General Muhammadu Buhari (Rtd) is one man that is highly respected and loved by many within and outside Nigeria for his simplicity, uprightness and zero tolerance for corruption. Born on December 17, 1942 in Daura, Katsina State, Buhari, a professionally trained soldier and military Head of State between 31 December 31, 1983 and August 27, 1985, has over the years proved himself as a man of rectitude, and demonstrated his commitment towards the struggle to build a better Nigeria in the interest of the masses.
As a dogged, resilient fighter and uncompromising politician with unalloyed forthrightness, he pursued his presidential ambition with great persistence and tenacity, despite his failure at every attempt since 2003. The retired army General’s sojourn to the Presidency actually started in 2003, when he vied on the platform of the defunct All Peoples Party, APP. In that year’s election, Buhari garnered about 12.7 million votes which represented 32.1% to lose to the then President Olusegun Obasanjo of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who was seeking a second term at that time. Obasanjo scored about 24.5 million votes representing 61.9% of total votes cast.
Four years later in 2007, he contested under the umbrella of All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), but again he lost to Umaru Yar’Adua of blessed memory also of the PDP polling a meager 6.6 million votes, a far worse performance than that of 2003. Yar’Adua had about 24.6 million votes. Not taking his eyes off the Presidency, by 2011, the unrelenting and persevering Buhari contested on the ticket of a new party he founded, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Despite being a new party singlehandedly formed by the retired General with the support of people with like minds, less than six months to the election, he scored 12.2 million votes to lose to the incumbent President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan of PDP who got 22.5million votes in that contest.
However, the figures Buhari had in 2011 as the CPC candidate was an impressive improvement compared to his 2007 outing. In fact, he received commendations from a lot of Nigerians who had maintained that the support for Buhari from the people since he began his journey to occupy the seat of Power at the centre in the current democratic dispensation was purely based on his personality and reputation. He is believed to have distinguished himself in all the various positions he held in the past and thereby succeeded in getting endeared into the hearts of the populace.
After the conduct of the 2011 general elections, some major political parties in the country –the Buhari’s CPC, the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the ANPP and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) commenced talks on a merger that would provide them with a formidably strong platform to unknot the dominance of the ruling PDP. On February 6, 2013, the All Progressives Congress (APC) was founded from the merger arrangement and Buhari eventually emerged as the party’s presidential candidate after a well-organized, transparent, free and fair primary election in Lagos last December.
Today, the former Head of State has made history by becoming the first Nigerian politician to defeat an incumbent President. He polled a total of 15,424,921 votes to defeat Jonathan, who scored a total of 12,853,162 votes to place second in the race involving 14 contestants. His victory has been described by many observers as a welcome development heralding the beginning of a new era in the administration of the affairs of the country under a democratic setting.
Congratulatory messages from prominent Nigerians have continued to roll in for Buhari on his emergence as the President-elect after his triumphant outing in the presidential poll. One of such messages came from the Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Niger Delta Affairs, Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman. The Senator noted that the massive support given to the former military Head of State, showed how much Nigerians were determined for change which the General was believed to represent.
Abatemi-Usman observed that things have gone too bad in the country that only a man of high integrity and credibility like Buhari can change the situation for the betterment of the Nigerian people. This, according to him, informed his decision to give total support to the candidature of the retired soldier in the presidential election. Abatemi-Usman had openly campaigned for Buhari, imploring all his constituents in Kogi Central Senatorial District and Nigerians in general to cast their votes for the ex-General.
Hear him: “I congratulate the people’s General, Muhammadu Buhari, candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the just concluded presidential election for his emergence as the President-elect. No doubt, his victory was borne out of the fact that Nigerians were eager for change and they needed a man like him who can truly bring them the desired change that will meet their yearnings and aspirations. I am confident that with Buhari in the helms of affairs in this country, things will certainly change for the better. I urge all Nigerians to give the incoming government of Buhari the necessary support, so that together we can move our dear country Nigeria to the next level, where life will be better for all citizens.”
The Senator applauded members of the Buhari Presidential Campaign Organisation led by Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and all other leaders of the APC for their strong determination and unrelenting spirit in the struggle to bring about change in the governance of the country. According to Abatemi-Usman, the efforts of the leaders of the APC at the top, contributed in no small measure to the victory of the party’s candidate in the presidential poll.
Arguing in line with the position of Senator Abatemi-Usman, Governor of Osun State, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola, said the victory of Buhari, the presidential candidate of APC was the best thing to happen to a country that has endured sixteen years of misrule at the centre. In his words, Nigeria has finally been rescued from the jaw of death after 16 years of social, political and economic strains. According to the Osun Governor, the overall results of the elections and the general conducts of the people laid bare the fact that Nigerians truly wanted change in the country.
Former Military President, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida (Rtd), popularly known as IBB, described the victory of his professional colleague against Jonathan as well-deserved. IBB said: “This victory to me conveys two significant statements on our political history and evolution. First; that incumbents can be defeated in any democratic process if the people’s aspirations are not fulfilled. Second, that there is good reward for perseverance and hard work. General Buhari has been very consistent in pursuing his political aspiration. In fact, he reminds me of President Abraham Lincoln of the American fame, who was very dogged in pursuing his political aspiration and enriched the contents of democracy in America. General Buhari lives true to his military calling by remaining very consistent, resilient and courageous right from 2003 till date. This enviable feat to me further enriches our democratic process and matures us into the top echelon of nations where democracy has taken firm root. That President Jonathan has indeed conceded defeat and congratulated the President-elect is also cheering news.”
He continued: “With this election and its outcome thus far, Nigeria has once again recorded another milestone in her march through the enviable ladder of democracy. Our leadership role in Africa will further be enhanced by the way and manner we manage the gains of this process. But I trust that the President-elect will live up to the expectations of many Nigerians that crave for change; and lift Nigeria to greater heights. I wish to implore the President-elect to reach out to other contestants in the spirit of one Nigeria, as he settles down for the task of leading this nation in the next four years. Your victory has no doubt broken the barriers of ethnicity and religious inclinations; two sensitive issues that undeservedly dominated the campaigns. I am confident that this victory will usher in a new perspective in our political history and development.”
•Jegede is Media Aide to Senator Nurudeen Abatemi-Usman