Independence Day Who was President Buhari on October 1, 1960?

While Nigerians celebrated independence 57 years ago, what was Buhari up to?

  • Published:
President Muhammadu Buhari play

President Muhammadu Buhari

(Bayo Omoboriowo)
24/7 Live - Subscribe to the Pulse Newsletter!

When the British Union flag came down to be replaced by the Nigerian green white green as part of the final ceremony of the country's independence from colonisation on the night of October 1, 1960, it was greeted with great relish and pomp of a relieved nation.

While merrymakers trooped to the Tafawa Balewa Square in Lagos to witness the nation's leaders receive the country's 'Freedom Charter' from Queen Elizabeth II's representative, Princess Alexandra of Kent, celebrations of emancipation broke out in other regions of the country too.

Happy Nigerians took to the streets in all parts of the country to celebrate a painstaking victory in its long struggle for freedom.

Independence celebrations in Enugu, southeastern Nigeria, October 1960. play Nigerians are not known to waste a good opportunity to celebrate milestones (Getty)

 

Among those jubilant crowds, in the northern region, was a certain teenager who would eventually go on to lead Africa's most popular nation not once, but two different times.

On October 1, 1960, Nigeria's incumbent 74-year-old leader, President Muhammadu Buhari, was a 17-year-old student of Katsina Provincial Secondary School (now Government College, Katsina).

Before joining the school in 1956, the Daura-born Katsina native had been a student of Katsina Model School.

Buhari's class phototgraph as a student of the Government College in 1960. play

Buhari's class phototgraph as a student of the Government College in 1960.

(Sahara Reporters)

 

According to John Paden in his biography of the president titled "Muhammadu Buhari: The Challenge of Leadership in Nigeria", the president was a reluctant student in his early years who would often get beaten by the schoolmaster for skipping school.

According to Paden in chapter one of the book subtitled 'Schooling and Leadership Values', "In part because of love for the outdoors, Buhari was a reluctant student in his early years. He would often skip school altogether, although this always resulted in beatings with a cane by the schoolmaster.

"Only with the encouragement of Waziri al-Hasan and Mamman Daura did he eventually settle down and take his studies seriously."

The president's turnaround eventually led to him becoming his school's Head Boy at some point.

Even though he most probably couldn't have imagined it at the time, that teenager's decision a year after Nigeria's independence is largely responsible for what he has become today.

He enrolled in the Nigerian Military Training College (now Nigerian Defence Academy) in 1961 before undergoing officer cadet training at Mons Officer Cadet School in Aldershot, England, between 1962 and 1963.

He became a second lieutenant and was appointed platoon commander in 1963 before he served as commander and brigade major between 1965 and 1967.

After his participation in the counter-coup of 1966 as a lieutenant, Buhari performed several roles in the bloody Nigerian Civil War of 1967 to 1970.

In 1971, he married his first wife Safinatu Yusuf with whom he had five children before their eventual divorce in 1988.

President Muhammadu Buhari with his first wife, Hajiya Safinatu Buhari, and their five children play

President Muhammadu Buhari with his first wife, Hajiya Safinatu Buhari, and their five children

(Information Nigeria)

 

After brief stints as Governor of the North-Eastern State and Governor of Borno state between 1975 and 1976, Buhari was appointed as the Federal Commissioner (a position now called Minister) for Petroleum and Natural Resources in 1976 by then Head of State, General Olusegun Obasanjo.

After using forces under his command to chase off Chadian aggressors who invaded Nigeria in the Borno state area in 1983, Buhari, as General Officer Commanding (GOC), Third Armored Division, led a coup that overthrew Nigeria's Second Republic of democratically elected leaders and suspended the 1979 constitution.

In what is now considered a very familiar tune, the major reason given for the military overthrow of the government was the civilian leaders' corrupt management of the country that had led to an economic and moral decline.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari play President Buhari's military reign 34 years ago didn't last for too long (The Guardian)

 

After a short-lived controversial two years as the supreme leader of the country, Major General Buhari was overthrown by General Ibrahim Babangida and other members of the ruling Supreme Military Council (SMC) for failing to adequately address Nigeria's economic problems.

As a 'reformed democrat' with an incorruptible contempt for corruption, Buhari lost three presidential elections in 2003, 2007 and 2011 before becoming the first opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent in 2015.

The Nigeria that got liberated with purposeful unity 57 years ago when Buhari was a teenager is not the same Nigeria that he's lording over in the twilight of his years.

Jam'iyar APC ta kaddamar da shugaban kasa da gwamnan jihar Katsina a matsayin yan takarar zaben 2019 play President Buhari has a lot of work to do to unite a divided nation (Bayo Omoboriowo)

 

In his first Independence Day address on October 1, 2015, the president notably pointed out that Nigeria's most significant problem is its inability to stay united.

He said, "We have all the attributes of a great nation. We are not there yet because the one commodity we have been unable to exploit to the fullest is unity of purpose.

"This would have enabled us to achieve not only more orderly political evolution and integration but also continuity and economic progress."

Events that have unfolded in the country since that fateful speech has lent it even more relevance as the President presides over a very fractured nation.

When President Buhari addresses Nigerians again today, he'll do well to weigh the national mood of his teenage years against the pervading air of disunity that reigns now and show a divided populace that all hope is not lost.

Do you ever witness news or have a story that should be featured on Pulse Nigeria?
Submit your stories, pictures and videos to us now via WhatsApp: +2349055172167, Social Media @pulsenigeria247: #PulseEyewitness & DM or Email: eyewitness@pulse.ng. More information here.