I want to begin by thanking the Coalition for Change for inviting me to present this paper on the man, Buhari. The subject matter couldn’t have been more topical, considering the fact that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, has made the destruction of the Buhari persona the focus of its political campaign.
From President Goodluck Jonathan and his wife to the chairman of the party’s Board of Trustees; from the Director General of the PDP Presidential Campaign Organisation to its state governors, party officials, attack dogs and self-styled “attack lions”; from hack writers to pseudo-intellectuals, they all seem to have sworn to create a monster out of General Muhammadu Buhari.
As it were, there is an entire industry devoted to “Project Destroy Buhari”. The ruling party and those afraid of a potential Buhari presidency have voted tens of billions to the project. Just last week, it was revealed that a single media organisation was paid a whopping N10bn to produce and air negative documentaries about Buhari. What then, did they pay the hundreds of so-called “Buhari Experts” that emerged since Buhari became a threat to their power and privilege? As someone jokingly observed, the amount of money spent trying to discredit Buhari would have been enough to build a highway all the way from Abuja to Otuoke!
If Nigerians didn’t know better, they would have been deceived by the consistent message of hatred and fear being dished out on a daily basis against General Buhari. And as the elections get nearer, we expect to see even more desperate attempts to smear Buhari, cast fear in the minds of voters and use the fear factor to skew the elections in their favour. Luckily, Nigerians have seen through their tricks, smear campaigns and propaganda. The more they try to impugn and malign Buhari, the more popular he gets and the wider the crowd that flock out to attend his campaign rallies and support the cause of change he spearheads.
Now, when you throw all the mud you can at someone, but instead of stopping him, the person actually gets stronger and more popular, what do you do? Another party would change tactics and attempt to build on what it has achieved. But because the PDP has nothing tangible to show, it has made the presidential elections a referendum between Jonathan and Buhari.
To achieve their aim of stopping Buhari, the PDP tried to influence the outcome of the APC’s presidential primaries but failed woefully. They then hoped that the process of selecting a vice-presidential running mate would tear the APC apart. Again they were disappointed. That was when they came out with the fiction that the General did not have requisite qualifications. When their lies were exposed, they created an even bigger lie that Buhari was medically unfit to be president. Never in the history of electioneering in Nigeria has a ruling party become so fixated on one man.
So who is Buhari? What does he stand for? What drives his passion and commitment to Nigeria and how would a Buhari presidency halt Nigeria’s dangerous slide towards anarchy? I feel particularly qualified to answer these questions because I was a young man just starting my quantity surveying consulting business when GMB emerged as the Head of State of Nigeria in 1983. My consulting firm was a beneficiary of his work in the PTF in the 1990s. In 2006, I and another friend in Obasanjo’s government tried to get GMB to join the PDP so as to succeed Obasanjo but he declined.
At a point in 2010, I held the view that GMB should step down for a younger person to run for president but changed my mind based on reflection and pragmatic assessment of where Nigeria was heading. I therefore joined his party the CPC in order to do all I can to assist GMB become the president of Nigeria. I hope that like me, you will after this presentation, see what I saw clearly five years ago – that GMB is Nigeria’s version of Deng Xiaoping and Nelson Mandela combined – the change agent that will put Nigeria on the path of peace, reconciliation, fairness and justice, with rapid and inclusive economic and social development. These Mandela and Deng in their seventies, did for South Africa and China. I hold the strong view that today, and at this moment in our history, Buhari is the best person to take Note feria out of the grave the Jonathan government is trying hard to bury it!
I do not need to go into the academic and professional qualifications of Muhammadu Buhari. There is no need to harp on the various positions he has held in Nigeria, and the records he left in each position. All those are matters of public record. The most important commentary I can make about the General is the fact that 30 years after he left office, a majority of Nigerians agree with my position and are convinced that he remains the man to save Nigeria. Why do I believe that a septuagenarian is the best person to lead a country with about 70 percent of the population below the age of 40?
In addition to many other qualities, Buhari strongly believes in Nigeria’s youth. He has said that every time he meets and interacts with young Nigerians from every part of the country, he is struck by their vitality, confidence, intelligence, creativity and vision. Buhari recognises these as the ingredients needed to forge a great country. He is ready to provide visionary leadership which would channel the energies and resourcefulness of Nigeria’s young people into cohesive social and economic mechanisms to develop the country.
Buhari believes that with prudent management, Nigeria has the resources to meet the needs of all citizens. He will bring about a Nigeria where lives and property are safe, schools are world class, health services are available and affordable and where every Nigerian feels proud and wanted. Buhari’s government will be about jobs, jobs and more jobs for our youth. A Buhari administration will implement strategies to immediately engage as many unemployed Nigerians as possible in strategic schemes, while fashioning out long-term programmes to reduce unemployment in Nigeria.
