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Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) distinguished Nigerian, Grand Commander of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (GCFR), the Nigerian Armed Forces Services Star medallist, Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa, of the University of Calabar, Benue State University and Enugu State University, Doctor of Letters, University of Ilorin and Doctor of Science, Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi. He is an accomplished soldier, a level-headed Statesman, a trustworthy administrator. He has served as Military Governor of the then North-Eastern State, Federal Minister of Petroleum Resources, and Pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation and as Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Nigeria has known many military leaders, but few have had his foresight; fewer indeed, have been as straightforward, as shrewd, as introspective, as peaceful and in the end as quiet, as placid and as respected as General (Dr) Muhammadu Buhari. Some people are born great; others have greatness thrust upon them. Some become great by dint of hard work, discipline, honesty, purposefulness and trust in God. Buhari achieved greatness by this route. General Buhari was born on December 17, 1942, in the town of Daura in the former Katsina province of the then Northern Nigeria.
He went to Primary School in Daura and Mai'adua from 1948 - 1952, before proceeding to Katsina middle School in 1953. He attended the Katsina Provincial Secondary School (now Government College Katsina) from 1956 - 1961. On graduation from Secondary School in 1961, the young Buhari went to the Nigerian Military Training School, Kaduna in 1963. In October of the same year, he was sent to the officers' Cadet School in Aldershot in the United Kingdom and was thereafter commissioned Second Lieutenant in 1963 and posted to the 2nd Infantry Battalion, Abeokuta as Platoon Commander in 1963. A contemporary of his in Aldershot said he was like "an only pebble in the beach, a star in his calm and calculating disposition".
It was at the Abeokuta Garrison that the real traits of a great soldier were identified in the young man. From 1963 - 1964 he was sent for further training on the Platoon Commanders' Course at the Nigerian Military College, Kaduna. In 1965, he went for the Mechanical Transport Officers' Course at the Army Mechanical Transport School in Borden, England. He went to the Defence Services' Staff College, Wellington, India in 1973 and to the United States Army War College from June 1979 to June 1980. One of his testimonials from the War College referred to Buhari as "a gentleman, a soft-spoken soldier, who preserved the ethics of the profession almost as a Quarter-Master-General. He would touch the tip of his cap in greeting for a lady, would never enter a room with his beret on. Always careful with his language, would smile at every joke and would never do anything to rock the boat" these are some of the credentials of the charming officer and gentleman called Muhammadu Buhari, an independent tribute made to him in far away United States of America more than two decades ago.
This thorough-bred soldier has held several impressive Command and Staff appointments since 1963, including the following:
Indeed General Buhari's education, training and career have shown him to be an accomplished and exalted soldier who deserves commendation and special recognition, because he has proven to be a man of character, integrity and achievement.
A close study of his character shows a permeating integrity. It was during his tenure that the Nigerian National Oil Corporation and the Ministry of Petroleum Resources were reorganised to form the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), and he became its first Chairman, a job he performed without blemish. He masterminded and spearheaded the construction of 20 oil depots throughout the country, a project involving over 3200 kilometers of pipelines. Under his leadership both Warri and Kaduna Refineries were built. He drew up the blueprint for the country's petro-chemical and liquefied natural gas programmes all without even a hint of scandal.
When the masses of this country were about to riot over the increase in the price of fuel some few years back, the Government of the day calmed them down with the promise that the accrual from reduction subsidy was going to be put in an account and that General Buhari was to be appointed the people's trustee to that Fund. The riots were averted. The people were happy that somebody they could trust, somebody with a clean record, a safe pair of hands somebody the nation revered and respected, was going to be in charge.
Today, Nigerians recall with nostalgia the probity, accountability and honesty and above all thorough and efficient management of public funds demonstrated by the leadership of General Buhari in all public institutions he worked. This is precisely what people want of their leaders whether military, political or traditional. They are suspicious of the very clever and mischievous; they dislike the overly ambitious; but if they know that a man is transparently honest in his personal and official dealings, they are more than ready to accept him. General Buhari is a man of proven integrity. Wherever you tap his life, there is a ring of truth about it.
It is always dangerous to see a thoroughly good person hijacked from the position for which he got professional training into a position of political leadership, because he could fail so tragically. But General Buhari, though a thoroughbred soldier is naturally equipped for governance and is temperamentally suited for leadership. As Head of State in the country, he did not crack under the pressure of office. He did not flap when things went wrong. He kept his head when others were panicking. He was prepared to be disliked, on the understanding that occasional unpopularity goes with the job of leadership. He faced many crises; personal, domestic and national, and came through all these unscathed.
He is a man of sound vision, judgement and who during his regime, tried to transform the society with his War Against Indiscipline (WAI) policy which won him national and universal applause. A minister in his cabinet once said, he was "an elegantly shrewd and intelligent leader".
General Buhari is by nature industrious and not afraid of hard work. He finds his way to the heart of a problem and rapidly sorts it out. He rallies the loyalty of subordinates and communicates his decisions intelligibly to others. Above all, he knows how to fit others (like his second in command) into his team, how to make them work together and how to get the best out of them. One of his greatest attributes is his capacity to delegate and to accept responsibility when things go wrong. This quality in statesmanship, these quintessence administrative skills is what makes him a special student in the school of democracy-his new found platform for service to Nigerians. Since April 25, 2002 when he joined partisan politics by registering with the All Nigeria People's Party ANPP, the story of Nigerian political terrain has radically changed.
Indeed, there is a great deal of sense in Alfred Lord Tennyson's statement which is applicable to General Buhari today: "I'm part of all that I have met and the mistakes or lessons of the past can be woven into the fabric of our personalities and used to clothe and equip us for the future". Out of his knowledge and recorded experience General Buhari, through his political movement - The Buhari Organization, otherwise known as Project Nigeria, has introduced a new concept into Nigerian politics: service to the people. The organization is staffed by first class technocrats and academics who out of patriotism submit themselves against all odds to provide an alternative option which consequently will rescue the people of this country from imminent confusion which came about as the result of insensitive, unfocussed and visionless programme of the present administration.
Good education, military training, nature, character, experience and proven record are the foundations on which the exemplary leadership of this remarkable man is built. These are the qualities General Buhari is bringing into Nigerian politics. It is not given to many to rise as he has done from such honourable birth to become such a distinguished man of distinction and destiny. If we may borrow the words of Shakespeare: "There is indeed a divinity that shaped the life and times of General Muhammadu Buhari, rough hew them how we will".
In recognition of his numerous and enviable contributions towards the development of this country, General Buhari has been conferred with a number of national awards. He is the recipient of the following:
Never in the recent history of Nigeria, has a former Head of State, as noiseless, humble and as ready to serve as he has been endeared himself so much to the hearts of the masses. He is neither a defeatist nor a pessimist. He knows himself, he knows Nigerians and he knows how to overcome difficulties and make Nigeria a better place for all.
He is ready to take off his shoes even as a soldier, obey the call of a commoner and serve the poor. Nigerians' most especially the masses are touched by the humility of this General who understands that the first and most important thing about leadership is to be sure that it is exercised in the right direction, according to the interest of the people.
This is indeed General Muhammadu Buhari, a man of intimidating personality and credentials, Head of State of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; Minister of Petroleum; Military Governor of the them North Eastern State; an affable man of courage; an incorruptible Nigerian dedicated to sanitising the social and economic life of Nigeria; a soldier known for his gallantry and chivalry; an accomplished administrator, statesman, politician and above all a Good Man.