Three African leaders, Mr. Idris Debby of the Republic of Chad; Mr. Patrice Talon of Benin Republic; and Muhammadu Yusuf of Niger Republic, on Monday joined top government officials, former Nigerian leaders, state governors, captains of industry and traditional rulers to honour President Muhammadu Buhari.
The men and women from all walks of life gathered for the public presentation of a book, “Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenges of Leadership in Nigeria,” written by Prof. John Paden.
The Presidents of Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon were represented by their country’s ambassadors in Nigeria at the event held inside the International Conference Centre, Abuja.
A former military leader, Gen. Yakubu Gowon (retd.); former President Olusegun Obasanjo; former Vice-President Namadi Sambo; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; President of the Senate, Bukola Saraki; the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; a national leader of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu; and the party’s National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, attended the event.
Organisers said proceeds from the book would be sent to the Internally Displaced Persons’ camps nationwide.
Donations were not made public but guests were encouraged to buy as many copies of the book as possible at the rate of N1,500 per copy of paperback edition; N2,500 per copy of hardcover and N10,000 per copy of leather edition.
The two presenters of the book, Mr. Tunde Folawiyo and Alhaji Abdusamad Rabiu, promised to donate two copies each to every tertiary institution in Nigeria.
Obasanjo, who was the special guest of honour at the event, described the 320-page book as a mixture of history and current affairs, saying the author’s account was accurate except for a few “incorrect insinuations” which he said could be understood.
The former President, who defeated Buhari in the 2003 presidential election, said he and the President had had many encounters, most of which saw them holding different positions.
Despite being in different camps, however, Obasanjo expressed happiness that he and Buhari who are both retired military generals, did not resort to engaging in gun duel.
He said, “President Muhammadu Buhari and I have had many encounters, but most times in parallel.
“Not too long ago, we had a direct opposition at the ballot box. But even then, it did not affect our relationship.
“Fortunately, we did not have to look at each other through the barrel of our guns.”
In commending Buhari’s integrity, Obasanjo said the book confirmed what he knew about the President.
He recalled when the President attended a meeting of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries in his capacity as the nation’s Commissioner for Petroleum Resources in Saudi Arabia and returned with a golden coin for him (Obasanjo) who was the then military leader.
He said Buhari gave him the coin with a condition that he would not in turn give it out the same way he did with a pair of expensive shoes earlier given to him by another person.
Gowon, who was the chairman of the occasion, said Buhari deserved every word of praise and criticism that could come his way at the occasion.
He described the President as a fighter and a man of destiny.
He said although he was told several times that he would never see the inside of the Presidential Villa, his persistence paid off in 2015 when he won that year’s presidential election.
In his review of the book, Tinubu said the author portrayed Buhari as a man who had lived his life on assignments that always intersected with vital moments in the nation’s history.
He recalled that the President was a man on an assignment, when, in the military, he served bravely in a Civil War to keep Nigeria united.
He added that he was also on a national assignment when he became the military Head of State in what he called a well-intentioned effort to straighten things out and set Nigeria on a better path.
Tinubu said, “When he ventured into politics and competed for the presidency culminating in his 2015 election victory, he was still on an 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 a 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.”
Tinubu went down memory lane, recalling how the APC which defeated the Peoples Democratic Party at the federal level was formed. He described the merger process as a teamwork 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 leader, he acted with a 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 insurmountable odds.
“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 accolade they deserve in a concise work such as this one.
He recalled that after Buhari’s emergence as the party’s presidential candidate, there was a thorny issue of who would be his running mate.
Tinubu said stakeholders later agreed to settle for Osinbajo, a Christian in order to get a religiously-balanced ticket given the sensitivity of the moment.
He said the fact that Osinbajo was a pastor answered those who wrongfully tried to paint Buhari as intolerant.
The President of the Lagos Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Chief Nike Akande, in her goodwill message, said Buhari had performed creditably well in office.
A former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, Ambassador John Campbell, described Buhari as a confirmation of Barack Obama’s statement that in the face of adversity, those who love their country would rise to change it.
He urged the US to show more interest in Nigeria as the giant of Africa.
A former minister, Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, recalled that even as a military leader, Buhari conducted cabinet meetings in a democratic manner.
He said the President always defer to the collective decisions of the Federal Executive Council.
The Minister of Science and Technology, Chief Ogbonaya Onu, said Buhari had always been using his influence for the common good rather than for self.
Meanwhile, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar has said that he did not attend the event because he got the invitation to the book launch late.
Abubakar made the explanation in a statement by his Media Adviser, Paul Ibe.