Celebrating The Oak Jubilee Of Buhari

Eighty years ago, when the world was literally torn apart in the ongoing battle between the Axis powers (Germany, Italy, and Japan) and the Allied countries (France, Great Britain, the United States, the Soviet Union, and China) during WWII, a baby boy was born to a Fulani family in Daura, present day Katsina state. Most African countries were still under colonial rule and Nigeria was under the clutches of British colonist.

The boy was named after ninth century Persian Islamic scholar Muhammad al-Bukhari. He will grow up to become a force to be reckoned with. Raised by his mother after the death of his father when he was four years old, his early childhood revolved around Daura where he attended primary school. By the 20th century, the African wave of independence blew towards Nigeria in 1960; Muhammadu Buhari was at his latter stages of secondary school at the Katsina Provincial Secondary School.

Two years after independence at the age of 19, the young Muhammadu Buhari enrolled in the Nigerian Military Training College, thus his sojourn in the military began.His 23 years in the military saw him rise to the rank of General, partake in coups, fought gallantly during the Civil War, become Governor of the North-Eastern state, Federal Commissioner for Petroleum and Natural Resources, Chairman Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, member Supreme Military Council, General Officer Commanding several divisions and finally military Head of State by 1983.

As Head of State, fighting corruption was foremost on his mind as well as the gross indiscipline that had gripped Nigerians during the time. Hence, corrupt civilian governors, ministers and other officials of the Shehu Shagari government were all rounded up. He instituted a War Against Discipline (WAI) programme that ensured Nigerians were literally whipped into line. Contrary to many narratives, WAI was focused on matters of nationalism and patriotism (including respect for the flag and National Anthem).

His government also managed to reduce inflation, reject all International Monetary Fund (IMF) conditionality’s, such as the devaluing the naira, sharply reduced unnecessary imports, minimized oil bunkering and when bunkered oil was seized, he used it to get relevant commodities, equipment and machinery using the counter trade policy. Like the feeling of déjà vu

there was also an unexpected creation of new notes to halt currency smuggling and there was substantial refinancing of trade debt arrears.His administration was short lived though. By 1985, he was overthrown and imprisoned, released 3-years later. He subsequently retired to his farm in his beloved Daura. But that wasn’t the last to be heard of him. During the General Sani Abacha administration, he was called upon to service as Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF). This was because over the years, he had built a reputation of honesty and incorruptibility.

A 1998 report in New African praised the PTF under Buhari for its transparency, calling it a rare “success story.” Till this day, remnants of his time as PTF Chairman is still littered across public facilities across the country.Politics came calling when Nigeria returned to civil rule in 1999, and in 2003, Muhammadu Buhari ran for the highest office of the land under the All Nigeria’s People’s Party (ANPP). This will be the first of four attempts, succeeding at the 4th attempt in 2015.

He showed grit, tenacity and consistency, engendering a new phrase “fourth time’s a charm.” He made history by becoming the first in the history of Nigeria to win over an incumbent president in an election. Four years later, he was re-elected, defeating his closest rival, by over 3 million votes.Officially an octogenarian a few days ago since 17th December, President Buhari has had an exceptional opportunity of leading Nigeria twice, both as a military Head of State and civilian President. Widely loved and accepted, 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.

He has shown severally that he possesses a charismatic appeal with the capability to sway the masses. In his over 7-years in office, he has recorded great strides and many have said Nigeria’s is on course to the famed Eldorado. Under President Buhari’s watch, the country is witnessing the biggest and most ambitious federal infrastructure programme since independence. Before now, rail transport was what we see abroad or in movies. Trains are now a common sight, connecting various states across the country and putting smiles on commuter’s faces on a daily basis.

The Second Niger Bridge, a key national infrastructure, with immense socio-economic benefits for the contiguous states and indeed the entire nation has become a reality under the president’s stewardship. I can still recall when he announced that his administration would construct the bridge; many people did not believe him, considering that it had previously been used as a political gimmick. But he has proved the naysayers wrong by completing the project in record time.

Thus, after four years of consistent funding and construction, the 2nd Niger Bridge was opened to traffic on December 15, 2022 albeit for light vehicles only. The test run period would last from December 15 to January 15, 2023. In the apex Igbo socio-cultural organization, Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s words “surely, President Buhari did not start the work on the bridge, but in a maladjusted society where the abandoned projects far outnumber the completed ones, to deliver a vital infrastructure that should have been taken for granted attracts immense jubilation amongst the Igbo.”In August 2021, the President’s assent to the Petroleum Industry Act (PIB) broke a two decade old jinx and has set the stage for the unprecedented transformation of Nigeria’s oil and gas sector.

Boko Haram has been practically decimated as the President is successfully rebuilding the confidence of the Nigerian military. New police salary structure, police reforms and recruitment has ensured that the police are motivated in effectively dealing with crimes and criminality in our communities.

On the global stage, President Buhari has enhanced Nigeria’s respectability within the comity of nations. He was instrumental in the emergence of Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala’s emergence as the World Trade Organization boss. He promoted the election and reelection of Akinwumi Adesina at the African Development Bank (AFDB). Under his leadership, Nigeria presented Ambassador (Professor) Mohammed Bande, Nigeria’s Permanent Representative as the President of the UN General Assembly, and Amina Mohammed got appointed and reappointed as the Deputy Secretary General of the UN.

For me personally, the greatest legacy that he will bequeath Nigerians when leaving office is a technologically driven electoral process, making the 2023 election more credible and seamless. The Electoral Act 2022 is crucial in achieving this. It is surely a game changer because with the provisions of the Act, it would not be easy to rig elections.

The manner that elections used to be rigged will really not be effective anymore. People will now have that assurance and confidence that votes actually do count.As President Muhammadu Bihari. Celebrates his 80 year Oak Jubilee, here’s to wishing his spirit be enriched in light, love, and hope for a prosperous many more years ahead in the guidance, blessing and protection of The Almighty.. Ameen