Home NEWS POLITICS Who Is Muhammadu Buhari, The President-Elect?

Who Is Muhammadu Buhari, The President-Elect?

Buhari M

Muhammadu Buhari who has just emerged as Nigeria’s President-elect, is a retired Major General in the Nigerian Army. He was Head of State of Nigeria from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985, after taking power in a military coup d’état. The term Buharism is ascribed to the Buhari military government.

He ran unsuccessfully for the office of President in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections. In December 2014, he emerged as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the March 2015 elections. Buhari won the 2015 general election, defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. Buhari is a native of Daura in Katsina State. He is of Fulani ethnic background.

Buhari has stated that he takes responsibility for whatever happened under his watch during his military rule, saying that he cannot change the past. He also describes himself as a “converted democrat.”

Marriage, family and personal life

Muhammadu Buhari was born on 17 December 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, to his father Adamu and his mother Zulaihat. He is the twenty-third child of his father. Buhari was raised by his mother, after his father died when he was about three or four.

In 1971, Buhari married his first wife, Safinatu (née Yusuf) Buhari (First lady of Nigeria, December 1983-August 1985). They had five children together, four girls and one boy. Their first daughter, Zulaihat (Zulai) is named after Buhari’s mother. Their other children are Fatima, Musa (deceased), Hadiza, and Safinatu.

In 1988, Buhari and his first wife Safinatu were divorced. In December 1989, Buhari married his second and current wife Aisha (née Halilu) Buhari. They also have five children together, a boy and four girls. They are Aisha, Halima, Yusuf, Zarah and Amina.

On 14 January 2006, Safinatu Buhari, the former first lady, died from complications of 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, two days after having a baby at a hospital in Kaduna.

Early career

Buhari joined the Nigerian Army in 1961, when he attended the Nigerian Military Training College (in February 1964, it was renamed the Nigerian Defence Academy) in Kaduna. From 1962 to 1963, he underwent officer cadets training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in England.

In January 1963, Buhari was commissioned as 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 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. 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 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.

From 1974 to 1975 Buhari was Acting Director of Transport and Supply at the Nigerian Army Corps of Supply and Transport Headquarters.

He was also Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters from 1978 to 1979 and was a member of the Supreme Military Council from 1978 to 1979.

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 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

Northern counter-coup of July 28, 1966

In July 1966 Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari was one of the participants in a coup led by Lt-Col Murtala Mohammed that overthrew and assassinated Nigeria’s first self-appointed military Head of State General Aguiyi Ironsi who assumed leadership of the Nigerian government after a failed coup attempt on January 15, 1966 which overthrew the elected parliamentary system of government of independent Nigeria (also known as first republic). Ironsi’s assumption of Nigeria’s leadership was technically another coup following the January 15, 1966 coup. Other participants in the July 28, 1966 coup included 2nd Lieutenant Sani Abacha, Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida , Major Theophilus Danjuma, Lieutenant Ibrahim Bako among others. The coup was a reaction to the January 15 coup where a group of mostly Igbo led by Major Chukwuma Nzeogwu overthrew the democratically elected government of Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. Many Northern soldiers were aggrieved by the murder of senior politicians, Prime Minister Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, northern regional premier, Ahmadu Bello, and four senior officers, Brigadier Zakariya Maimalari, Colonel Kur Mohammed, Lt-Cols Abogo Largema and James Pam. The counter-coup was very bloody leading to the murder of mostly Igbo officers. Among the casualties were the first military head of state General Aguiyi Ironsi and Lt Colonel Adekule Fajuyi, the military governor of the Western Region.

Governor of North Eastern State

In August 1975, after General Murtala Mohammed took power that year, he appointed Buhari as Governor of the North-Eastern State, to oversee social, economic and political improvements in the state.

In February 1976, the North Eastern state was divided by the Military Government into Bauchi, Borno and Gongola states. In August 1991, Yobe state was created from Borno state, while Gongola state was split into two states, Taraba and Adamawa. In October 1996, Gombe State was created from Bauchi State.

Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources

In March 1976, the 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. During his tenure as Commissioner, 2.8 billion Naira allegedly went missing from the accounts of the NNPC in Midlands Bank in the United Kingdom. Former President Ibrahim Babangida allegedly accused Buhari of being responsible for this fraud.

