My life as a herdsman, by Buhari

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Apparently recalling his early life as a herdsman, President Muhammadu Buhari has said his rearing of cattle contributed immensely to shaping him into what he is today as a former military Head of State and the incumbent president of Nigeria, attributing these landmark achievements to the Fulani training of perseverance which he imbibed along the line.

President Buhari won the 2015 presidential election on the platform of the All Progressives Congress (APC) after he attempted it four times before defeating former President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Speaking in an interview initially published by The Sun Newspaper in 2012 but reproduced by Saturday Telegraph, President Buhari acknowledged that his life as a herdsman was made possible due to the Fulani training of perseverance which toughened and made him a realist. President Buhari in the interview also talked about his relationship with former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Military President Ibrahim Babangida respectively, whom he said, he had some unpalatable experi-ences with in his emergence as head of state.

In the case of Obasanjo, Buhari said he still remembers with nostalgic intuition what the former president did to him by mobilising the electorate against him while Babangida’s case was masterminding the coup that ousted his military regime in 1983.

Sounding modest in his assessment of his growing up days as a herdsman, Buhari said: “Clearly, I could recall I reared cattle. We had cattle; we had sheep and then, there was good neighbourhood. Not many children had the opportunity to go to school, but I went to school.

“Those who are brought up in the city have limited space. If you are in a confined school, you learn from the school and what you see immediately. But the nomad life exposes you to nature. You will never learn enough about plants, trees, insects and animals.

Every day, you are learning something. You have seen them and every day you are learning. You will never know all of them. So, it is so vast that it takes a lot of whatever you can think of.

And then again, the difference in the environment. In the Savannah, in the Sahel, after harvest, you can always see as high as your eyes can go. And then, at night when there is moon, it is fantastic. So, I enjoyed those days and they made a lasting impression on me.

“I left home at the age of 10 or 11 and went to school, like I said. And I was in the boarding school for nine years. In primary school and secondary school, I was in the boarding house and from there, I went straight into the Army.” Recalling what could have spurred him further as a respected herdsman in his country home in Daura, Katsina State, the President said: “Because when you have reared cattle, for those who have been doing it, they said it toughens you…”

On what could have led to his perceived rift with Obasanjo, Buhari tacitly said: “Obasanjo mobilised Nigerian voters against me,” apparently referring to the various times he contested the Presidential elections and lost before he eventually won the 2015 election. Pressed further if he actually had forgiven the former president, he said: “No, I haven’t forgiven him (laughter).” For Babangida, Buhari said his feud with the former military president was hinged on the fact that he staged a coup that ousted his regime in 1983, which according to him, got him infuriated.

He said: “Of course, I was angry because I can’t recall what I had done for him to mobilise the military to overthrow me and detain me for more than three years. Yeah, it is natural for me to be upset.”

Though he later acknowledged that he had forgiven Babangida publicly, he, however, said: “I think the worst thing anybody can do to oneself is to have either hatred or grudge on a daily basis. One thing will happen and you better forget.

I did. Publicly, I did.” He added: “I have and some of your papers published it. I said as a Muslim, I have forgiven him. I have forgiven him. I said it and it was printed by some of your colleagues. But I didn’t say it will be forgotten. It cannot be forgotten. If I say I forget about it, I will be lying. But I have forgiven him, just as I expect Shagari to forgive me as the one who succeeded him.”

Asked if joining the military was the best thing that ever happened to him, he said: “I think so, because from primary to secondary school and in the military, it continued, both the academic and the physical one. I think it was so tough, but then, once it was inbuilt, it had to be sustained because you don’t contemplate failure.”

On why he choose the infantry and not the other arms, President Buhari said: “I found the infantry much more challenging and when we were doing the training, the Federal Government decided that we were going to have the Air Force.

So, I was invited. A team came from the Ministry of Defence to interview cadets that wanted to be fighter pilots in the Air Force. “I was the first to be called in our group. I appeared before them and they told me that those who could pass the interview would be recommended to go to the Air Force training in the UK.Some also went to Ethiopia or United States or Germany. So, they asked me whether I wanted to be a fighter pilot and I said no.

They asked why, and I said I wasn’t interested. “We were given three choices. Number one, maybe you went to infantry; number two, you went to reconnaissance before they became armour and later, maybe artillery. So, all my three choices, I could recall vividly, I put infantry, infantry.

So, they said why? I said because I liked infantry. And they asked if I wouldn’t like to be a fighter pilot. I said no, I didn’t want to join them. They said why. I said I hadn’t done Physics. “Normally, I did some mathematics but to be a fighter pilot, you must do some physics.

They said no, that it was no problem, that I could have an additional one academic year. So, since I had some mathematics background, it was just one year purely to do physics and I would reach the grade required to be a pilot. I said no, I didn’t want it. They again asked why.

I told them I chose infantry. The reason is: when I am fighting and I was shot at, if I was not hit, I can go down, turn back and take off by foot. They laughed and sent me out. So, I remained infantry officer.”

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