Muhammadu Buhari GCFR (born December 17, 1942) is the President of Nigeria, in office since 2015. He is a retired Major General in the Nigerian Army and previously served as the nation’s Head of State 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 unsuccessfully ran for the office of President in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 general elections. In December 2014, he emerged as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress for the March 2015 general elections. Buhari won the election, defeating the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan. This marked the first time in the history of Nigeria that an incumbent president lost to an opposition candidate in a general election. He was sworn in on 29 May 2015.
Buhari has stated that he takes responsibility for anything over which he presided during his military rule, and that he cannot change the past. He has described himself as a “converted democrat”.
Muhammadu Buhari was born to a Fulani family on 17 December 1942, in Daura, Katsina State, to his father Adamu and 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 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.
Buhari 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, Buhari 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.
Northern counter-coup of 28 July 1966 In July 1966 Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari was one of the participants in the “July Rematch” or so called “Counter-Coup” , led by Lt-Col Murtala Muhammed, that overthrew and assassinated Nigeria’s first self-appointed military Head of State General Aguiyi Ironsi, who had assumed leadership of the Nigerian government after a failed coup attempt on 15 January 1966, which overthrew the elected parliamentary government of Nigeria (also known as first republic). Other participants in the coup on 28 July 1966 included 2nd Lieutenant Sani Abacha, Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida, Major Theophilus Danjuma, Lieutenant Ibrahim Bako among others. The coup was a reaction to the January coup where a group of mostly Igbo officers led by Major Chukwuma Kaduna 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 from northern Nigeria: 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 Adekunle Fajuyi, the military governor of the Western Region.
Buhari was assigned to the 1st Division under the command of Lt. Col Mohammed Shuwa, the division had temporarily moved from Kaduna to Makurdi at the onset of the Nigerian Civil War. The 1st division was divided into sectors and then battalions with Shuwa assisted by sector commanders Martin Adamu and Sule Apollo who was later replaced by Theophilus Danjuma. Buhari’s initial assignment was as Adjutant and Company Commander 2 battalion unit, Second Sector Infantry of the 1st Division. The 2 battalion was one of the units that participated in the first actions of the war, they started from Gakem near Afikpo and moved towards Ogoja with support from Gado Nasko’s artillery squad. They reached and captured Ogoja within a week with the intention of advancing through the flanks to Enugu, the rebel capital. Buhari was briefly the 2 battalion’s Commander and led the battalion to Afikpo to link with the 3rd Marine Commando and advance towards Enugu through Nkalagu and Abakaliki. However, before the move to Enugu, he was posted to Nsukka as Brigade Major of the 3rd Infantry Brigade under Joshua Gin who would later become battle fatigued and replaced by Isa Bukar. Buhari stayed with the infantry for a few months has the Nigerian army began to adjust tactics learnt from early battle experiences. Instead of swift advances, the new tactics involved securing and holding on to the lines of communications and using captured towns as training ground to train new recruits brought in from the Army depots in Abeokuta and Zaria. In 1968, he was posted to the 4 Sector also called the Awka sector which was charged to take over the capture of Onitsha from Division 2. The sector’s operations was within the Awka-Abagana-Onitsha region which was important to Biafran forces because it was a major source of food supply. It was in the sector that Buhari’s group suffered a lot of casualties trying to protect food supplies route of the rebels along Oji River and Abagana.
From 1970 to 1971, Buhari was Brigade Major/Commandant, Thirty-first Infantry Brigade. He then 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.
Buhari’s participation in July 1975 coup Then Lieutenant Colonel Buhari was among a group of officers led by Colonels Ibrahim Taiwo, Joseph Garba, Abdulahi Mohammed, Anthony Ochefu, Lieutenant Colonels Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Ibrahim Babangida and Alfred Aduloju) who overthrew the Head of State, General Yakubu Gowon.
From 1 August 1975 to 3 February 1976, General Murtala Mohammed, appointed Buhari as Governor of the North-Eastern State, to oversee social, economic and political improvements in the state. Buhari also briefly served as Governor of Borno state from 3 February 1976 to 15 March 1976.
