The 40 smartest people of all time NATASHA BERTRAND

The 40 smartest people of all time


FEB. 27, 2015, 10:50 AM

AP Photo

American electrochemical engineer Libb Thims took an unorthodox approach when he set out to rank the smartest people of all time.

Thims first compiled a list of people with IQ scores over 200 as a matter of curiosity. Anything over 130 is extremely high, though it should be noted that IQ tests are a highly imprecise and controversial measure.

Later, Thims ranked everybody who had a strong aptitude, marked capacity, or heightened inclination in some area that coupled with their IQ would make them worthy of the title genius.

Not wanting to exclude any geniuses who existed before IQ tests were invented, Thims referred to IQ ratings based on the Cox methodology, which predicts IQ based on how much people accomplished every 10 years of their lives. Thims then adjusted the IQ scores he thought were inaccurate by reading through many of the individuals’ works to check for errors.

Thims evaluated both IQ and accomplishments to rank the smartest people in history.

Of course, this list is highly subjective and at times seemingly random. Still, we found it thoughtful enough to warrant a second look.
40. Richard “Rick” Rosner
Rick Rosner
Rosner working out at the one of the five gyms he belongs to in Los Angeles.

Television personality and former stripper Rick Rosner is one of the smartest living men in the world with IQ scores ranging from 140 to 250 by different measures.

He has taken more than 30 IQ tests and received the highest score ever on more than 20 of them, he told Business Insider back in November. He considers himself particularly good at math, physics, and “stringing words together.”

He takes around 50 pills every day, including Omega 3 fish oil capsules and Metmorfin, “for health, longevity, and to make my brain work better,” he said.

39. Marilyn vos Savant
vos Savant in 1988, posing with her husband Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the artificial heart.

Born in 1946, Vos Savant has earned IQ scores ranging from 157 to 228.

Vos Savant dropped out of Washington University after two years to dabble in stocks and real estate, according to Jezebel. She later became a writer and married Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart.

She achieved fame when her extrapolated score of 228 (based on a childhood test) was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records in 1985.

Since 1986, she has written an “Ask Marilyn” column in Parade magazine, where she was famous for solving the Monty Hall problem.

38. Christopher Langan
Wikimedia Commons
Chris Langan.

With an IQ reported between 174 and 210, Christopher Langan was dubbed the smartest man in America by Esquire Magazine.

Langan is an autodidact, meaning he is largely self-taught. He has spent much of his adult life developing a Cognitive-Theoretic Model of the Universe, a kind of theory of everything which he calls the CTMU.

At 6’1″ and 275 pounds, Langan is an avid weightlifter and recovering agoraphobic who pays the bills doing temp work as a bartender, night-club bouncer, and personal trainer.

37. Nathan Leopold
Wikimedia commons
Richard Loeb (left) and Nathan Leopold (right) in 1924.

Born in Chicago in 1904, Nathan Leopold was a child prodigy with an IQ of 210 who spoke his first words at 4 months old.

He was also a murderer who, along with his friend Richard Loeb, killed a 14-year-old boy while trying to commit “the perfect crime” in 1924. The crime inspired the Alfred Hitchcock film “Rope.”

Brilliant yet socially inept, Leopold latched on to Loeb, who was good looking and popular, according to Leopold was convicted of murder and spent 33 years in prison. He died in Puerto Rico in 1971 at the age of 67.

36. Marnen Laibow-Koser
Marnen Laibow-Koser.

After acing a childhood test, Laibow-Koser was given a projected IQ of 268.

He is now a 39-year-old composer and web application developer living in Somerville, Massachusetts. He’s a graduate student at the New England Conservatory, according to his Twitter.

35. Ainan Cawley
Lai Seng Sin/AP
Ainan Celeste Cawley looks on during a press conference in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Jan. 4, 2010.

Ainan Cawley is a 14-year-old British prodigy with IQ scores ranging between 263-349, according to different measures. At age 9, Cawley could recite Pi to 518 decimal places, the Telegraph reported.

