NIGERIA: The Long Journey of Buhari to Greatness – Giant’s Trip to Hell and Back

At what must go down in history as its lowest moment since the Biafra war, Nigeria descended into a pariah state status under dictator Sani Abacha.
A man walks past a banner with portraits of president  Buhari and vice president Yemi Osinbajo at Eagle Square in Abuja on May 28, 2015 ahead of Friday's handover ceremony. (Photo/AFP).

A man walks past a banner with portraits of president Buhari and vice president Yemi Osinbajo at Eagle Square in Abuja on May 28, 2015 ahead of Friday’s handover ceremony. (Photo/AFP).

MUHAMMADU Buhari was sworn in as Nigeria’s next president on Friday in the capital, Abuja, 30 years after he was ousted as military head-of-state in a coup by a rival general.

Here are six key moments in the nation’s history between the two Buhari regimes, and the trials it has had to overcome.

June 23, 1993: military annuls election

The general who removed Buhari in the 1985 coup, Ibrahim Babangida, had grown infamous for entrenching corruption in Africa’s most populous country.

He repeatedly backtracked on promises to hold elections and to handover to a civilian administration.

In 1993, he appeared to finally capitulate, organising polls on June 12 that popular business tycoon Moshood Abiola was on track to win in a landslide.

But on June 23, as final results were expected, Babaginda annulled the vote and tried to extend his tenure.

Though he was ultimately removed three months later, military rule was to last another five years, with Nigeria descending into a pariah state status under dictator Sani Abacha.

November 10, 1995: Ken Saro-Wiwa executed 

The environmental activist had led a protest movement aimed at blocking Shell from continuing to operate in the oil-rich Ogoniland region of the southern Niger Delta.

His Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People argued oil production had devastated the region’s environment while providing no benefit to ordinary people.

When four pro-Shell Ogoni leaders were murdered, Abacha’s regime blamed Saro-Wiwa and eight of his loyalists.

He was convicted in what was widely condemned as a military show-trial.

The execution on November 10, 1995, appeared to crystallise how far Nigeria had fallen: oil, the most important sector, had been overrun by corruption and mismanagement, while a ruthless military dictator cracked down on those who dared to protest.

The execution was universally condemned, including by Nelson Mandela and other major world leaders. Nigeria was suspended from the Commonwealth.

 October 21, 2005: debt relief deal 

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The deal struck under President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration was heralded as marking Nigeria’s full return to the international system, six years after democracy was restored.

The Paris Club creditors’ decision to wipe out 60% of Nigeria’s $30 billion (27.5 billion euros) in debt followed two reasonably successful elections and steps by Obasanjo to tackle corruption and push through economic reform.

Obasanjo’s status as an anti-graft reformer is fiercely disputed—billions went missing under his watch—but the Paris Club deal closed one chapter in the history of military rule, when Nigeria largely ignored its international debt obligations.

July 30, 2009: Boko Haram founder killed 

In the preceding days, Yusuf’s supporters clashed with security forces in the northeast city of Maiduguri over an order mandating motorcyclists to wear helmets, which they said violated their religious rights.

Yusuf was arrested and extra-judicially killed by police days later.

While no single event cast Boko Haram down a path of mass murder and kidnappings, Yusuf’s death appeared to be a turning point.

Previously, violence blamed on the group had been small in scale.

After its founder died, the group went underground for about a year, re-emerged with new leaders and re-launched an insurgency that has claimed more than 15,000 lives and forced 1.5 million others from their homes.

Most of Boko Haram’s victims have been unarmed civilians, including children, thousands of whom have been kidnapped.

February 10, 2013: Super Eagles victory 

Nigeria’s footballers, led by coach Stephen Keshi, ended a 19-year drought at the African Cup of Nations, beating Burkina Faso 1-0 in the final.

Many in the football-mad nation of 173 million people had come to resent the national side’s under-performance at major tournaments, especially compared to nearby Ghana, which has just 25 million people but was only a missed penalty away from reaching the World Cup semi-finals in 2010.

There remains a significant divide between Nigeria’s mainly Muslim north and mostly Christian south but celebrations for the Super Eagles African cup win transcended the regional divide.

April 1, 2015: Buhari beats Jonathan 

Buhari’s win over President Goodluck Jonathan was the first time an opposition candidate had defeated an incumbent in Nigeria’s history.

Expectations are high following the much-criticised Jonathan era, which has been plagued by corruption, crippling power shortages, economic turmoil and widespread unrest.

For some, the historic transfer of power set for Friday has solidified democracy in Africa’s top economy.

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