Wednesday, 26 August 2015
The Muhammadu Buhari Odyssey
Muhammadu Buhari’s most vivid childhood memory, which he still recalls hitherto was falling off a horse (a strawberry roan) on his way to the village well. He still recalls the fright he felt lying down between the feet of the enormous animal. He could see the horse’s big belly heaving and the five-stripes on its forelegs flashing before his eyes. At that instance, he thought to himself that the beast could kick or trample him to death. Still in pains, he hurriedly stood up, dusted his clothes, remounted the horse and continued his journey to the well
In Homer’s Greek poetic masterpiece, The Odyssey, the hero, Odysseus, was, by and large, depicted as a man of outstanding endurance, courage, wisdom, eloquence, loyalty, honour, magnanimity and skill. From his heroic feat during the Trojan War to his wandering travails, which lasted for 10 years as he struggled to return home after the Trojan War and reassert his place as rightful leader, Odysseus’ bravery and skill are represented throughout the epic.
Every so often, through the ages, providence points out a person with the conclusive resolve, features or personality traits of a great leader.
In the case of Muhammadu Buhari, his odyssey started from birth, continued through his career and did not end after his retirement.
The name Muhammadu Buhari means different things to different people. Some erroneously claim he is an Islamic fundamentalist, while others say he is an ethnic bigot. However, the vast majority of the Nigerian people regard him as one of the most incorruptible individuals in the country and the man that can pull the country back from the precipice of self-destruction to which it is heading. This pervasive impression is founded on the performance of the military administration he once headed almost a generation ago. During election times, his person and reputation are consistently targeted. In other words, he is viewed in some quarters as one who loves his religion, Islam, and is proud of his Hausa/Fulani ethnic identity. But that does not automatically mean that he has an aversion to other religions or ethnic groups. As is usual, when trying to get a better understanding of people, it is important to look back at their origins.
General Muhammadu Buhari was born on a Thursday, the 17th of December, 1942 at house No 14 Waziri road in Daura town, Katsina State, Northern Nigeria to a Fulani father and a Hausa mother. His mother was the daughter of Musa Sarkin Dogarai (Head of the Daura Infantry) who was also the son of the Kauran Daura Lawal (Head of the Daura Armed Forces) during the period of fierce battles between the Hausas and Fulanis for dominance in Daura in the early 1800’s. His maternal great grandfather, Mallam Adamu, was the son of a Kauran Kukawa, who was the head of the army during the fierce battles with the Rabe of the old Borno Empire. So it could be said that soldiering is in his blood. At the time of his birth, the world was still reeling from the horrors of the Second World War. On that day in December, 1942, the Allies issued the Joint Declaration by Members of the United Nations. This was the first time the Holocaust was publicly acknowledged.
Unlike many other Northerners who were born into aristocratic or royal families, and rose to prominence by riding on their family names and prestige, Buhari was born into a noble but humble family. Having lost his father, Ardo Adamu Buhari at the age of three or four, there were limited opportunities for the young Buhari as he was the 23rd child of his father and the 13th and last child of his mother, Zulaihat. His mother was a widow with seven children before she went on to marry his father.
Muhammadu Buhari lost his father early in his life at the age of four. All he could remember of his father was that he was tall and fair in complexion. Though his father was the Ardo of Dumurkol Village near Daura, the title didn’t have much bearing on his life, neither did it elevate his status in any way. At the time the only feasible alternative was to be a cattle herdsman. Muhammadu Buhari, not being one to cower in the face of adversity strove hard to excel in primary and secondary school.
During his childhood, Muhammadu Buhari was fondly nicknamed and called “Leko.” This was due to the fact that he was born after a set of twins that died. Leko was the Hausa nickname given to a child born after twins who died. He spent his early childhood days playing around the dusty lanes and tree-lined roads of the vibrant Daura Township. Muhammadu Buhari’s most vivid childhood memory, which he still recalls hitherto was falling off a horse (a strawberry roan) on his way to the village well. He still recalls the fright he felt lying down between the feet of the enormous animal. He could see the horse’s big belly heaving and the five-stripes on its forelegs flashing before his eyes. At that instance, he thought to himself that the beast could kick or trample him to death. Still in pains, he hurriedly stood up, dusted his clothes, remounted the horse and continued his journey to the well.
He commenced his primary education at Mai Adua Primary School in 1948-1952, where his senior brother Mal. Dauda Daura was the head teacher of the school. As a child Muhammadu Buhari was known to have a childhood disdain for going school and this resulted in naughty and mischievous behavior that often got him into trouble. Consequently, his break time was usually forfeited as punishment. According to his nephew, Mamman Daura, who is two and a half years older than Muhammadu Buhari and was also his senior in primary and secondary school, “Buhari was above average academically and more than usual naughty.” Similarly, Muhammadu Buhari himself also adds; “I was a truant in primary school. I spent a lot of my time playing around, but when I went to secondary school, I changed.” His classmates in primary school still fondly remember him as a fast runner and the centre-forward for the school’s football team. Another major attribute of his, which he was known for since primary school and which has stayed with him is that he is always very smartly dressed and neatly turned-out.
He later attended Katsina Middle School in 1953-1955, Katsina Provincial Secondary School (now Government College, Katsina) 1956-1961.
His uncompromising knack for sticking to his principles no matter what, go as far back as when he was in secondary school. A story was related of how the young Buhari became a lone ranger of sorts when he refused, on a matter of principle, to join in a strike of his classmates despite the fact that he was the youngest and the smallest in the class.
Some of his classmates recall some of his glowing attributes: Malam Mukhatri Zango, a former classmate of Muhammadu Buhari once stated, “He used to baffle me. He was strong-willed and principled. He always stood his ground and would not follow the crowd.”
Another childhood friend of his, who grew up with him in Katsina before they joined the Military and rose through the ranks together, and who was the Deputy head boy to Muhammadu Buhari, the late former Vice President, General Shehu Musa Yar’adua also opined that, “He was reserved. He was one of the few boys in the school that was trusted by his classmates and who was quite dependable.”
Some of his classmates at Katsina Provincial Secondary School included the former President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Umaru Abdullahi as well as the former Inspector General of Police from 1993 to 1999, serving under the military governments of Generals Sani Abacha and General Abdulsalam Abubakar, Ibrahim Comasie. Inspite of this evidence of fact, during the campaigns that preceded the 2015 elections, it was alleged that Muhammadu Buhari did not attend or finish secondary school.
General Muhammadu Buhari is one of the most decorated Generals in the Nigerian Army. He is the recipient of numerous awards such as the Defence Service Medal, National Service Medal, General Service Medal, Republic Medal, Loyal Service and Good Conduct Medal, Forces Medal, Independence Medal and Congo Crisis Medal.
‘Coming soon,’ a thoroughly gripping and intricate insight into the full journey of a fascinating patriot; born to lead a nation towards positive change, the services he rendered to his country in various capacities, the challenge that saw him rise above incarceration, suspicion, defamation, persecution, to show the strength of character to be the ‘change’ he desired for his country, the ideal upon which he built a movement that, once again, gave a people a reason to believe.
It is the odyssey that defines the calling of General Muhammadu Buhari, GCFR from military leader, to head of state, to military/political prisoner, as well as the long political struggle that saw him, against all odds, emerge as the 16th president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.