On 3 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 1977, 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, in the conclusion of 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 found no truth in the allegations even though it noticed some lapses in the NNPC accounts.
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.
From 1978 to 1979, he was Military Secretary at the Army Headquarters 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.
In 1983, when Chadian forces invaded Nigeria in the Borno State, Buhari used the forces under his command to chase them out of the country, crossing into Chadian territory in spite of an order given by President Shagari to withdraw.
This 1983 Chadian military affair led to more than 100 victims and “prisoners of war”.
Major-General Buhari was one of the leaders of the military coup of December 1983 that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari. At the time of the coup plot, Buhari was the General Officer Commanding (GOC), Third Armored Division of Jos. With the successful execution of the coup by General Buhari, Tunde Idiagbon was appointed Chief of General Staff (the de facto No. 2 in the administration). The coup ended Nigeria’s short-lived Second Republic, a period of multi-party democracy started in 1979.
According to The New York Times, the officers who took power argued that “a flawed democracy was worse than no democracy at all”. Buhari justified the military’s seizure of power by castigating the civilian government as hopelessly corrupt and promptly suspended Nigeria’s 1979 Constitution. Another rationale for the coup was to correct economic decline in Nigeria. Sani Abacha in the military’s first broadcast after the coup linked ‘ an inept and corrupt leadership’ with general economic decline. In Buhari’s New Year day speech, he too mentioned the corrupt class of the second republic but also as the cause of a general decline in morality in the society.
The structure of the new military leadership which was also the fifth in Nigeria since independence resembled the last military regime, the Obasanjo/Yaradua administration. The new regime established a Supreme Military Council, a Federal Executive Council and a Council of States. The number of ministries was trimmed to 18 while the administration carried out a retrenchment exercise among the senior ranks of the civil service and police. It retired 17 permanent secretaries and some senior police and naval officers. In addition, the new military administration promulgated new laws to achieve its aim. These laws included the Robbery and Firearms (Special Provisions) Decree for the prosecution of armed robbery cases, the State Security (Detention of Person) Decree which gave powers to the military to detain individuals suspected of jeopardizing state security or causing economic adversity. Other decrees included the Civil Service Commission and Public Offenders Decree which constituted the legal and administrative basis to conduct a purge in the civil service.
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. However, tightening of imports led to reduction in raw materials for industries causing many industries to operate below capacity.
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.
Section 1 of the law provided that “Any person who publishes in any form, whether written or otherwise, any message, rumour, report or statement which is false in any material particular or which brings or is calculated to bring the Federal Military Government or the Government of a state or public officer to ridicule or disrepute, shall be guilty of an offense under this Decree”. The law further stated that offending journalists and publishers will be tried by an open military tribunal, whose ruling would be final and unappealable in any court and those found guilty would be eligible for a fine not less than 10,000 naira and a jail sentence of up to two years. Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor of The Guardian were among the journalists who were tried under the decree.
Decree 20 on illegal ship bunkering and drug trafficking was another example of Buhari’s tough approach to crime.
Section 3 (2) (K) provided that “any person who, without lawful authority deals in, sells, smokes or inhales the drug known as cocaine or other similar drugs, shall be guilty under section 6 (3) (K) of an offence and liable on conviction to suffer death sentence by firing squad.” In the case of Bernard Ogedengebe, the Decree was applied retroactively. He was executed even if at the time of his arrest the crime did not mandate the capital punishment, but had carried a sentence of six months imprisonment.
In another prominent case of April 1985, six Nigerians were condemned to death under the same decree: Sidikatu Tairi, Sola Oguntayo, Oladele Omosebi, Lasunkanmi Awolola, Jimi Adebayo and Gladys Iyamah.
In 1985, prompted by economic uncertainties and a rising crime rate, the government of Buhari opened the borders (closed since April 1984) with Benin, Niger, Chad and Cameroon to speed up the expulsion of 700,000 illegal foreigners and illegal migrant workers.
Buhari is today known for this crisis; there even is a famine in the east of Niger that have been named “El Buhari”.
