by JAMES DANJUMA
In 11 days’ time, precisely May 29, Nigeria’s Fourth Republic would be ushering in its fourth President, 72-year-old retired General Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari’s journey to becoming the President-elect is a story on resilience: having ran unsuccessfully for the same office on three different occassions in 2003, 2007 and 2011 on different political platforms.
He threw in the towel after the third attempt, but was persuaded to come back and contest on platform of the opposition All Progressives Congress, APC. And this time around, his resilience paid off and he went into the history books as the first person to defeat an incumbent President in President Goodluck Jonathan, and on an opposition platform.
In a rare feat seldom found in many African countries, President Jonathan conceded defeat, and promised to handover to Buhari peacefully.
Born on December 17, 1942 in the ancient city of Daura, Katsina State, Buhari was the 23rd child of his father, but was raised by his mother after his father’s demise.
The young Buhari had his primary education in Daura and Mai’adua council areas between 1948 and 1952, before proceeding to the Katsina Middle School in 1953. He attended the Katsina Provincial Secondary School, now Government College Katsina, between 1956 and 1961, and thereafter proceeded to the Nigeria Military Training School, NMTS, Kaduna, in 1962.
He underwent officers’ cadets training at the Mons Officers Cadet School, Aldershot, England, and was commissioned as Second Lieutenant in 1963.
He was Platoon Commander of the 2nd Infantry Battalion, Abeokuta, from 1963 to 1964, and in 1975, he served as governor of the then North-Eastern State during the late General Murtala Mohammed military administration.
He was Federal Commissioner for Petroleum Resources between 1976 and 1978, chairman, Nigerian National petroleum Corporation, NNPC in 1978.
After a military coup in December 31, 1983, Buhari became the Head of State, and ruled till August 27, 1985, with Tunde Idiagbon as Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters.
It was during his stint as head of State that Nigerians witnessed what came to be referred to as Buharisim, a period remembered for strict campaign against corruption and indiscipline, and human rights abuses.
During the period, Buhari’s War Against Indiscipline, WAI, forced Nigerians to queue in public places like bus stops, while civil servants were made to do frog jumps for coming late to work.
Hundreds of politicians were handed very long jail terms for corruption-related offences, while several decrees, percieved to be draconian in nature, were made to check crime and related vices.
In 1984, he passed the infamous Decree Number 4, Protection Against False Accusations Decree, which scholars and analysts consider the most repressive press law ever enacted in the country.
But Buhari was overthrown in a counter coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida and other members of the ruling Supreme Military Council in 1985.
Many of his critics, including Fela Kuti’s brother, Olikoye Ramsome-Kuti were brought into Babangida’s administration, while Buhari was detained until 1988 in Benin City.
Between 1995 and 1999, he was chairman of Petroleum Trust Fund, PTF, set up by the late General Sani Abacha, to effect developmental projects across the country.
Despite his ‘authoritarian’ side however, Buhari was seen to have also had a favourable side during his years in public service.
One such was driving Chadian forces out of Nigeria when they invaded through Borno State in 1983, as well as his transparency and efficiency as PTF chairman under Abacha administration in 1995.
He is also known as a man who commands respect and much followership, especially in the northern part of the country, which may be due to his anti corruption and indiscipline campaign as military ruler.
In 2012, Buhari’s name was included among those published by the Boko Haram sect as among individuals it would trust to mediate between it and government. He however strongly objected and declined the mediating assignment.
Two years ago, he blamed rise of the terrorist group to the insecurity brought about by the Niger-Delta militants, and called on the Federal Government to stop the killing of Boko Haram members. But last year, following the kidnap of the Chibok school girls, Buhari made another statement in which he strongly denounced the Boko Haram insurgency, and called on Nigerians to put aside religious, political and other related divisions to crush the “insurgency that is fanned by mindless bigots masquerading as Muslims.”
In July last year, Buhari narrowly escaped a suicide bomb attack on his life by the Boko Haram group in Mando, Kaduna State. The vehicle he was in at time of attack was among a convoy that was traveling to his Daura hometown.
Alleged as someone out to champion Sharia Islamic law at the expense of other faiths in the country, the President-elect has on more than one occasion, denied such allegation.
In early January this year, he had stated in reports that he favoured freedom of religion and that every Nigerian should be free and secure to practice his or her religion.
As a family man, Buhari is married to Aisha, whom he wedded in December 1989, and they are blessed with children.
He had however been married to the late Safinatu in 1971 but had separated from her in 1988.
She died in 2006 after a brief illness. She was the country’s First Lady during his military administration, and the marriage had also been blessed with children.
He also lost his is first daughter Zulaihat Junaid in November 2012; she died from sickle cell anemia two days after having a baby at a hospital in Kaduna State.
During his campaigns, Buhari had promised to tackle some of the socio-economic challenges facing the country, including insecurity which was exacerbated by the Boko Haram group, corruption, and power.
He hopes to transform the NNPC into a commercial entity, and make information technology, manufacturing and entertainment the country’s major economic drivers.
Last year, the president-elect said he would abolish the office of the First Lady if he’s elected president, citing the unconstitutionality of the office as reason.
Not a few Nigerians, who are in support of scraping the office, know that Buhari would stick to his words when he assumes office in a few days’ times.
His public service years had earned him several national awards, including the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic, GCFR; Commander of the Federal Republic, CFR, and Defense Service Medal, DSM.
Other medals received are the National Service Medal, NSM, General Service Medal, GSM, Loyal Service and Good Conduct Medal, LSGCM, and Force Service Staff, FSS.
With Buhari as Nigeria’s next leader, there are speculations that his home state, Katsina, would begin to enjoy a lot of traffic and attention from both within and outside the country.
Observers say the state, and by extension, Daura, where Buhari hails from, would be focus of attention for tourists and others, especially members of the business community, media, among others.
Late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was elected into office in 2007, also hailed from the state and during his early days as President, he frequented the state on almost weekly basis, and whenever he was around state government activities always peaked. Late Yar’Adua often held series of meetings with politicians and members of the business community, while those seeking one favour or the other never tired storming the state.
The state’s roads and international airport witnessed much traffic as the state became a Mecca of sorts, with people wanting to come into the president’s state for either business or pleasure.
One major event that had the late president in attendance was the commissioning of the Umaru Musa Yar’adua University.
The mammoth crowd that flew or drove into the state included religious leaders, government officials, politicians, foreigners and members of the business community.
It is expected that with Buhari as President, such human traffic would be witnessed on a similar, if not larger scale it the state.
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