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  1. Muhammadu Buhari has joined the presidential race, ahead
    of next year’s general elections on the platform of
    the All Progressives Congress (APC). Assistant Editor LEKE SALAUDEEN examines the qualities that distinguish him from other aspirants.

    Former Military Head of State General Muhammadu Buhari
    has declared his intention to contest next year’s presidential election on the platform of
    the All Progressives Congress (APC) before a mammoth crowd in Abuja.
    The massive turnout and the presence of notable politicians across the six geo-political zones underscore the popularity of the former military ruler.

    Buhari is one of the founding fathers of the APC. His former party,
    the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), was one of
    the three major opposition parties that came together to form the
    APC. The two others are the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the All Nigeria Peoples’
    Party (ANPP).

    Before the APC was registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Buhari had made
    his intention to contest election known. He also promised to step down, if the party finds a more qualified
    and acceptable candidate. His declaration at the Eagle Square, Abuja, is seen as a fulfilment of that
    personal ambition.

    Buhari is not a new entrant in the presidential race.

    He was the presidential candidate of the defunct ANPP in 2003 and 2007 and that of the CPC in 2011.
    His ambition constitutes a threat to the interest of the ruling party because of his popularity and acceptability, particularly in the Northwest
    and the Northeast and lately, the Southwest. The reason is that both the Northwest
    and Southwest constitute 51 per cent of the registered voters.

    His opponents came up with speculations recently that the former military ruler has dropped his ambition to contest on the grounds that he is too old and had agreed to
    step down for the younger aspirants like Kano State
    Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso and the Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Tambuwal.

    But, his associates have responded, denying that the former Head
    of State never made such statements. For instance, former governor of Bayelsa
    State, Timipre Sylva, dismissed the idea that he is too old, saying those canvassing those ideas were
    only trying to be mischievous. He said: “To those who say Buhari is too old, I will only quote the words of the former President of America, the late President Ronald Regan who said; “we are not going to make age
    an issue in this campaign because we do not want to be accused of taking advantage of the inexperience of our
    opponent.”

    Sylva added: “Buhari is not in this race for himself.
    He is in the race because of us, the younger people. Gen. Buhari brings experience to this campaign. He brings integrity to this campaign. We are very
    happy that he has decided to come out of retirement to help us stabilise this country, so that
    the younger ones can carry on the development of this great nation.

    Another associate of Buhari, Mr Rotimi Fashakin, said Nelson Mandela
    was over 70 when he was elected President of South Africa.
    According to him, Mandela laid a solid foundation of good governance on which his successors have been consolidating.

    He said Nigerians should throw away the notion that
    age is not on the side of Buhari. “He will be 71 in December and age is not against him. The people using age as variable for competence for good governance are out to confuse people,” he said.

    On whether Buhari is a religious bigot as being depicted by his political rivals,
    the APC chieftain, Chief Audu Ogbeh, said Buhari have friends and political associates who are Christians.
    Ogbeh said, if Buhari is a bigot, people like him, Chief John Odige-Oyegun, Prince Tony Momoh and George Akume will
    not be in the same party with him. He described
    those making such insinuation as enemies of Nigeria who did not
    mind dividing Nigeria along religious lines.

    But, given the revelation about how he raised the money for his nomination form,
    a lot of people are already asking whether
    Buhari can come up with the financial resources to undertake electioneering campaign.
    This question is pertinent because electioneering campaign in Nigeria, especially the
    presidential elections costs a fortune. Buhari, unlike most of his colleagues who retired from military, never used public office
    to enrich himself. Apart from being the Head of State, he was also at different times the military
    governor of the defunct North Eastern State, the Minister
    of Petroleum Resources, the Chairman, Board of the Nigerian National Petroleum Resources (NNPC) and the Chairman of the defunct Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF).
    He came out of these positions unscathed. He declared recently at a public function that “as a retired military officer, I live on pension.”

    That explains why he had to take loan from his bank to pay for
    the APC nomination form. One of his confidants said Buhari
    is the only former Head of State or President that has not corruptly enriched himself while in office.

    “Apart from his house in Kaduna and Daura, his home town, he has no other buildings. All he used to tell us is that, whatever wealth you acquired on this earth, you would account for its source on the Day of Judgment,” the confidant said.

    According to the source, the presidential aspirant is not a money-bag politician, who can afford to bankroll his
    campaign expenses. He relies on the support and contribution of party
    members and associates who believe in what he stands for.
    A case in point, he said, was the six million naira raised by the
    APC members in Bauchi at a rally to assist him in paying for the nomination form.
    He said that was how previous elections were
    financed.

    He said: “Buhari is obviously the most popular of all the Northern aspirants. He is the only person that can win the whole Northwest, Northeast and a great deal of North central. In 2011, he ran for the Presidency on the platform of a party (CPC) that came into being only 10 months to the election and still got 12 million votes. You can imagine what his performance will look like on a bigger platform like the APC. Buhari has no money to share or bribe the electorate, but he has the charisma and integrity that endear him to the people”.

    In military circles, Buhari is admired for his uprightness
    and self-discipline. He was selected to lead the country by middle
    and high ranking military officers after the military coup
    that overthrew the civilian administration of former President
    Shehu Shagari on December 31, 1983. He justified the military’s seizure of power by castigating the civilian government as hopelessly
    corrupt. His government was revered for its ability to keep the country afloat by making
    progress through sheer economic ingenuity, even when it rejected the International Monetary Fund
    (IMF) loan because he felt the conditions were not favourable,
    particularly the idea of devaluing the naira. His government was praised for its gain in reducing inflation by refusing to devalue the nation’s currency, curbing imports of needless goods, curtailing oil theft and using counter trade policy to barter seized illegally bunkered crude oil for needful
    goods.

    As an elder statesman, Buhari makes his views known on national issues and offer
    suggestions to government, despite being in opposition. For instance, he warned President Jonathan against
    the gale of impeachment of opposition governors which, he said, would not
    augur well for the survival of a fragile nation like Nigeria or the survival of its young democracy.

    He said: “Whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan is behind the gale of impeachment or the utilisation of desperate tactics to suffocate the opposition and turn Nigeria into a one-party state, what cannot be denied is that they are happening under his watch, and he cannot pretend not to know, since that will be akin to hiding behind one finger.

    “In my capacity as an elder statesman, rather than a politician,
    I have spoken to President Jonathan in private over these issues, but indications
    are that the strategy has not yielded positive results.
    I cannot, just because I am an opposition politician, fail to do what is
    expected of me as an elder statesman to rescue our nation in times of great trouble
    and palpable uncertainty.

    “History will not be kind to me if I sit back while things turn bad, just so that no one will accuse me of partisanship. Yes, I am a politician. Yes, I am in the opposition. Yes, there is the tendency for my statement to be misconstrued as that of a politician rather than a statesman. But, I owe it as matter of duty and honour, and in the interest of our nation, to speak out on the dangerous trajectory that our nation is heading.

    “I can say, in all sincerity, that I have seen it all,
    as an ordinary citizen, a military officer, a Head of State,
    a man who has occupied many other sensitive posts and a politician. I
    have been a close participant and witness to Nigeria’s political history.

    “Our country has gone through several rough patches, but never before have I seen a Nigerian President declare war on his own country as we are seeing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian President deploy federal institutions in the service of partisanship as we are witnessing now. Never before have I seen a Nigerian President utilise the common wealth to subvert the system and punish the opposition, all in the name of politics.

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