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In Muhammadu Buhari, The Black Pharaoh, Adeolu interrogates leadership, patriotism

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More than 15 million Nigerians chose Muhammadu Buhari as their president in 2019, close to the number that elected him in 2015, indicating that four years in office did not diminish his appeal. His power base still remained the poor of northern Nigeria, known as the talakawa in the Hausa language.

In 2015, he campaigned as a born-again democrat, vowing to root out corruption, revive the economy and defeat the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency. An electorate worried about corruption, insecurity and the economy took him at his word, making him the first Nigerian opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent president.

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However, on assumption, the economy slid into recession, as a result of a sharp fall in the global price of oil. The downturn was exacerbated by his opposition to devaluing the naira, which led to a severe foreign currency shortage in the first year of his term.

Companies that had to import goods and equipment were forced to rely on a black market in US dollars, which had emerged to circumvent the fixed currency rate.

Unemployment also doubled — a particularly troubling statistic in a country where two-thirds of its population lives below the poverty line.

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These and many more information are chronicled in the book, Muhammadu Buhari, The Black Pharaoh by Adebayo Adeolu.

Before you begin reading the book, there is a caveat: If you don’t take time, you will probably misinterpret Pharaoh in the title of this book as one from the biblical times noted for despotic and oppressive credentials.

Adeolu says the real meaning of Pharaoh is king. “It is the title given to kings, monarchs, and great rulers of ancient Egypt, the equivalent of the president or prime minister in the West.”

Pharaoh was the highest and most powerful title in Africa and as a high priest of every temple; he represented the gods on earth.

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In 228 pages, Adebayo Adeolu, takes his readers through Buhari’s rise from obscurity to fame, fortune and power.

The biography details how destiny has placed President Buhari in the saddle of leadership twice. The biography takes the reader through the life of a man who has come to signify so many things to Nigerians: He is seen as rigid, old fashioned, patriotic and honest leader.

Published in 2020 by Kraft Books Limited, Ibadan, it is divided into 22 chapters of uneven length. In the book, the author confirms his obsession for documenting socio-cultural and political experiences of the country and people who make history.

His first of such endeavour is Olusegun Obasanjo: Nigeria’s Most Successful Ruler, where Obasanjo is described as “a civil war hero, an administrator, a successful farmer, the first Military Head of State to have organised an election and handed over successfully to a civilian government, a nation-builder who initiated most of Nigeria’s national heritage and a builder of men who introduced many Nigerian technocrats to governance and their indelible marks in governance are still very visible…”

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Adeolu follows, literally, the same pattern, which is not just about documenting his subject but interrogating his character in a manner that is commendable.

From chapter one to four, the author gives a historical account of Buhari’s tribe, Fulani, to Egypt from where they emigrated.

The first three chapters, however, ⁰a0ado does not have much about Buhari except the skeletal mention of his sojourn and rise in the Army, and how, with hard work, perseverance, discipline and brilliance, he made positive headway in the Army and become recognised as a good military officer.

Then chapters three to six cover the period of military rule beginning with the power play that triggered the 1966 coup, how Buhari became strategically positioned for leadership as a result of the counter-coup, the secession, and the Civil War as well as Buhari’s exploits after war service.

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The focus of chapters seven to 12 is how Buhari became head of state and the policies of his regime, which include the trial and jailing of politicians through military tribunals, the probe of contract awards, War Against Indiscipline, ban on loudspeakers, the Umaru Dikko’s abduction saga and his eventual overthrow by Ibrahim B. Babangida.

The titles of some of the chapters suggest the person of the man: Buhari’s Sojourn in the Army and his Rise (Chapter 20), The Power Play that Triggered the 1966 Coup (3), Muhammadu Buhari Becomes Strategically Positioned (4), Marriage and Exploits after War Service to Nigeria (5), Aisha Ushers New Dawn (12), Buhari Forms CPC (14) and The Bola Tinubu Factor (15).

Some of the chapters bordering on Buhari’s current exploits include 16, 17, 18, 19, 20 and 21, dwelling on economic and socio-political issues. For instance, Adeolu is as current as capturing issues around the former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Ibrahim Magu. He, in many parts of the book, presents Buhari as a man of destiny and an achiever whether now or then.

The rest of the chapters examine how Buhari, out of his concern for the downtrodden masses decided to become a politician, formed All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and later Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and contested the presidency in 2003, 2007, and 2011 but could not win mainly because of his regional support base.

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It also revisits Buhari’s political romance with Bola Tinubu to form the All Progressives Congress (APC) under which, he (Buhari), contested the presidency in 2015 and won.

One good point the writer scores has to do with the tone of the narration, which is moderate. Unlike some writers who get carried away when writing biographies, to the point of turning themselves into mere public relations pipes for the subjects, Adeolu is able to maintain some intellectual distance from the personality involved, although discerning minds will still know that the book he wrote is a positive for the President.

The book is a well-produced book, written in a simple, lucid style, aesthetically and graphically composed. It is no doubt recommended for students, scholars, military officers or anyone interested in the leadership of this country. It is a lesson in the leadership of the country.

The book does not suffer much from editing and proofreading either. This means that those sensitive to quality language control will not find it disappointing.

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BuhariThe Black Pharaoh
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