Muhammadu Buhari: A Giant of a Man

by Sabella Ogbobode Abidde

General Muhammadu Buhari is a polarizing figure. You either love him or hate him. But that’s okay. Most statesmen are polarizing, anyway. In so many ways, he reminds me of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo: tough, uncompromising, visionary, tenacious, honest, and loyal. His mantra is simple: performance and accountability. Regrettably these attributes have not been welcomed in the Nigeria of the last three decades. And I would posit that it is because Nigeria was unappreciative of men like Buhari, Idiagbon and Awolowo that we’ve found ourselves in the current social-economic and political cesspit.

Since his forced departure from office, lesser men have been at the helm of our national affairs. Any wonder then that we mistake mediocrity for excellence, stupidity for intelligence, and cowardice for bravery? It is a national tragedy to have shunned men like Buhari who is a patriot, a nationalist, and an embodiment of political and personal morality. At the time General Buhari and his lieutenants came to power, Nigeria was already swimming in a cesspool of economic and social corruption, laziness, dirtiness and political decadence. The country was in the hands of the inept and was being run aground in an ocean of uncertainty. But and his partners right most of the wrongs.

We had lost faith in our country, in our neighbors, in our leaders and in our humanity. It was a grim, desperate and depressing time; and a cloud of hopelessness and dejection was gradually enveloping the country. Folks, it was a sad and hopeless era! It was, until Buhari and his able partner, General Tunde Idiagbon, rode into town to assure us that we can do better! And we were until General Ibrahim Babangida and his posse threw a wrench in our national affairs.

Buhari was not a perfect head of state. He was not a perfect General. He was human, and he had his flaws. But that’s okay. He loved his family. He loved his country. He loved his people. He was unlike any president – military or civilian – Nigeria has ever had. Though a military dictator, he had his ways. There was a method to his style of governance. What mattered was Nigeria and Nigerians. His actions and pronouncements revealed a man who cared about the soul of our nation. He cared about our collective destiny. He cared about history and posterity. He delivered what he promised. These, all these, you cannot say about others.

I vividly remember the Buhari days as though it was yesterday. It was an era when people were afraid to demand and or to take bribes; it was era when you thought twice before you litter the streets; it was an era when you took turns to enter the bus; it was an era when you sold drugs, engage in prostitutions and other reprehensible activities at your own peril; it was an era when the Western world paid attention to us; it was an era when it was chic to be a Nigerian again. Most of all, it was an era when we knew Nigeria was going to turn the corner from decadence to righteousness, from economic stagnation to economic growth, and from decay to prosperity. Buhari restored our hope.

But of course, not everybody was happy for us and for our country and so Buhari was betrayed, arrested and forced from office by those with evil machinations. Truth be told, ordinary Nigerians betrayed Buhari too! We were unappreciative of all he did in the very short period he was in office. We betrayed him by not standing by him then; and we betrayed him again during the last elections by not voting and electing him into office. Just as we disappointed the sage (Awolowo) on three occasions, we disappointed Buhari on two occasions.

It is my hope therefore that Nigerians will right the wrongs of the past, restore my hope in the goodness and sensibility of Nigerians, and also make it up to a great man and a great Nigerian who deserve to be the next executive president of Nigeria. Buhari is my man. He should be your man. He should be our man come 2007.

(Note: The longer version of this essay was first published in July 2004)

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Anonymous January 23, 2007 - 4:52 am

I agree that with the current Nigerian situation, Buhari is the only man that holds the promise to take us there. I wish for once Nigerians will put tribalism and religious sentiments aside to vote for a true nationalist. For once we should stop spending more time on our petty differences and concentrate more on the bigger picture. Nigeria needs to change and grow again. Once we allow Buhari to put a structure in place for us, then all the next leader needs to do is to improve on it. That means we will continue to elect leaders that could actually improve on it. What I see is, once the Nigerian growth truly starts, it will be at an unprecedented pace. The rest of the world will watch agape……

Muhammad Salisu Abubakar January 19, 2007 - 3:21 pm

Buhari's candidature is never bad anyway and i'm sure is going to do very well. Plotting a coup is another form of patriotism,you can not say because you do not want to be accused of plotting a coup ,then allow things to loose focus. Haba this country is ours to salvage(especially in terms of crisis)

Abdulsalm January 19, 2007 - 7:23 am

A very good article

Sa'ad January 19, 2007 - 6:49 am


I think u are misinformed, Buhari did not plan the coup that brought him to power and he didn't enact any decree that executed people, those decrees were enacted by former regimes. Many people have these misconceptions about Buhari.

Y.A.Kareem January 18, 2007 - 8:48 pm

Gentlemen, Please do not dwell in the past as we all have witnessed and seen all sorts of bad and evil. Let us pray that Buhari and his surbodinate will be the team to save Nigeria from going ablaze. I personally wish them well. Hausa and Igbo are always best of friends. Nigeria needs discipline and without putting forth the right radicals to handle our existing corrupt nation, it will be very hard to achieve the outstanding. My advise to General Buhari is that they should employ technology to help them tackle the corrupt and get things very organised. The most important is POWER—ENERGY make them accountable for not meeting up with thier promises. If NEPA goes good I guarantee you that things will go smooth. Wishing these two candidates all the best in thier qwest to leadership. They will rule no doubt in my mind.

