BUHARI: A New Dawn His Pal Talks To DAILY GUIDE

President-elect Muhammadu Buhari’s second ascension to power in Africa’s most populous nation is a story of perseverance and stoicism.

Having tried to return to the presidency abortively in previous times, he has finally made it, the many hurdles thrown on his path by his political opponents notwithstanding.

When he is sworn in on 29th May, 2015 as President of Africa’s biggest oil producer, he would be the third Fulani to hold that position.

He was once a military head of state and is returning to lead the country once more as a septuagenarian with a lot of wisdom and experience.

Abuja Office
His office in Abuja, following the All People’s Congress (APC) victory in polls in which the defeated ruling party, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ran the most expensive campaign, is now a beehive of a flurry of activities.

All roads now lead to the Buhari office in Abuja as though he has already assumed the leadership of Nigeria.

The journey to the presidency was fraught with myriad challenges created by his political adversaries in the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). The role of Goodluck Jonathan in the smear campaign spawned by the PDP cannot be overlooked.

The issue of his missing or even non-existing School Certificate, one of the many artificial impediments spawned by his opponents, made interesting headlines in Nigeria. It was instructive that it died with the triumph of the former military strongman.

The Nigerian Army provided the certificate as soon as the victory was announced. Politics in Africa can be intriguing. It was as though he was commissioned into the Nigerian Army without such a document.

They spoke about his age as though the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria barred septuagenarians from becoming presidents.

Nana Akufo-Addo
He told Nana Akufo-Addo when the two of them met that ‘with my victory, age is no longer a factor in vying for the presidency.’

It has turned out that most of the people who did not favour a Buhari presidency were guided by a phobia for his discipline and abhorrence of corruption. They recalled his days as military head of state and how he insisted that discipline be the watchword. Goodluck Jonathan’s wife personally equated a Buhari win with the imprisonment of her husband and others. Buhari has, however, assured that Goodluck has nothing to fear anyway.

I personally recall his campaign, ‘War Against Indiscipline’, which resonated across the country especially in the civil and public service during my sojourn in Kaduna, Nigeria.

Jonathan’s Wife
Goodluck Jonathan’s wife lambasted her husband’s political opponents, sometimes going too far with what sounded like her ethnocentric remarks. Eventually the poor, downtrodden or talakawa, as the Hausa refer to them, and whom she insulted lavishly, used their thumps to vote her husband out of power.

I was part of a delegation which met the President-elect, whose radiance said it all about the new office he was soon going to occupy and his readiness to make a change.

School Days
The longest serving Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Coomasie, is one of the confidantes of the President-elect, a man who might hold a national security adviser position or perform other roles on the quiet. They were not only school mates in Katsina, the oldest in that part of the then Northern Nigeria, but close pals.

When I asked him whether he would accept a position as National Security Adviser, he said ‘one has to rest after a long and chequered career. I could be playing other roles supportive of the government.’

Police, Military Career
Their decision to join the Police and the military respectively was one taken jointly, DAILY GUIDE has learnt. Those were the formative years of the then Northern Nigeria administration in the federal system.

The youth were being encouraged to avail themselves of the various opportunities in the military and Police including the civil service.

At retirement, he has been honoured with the traditional titles of Sardaunan Katsina and Garkuwan Hausa, the Shield of Hausaland. As the longest serving IGP in Nigeria—having served four heads of state—he is a rare breed.

Buhari’s Fact Sheet
Born on 17th December, 1942, he is the 23rd child of his father and was raised by his mother upon the death of his father when he was three or four years old.

With ten children, two dead, he had his military training in three countries—the United States, India and the United Kingdom.

As a child, he reared cattle and has eight military decorations to his credit.

He had foreknowledge that his successor, General Ibrahim Babangida, was going to overthrow him. He was eventually imprisoned by Babangida for nearly four years and his mother died when he was in prison but he was not allowed to attend her funeral.

He was one of the two private African individuals to be invited to the inauguration of Barack Obama.

In 1983 when Chadian forces invaded Borno State, he used soldiers under his command to chase them away, crossing into their territory in spite of an order from President Shehu Shagari to withdraw.

He rejected an offer to work with late President Umaru Yar’Adua’s government. (Fact Sheet courtesy Punch newspaper).