He lives in Singapore where he gave a science lecture about acid and alkaloids at the age of 6, passed the Chemistry O level exam (meant for 16-year-olds) at 7, and enrolled in the Singapore Polytechnic at age 8.

34. Adragon De Mello
Flickr / Mike Mozart
A college graduate at the age of 11, De Mello has a projected IQ of 400.

He largely has his father to thank — or maybe, to blame — for his early success and ambition. Consumed by the idea that his son would win a Nobel Prize by age 16, Agustin De Mello put obsessive pressure on Adragon to succeed, CBS reportedin 2000.

“A lot of the dreams that people heard about, of winning a Nobel Prize and going to doctorate school, is mostly my father,” Adragon told CBS. “It wasn’t something I cared about doing.”

As of 2003, Adragon was working for the Home Depot after training to be an estimator for a commercial painting company.

33. Michael Kearney
The Early Show
Michael Kearney

Born in Hawaii in 1982, Kearney received a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Alabama at age 10. His IQ scores range from 200 to 325 by different measures.

He was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) early on and always dreamed of becoming a game show host. By age 22, Kearney had earned four bachelor’s degrees (in anthropology, computer science, geology, and chemistry) and a doctorate in chemistry, ABC reported.

32. Nadia Camukova
Nadia Camukova

Nadia Camukova, who has an IQ of 200, was born in Moscow in 1976. The Brain Research Institute in Moscow reported later on that she had the highest IQ in the world.

Camukova can speak seven languages (Russian, English, French, Turkish, German, Arabic, and Persian) and eight Turkish dialects. She’s a professor at Bahçeşehir University in Turkey.

31. Michael Grost
Via Wikimedia Commons
The University of Michigan

Michael Grost, who has an IQ of 200, was only 10 years old when he started studying at Michigan State University in 1964.

He later attended Yale University and the University of Michigan, where he earned a doctorate in mathematics at age 23. As of 2005, Grost was a system architect at a computer company in Detroit, the MSU State News reported.

Grost’s interests include painting and evolutionary biology.

30. Sho Yano
Sho Yano

Sho Yano enrolled in Loyola University at age 9, graduating summa cum laude three years later, the Chicago Tribune reported. He has an IQ of 200.

Yano entered University of Chicago’s prestigious Pritzker School of Medicine at age 12 and at age 21 became the youngest student in the school’s history to receive an M.D. He also has a Ph.D. in molecular genetics and cell biology, according to the Los Angeles Times.

29. Dylan Jones
Photo By Cyrus McCrimmon/The Denver Post via Getty Images)
Colorado School of Mines freshmen students: Dylan Jones, 10 years-old, is second from the left.

Dylan Jones, who has an IQ of 200, graduated at 16 from the Colorado School of Mines where he obtained a degree in math and computer science and a minor in bioengineering and life sciences, according to Mines Magazine.

A year later, Jones entered the University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine, where he’s studying to be a neurosurgeon.

Jones has studied Latin, French, Spanish, and German. He wants to learn Russian next because “Cyrillic is a different set of characters. I want that extra challenge,” he told the Colorado School of Mines Magazine.

28. Edith Stern
Edith Stern

The day after Edith Stern was born, her father announced in a press conference that he intended to mold his infant daughter into “the perfect human being,” the Milwaukee Sentinal reported.

By age 5, Edith’s father had her read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica. She was in college by age 12, and by 15 she was teaching college-level math classes, according to the Sentinal. She has an IQ of 203.

She has worked at IBM since the 1970s and has been recognized for her many contributions in applied mathematics.

27. Kim Ung-Yong
Mike Brown/Reuters
Kennedy Space Center in Florida November 11, 2014.

Kim Ung-Yong started university courses at the age of 3 and spoke four languages by age 4. At 8, NASA invited him to study in the US. His IQ scores range from 200 to 210 by different measures.

At 16, Kim left NASA to go back to South Korea and earn a doctorate in civil engineering, Business Insider reported.

He now works in a business planning department at Chungbuk Development Corporation.

“People expected me to become a high-ranking official in the government or a big company,” Kim told the Korea Herald in 2010. “But I don’t think just because I chose not to become the expected it gives anyone a right to call anyone’s life a failure.”

