What Buhari represents

By Yazid Ibrahim

July 23, 2014 will go down as one of the sad chapters in Nigeria’s history. On that day an assassination attempt was made on the life of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.), the leading political opposition figure in Nigeria, a distinguished war hero, a former military head of state and an elder-statesman – acknowledged to be one of the sane voices in Nigeria’s democratic march. General Buhari has left an indelible mark as an honest man of integrity who has dedicated the best part of his life towards building a Nigeria that is not just an economically stable nation, but a country where justice, fair play, equality of opportunities and discipline reign.
The assassins failed. Whosoever they may be – terrorists or the political opposition – their attempts to silence the voice of hope for the neglected Nigerian masses, have failed. This is a triumph of good over evil.

General Muhammadu Buhari was born on December 17, 1942 in Daura, Katsina state. After his primary schooling, he was enrolled into the then Provincial Secondary School, Katsina, where his honesty and uprightness made him the most suitable choice to become the Head Boy of the school. He joined the army in 1962 where he led a very distinguished career. Primarily, Buhari was one of the military officers who gallantly fought in the Nigerian civil war to keep the country together.

The January 1966 military coup, which ousted the first democratic government in Nigeria after colonial rule, ushered in a long period of military rule that was characterised by coups and counter-coups, including the unfortunate civil war that was gallantly fought to keep the country together. The resultant effect of the war was that the military had to hang on to power long enough to speed up the reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation processes that were needed to repair the damages inflicted by the war.
During this long spell of military rule, Buhari was called upon to render various services to the nation, in what could rightly be termed as beyond the call of duty. In 1975 the military staged a palace coup which deposed the then head of state, General Yakubu Gowon. He was accused of being too lax, a situation that could foster corruption and indiscipline. In addition, the military had hoped that Gowon would announce a timetable for the return of civil rule to Nigeria which he failed to do.

The coup brought General Murtala Muhammed to power and he immediately embarked on a rapid reformation process. Senior military officers like General Buhari were therefore selected to spearhead this reformation process. Firstly, he was to serve as the Military Governor of the then North-eastern state. This is the territory that comprises the present-day Adamawa, Borno and Yobe states. This is the area that is currently facing unsettling insurgency problems.
After his stint as military governor, General Buhari became Nigeria’s oil minister in 1976 and subsequently chairman of the newly created Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC). This was a period that was marked by a high sense of transparency in the oil sector of the economy. No doubt, this was made possible by the personal integrity of the man in charge – General Buhari. Every kobo of the income accruing to the nation through oil revenue was not only accounted for, but was also judiciously expended to provide goods and services to Nigerians. This rapid reformation process was unsettling to a group of renegade military officers. Even though they succeeded in assassinating General Muhammed they failed to unseat the government.

The military government under General Olusegun Obasanjo proceeded to hand over power to a civilian administration under President Shehu Shagari. The military returned to the barracks and Buhari was appointed General Officer Commanding the 3rd Division of the Nigerian army. When the Shagari government faltered, the military struck again and Buhari was the choice of the military to lead the new military regime. This was inevitable. Buhari was the most credible senior military officer at the time – incorruptible, highly disciplined and imbued with an unmatched sense of responsibility.

As military head of state, General Buhari quickly embarked on programmes to cleanse the public sector of corrupt officials and restore discipline to the Nigerian society. Like the regime of General Murtala, a group of military officers felt he was too tough and deposed him in a palace coup. This was perhaps the greatest disservice to the nation because shortly after the country was to fall back to the old ways as a nation that was fraught with corruption, indiscipline and disregard for purposeful progress. Nigeria is yet to recover from these ill many years after. After his overthrow, he decided to go back to Daura. Being a Fulani man he went into mixed farming.
When General Sani Abacha became Nigeria’s military head of state in 1993, he realised that under the highly corrupt and undisciplined scenario he met, there was no way he could bring meaningful progress to the nation. He, therefore, set up a Petroleum Trust Fund where incomes accruing from petroleum resources could be used to put in place meaningful infrastructures that would provide goods and services to the Nigerian populace. The likely choice of who to head this Fund fell on the shoulders of Buhari. Here, again, he acquitted himself with distinction and quit as soon as the military handed over power to another civilian administration in 1999.

A few years into the democratic governance, with former military ruler, Obasanjo, as the new civilian president, it dawned on many Nigerians that all was not well with the new democracy. Things were sliding badly with disastrous consequences to the nation. Corruption, graft, nepotism and a total disregard for the rule of law were threatening the nation. Social services such as the provision of education, security, water supply, electricity and much more were becoming endemic. To make matters worse, sectionalism, ethnicity and religious intolerance were becoming commonplace. There were serious cries of marginalisation and some sections of the country were threatening to break away.
It was under these difficult circumstances that well-meaning Nigerians prevailed on Buhari to join politics and contest for the presidency. They had absolute confidence that with him on the saddle, he would be able to reverse this dangerous trend. He bowed to pressure and joined the opposition and became its flag bearer in the 2003 general elections. The elections took place and many believe he lost the race because the ruling party massively rigged the election using the enormous resources in their power. Agencies of state such as police and the military were used to deny the opposition the chance to rule the country. Two other subsequent elections in 2007 and 2011 were similarly conducted.

Today, not only is the nation facing decline in infrastructure and social services, insurgency has taken centre stage. Thousands have been killed or injured by the notorious Boko Haram in the north-east.  Suicide bombing raids are being carried out almost on a daily basis in many major cities, including the capital, Abuja. In the south, illegal oil bunkering, kidnap of foreign nationals and piracy on the high seas have also become rampant. No one feels safe anymore in any part of the country. More than at any time, there is a yearning for change, even among members of the ruling party – a situation that has led to major defections of prominent politicians of the ruling PDP to the opposition. To all intents and purposes, the ruling PDP is now dead.
A new mega party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has been formed, with General Buhari as the leading choice to lead it to victory. Buhari is well read and well informed. His discussions at local and international meetings display his patriotism and nationalistic credentials. He is not loud, boisterous, boastful and irritating but a special man with impressive demure. He is soft spoken. Buhari is a courteous man with friendly countenance, warmth and a face with fair sense of humour. His mien also portrays him as a man you could trust and rely on. He is not a man you would associate with or accuse of being economical with the truth and facts, in speech or in action but a man who is quite generous in his candour, warmth and inner peace.

There is growing confidence across the land that with Buhari on the saddle, Nigeria will be restored to normalcy. The attempt to assassinate him was meant to truncate that. People are now waiting for the programme of action or blueprint of the APC to salvage Nigeria from decline. So, Nigerians here is your man. Give him your mandate so that he can have the opportunity to wield the necessary power and harness our resources and energies to confront and tackle the massive problems that are facing this country today. He has the will. What is lacking is the political power. Nigerians, here is a candidate that you have been looking for.

Alhaji Yazid Ibrahim is the Chairman, Katsina state APC Stakeholders Forum. E-mail: [email protected]