Abuja To Katsina
The journey from Abuja to Katsina, the state which houses Buhari’s hometown of Daura, took six hours. When we eventually arrived at the residence of the man whose ancestors settled in Kumasi in the 1800s, hence the name Coomasie, we were overwhelmed by the reception accorded us.

Competing with the dishes we were served for breakfast, lunch and dinner was the history the former IGP gave us about himself and President-elect Buhari, the man he and the Northern elite fought to bring to power through the Arewa Consultative Forum. Arewa means north in Hausa.

Boko Haram
Boko Haram came to the scene, he said, in 2009; and at the time, it was a protest against unemployment and general economic challenges, adding that it was then under a certain Yusuf. This man, he said, died in the hands of the police after he was arrested and handed over to them by the military.

The new face of Boko Haram under Abubakar Shekau, he said, has lasted this long because of a certain hidden political agenda by some persons, pointing out that so much money was pumped into an ostensible war against the insurgency.

Boko Haram under Abubakar Shekau started as an insurgency against a section of the country, he said, pointing out that there have been suspicions against the government of the day regarding its commitment to dealing decisively with the insurgency.

Ibrahim Coomasie expressed surprise and that of Nigerians about the sudden change in election date ostensibly to allow for the security of the country. He wondered how that period could afford the government a chance to do what it could not do earlier.

He echoed an allegation which made the rounds about how the Nigerian authorities, through Goodluck Jonathan, demanded a slow-down in the onslaught against the insurgents, charges which feed into the fear that there was a deliberate action not to organise an all-out war against them.

The Americans and British had come forward with assistance but they did not receive the necessary reception from their hosts, he recalled.

Relationship With Buhari
‘Buhari’s elder brother, Dauda Daura, worked under my father and both of them were educated in Katsina,’ he said.

Ibrahim Coomasie, Shehu Yaradua and Abba Ali were all school mates, part of the elites from Katsina, the part of the North which produced top soldiers, police officers and public servants for Nigeria.

‘I left my mates and followed my father who was on transfer to Zaria as chief adult education officer,’ he said.

‘In 1961, we passed the West African Cambridge School Certificate examinations,’ he said and added that ‘I was the only person who responded to the query raised about Buhari’s certificate.

Ibrahim Coomasie recalled how Buhari and Yaradua went to the Army ‘and I proceeded for my Higher School Certificate in Zaria, after which I was drafted into the Police and rose to the pinnacle of the Nigerian Police, serving under four Presidents. In the course of our career, with Buhari we met at Dodan Barracks when he was the military head of state and I, Commissioner of Police in Lagos State.’

War Against Indiscipline
Buhari, he said, is a man with a passion for discipline and during his tenure as head of state, he introduced the ‘War Against Indiscipline’ programme in the country.

Migration To The Gold Coast
The former IGP recalled how his ancestor migrated to the then Gold Coast, leaving his footprints in Karaga, Yendi and Kumasi, all in Ghana today.

Some of the Coomasies returned home and from them Ibrahim Coomasie was born among others now bearing the surname. Coomasie was how the British spelt Kumasi in the early part of the colonial administration.

‘We originated from the Futa Jalon mountains through Borno and eventually settling in Katsina through Malam Mahammadu Maikanwa,’ he said.

Malam Yakubu Maikanwa, one of the descendants of the early Coomasies, was the one who migrated to the Gold Coast with his wife, Malama Rabiatu, who bore him Malam Halidu, Halaru, Hassan and Husseini, the man who became an important cleric with close ties with the Asantehene in Kumasi and called Malam Salau. He was the father of Malam Ahmadu, the father of Ibrahim Coomasie.

He was sent to Katsina by Malam Salau in replacement of a son who died earlier upon his return to Katsina.

The late SI Iddrisu, an MP in the First Republic, is one of the Coomasies, including Dr Muntawakilu Iddrisu, a neurosurgeon at the Korle-Bu Teaching Hospital.

As a former professional police officer, Ibrahim Coomasie has high regards for international policing and spoke highly about the International Police. He was instrumental in the establishment of the West African Police Association, of which he was the first Chairman.

‘I sent officers to Ghana during my tenure under the auspices of Interpol, all to enhance international policing,’ he said.

By A.R Gomda

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