26. Francis Galton
Wikimedia Commons
An 1850 portrait of Galton.

Sir Francis Galton was an English polymath best known for his research in eugenics and human intelligence. He studied math at Cambridge and had a keen interest in psychology throughout his life.

According to Thims’ estimates, Galton had an IQ of 200.

He’s credited with developing the modern weather map and introducing the use of fingerprints in police work. He was a cousin of Charles Darwin and became interested in eugenics and evolution after the “Origin of Species” was published in 1859.

25. Marie Curie
Wikimedia Commons
Marie Curie

Marie Curie was a Polish-born physicist and chemist. She is perhaps best known for her research into radioactivity (a term she coined), which was instrumental in the development of x-rays in surgery. Her IQ scores range from 180-200 by different measures.

Curie was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize, the first person to win it twice — in physics and then in chemistry — and the first woman to teach at the Sorbonne.

24. Thomas Wolsey
Wikimedia Commons
Thomas Wolsey

Thomas Wolsey was a 16th century English cardinal and statesman who is estimated by Thims to have had an IQ of 200.

He was Henry VIII’s lord chancellor and organized the first meeting between Henry and Francis I, King of France. By 1514 he controlled virtually all matters of state and was extremely powerful within the Church.

Shortly after he failed to arrange a papal annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, Wolsey was arrested for treason. He died on his way to trial in 1530.

23. Hugo Grotius
Wikimedia Commons
Hugo Grotius

Hugo Grotius was a 17th century Dutch jurist and scholar best known for his contributions to international law. Thims estimates he had an IQ of 200.

He was appointed attorney general of the provinces of Holland, Zeeland, and West Friesland in 1607 but was exiled to Paris in 1621 after being accused of treason for taking part in a Dutch political struggle.

These violent power struggles in Holland and throughout Europe inspired much of his legal masterpiece “De Jure Belli ac Pacis” (“On the Law of War and Peace”).

22. Hypatia
Wikimedia Commons

Hypatia of Alexandria was a 4th century Greek philosopher and the leading mathematician and astronomer of her time. Her estimated IQ scores range from 170 to 210 by different measures.

Hypatia was frequently targeted and criticized for her Pagan values and for teaching the decidedly non-Christian philosophy of Neoplatonism. She was killed in the streets of Alexandria by a mob of Christian zealots in the year 415.

21. Terence Tao
Wikimedia Commons
Terence Tao

Nicknamed “the Mozart of Math” by his colleagues, Tao was a child prodigy who now teaches mathematics at UCLA. His IQ scores range from 211 to 230 by different measures.

He joined the faculty shortly after earning his doctorate fom Princeton at 21 and was a tenured professor by the age of 24.

He has become well known for his contributions to number theory and harmonic analysis. He was awarded $3 million earlier this year after he and four others won the new Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics, the Los Angeles Times reported.

20. John Stuart Mill
Wikimedia Commons
John Stuart Mill

John Stuart Mill was a 19th century political philosopher and member of the British parliament. As a student of philosopher Jeremy Bentham, Mill championed utilitarianism and criticized unlimited state control. His estimated IQ scores range from 180-200 by different measures.

His 1859 essay “On Liberty,” in which he argues that liberty is a fundamental human right, sparked controversy in its unequivocal endorsement of individuality and freedom of speech.

19. Christopher Hirata
christopher hirata
Christopher Hirata

Child prodigy-turned-astrophysicist Christopher Hirata, who has an IQ of 225, gained fame at age 13 by becoming the youngest winner at the 1996 International Physics Olympiad. One year later, he entered the California Institute of Technology.

By age 16 he was working with NASA on a project investigating the colonization of Mars, and at 22 he received his PhD in physics from Princeton.

He is a professor of physics and astronomy at Ohio State University.

18. Emanuel Swedenborg
Wikimedia Commons
Emanuel Swedenborg

Emanuel Swedenborg was an 18th century scientist and theologian. His estimated IQ scores range from 165 to 210 by different measures.

