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Where Buhari Met Awolowo


Buhari and AwoSIR: There are four meeting points between General Muhammadu Buhari (GMB) and Chief Obafemi Awolowo (Pa Awo, of blessed memory). When GMB was Nigeria’s military Head of State, he did nothing, officially, to promote the cause of Islam.

He did not see himself as a religious but military/political leader. He was lucky to have a partner, General Abubakar Babatunde Idiagbon, who was as focused as himself in that direction. Together, they led Nigeria on the path of “War Against Indiscipline”.

The foregoing was reminiscent of Pa Awo. Throughout his leadership of the Yoruba, hardly anybody thought of politics in terms of Christians versus Muslims in Yorubaland. Although Pa Awo donated a church building to his Ikene Anglican community, he did so as a private citizen, long after he left political office. He was rich, not because he held public office, but because he was also a lawyer, a prolific writer, and businessman together with his wife, Chief Hannah Idowu Dideolu Awolowo. Besides, Pa Awo was a monogamist with highly limited number of children.

Being frugal is the second meeting point between GMB and Pa Awo. There can be only a very thin line between being thrifty and being frugal. It means neither of the two leaders is flamboyant or extravagant. They are moderate and purposeful. Nobody could have told or persuaded Pa Awo to spend public funds on religious festivals, let alone to sponsor pilgrimages as is happening today.

The third meeting point between GMB and Pa Awo is that of personal self-discipline. GMB may be a polygamist, but he is not known for sexual promiscuity. Pa Awo said when some other men were thinking of concubines, he was busy thinking of how to move Nigeria forward. That is true of GMB. Fourthly, because Pa Awo and GMB respect traditional rulers, they would not politicize that institution, as is currently the order of the day.

• Pius Abioje, University of Ilorin

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