Muhammadu Buhari: The challenges of leadership in Nigeria

President Muhammadu Buhari

By Bola Tinubu

This authorized biography of Nigeria’s Leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, attempts a broad characterization of the different stages of his life and professional career.

Essentially, the book explores how his professional career, his personal life and prior experiences in government shaped and prepared him for the momentous assignment he now has.

From the book’s pages, we see a man who has lived his life on assignments that always intersected with vital moments in the nation’s history. He was a man on assignment, when, in the military, he served bravely in a civil war to keep Nigeria united.

He was on national assignment when he became military head of state in a well-intentioned effort to straighten things out, and set Nigeria on a better path. When he ventured into politics and competed for the Presidency, culminating in his 2015 election victory, he was still on assignment, showing that there was no other way for this nation to go but the way of democracy, no matter how difficult the path may be.

Now, as sitting President, he is on an assignment, against time, to undo the wrongs of nearly two decades of bad governance.

Such is the life of this man. Always in the public eye, doing things in his different, disciplined and Spartan way. From this compelling narrative, neatly demarcated into three parts and 24 chapters, the reader is able to glean the quintessential Buhari.


The historical bent of this rendering, no doubt, makes for an educative and informative reading. The book is a timely narrative.

Buhari’s credential as a transformative leader, who has evolved into a committed democrat, is secured in this narrative. The Nigeria project, which occupies the center stage in the book, has been Buhari’s life.

Professor Paden, the author of the book, was on point when he observed that political leadership was critical in keeping Nigeria moving and developing.

The search for that astute political leadership is what produced the Buhari presidency. That same search is what must propel this presidency forward.

The forward written by General Theophilus Danjuma captures the very essence of the book. No one is more qualified to evaluate President Buhari, from the past to the present, other than General Danjuma. As a senior officer to Buhari, they both enjoy a professional and personal friendship, unparalleled in our history. His words confirm that Buhari was a man prepared for leadership ahead of a time like this.

The formation of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is an important event that the book addresses. The merger was the result of teamwork, belief in the democratic will of the people and a commitment to national purpose.

Many of us invested ourselves, our heart, body, mind and soul in this project for national salvation. Many did not want it to happen and fought to undermine the good we sought to accomplish. Many others straddled the sidelines, neither completely in nor completely out, but waiting to see how the prevailing winds might blow before making their move.

Muhammadu Buhari never wavered for one moment on this journey. Proving to be a focused leadership, he acted with single-minded determination that showed no fear or doubt in the rightfulness of the cause we pursued. I know this for an unassailable fact because I was there with him, every step of the way, to fight against, what the realists told us, were un-surmountable odds.

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Yet, our determination for reform beat their smart calculations. The desire for a better country was more powerful than their incumbent might.

So many people made contributions that made the historic merger possible. It would be impossible to give each person the accolades they deserve in a concise work such as this one. However, it is an account that we must begin to chronicle fully, and with care, for it is the story of when reform came to the land. Here, I must say that this book makes a good initial contribution toward this objective.

Indeed, the APC is a party born of the quest for democratic good governance. In essence, the party is the embodiment of a democratic promise made between its members as well as a democratic vow made to the public. The APC genesis is truly a historic and an engaging one.

I, therefore, crave your indulgence here to give a bit more insight.

In forming the ‘new’ party, we had 3 challenges. The first was learning the right lessons from the aborted attempt at political cooperation in 2011. Fortunately, both the ACN and CPC regretted our inability to conclude a pact in 2011.

We agreed that there would be no recrimination over what did not happen before. We agreed there would be an intensified effort to forge the united effort that eluded us in 2011.

In 2011, both parties wanted cooperation, but became stuck whether that should take the form of an alliance or outright merger. This difference gave rise to another one, regarding how the Vice Presidential candidate, who would run with the Presidential Candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, would be selected.

