Vanguard awards

April 8, 2016

Muhammadu Buhari: Lessons of uncommon resilience

Muhammadu Buhari: Lessons of uncommon  resilience


By Clifford Ndujihe

WHEN Major General Muhammadu Buhari was announced as the winner of the 2015 presidential election, on March 31 and eventually sworn-in as president on May 29, 2015, it meant many things to different people. To the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, it meant loss of power after 16 years in the saddle. To then President Goodluck Jonathan, he became the first incumbent to lose re-election in Nigeria.

President Muhammadu Buhari

President Muhammadu Buhari

torchbearerFor the All Progressives Congress, APC, a party that was barely two years old then, it was a humongous victory because no party had attained that level of success within such a short time of birthing in the history of electioneering in Nigeria.

For Buhari, the main victor, it is reward for uncommon persistence and resilience. Indeed, many Nigerians especially the younger ones have learned a lesson or two from the outcome of the elections.

Buhari’s victory shows that it pays to be persistent and resilient. For 12 years, his eyes were on the ball and he remained determined and focussed until he reached the zenith. On three occasions and at younger ages, he aspired for the presidency and lost but he was not discouraged.

In 2003, Buhari contested the presidential election as the candidate of the All People’s Party, APP but lost to Chief Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP, who won a re-election by a margin of more than 11 million votes.

Undeterred, Buhari was on the starting block again in 2007, also flying the flag of the APP, which had become All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP having been nominated as the party’s consensus candidate. His main challenger in the April 2007 polls was his fellow Katsina State born-politician and the ruling PDP candidate, Umaru Yar’Adua. In the election, Buhari took 18 per cent of the votes as against 70 per cent for Yar’Adua.

After Yar’Adua took office, the ANPP agreed to join his government, but Buhari denounced this agreement and rejected the results.

In March 2010, Buhari left the ANPP for the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, a party that he had helped to found “as a solution to the debilitating, ethical and ideological conflicts in my former party the ANPP.”

Presidential  candidate

As expected, Buhari was the CPC presidential candidate in the April 16, 2011 general election, running against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP; Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN; and Ibrahim Shekarau of the ANPP, the major contenders among a crowd of 20 contestants.

Once again, he was trounced at the polls even though he made a huge impact garnering 12,214,853 votes, his best in the three attempts. His conqueror, Jonathan scored 22,495,187 votes. Buhari picked holes in the conduct of the election, which he argued was characterised by irregularities. In rejecting the result, he warned of dire consequences if the 2015 elections were rigged.

After the 2011 elections, there was no sign that Buhari was still interested in the presidency. However, he became the choice of major stakeholders and coalescing forces that merged to form the APC and he eventually won the APC’s presidential ticket. The stage was thus set for a re-match with President Jonathan in the 2015 Presidential election. In the keenly contested March 28 elections, Buhari scored over 15 million votes to Jonathan’s over 12 million votes to become the first opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent in an election in Nigeria. He also became the second man after Chief Olusegun Obasanjo to lead Nigeria as a military and later civilian head of state.

Early life,  career

Born on December 17, 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, Buhari’s circumstances of birth and early childhood prepared and toughened him for the big hurdles that laid ahead.

Sired by Adamu Buhari and his mother, Zulaihat, the President was the 23rd child of his father. Buhari was raised by his mother, after his father died when he was about four years old. He attended primary school in Daura and Mai’adua before proceeding to Katsina Model School in 1953, and to Katsina Provincial Secondary School (now Government College Katsina) from 1956 to 1961.

He joined the Nigerian Army by enrolling in the Nigerian Military Training College (NMTC) in 1961. In February 1964, the college was upgraded to an officer commissioning unit of the Nigerian Army and renamed the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA) (prior to 1964, the Nigerian government sent cadets who had completed their NMTC preliminary training to mostly Commonwealth military academies for officer cadet training). From 1962 to 1963, Buhari underwent officer cadet training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in England.

In January 1963, he was commissioned a second lieutenant, and appointed Platoon Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion in Abeokuta, Nigeria. From November 1963 to January 1964, Buhari attended the Platoon Commanders’ Course at the Nigerian Military Training 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 to 1967, Buhari served as Commander of the Second Infantry Battalion and 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 to 1971.

Buhari served as the Assistant Adjutant-General, First Infantry Division Headquarters, from 1971 to 1972. He also attended the Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India, in 1973, and from 1974 to 1975 Buhari was Acting Director of Transport and Supply at the Nigerian Army Corps of Supply and Transport Headquarters.

Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources

In March 1976, the Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo, appointed Buhari as the Federal Commissioner (which is now Minister) for Petroleum and Natural Resources. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation was created in 1977, Buhari was also appointed as its chairman, a position he held until 1978.

During Buhari’s tenure as the Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources, the government invested in pipelines and petroleum storage infrastructures. The government built about 21 petroleum storage depots all over the country from Lagos to Maidugiuri and from Calabar to Gusau; the administration constructed a pipeline network that connected Bonny terminal and the Port Harcourt refinery to the depots. Also, the administration signed the contract for the construction of a refinery in Kaduna and an oil pipeline that will connect the Escravos oil terminal to Warri Refinery and the proposed Kaduna refinery.

Construction  of a refinery

From 1978 to 1979, Buhari was also Military Secretary at Army Headquarters and was a member of the Supreme Military Council. From 1979 to 1980, at the rank of colonel, Buhari (class of 1980) attended the US Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the United States, and obtained a Masters Degree in Strategic Studies.

Among others, Buhari was also General Officer Commanding, 4th Infantry Division, August 1980 – January 1981; General Officer Commanding, 2nd Mechanised Infantry Division, January 1981 – October 1981; General Officer Commanding, 3rd Armoured Division, Nigerian Army, October 1981 – December 1983; and Head of State 1983-85.

Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund: Giving his no-nonsense anti-corruption status and ability to manage resources prudently and transparently, Buhari served as the Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), a body created by the government of General Sani Abacha, and funded from the revenue generated by the increase in price of petroleum products, to pursue developmental projects around the country. A 1998 report in New African praised the PTF under Buhari for its transparency, calling it a rare “success story.” The New African was apt. Buhari is indeed, a rare political success.