President Buhari at 80: Twelve things Nigerians need to know, By Garba Shehu

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First thing to know is that President Muhammadu Buhari, retired General and former Military Head of State was born in Daura on December 17th, 1942. He lost his father at the early age of three years.

He was enlisted in primary school by the District Head of Daura, Waziri Alasan and fell under the guardianship of his older brother, Alhaji Dauda Daura, Malam Mamman’s father, then a Head Master at Mai Aduwa, from where the young Buhari went to the middle and secondary schools.

After his education at the now Government College Katsina, he went to the Nigerian Military Training College, Kaduna which is now known as the Nigerian Defence Academy. He trained at the Mons Officer Cadet School, a British Military training school in Aldershot and also attended the US Army War College (USAWC) Carlisle, Pennsylvania and the National Defence College, New Delhi, India.

Apparently, Muhammadu Buhari, as a young officer had already been gifted with “wisdom and strength for the future,” the motto of the USAWC even before he got there.

The young Buhari was sent by his country to Congo (DRC) on a UN Peace Keeping mission assigned to command a battalion commander, but in carrying out his duty, he almost lost his life before earning his first salary.

Caught in a tricky and the dangerous situation of either protecting a prisoner to face the wrath of 5,000 armed natives and, possibly his losing his life and the relatively small number of 400 men under him, or finding another a solution to mollify the mob, he gathered the needed courage and wisdom to stop a major tragedy from happening.

By this, he saved his own life and the troops under him.

As a soldier, he fought in the 30 months Nigerian Civil War and did not take a single day off while the war lasted. He traversed the entire Eastern Region literally on foot and suffered a gun shot in the lower leg. He was the second in command in the battalion that fired the first shot in the war.

Two. He was a military Governor of the Northeast, now broken into six states as a young Colonel and thereafter, Federal Commissioner (Minister) and Chairman, Nigerian National Oil Corporation, now renamed NNPCL.

As a General, he had the record of commanding all four army divisions they had in their time. As Military Secretary, he did the meticulous work of the documenting the records of the entire officer corps.

That is why it baffled him to no end that some officers in Army Records Office, obviously playing politics with the issue in 2015, claimed that the army didn’t have his WAEC certificate which was no more than a ploy to stop him as a candidate in the election.

Three. As a politician with more than 4 million followers on Twitter and an equally huge following on Facebook, Instagram and the others, President Buhari is one of the most popular politicians that this country has ever produced.

Four. He holds the record of being the first opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent in an election to take office as President of Nigeria. He is the only non-PDP President to win two consecutive terms of four years. He is a charismatic leader with the capability to sway the masses. In all five elections he ran as president, three of which were recorded as losses, there was none in which he got less than 12 million votes.

Five. The Covid-19 pandemic seized the world by its collar. Covid-19 lockdown shut all businesses and threw people out of their jobs all over the world. National economies slowed down and were in a recession in all countries but China. Nigerian government under President Buhari pulled out the country out of the Covid-induced recession at a global record time. No Nigerian bodies were picked on the streets from Covid deaths as the pundits projected. In fact, West Africa suffered the least number of casualties in the subregional grouping on the continent, thanks to the ECOWAS COVID-19 Champion, working with regional leadership, the AU and the UN.

Six. In seven-and-a-half years, he is credited with the introduction of some of the country’s long delayed reforms, among these is a most ambitious infrastructure push since the 1970s – delivering roads, rail, ports, power plants, airports etc; and deploying innovative financing mechanisms like the Presidential Infrastructure Development Fund (PIDF), Executive Order 7, Sukuk Bonds, and Green Bonds.

Seven.He is presiding over the largest program of legislative reforms in Nigeria’s history: the Company and Allied Matters Act, CAMA revised for the first time in 30 years, Prisons Act for the first time in almost 50 years, Police Act for the first time in 70 years. And a surfeit of all the new Acts too – the Nigerian Centre for Disease Control, NCDC, Climate Change, the Suppression of Piracy and Other Maritime Offenses, SPOMO, the Finance Acts, Electoral Amendment, the new Terrorism Act, among others.

Eight. The President is building the largest social investment program in Africa, and one of the largest in the world, serving tens of millions of Nigerians. The school feeding component, giving a free meal a day to 10 million children has increased school enrollment and lowered the distressing number of out-of-school children in our country.

