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Early life and career of Nigeria’s president elect, Muhammadu Buhari

 ■ Nigeria’s president elect’s life, education, career, and vintage pictures

Buhari 1975

Well, not exactly the untold story of former military head of state and presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC). It is more like Muhammadu Buhari’s ‘unknown’ story, as not many Nigerians are familiar with the book written by Rosaline Odeh, the then Head of Research and Documentation Section, Federal Department of Information, in May 1984.

The book, Muhammadu Buhari: Nigeria’s Seventh Head of State, was published by the Federal Department of Information, Domestic Publicity Division, Ikoyi Road, Lagos. It is in seven chapters of 95 pages, and details the early life, educational qualifications, career, and thoughts of the then head of state.

Chapter 1 is on parentage and background of the Daura, Katsina State-born retired military officer and politician. He was the 13th and last child of his mother, and also the last of his father’s 23 children.

Gen. Buhari’s father was Hardo Adamu, a Fulani chief of Dumukorl, a village near Daura. He, however, died when the young Muhammadu was just four years old. All he can remember of him is that “he was tall and fair in complexion.” The young boy ended being brought up by his mother, Hajia Zulaihalu Musa, who had great influence on him.

Chapter 2 is on Buhari’s childhood and early education. This is the portion that, perhaps, unravels the current raging debate on his academic credentials.

At the age of six, the book says, General Buhari was enrolled at the Central Primary School, Daura. His nephew, Mamman, who is two and a half years older, says of the young pupil: “He was above average academically and more than usual naughty.” Buhari himself corroborated: “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.”

Classmates at Daura Primary School remember Buhari as a fast runner and centre forward for the school football team. He was always neatly dressed. He was to finish primary education in 1955 at Kankia Primary School.

In 1956, he proceeded to the Katsina Provisional Secondary School (now Government College, Katsina. According to his schoolmates, he had then become “a serious and hardworking student who tried to excel in everything he did.” Deeply religious, he said his prayers regularly, and was among those who made prayer calls at 4:30a.m.

Who were some of Buhari’s classmates, and what did they say of him?

General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua (now deceased): “He worked fairly hard at his studies and games. He was reserved. He was one of the few boys in the school trusted by his classmates, and was quite dependable.”

Alhaji Fathu Abdullahi: He made a lot of friends from outside his Daura group. He was very broadminded. Very serious for his age and had no time for frivolous talks. He was very religious, even at the age of 12.”

Mallam Muktari, Zango: “He used to baffle me. He was so strong-willed and principled. He always stood his ground and did not follow the crowd.”

Buhari was a school monitor in Class 2, later a school prefect, a house captain, and ultimately he was made the head boy of the school.

According to the book, of all the boys who applied to join the Army from Katsina Secondary School, only two were taken. Muhammadu Buhari and Shehu Yar’Adua. They both ended up as Generals.

Chapter 3 is on Buhari’s military career, which he started at Nigerian Military Training College, Katsina, in 1962. He then went to the Young Officers Course No. 5 at the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna, from May 1963 to July 1963, Mons Officers Cadet School, Aldershot, in the United Kingdom, and he was commissioned in the rank of Second Lieutenant and posted to 2nd Infantry Battalion in Abeokuta as a Platoon Commander.

What are some of the other courses Buhari attended? According to the book, he was at the Army Mechanical Transport Officer’s Course in Bordon, United Kingdom from May 1965 to June of the same year, Defence Services Staff College, Wellington, India, from January to November 1973, and Army War College, U.S.A, from July 1979 to July 1980.

During the Nigerian Civil War, he was the Brigade Major of the 3rd Infantry Brigade, and Commander, 31st Infantry Brigade.

Chapter 4 is titled ‘Food for Thought,’ and it chronicles Gen Buhari’s views on different national and international issues. It also dwells on his private life and family

‘Landmarks Along the Way’ is the title of Chapter 5. It details Buhari’s footprints on the sands of time: as governor, minister, a member of the Supreme Military Council (SMC), General Officer Commanding (GOC), and call to duty as head of state.

Chapter 6 is on ‘A Journey Into the Past.’ What are readers served here? The influences on Buhari’s early life that made him what he became, particularly as a modest, self-effacing man. Hear his comment on leadership: “If there is anything we need in this country, it is leadership, and I also think, if there is anything we have in this country, they are good soldiers. If you stay with your men, and train with them, they will follow you. Much will be accomplished. If you stay with them and train with them, they will do anything.”

And his philosophy? “You will never succeed if you are unjust to your people.”

The final chapter: ‘Moment of Decision.’ Here, readers will get the appraisal and comments of people on Buhari. They include Dr Onolapo Soleye, his Minister of Finance, the Emir of Daura, Gen Musa Yar’Adua, Alhaji Mamman Daura, Gen Martin Adamu, and many others. Adamu, who was Buhari’s Commander during the civil war, said: “I am saying with all sense of responsibility. I don’t think he is an ambitious man. He feels strongly about Nigeria as a country. Given the support of the Armed Forces and the public, there is no reason he should not succeed. This time is the last chance for Nigeria’s survival and territorial integrity. I believe everything he said in his first speech.”

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