However, according to the Modalities for Coordinating Nigeria’s Anti-Corruption Strategies, Constructive Engagement Vol.1 No.1, (2009), in 1983, Shagari administration inaugurated the Crude Oil Sales Tribunal of Inquiry, headed by Justice Ayo Irikefe, to investigate allegations of N2.8 billion misappropriation from the NNPC account. The tribunal however found no truth in the allegations even though it noticed some lapses in the NNPC accounts.

Head of state (1983–85)

Economic policy

In order to reform the economy, as Head of State, Buhari started to rebuild the nation’s social-political and economic systems, along the realities of Nigeria’s austere economic conditions. The rebuilding included removing or cutting back the excesses in national expenditure, obliterating or removing completely corruption from the nation’s social ethics, shifting from mainly public sector employment to self-employment. Buhari also encouraged import substitution industrialisation based to a great extent on the use of local materials and he tightened importation.

However, Buhari’s bid to re-balance public finances by curbing imports led to many job losses and the closure of businesses.

Buhari broke ties with the International Monetary Fund, when the fund asked the government to devalue the naira by 60%. However, the reforms that Buhari instigated on his own were as or more rigorous as those required by the IMF.

Other economic measures by Buhari took the form of counter trade, currency change, price reduction of goods and services.

Foreign policy

Buhari’s military government continued largely with the foreign policy it inherited from Shehu Shagari. In January 1984, in his new year broadcast speech, Buhari stated that he would maintain and enhance diplomatic relations with all countries and international organisations such as the OAU, UN, OPEC, ECOWAS and the Commonwealth of Nations. He also stated that he would honor all treaty obligations entered into by previous governments, which he did.

Buhari’s foreign policy also focused on Africa, mostly Nigeria’s neighbors due to financial commitments.

1985 coup and detention

In August 1985, Major General Buhari was himself overthrown in a coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida and other members of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC). Babangida brought many of Buhari’s most vocal critics into his administration, including Fela Kuti’s brother Olikoye Ramsom-Kuty, a doctor who had led a strike against Buhari to protest declining health care services. Buhari was then detained in Benin City until 1988.

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Buhari’s admirers believe that he was overthrown by corrupt elements in his government who were afraid of being brought to justice as his policies were beginning to yield tangible dividends in terms of public discipline, curbing corruption, lowering inflation, enhancing workforce and improving productivity. Ibrahim Babangida justified his coup d’état by saying that Buhari failed to deal with the country’s economic problems and promised “to rejuvenate the economy ravaged by decades of government mismanagement and corruption.” However, Babangida’s military government also failed to deal with Nigeria’s economic problems and failed to rejuvenate the economy.

Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund

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.” However, the same report also noted that critics had questioned the PTF’s allocation of 20% of its resources to the military, which the critics feared would not be accountable for the revenue.

Political career (2003–)

In 2003, Buhari contested the presidential election as the candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP). He was defeated by the Peoples Democratic Party nominee, President Olusegun Obasanjo, by a margin of more than eleven million votes.

On 18 December 2006, Gen. Buhari was nominated as the consensus candidate of the All Nigeria People’s Party. His main challenger in the April 2007 polls was the ruling PDP candidate, Umaru Yar’adua, who hailed from the same home state of Katsina. In the election, Buhari officially took 18% of the vote against 70% for Yar’Adua, but Buhari rejected these results. After Yar’Adua took office, the ANPP agreed to join his government, but Buhari denounced this agreement.

In March 2010, Buhari left the ANPP for the Congrss for Progressives Change (CPC), a party that he had helped to found. He said that he had supported foundation of the CPC “as a solution to the debilitating, ethical and ideological conflicts in my former party the ANPP.”

Buhari was the CPC Presidential candidate in the 16 April 2011 general election, running against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu of Actioon Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and Ibrahim Shekarau of ANPP. They were the major contenders among 20 contestants. He was running on an anti-corruption platform and pledged to remove immunity protections from government officials. He also gave support to enforcement of Sharia law in Nigeria’s northern states, which had previously caused him political difficulties among Christian voters in the country’s south.

The elections were marred by widespread sectarian violence, which claimed the lives of 800 people across the country, as Buhari’s supporters attacked Christian settlements in the country’s center regions. The three day uprising was blamed in part on Buhari’s inflammatory comments. In spite of assurances from Human Rights Watch, who had judged the elections as “among the fairest in Nigeria’s history”, Buhari claimed that the poll was flawed and warned that “If what happened in 2011 should again happen in 2015, by the grace of God, the dog and the baboon would all be soaked in blood.”

