Muhammadu Buhari has won Nigeria's presidential election by 2.57 million votes. Here are some fascinating facts about the man.
1. Buhari is a retired Major General in the Nigerian Army who was Head of State of Nigeria from 31 December 1983 to 27 August 1985, after taking power in a military coup
2. He ran unsuccessfully for the office of President in the 2003, 2007 and 2011 elections. So it seems he was fourth time lucky.
3. Muhammadu Buhari was born on 17 December 1942 and is the twenty-third child of his father. Buhari was raised by his mother, after his father died when he was about three or four.
4. In 1988, Buhari and his first wife Safinatu were divorced. In December 1989, Buhari married his second and current wife Aisha (née Halilu) Buhari.
5. In July 1966 Lieutenant Muhammadu Buhari was one of the participants in a coup led by Lt-Col Murtala Muhammed that overthrew and assassinated Nigeria's first self-appointed military Head of State General Aguiyi Ironsi who assumed leadership of the Nigerian government after a failed coup attempt on January 15, 1966 which overthrew the elected parliamentary system of government of independent Nigeria (also known as first republic). Ironsi's assumption of Nigeria's leadership was technically another coup following the January 15, 1966 coup. Other participants in the July 28, 1966 coup included 2nd Lieutenant Sani Abacha, Lieutenant Ibrahim Babangida , Major Theophilus Danjuma, Lieutenant Ibrahim Bako among others.
6. Major-General Buhari was one of the leaders of the Nigerian military coup of December 31, 1983 that overthrew the democratically elected government of President Shehu Shagari. The coup ended Nigeria's short-lived Second Republic, a period of multiparty democracy started in 1979. According to The New York Times, the officers who took power argued that "a flawed democracy was worse than no democracy at all". Buhari justified the military's seizure of power by castigating the civilian government as hopelessly corrupt and promptly suspended Nigeria’s 1979 Constitution.
7. The suitcases scandal: Buhari's administration was embroiled in a scandal concerning the fate of 53 suitcases, allegedly containing $700 million in Nigerian naira (which, at the time, was not allowed to leave the country due to inflation control efforts). The suitcases were being transported by the Emir of Gwandu, whose son was Buhari's aide-de-camp, and were cleared through customs on June 10, 1984 without inspection during his return flight from Saudi Arabia. Buhari claimed that this was carried out without his knowledge.
8. According to Decree Number 2 of 1984, the state security and the chief of staff were given the power to detain, without charges, individuals deemed to be a security risk to the state for up to three months. Strikes and popular demonstrations were banned and Nigeria’s secret police service, the National Security Organization (NSO) was entrusted with unprecedented powers. The NSO played a wide role in the cracking down of public dissent by intimidating, harassing and jailing individuals who broke the interdiction on strikes. By October 1984, about 200,000 civil servants were retrenched.
Critics of the regime were also thrown in jail, as was the case of Nigeria’s most popular artist and one time presidential contender, afro-beat singer Fela Kuti.
9. Fela Kuti was arrested on September 4, 1984 at the airport as he was about to embark on an American tour. Amnesty International described the charges brought against him for illegally exporting foreign currency as “spurious.” Using the wide powers bestowed upon it by Decree Number 2, the government sentenced Fela to 10 years in prison. He was released after 18 months, when the Buhari government was toppled in a military coup.
10. One of the most enduring legacies of the Buhari government has been the War Against Indiscipline (WAI). Launched on March 20, 1984, the policy tried to address the perceived lack of public morality and civic responsibility of Nigerian society. Unruly Nigerians were ordered to form neat queues at bus stops, under the eyes of whip-wielding soldiers. Civil servants who failed to show up on time at work were humiliated and forced to do “frog jumps”. Minor offences carried long sentences. Any student over the age of 17 caught cheating on an exam would get 21 years in prison. Counterfeiting and arson could lead to the death penalty.
11. The Umaru Dikko Affair was another shocking legacy of Buhari’s military government. Umaru Dikko, a former Minister of Transportation under the previous civilian administration of President Shagari who fled the country shortly after the coup, was accused of embezzling $1 billion in oil profits. With the help of the Mossad, the NSO traced him to London where operatives from Nigeria and Israel drugged and kidnapped him. They placed him in a plastic bag, which was subsequently hidden inside a crate labelled as “Diplomatic Baggage”. The purpose of this secret operation was to ship Dikko off to Nigeria on an empty Nigerian Airways Boeing 707, to stand trial for embezzlement. The plot was foiled by alert British airport officers.
12. In 2012, Buhari’s name was included on a list published by Boko Haram of individuals it would trust to mediate between the group and the Federal Government. However, Buhari strongly objected and declined to mediate between the government and Boko Haram.
13. In 2013, Muhammadu Buhari made a series of statements, when he asked the Federal Government to stop the killing of Boko Haram members and blamed the rise of the terrorist group on the prevalence of Niger Delta militants in the South. He further deplored the fact that Boko Haram members were killed and their houses destroyed. The President of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor, emotionally reacted to the statements made by the retired general and called for his arrest.
14. Buhari was soon to have a change of heart on the terror group. In May 2014, in the wake of the Chibok schoolgirls kidnapping, Buhari strongly denounced the Boko Haram insurgency. He "urged Nigerians to put aside religion, politics and all other divisions to crush the insurgency he said is fanned by mindless bigots masquerading as Muslims”.
15. In July 2014, Buhari escaped a bomb attack on his life by Boko Haram in Kaduna, 82 people were killed.
16. In December 2014, Buhari pledged to enhance security in Nigeria. After this announcement, Buhari's approval ratings reportedly skyrocketed amongst the Nigerian people (largely due to the incumbent Goodluck Johnathan's apparent inability to fight Boko Haram's brutal insurgency). Buhari then focused on making internal security and wiping out the militant group one of the key pillars of his campaigning.
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