Despite numerous good-faiths demonstrated in attempts to resolve these issues, time ran out on finding a solution. In retrospect, we all were perhaps a bit too inflexible and did not realize the extent to which cooperation and flexibility were needed to establish the reform we all wanted.

The result: each party went its own way in 2011. However, the talks of 2011 would foreshadow the discussions, beginning in 2013, which led to the successful merger forming the APC.

Talks mainly between the CPC, led by Buhari, and the ACN, led by myself, later joined by the ANPP and the progressive wing of APGA, would go more smoothly and would reach the desired finish-line this time. There would be a merger and there would be a presidential candidate agreeable to all. A winning combination had been joined.

It would give the PDP, which had boasted of 60 continuous years in power, more than it could handle.

After the successful merger and the birth of APC, it was time to pick a flag bearer. At the Lagos convention, President Buhari emerged as the new party’s choice in a transparently-honest process.  His speech to the convention was greeted with ovation, even by those who had opposed him.

In that speech, he said to the delight of all who heard, and I quote him:

“I can’t give you a pocketful of dollars or naira to purchase your support. Even if I could, I would not do so. The fate of this nation is not up for sale. What I will give you, and this nation, is all of my strength, commitment, sweat and toil in the service of the people.  What I can give you is my all”.

This set the tone for the campaign to come.

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But first, there was the sticky issue of selecting a running mate. After careful study and discussion, it was agreed that we should field a religiously-balanced ticket given the sensitivities of the moment.

Based on this conclusion, the name of Yemi Osinbajo, renowned law professor and former Lagos State Attorney-general during my tenure as governor, was proposed as an excellent running mate.

Osinbajo was also a Pastor in the largest church in the entire country, and this would answer those who wrongfully tried to paint Buhari as intolerant.

From these events, you can see a portrait of President Buhari as a democrat, more adept, than many would think, at the nuances of coalition-building and political partnership.

During the campaign, he surprised many by his agility and the broad canvas on which he operated.

In tracing the evolution of Buhari, the national leader, the author’s assertion that military rule is based on the power its holders can wield, while civilian rule is based on the legitimacy derived from elections, is a point with which I dare not debate.

Buhari’s career embodies this, hence his transition from being a military ruler to being a civilian leader, who subjected himself to the rigors and uncertainty of elections four times. Thrice he patiently went to court, seeking redress from electoral manipulation.

The author, quite accurately, remarked on the Buhari victory equation, as flowing from Northern grassroots support and coalition-building with the South West as well as with other tendencies.

Professor Paden, in the book, succinctly explains the transition from the Buhari in uniform to one in civilian garb. He notes that in terms of style of leadership, Buhari as a young military head of state was in a hurry.

However, now that he is older and given his experience, he is “slow but steady” in his approach to governance. The author juxtaposes Buhari’s military career and his political career adeptly, weaving them together in a tapestry that evokes the image of a man, who, from day one, had been destined for leadership.

President Buhari made three electoral promises: Security, Corruption and Employment. On security, success has been recorded in decimating Boko Haram. On corruption and the rule of law, Buhari continues to plough new ground.

Chapter 19 of the book entitled ‘Corruption and Law’ is a good examination on his fight against corruption. Unemployment has been a stubborn problem, made even more difficult by the oil price-driven recession, but this administration has shown its commitment toward achieving the structural reform that will bring a durable solution to this and other economic challenges.

On the whole, the book is an important one. It is a logically-presented account of the emergence of the current political dispensation with President Buhari as its central protagonist. The author tried to achieve many things within a relatively small space. He succeeded in the main. He let the reader get a view into the family roots, life and experience of President Buhari. He also told the story of his professional career as a military general. The story of his political career and the journey to the presidency was told in a straightforward manner.

Finally, he attempted a quick evaluation of the President’s first year in office. The author covers a vast amount of territory with an economy of words, yet he manages to give a feel for Muhammadu Buhari, the man. Therein lies the success of the book.



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