Nine. The President is successful in rebuilding the confidence of the Nigerian military, and degrading Boko Haram/ISWAP. He has commenced the rebuilding of the Northeast; making the biggest investments made in military platforms and assets in more than 40 years; Police Reforms (New Police Act, Police Trust Fund, Community Policing, Police Recruitment of 10,000 men in uniform every year, community policing, New Police Salary Structure); Nigeria’s Coastal Waters (in the Gulf of Guinea) are the safest they have ever been in almost 3 decades.

Ten. In the sphere of foreign affairs, the President has distinguished himself as a global leader respected by the world. He has enhanced Nigeria’s standing in the International Community. At the African Union, AU he is the outgoing Anti-Corruption Champion; at the ECOWAS, he has performed wonderfully as Covid-19 Champion; His leadership of the Lake Chad Basin Commission has come to an end with a lot of benefits, not least the degradation of Boko Haram terrorism. His recent inauguration as the Chairman of the committee of of Heads of State of the African Great Green Wall Agency is to fortify the continent against harmful effects of the climate change.

Under his leadership Nigeria presented Ambassador (Professor) Mohammed Bande, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative as the President of the UN General Assembly, and Mrs Amina Mohammed got appointed and reappointed as the Deputy Secretary General of the UN. He spearheaded the campaign for the election of Dr. Ngozi Okwonjo-Iweala, NOI as the World Trade Organization, WTO DG- the first for an African and the female gender, and promoted the election and reelection of Akin Adesina for the Second Term in AfDB – in the face of concerted opposition. He sealed the very helpful military deals with the US Government; made bold interventions to restore stability in Gambia and Guinea Bissau and Nigerians have been pushed into holding leadership positions in recent years at the International Criminal Court, African Civil Aviation Commission, and several others.

Eleven. Muhammadu Buhari as a young army Colonel and Federal Commissioner for Petroleum Resources was convinced by science, not geopolitics or native instinct that oil and other hydrocarbons were plenty in existence in the Northern States as well as the Southwest and knew that the political stability of the nation will be helped by the sense psychological equality or balancing its discovery could help to bring.

He fought hard for this as Federal Commissioner Petroleum Resources and Chairman of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation until his very last day in office but it didn’t work.

When he found himself in office as elected President 30 years after leaving oil, he resumed his passions as oil finder at the Lake Chad Basin area, considered a low hanging fruit until kidnapping and killings by the Boko Haram terrorist group spoiled things up.

Explorations shifted to the Benue trough map and his vindication came by way of the unveiling of the Kolmani Oil Well straddling Bauchi and Gombe states, promising more than a billion barrels of crude oil an over 500 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The project has already attracted over USD 3 billion in investment. For doing the most work to discover the new oil fields, President Buhari deserves a gold medal, and the Asiwaju Bola,Tinubu, an easy ride ride to power for the promise he made to take the explorations further afield.

Twelve. While the work of nation-building under his incomparable hardwork, dedication and creativity continues to advance the country in many ways, the same cannot be said of some follow country who put all manner of obstacles in the way to accomplishing two major projects about which he very passionate: completing and commissioning of the Ajaokuta Steel Rolling Mill and construction of the 3, 500 megawatts Mambila Electricity Power Project. Thankfully, the long-drawn legal tussle on Ajaokuta just got ended and the Minister, Solid Minerals Develpment Arch. Olamilekan Adegbite has already hit the road running, hoping to achieve what is possible before the administration ends its term.

While the legal contestation for Ajaokuta was ongoing, the country under President Buhari has begun to record progress in the production of liquid steel through the private sector.

Same however cannot be said of Mambila Power Project where the problems have defied solutions. ChinaExim has withheld funding to Mambila as did the Qatari Sovereign Wealth Fund due to the challenges by one man claiming to have a contract that doesn’t exist anywhere. We are hearing that he wants to be paid on the basis of this improperly awarded contract to be paid money in hundreds of million of US Dollars to cover the cost of his litigation. President Buhari is not one to give anyone free money from the treasury.

As he marks this milestone by attaining the age of 80, in extraordinarily state of high physical and mental fitness, Muhammadu Buhari’s life continues to symbolize service to the nation and humanity as well as dedication and commitment to the building of of a secure, stronger and prosperous Nigeria.

● Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President (Media and Publicity).

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