Nasiru L. Abubakar January 18, 2007 - 11:36 am

It is heartwarming to learn people of high repute understanding the necessity of the Buhari presidency. But we should not fail in charting a course for the man when the need arises, because it is simply unthinkable to have another four years of the PDP.

Ahiwa January 18, 2007 - 11:36 am


You got it wrong. Just for one interview you judged a man on performance? Buhari is not an orator but a person of integrity and honesty. In the last three decades show me one honest leader that ruled Nigeria? Democracy is not an end by itself. democracy has produced Obasanjo who at will breaks the constitution he swore to uphold! Buhari meant well for Nigerians but used the wrong means in achieving goals for Nigerians.Remember the killings, corruption during Babangida and Abacha reign? Their motives was to perpertuate their dictotarial rule over us? we need somebody like Buhari if not Buhari to bring Babangida and all corrupt ex-leaders to justice. I am from Adamawa but I don;t care who rule Nigeria as long as he is visionary, honest and firm.

Where is Shonekan the intrime President? I believe he will be a good leader. I and the rest of us in the diaspora do not deserve to leave Nigeria in search of greener posture. We have it back home but only the corrupt leaders graze on them, while the rest of us watch them enjoy and kill and enslave some of us.

Oscar just don't condemn but give alternatives.

I write from West Indies

oscar September 25, 2006 - 1:09 am

I'm sorry I don't share your view that Buhari is a giant of a man.

Nigerians were treated with the utmost disdain during his regime. This man has no respect for democracy – he plotted a coup d'etat. He executed three people after enacting a decree with the penalty of capital forfeit and applying it retroactively!

Civilians were tried and convicted in military tribunals — I can go on all night!

Why don't you go to the BBC News website and search for "buhari and hardtalk", download the interview and watch his spineless performance.

In fact if I knew nothing about the guy I would not want him being my president on the basis of his performance in that interview. Nigerians deserve better.

Anonymous September 23, 2006 - 2:36 pm

Excellent writter from mr iyoha,hey big bro i like the way you talk

Eze September 23, 2006 - 5:22 am

At last some one has said something good to me. those are the two leaders nigeria ever had that hausa igbo and yoruba common men loved. I remember you got beaten up for urinating by the road, every bit of land was cultivated. food was everywhere.i'm igbo but i loved those guys. please tell me where is Idiagbon?

Prince Kennedy Iyoha September 22, 2006 - 4:53 pm

Mr Sabella Ogbobode Abidde.

Once more, I am compared to respond to your latest essay. You are quit right when you tried to analyze the contribution of General Muhammad Buhari, to the socio and economic developments of Nigeria. That administration has a legacy that will be recorded by history, and I am convinced, that many incoming generations will remember them for their contribution.

All the while, the credit of that administrations achievement has always been given to the late General Tunde Idiagbon. Many Nigerians see the late General Tunde Idiagbon, as the iron man behind what ever policy was implemented by that administration. However, General Mohammad Buhari was part of what ever achievement and decisions made by that Government.

It is difficult to forget that slogan in our television screen YOU HAVE NO OTHER COUNTRY BUT NIGERIA, SO LETS STAY AND SAVAGE IT TOGETHER. I can agree with you, that the General is the best candidate on the ground so far. We however most not forget, that we still have about seven mouths to go, and I for one, is looking forward to seeing more candidates coming forward to present themselves for the job or post of the presidency.

Much has been said about the past finance Minister Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo Iweala. Most of us in Europe, are of the opinión that she resigned from this administration, to prepare her candidacy, for the highest job in Nigeria. I lent, that by our constitution, nobody in government can contest any political position, unless he or she most first abandon what ever position been herd prior to the D-day.

I read in the news that some group of women are also asking the minister of the federal capital territory, and Mrs. Akin… to contest for the president post. Believe me; Most Nigerians are looking forward to see more candidates coming to declare their intentions to run for the post.

General Buhara is better than the likes of Babangida, Atiku, and the rest.

Good article

Receive my regards.

obi, USA September 21, 2006 - 2:45 pm

Ade Oke, good talk but you got it wrong. We can only vote for people that have indicated interest in the positions.

Ade Oke September 21, 2006 - 1:46 pm

Haba! When are we going to get out of this mentality of recycling spent-out leaders? Nigeria will never grow to its potential until we stopped being ruled by half-baked educated people, especially ex-military leaders. I am sure there are still Nigerians around that would have preferred Abacha to rule again had it been that he were alive. We need well-educated people with acumen to rule a country like Nigeria in the 21st century. It is a pity, Nigeria has never been ruled by a qualified person we can call a leader. Please, a former coup leader is not an ideal person to lead Nigeria.

Anonymous September 20, 2006 - 3:01 pm

For a change!! Thank you Sabella. People are quick to claim that Buhari is a tribalist. I personally DO NOT think so. Anyway, I prefer an honest leader, albeit tribalist, who has demonstrated his love for Nigeria and belief in the rule of law. I hate it that the next dispensation has been reduced to Obasanjo, Atiku, Babaginda and some other nitwits like Odili. As the field is constituted presently, BUHARI IS THE MAN.

Obi, USA


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