However, he remains a “folk hero” to some for his vocal opposition to corruption. Buhari won 12,214,853 votes, coming in second to the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan of the PDP, who polled 22,495,187 votes and was declared the winner.

2015 Presidential election

In the run up to the 2015 Presidential elections, the campaign team of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan asked for the disqualification of General Buhari from the race, claiming that he is in breach of the Constitution. According to the fundamental document, in order to qualify for election to the office of the President, an individual must be “educated up to at least School certificate level or its equivalent”. Buhari has failed to submit any such evidence, claiming that he lost the original copies of his diplomas when his house was raided following his overthrow from power in 1985.

Buhari ran in the 2015 Presidential election as a candidate of the All Progressives Congress party. His platform was built around his image as a staunch anti-corruption fighter and his incorruptible and honest reputation. However, Buhari stated in an interview that he would not probe past corrupt leaders and that he would give officials who stole in the past amnesty, insofar as they repent.

In January 2015, the insurgent group “The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta” (MEND) endorsed Buhari in the Presidential race, saying he is the best candidate to lead the country.

Thanks to the help of Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian businessman and friend of APC leader Ahmed Tinubu, Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign was run by former Obama campaign manager David Axelrod and his AKPD consultancy. Gilbert Chagoury allegedly used his relationship with Bill Clinton to persuade Axelrod to take on the job of advising Buhari.

In February 2015, former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo quit the ruling PDP party and threw his support behind the Buhari/Osinbajo ticket.

On March 31, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari to offer his concession and congratulations for his election as president; he will assume office on 29 May 2015.

Security challenges

In 2012, Buhari’s name was included on a list published by Boko Haram of individuals it would trust to mediate between the group and the Federal Government.[72] However, Buhari strongly objected and declined to mediate between the government and Boko Haram. In 2013, Muhammadu Buhari made a series of statements, when he asked the Federal Government to stop the killing of Boko Haram members and blamed the rise of the terrorist group on the prevalence of Niger Delta militants in the South. Buhari stated[73] that “what is responsible for the security situation in the country is caused by the activities of Niger Delta militants […] The Niger Delta militants started it all.” He also questioned the special treatment including millions of money those militants received from the Federal Government and deplored the fact that Boko Haram members were killed and their houses destroyed. The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, emotionally reacted to the statements made by the retired general and called for his arrest.

In May 2014, in the wake of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, Buhari strongly denounced the Boko Haram insurgency. He “urged Nigerians to put aside religion, politics and all other divisions to crush the insurgency he said is fanned by mindless bigots masquerading as Muslims.”

In July 2014, Buhari escaped a bomb attack on his life by Boko Haram in Kaduna, 82 people were killed. In December 2014, Buhari pledged to enhance security in Nigeria if he wins the general elections on 14 February 2015, which were later rescheduled for 28 March 2015. Since this announcement, Buhari’s approval ratings reportedly have skyrocketed amongst the Nigerian people (largely due to the incumbent Goodluck Johnathan’s apparent inability to fight Boko Haram’s brutal insurgency). Buhari has now made internal security and wiping out the militant group one of the key pillars of his campaigning.

Freedom of religion

On 4 January 2015, Buhari stated that he favoured freedom of religion that every Nigerian should be free and secure to practice their different religions. Buhari said, “Religion must never be used as an excuse to divide us, oppress others or gain unfair advantage. All my life I have expressed the belief that all Nigerians must worship God according to their wish”.

Buhari has denied all allegations that he has a radical Islamist agenda. On 6 January 2015, Buhari said “Because they can’t attack our record, they accuse me falsely of ethnic jingoism; they accuse me falsely of religious fundamentalism. Because they cannot attack our record, they accuse us falsely of calling for election violence – when we have only insisted on peace. Even as Head of State, we never imposed Sha’riah.”

Awards

Major-General Buhari (Ret.) has received several awards and medals. In alphabetical order they include:

  • Congo Medal (CM)
  • Defense Service Medal (DSM)
  • Forces Service Star (FSS)
  • General Service Medal (GSM)
  • Global Seal of Integrity (GSOI)
  • Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR)
  • Loyal Service and Good Conduct Medal (LSGCM)
  • National Service Medal (NSM). [myad]

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