His regime drew criticism from many, including Nigeria’s first Nobel Prize winner Wole Soyinka, who, in 2007, wrote a piece called “The Crimes of Buhari” which outlined many of the abuses conducted under his military rule.
In 2015 general election, Buhari responded to his human rights criticism by saying that if elected, he would follow the rule of law, and that there would be access to justice for all Nigerians and respect for fundamental human rights of Nigerians.
In August 1985, Major General Buhari was 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 Ransome-Kuti, a doctor who had led a strike against Buhari to protest declining health care services. Buhari was then detained in Benin City until 1988.
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”.
Buhari spent three years of detention in a small guarded bungalow in Benin. He had access to television that showed two channels and members of his family were allowed to visit him on the authorization of Babangida.
After his mother’s death, he was released in December 1988 and went into farming.
While in detention, his farm was managed by his relatives. He divorced his first wife in 1988 and married Aisha Halilu. In Katsina, he became the pioneer chairman of Katsina Foundation that was founded to encourage social and economic development in Katsina State.
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.
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.
Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign was briefly advised by former Obama campaign manager, David Axelrod, and his AKPD consultancy.
On 31 March, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari to offer his concession and congratulations for his election as president. Buhari was sworn in on 29 May 2015 in a ceremony attended by at least 23 Heads of State and Government.
In Buhari’s first year in office, Nigeria suffered a decline in commodity prices which triggered an economic recession.
To source funds to close the shortfall in revenue and fund an expansionary capital budget, Buhari travelled to 20 countries seeking loans. Thereby, expansionary budget allocation to finance infrastructure is pushed back to 2017.
In the first year of the administration, Naira, the currency of Nigeria depreciated in the black market leading to a gulf between the official exchange rate and the black-market rate. A resulting shortage in foreign exchange hit various businesses including petroleum marketers.
In spite of roles played by the Ministry of Niger Delta Affairs and the Amnesty programme led by Usani Uguru Usani and Paul Boroh respectively, to ameliorate the conditions of the people’s lives and settle militant activities, they are still intermittent attacks on oil facilities by groups such as the Niger Delta Avengers. This has significantly affected oil production leading to cuts in exports and government revenue. The Avengers are waging conflict for greater economic and political autonomy.
In October 2016, the government negotiated a deal with the terrorist group, Boko Haram which secured the release 21 Chibok girls. By December 2016, the government had recovered much of the territories previously held by Boko Haram and after the capture of Sambisa Forest, Buhari announced that Boko Haram has been technically defeated. The insurgency displaced about 2 million people from their homes and the recapture of the towns now present humanitarian challenges in health, education and nutrition.
In September 2016 President Buhari came under heavy criticism after a newspaper report found him using plagiarized speech during launching of a national re-orientation campaign tagged “Change begins with me”. The speech was later found to be lifted from the 2008 inaugural speech of former US President Barack Obama. The presidency later apologized and says the blunder was caused by “overzealous staff” and “Those responsible” will be sanctioned.
In May 2016, Buhari cancelled a two-day visit to Lagos to enaugurate projects in the state but he was represented by the Vice- President Yemi Osinbajo after citing an “ear infection” suspected to be Ménière’s disease. On 6 June, Buhari travelled to the United Kingdom to seek medical attention. This happened days after the Presidential Spokesman Femi Adesina was quoted as saying Buhari was “as fit as fiddle” and “hale and hearty”, to much discontent and criticism from political analysts and followers. In February 2017, following what were described as “routine medical check-ups” in the UK, Buhari asked parliament to extend his medical leave to await test results. His office did not give any further details on his health condition nor the expected date of his return. On 8 February, President Buhari personally signed a letter addressed to the President of the Senate of Nigeria alerting a further extension to his annual leave, leaving his Vice President in charge.
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) was named after Buhari’s mother. Their other children are Fatima, Musa (deceased son), Hadiza, and Safinatu. In 1988, Buhari and his first wife Safinatu divorced.
In December 1989, Buhari married his second and current wife Aisha Buhari (née Halilu). They also had five children together, a boy and four girls: 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.
Muhammadu Buhari net worth is estimated $2.5 billion (net worth estimated in 2017).
- An Uzomedia Biography