Major-General Muhammadu Buhari is scheduled to face incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s presidential elections on February 14, 2015. Buhari is the candidate for the new All Progressives Congress (APC) party, formed last year as the result of a merger between four opposition parties. Read on for an inside look at the opposition candidate’s previous leadership history, and his platform for the upcoming election.
Buhari undertook military training in three countries: Having received the bulk of his education in Katsina, a town in northern Nigeria near the Niger border, before beginning military training. In addition to attending the military training school and military college in Kaduna in northwestern Nigeria, he also received training in Great Britain (Officer’s Cadet School, Army Mechanical Transport School), India (Defence Services’ Staff College), and the United States (United States Army War College).
He continues to defend his military coup: In October 2005, he defended the military coup he led in on December 31, 1983, when he deposed the elected civilian government of Alhaji Shehu Shagari, “The military came in when it was absolutely necessary and the elected people had failed the country.” He further said, “It is up to the people. If you choose correct leadership, there won’t be any need for the military regime.
Over 500 officials were jailed during Buhari’s 20-month stint as leader: As a part of his campaign against waste and corruption, Buhari sent 500 politicians, officials, and businessmen to prison. While some praised his attempts to make Nigeria’s government more accountable, others saw it as the tactics of a repressive military ruler.
Buhari’s “War Against Indiscipline” (WAI) stretched beyond anti-corruption measures: The campaign that became the cornerstone of Buhari’s tenure as leader in the 1980s, Nigerians were forced to form orderly queues at bus stops (under the watchful eyes of soldiers wielding whips, with orders to use them on anybody who became unruly. Civil servants who were late for work were forced to perform frog jumps as a form of humiliation, and journalists were jailed under restrictive decrees on press freedom.
He was imprisoned for 40 months following his leadership: Buhari was deposed in a palace coup led by General Ibrahim Babangida on August 27, 1985. He was imprisoned for 40 months following the coup, as the new leaders felt he had not made the restoration of civilian rule a priority. He had also lost much popular support, as people protested the austerity measures, declining health care services, and worsening economic conditions.
Buhari’s economic principles and political ideology continue to be referred to as Buharism: In his efforts to get Nigeria’s public finances back in line, Buhari’s government curbed imports into the country, refused to devalue the Naira, curtailed oil theft, bartered illegally bunkered crude oil for needful goods, and more. While many praised the government’s successfulness in reducing inflation, many of the changes also resulted in widespread job losses and business closures, lowering living standards for many.
He has run unsuccessfully for President of Nigeria on three occasions: Buhari ran in the 2003, 2007, and 2011 presidential elections in Nigeria, but was unsuccessful in his campaign on each count. In 2003, he lost to the People’s Democratic Party nominee, President Olusegun Obasanjo, by a margin of over 11 million votes – while there were some allegations of fraud, courts found that the level of proven electoral fraud was not sufficient to have affected the outcome of the election. He lost to Umaru Yar’Adua in 2007, winning only 18% of the vote, and again in 2011 to current President Goodluck Jonathan, earning just over 12 million votes, to Jonathan’s nearly 22.5 million.
He has been accused of having a hand in post-election violence in 2011: The Nigerian human rights group, the Northern Coalition for Democracy and Justice (NCDJ), have asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to bring charges against Buhari for his alleged role in the violence that followed the 2011 presidential election. 800 people were killed, and churches and schools destroyed, during the course of the three days of riots following President Jonathan’s victory. The NCDJ has accused Buhari’s party of systematically targeting non-Buhari supporters in instances of murder, torture, and rape, though the All Progressives Congress party has denied all claims.
Buhari is running on an anti-corruption platform: Continuing his commitment to stamping out corruption, Buhari has focused his 2014 campaign on corruption measures, also pledging to tackle growing insecurity in northern Nigeria with the Islamic insurgency. But while many agree with his position on corruption and see his military expertise as the answer to ongoing violence by the Boko Haram, many question his ability to direct policy and the day-to-day of political life.
A loss by Buhari would most likely lead to much anger in the north: Due to Nigeria’s vastly diverse ethnic groups, an unwritten agreement has ensured that power rotates between the Muslim-majority north and Christian south every two terms – an agreement that was undercut with President Jonathan’s primary victory in December 2014, leading to dozens of ruling party legislators defecting and losing the People’s Democratic Party’s majority in the lower house of Parliament. Should Jonathan win again in February 2015, it will exacerbate the perception that power in the country has become concentrated in the oil-rich south.
Buhari has accused Jonathan of failing to contain the Islamic uprising that has killed thousands: Buhari has accused Jonathan and his administration of incompetence, and of being too weak to control the Islamic uprising in northern Nigeria and the ongoing violence carried out by the Boko Haram. He has perpetuated his reputation as a disciplinarian and ruthless military leader that would be able to contain the Boko Haram’s activities.
He was one of two private African individuals to be invited to Barack Obama’s inauguration: Demonstrating the respect that Buhari commands on the international level, he was one of two private individuals invited by the White House to Barack Obama’s inauguration ceremony.