Buhari does not believe that poverty alleviation and job creation should be about giving handouts to a few thousand people when Nigeria has nothing less than 40 million unemployed people. His vision is to stimulate all sectors of the economy to create entrepreneurs and real wealth for all Nigerians, not just a select few. The real Buhari believes that Nigeria has no business with poverty, unemployment and underdevelopment. That is why, under a Buhari-led government, our commonwealth will be used to develop our country for the benefit of all Nigerians.
However, I do not want you to take my words or even Buhari’s own words. It is said that to objectively measure a man’s character, it is important to assess what his former boss says about him, what his contemporaries say about him, what his subordinates say about him, and what ordinary people say about him. To that end, I shall present a few randomly selected quotations of what people who knew Buhari and worked with him have said.
Long before Buhari joined politics, his former boss, Gen Olusegun Obasanjo, wrote in his book, Not My Will that “General Muhammadu Buhari as a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC) and as Head of NNPC was by nature taciturn and introvert. But he took any work that was given to him very seriously. He is reliable as he is hard-working and honest . . . his path of moral probity and rectitude and he is incorruptible”
On the PDP-fueled controversy about the General’s certificate, contemporary in the Army and a former Chief of Army Staff and Chief of Defence Staff, General Alani Akinrinade (rtd.), said “If they are so embedded in the system and they have lost their souls, then they can go ahead and join everybody else in castigating a General of Buhari’s calibre. They are now talking about a school certificate. . . By the time he joined the army, in those days, there were no cutting corners . . . there were no corners to be cut. There was no such thing. Everything was on merit. And, that was how it was till Buhari’s time. Buhari attended the Mons (Officer Cadet School in Aldershot in England) and the (Indian) Staff College; I don’t want to think they have an idea what they teach in those places”.
A subordinate of Buhari, General Sam Momah (rtd.), a former member of the Armed Forces Provisional Ruling Council and Minister of Science and Technology, who once served as a Principal Staff Officer to Buhari, said, “I have worked under Buhari as his Principal Staff Officer when he was a GOC. We know him as incorruptible, we know him as being a man of Spartan life, one who is disciplined. We know him as a man of his words; his word is his bond, so he can be trusted”.
Gen Momah also said, He (Buhari) has been a patriot, he is an achiever, one that you give a task to, and he gets it done . . . we know that there is no doubt that General Buhari is vying to become the president of Nigeria virtually for only patriotic reasons. I was privileged to visit him in Daura when I went there to attend an event; I was amazed to find out that Buhari has only a bungalow in his village and nothing more. There were no luxury leather chairs but simple wooden chairs. He lives a Spartan life because he does not believe in tampering with money that is not his”.
A renowned Catholic Priest, Rev. Fr. Ejike Mbaka, said “I want good for my people and that’s why I want Nigerians to vote out Goodluck Jonathan and vote General Muhammad Buhari. I don’t care if Buhari is a Muslim and from the North; all I care about is that Buhari can save Nigeria.”
On a final note, I want to repeat what Ambassador Ignatius C. Olisemeka a former Minister of Foreign Affairs said about the APC presidential candidate: “Buhari represents, in my opinion, the last opportunity we have to get things reasonably right before the baton passes permanently on to the next and coming generation. After him, the generation of the ‘founding fathers’ would have faded away; with their legacies, left behind, hopefully for good. He should be given the chance to restore and consolidate the disappearing values of that ‘golden age’ so sadly disrupted by the military, to which paradoxically and tragically, he and those in that generation, and that before him, were willy-nilly pressed into being a part of”.
When Buhari said, “This generation of Nigerians, and indeed future generations, have no country other than Nigeria. We shall remain here and salvage it together”, we had no idea that 30 years after, we will still be talking about corruption, insecurity of lives and property, decaying infrastructure, dilapidated public institutions, crushing poverty and underdevelopment. The coming election gives us the chance to change Nigeria for the better.
Once again, I thank you very much for this opportunity to talk about the man, Buhari. I urge you and all Nigerians not to be deceived by PDP’s relentless propaganda to smear Buhari’s image and discredit him. The elections are not about Jonathan or even Buhari. It is about Nigeria. It is about the future of everyone here and that of our children. It is clear that in the six years of Jonathanian rule, the moral, social and economic foundations of the Nigerian nation have been targeted for destruction. We must end this paradox of a leader that is bent on destroying what others before him have tried to build.
It is within our power to do this – we must insist that elections take place on March 28 using the card reader for accreditation. Then by the next day, the nation will have a leadership committed to integrity, unity and inclusion. That leader is General Muhammadu Buhari. Join me in praying that our hope becomes a reality!
Thank you for your attention!