Born on December 17, 1942, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari comes from northwestern Katsina state. He is a Sunni Muslim who belongs to the Fulani ethnic stock, a powerful segment of the north.
These criteria satisfied the sentiments of the predominantly Hausa/Fulani Muslim northern Nigeria which clamors for power shift from the South that has ruled for much of the last 16 years.
Buhari joined the army in 1962. He has a reputation as a military officer for crushing Nigeria’s first major religious fundamentalist group, the Maitatsine.
He had served as military governor for the then northeastern state under the former military ruler Yakubu Gowon.
He was appointed the Minister of Petroleum in 1976 under the former military ruler General Olusegun Obasanjo.
He later served as Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund under the late dictator General Sanni Abacha. He also served in several capacities. In all of these assignments, Buhari is believed to have discouraged corruption.
A military coup brought Buhari to power in late 1983 — closing a brief period of popular rule by Shehu Shagari — and another military coup ousted him from power in August 1985.
Buhari’s 20-month rule was known for what he described as a “war on indiscipline,” a tough regime which some say was marred by human rights abuses.
To date, analysts say he remains the only former Nigerian ruler with no corruption blemishes.
In 2003, Buhari — then with the All Nigeria People’s Party — lost to Olusegun Obasanjo in an election during which EU observers reported widespread irregularities.
He lost again to Umaru Yar’Adua in the 2007 election, which was widely condemned for rampant vote-rigging, violence, theft of ballot boxes and intimidation.
After Yar’Adua’s death in 2010, Jonathan rose from vice president to president and Buhari challenged him in the 2011 elections as a candidate from the Congress for Progressive Change.
It is claimed that the incumbent President Jonathan is usurping the slot of the north, after a southerner former president Olusegun Obasanjo had ruled between 1999 and 2007.
Obasanjo was succeeded in 2007 by a northerner, Umaru Yar’Adua, but he died in 2010, paving the way for his then deputy, Jonathan, to take over in line with the country’s constitution. Northerners had rejected Jonathan’s decision to contest for President in 2011, after having served out Yar’Adua’s first term.
The constitution of the ruling PDP provides for power rotation between the predominantly Muslim north and the largely Christian south. Jonathan’s decision to run in 2011 was believed to jettison this agreement.
The incumbent is running again in 2015 but the north appears certain to frustrate the bid. The opposition APC is feeding into this sentiment, and this explains its decision to zone presidency to the country’s north.
Apart from meeting the ethno-religious criteria, the army general is also adored nationwide for his Spartan lifestyle and anti-corruption credentials.