insights into Buhari’s sojourn in the military as well as the long chain of elite schools he attended. It says: “Buhari joined the Nigerian Army in 1962, when he attended the Nigerian Military Training College (in February 1964, it was renamed the Nigerian Defence Academy, (NDA) in Kaduna.
“From 1962-1963, he underwent Officer Cadets training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in England (Mons OCS was officially closed down in 1972).
“In January 1963, Buhari was commissioned as Second Lieutenant, and appointed Platoon Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion in Abeokuta, Nigeria. From November 1963- January 1964, Buhari attended the Platoon Commanders’ Course at the Nigerian Military College, Kaduna. In 1964, he facilitated his military training by attending the Mechanical Transport Officer’s Course at the Army Mechanical Transport School in Borden, United Kingdom.
“From 1965-1967, Buhari served as Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion. He was appointed Brigade Major, Second Sector, First Infantry Division, April 1967 to July 1967.
“Buhari was made Brigade Major of the Third Infantry Brigade, July 1967 to October 1968 and Brigade Major/Commandant, Thirty-first Infantry Brigade, 1970-1971.
“Buhari served as the Assistant Adjutant-General, First Infantry Division Headquarters, 1971-1972. He also attended the Defense Services Staff College, Wellington, India, in 1973. From 1974-1975 Buhari was appointed Acting Director, Transport and Supply, Nigerian Army Corps of Supply and Transport Headquarters.
“He was also made Military Secretary, Army Headquarters,1978-1979, and was a member of the Supreme Military Council, 1978-1979.
“From 1979 -1980, at the rank of Colonel, Buhari (class of 1980) attended the US Army War College (established in 1901) in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, United States of America and gained a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies. Upon completion of the on-campus full-time resident program lasting ten months and the two-year-long, distance learning program, the United States Army War College (USAWC) college awards its graduate officers a master’s degree in Strategic Studies.
“Other roles include: General Officer Commanding, 4th Infantry Division, Aug. 1980 – Jan. 1981; General Officer Commanding, 2nd Mechanized Infantry Division, Jan. 1981 – October 1981. General Officer Commanding, 3rd Armed Division Nigerian Army, October 1981 – December 1983
In August 1975, after General Murtala Mohammed took power, he appointed Buhari as Governor of the North-Eastern State, to oversee social, economic and political improvements in the state.
“In March 1976, the then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo appointed Buhari as the Federal Commissioner (position now called Minister) for Petroleum and Natural Resources. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created in 1976, Buhari was also appointed as its Chairman, a position he held until 1978.
HeMajor-General Buhari was selected as Head of State to lead the country by middle and high-ranking military officers after a successful military coup d’etat that overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari on 31 December 1983.
LIFE AS A FAMILY MAN
An addict of the Spartan life, Buhari resisted cultural pressure in the North for early marriage. He was also determined to see to the end of the 1967-1970 Civil War to keep the nation united before taking marital vows. His first wife was betrothed at 14 but he waited till she was 18 years to tie the nuptial knot. But at 29 years in 1971, he succumbed to the irresistible beauty of ex-First Lady Safinatu (née Yusuf) by going to the altar with her.
Wikipedia reports: “They had five children together, four girls and one boy. Their first daughter, was Zulaihat (Zulai) named after Buhari’s mother. The other children are Fatima, Musa (deceased), Hadiza, and Safinatu named after her mother, Buhari’s first wife. In 1988, Buhari and his first wife Safinatu got divorced. In December 1989, he got married to his second and current wife Aisha (née Halilu). They also have five children together – one boy and four girls. They are Aisha, Halima, Yusuf, Zahra and Amina.
On 14 January 2006, Safinatu Buhari, the former first lady of Nigeria and Buhari’s first wife, died from complications with diabetes. She was buried at Unguwar Rimi cemetery in accordance with Islamic rites. In November 2012, Buhari’s first daughter, Zulaihat (née Buhari) Junaid died from sickle cell anaemia, after having a baby two days earlier at a hospital in Kaduna.
HIS UNIQUE QUALITIES
Buhari has a huge cult following because he is firm, a nationalist, trustworthy, honest, hardworking, dependable and broadminded. Half of his cabinet as a military Head of State was made of Christians with portfolios assigned on merit and competence. He lives a modest life and is always decisive in dealing with any situation even if it involves his closest friend.
Abiyamo.com quoted a former Protocol Officer and Interpreter at the State House, Dodan Barrack, Mr. Femi Segun – now deceased – as saying that there was a time ex-Military President Ibrahim Babangida was almost retired by Buhari-Idiagbon regime over an issue. In spite of the fact that he was the Chief of Army Staff under Buhari’s regime, IBB was asked to leave a meeting where his fate was to be decided. He said: “IBB was asked to step out of the meeting which was going on because they wanted to discuss him. For about three hours, IBB , as the then Chief of Army Staff was just walking up and down outside without shoes and cap thinking seriously. We didn’t know what was going on but it was clear that he was asked to step out of the meeting. A few days later, he staged a coup.
“However, it must be said that Buhari was not blindly punitive. When 250 politicians from all over the country were declared by investigators not have any case to answer, he ordered all of them released. These included Adamu Ciroma, the late Ikemba of Nnewi, Dim Odumegwu Ojukwu, Audu Innocent Ogbeh, Alhaji Aliyu Maitama Yusuf, Dr. Bode Olowoporoku, Mrs. Mobolaji Osomo, Chief Michael Koleoso.”
One of the classmates of Buhari, Malam Mukhtari Zango, was quoted in the Federal Ministry of Information’s book as follows: “He used to baffle me. He was so strong-willed and principled. He always stood his ground and did not follow the crowd.”
A former Public Affairs Manager with the NLNG, Ilyasu Gadu, who was one of the co-writers of the book on Buhari, said: “Everyone we interviewed spoke glowingly about high-level of discipline, commitment to efficiency, selflessness and incorruptibility of Buhari. Yet little was known about these qualities. This was why the Publication Department of the Federal Ministry of Information through Mrs. Roseline Odeh came up with a proposal to unveil Buhari’s real person. I took the proposal to the then Chief Press Secretary to Gen. Buhari, Alhaji Wada Maida, who was also a former Managing Director of the News Agency of Nigeria.”
HIS CONSISTENT VISION
Like the late sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and social critic, Tai Solarin who devoted their time to preach the gospel of quality education for all, Buhari has been a consistent advocate of anti-corruption war. He still does not mince words on this. When he assumed office in 1984 as a military Head of State, he said: “While corruption and indiscipline have been associated with our state of underdevelopment, these two evils in our body politic have attained unprecedented height in the past few years. The corrupt, inept and insensitive leadership in the last four years has been the source of immorality and impropriety in our society. Since what happens in any society is largely a reflection of the leadership of that society, we deplore corruption in all its facets. This government will not tolerate kick-backs, inflation of contracts and over-invoicing of imports etc. Nor will it condone forgery, fraud, embezzlement, misuse and abuse of office and illegal dealings in foreign exchange and smuggling.”
Despite the fact that he left power about 30 years ago, Buhari’s perception of the solutions to the nation’s problems has not changed.
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