Renowned most of his life for his contributions to the natural sciences, Swedenborg had a spiritual awakening in his 50s and published what is now his most famous work — a description of the afterlife called “Heaven and Hell.”

Highly regarded after his death by philosophers and mystics, Swedenborg claimed he could visit heaven and hell at will and that his ideas about spirituality, God, and Christ came to him in dreams and visions.

17. Ettore Majorana
Wikimedia Commons
A 1930s Italian newspaper clipping announcing Majorana’s disappearance.

Ettore Majorana was an Italian theoretical physicist who studied neutrino masses, electrically neutral subatomic particles that are created in nuclear reactions. His IQ scores range from 183 to 200 by different measures.

He became a full professor of theoretical physics at the University of Naples one year before his mysterious disappearance during a boat trip from Palermo to Naples. His body was never found.

The Majorana equation and Majorana fermions are named after him, and in 2006, the Majorana Prize in theoretical physics was established in his memory.

16. Voltaire
Wikimedia Commons

Francois Marie Arouet, better known by his pen name Voltaire, was born in Paris in 1694. His estimated IQ scores range from 190 to 200 by different measures.

He was one of France’s greatest writers and philosophers, known for his satirical genius and biting criticism of his country’s noblemen.

Throughout his life, Voltaire vigorously defended the distinction between natural science and philosophy. Many of his critical writings were directed against established philosophers such as Leibniz, Malebranche, and Descartes, according to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.

15. William Shakespeare
Wikimedia Commons
William Shakespeare

Often referred to as England’s national poet and the “Bard of Avon,” William Shakespeare had an estimated IQ of 210 and is widely regarded as the greatest English-speaking writer and dramatist to have ever lived.

Born in 1564 in Stratford-Upon-Avon, England, Shakespeare earned a living as an actor and a playwright in London. By 1597, 15 of his plays had been published, including “Richard II,” “Henry VI,” and “Much Ado About Nothing.”

14. Nikola Tesla
Wikimedia Commons
Nikola Tesla

Born during a lightning storm in 1856, Nikola Tesla went on to invent the Tesla coil and alternating current machinery. His estimated IQ scores range from 160 to 310 by different measures. He had an intense rivalry with Thomas Edison throughout his life, and many of his projects were funded by JPMorgan, who would later become his business partner.

In 1900, Morgan invested $150,000 in Tesla’s Wardenclyffe Tower — a transatlantic wireless communication system that Tesla never completed. The Serbian physicist died penniless in a New York City hotel room in 1943.

13. Leonhard Euler
Wikimedia Commons
Leonhard Euler

Leonhard Euler was a Swiss mathematician and physicist. Born in 1707 and educated in Basel, Euler spent most of his career in St. Petersburg and Berlin. His estimated IQ scores range from 180 to 200 by different measures.

Euler was one of the founders of pure mathematics and further developed the study of integral calculus. He authored “Introductio in Analysin Infinitorum,” and his complete works fill about 90 volumes. He had a legendary memory and could recite the entire “Aeneid” word-for-word.

12. Galileo Galilei
Wikimedia Commons
Galileo Galilei

Galileo was an Italian natural philosopher, astronomer, and mathematician born in 1564 who developed such scientific concepts as circular inertia and the law of falling bodies. His estimated IQ scores range from 180 to 200 by different measures.

His discoveries with the Telescope undermined Aristotelian cosmology, particularly his findings that Venus goes through phases just as the Moon does and that Jupiter has four moons orbiting around it.

Towards the end of his life, the Church denounced him as a heretic due to his advocacy of Copernicus’ heliocentric model of the universe.

11. Carl Gauss
Wikimedia Commons
Carl Gauss

Considered to be the greatest German mathematician of the 19th century, Carl Gauss was a child prodigy who went on to contribute extensively to the fields of number theory, algebra, statistics, and analysis. His estimated IQ scores range from 250 to 300 by different measures.

His writings were particularly influential in the study of electromagnetism. He refused to publish anything until it was absolutely perfect.

10. Thomas Young
Wikimedia Commons
Thomas Young

Thomas Young was an English physician and physicist whose contributions to the fields of vision, light, physiology, and language led to many important discoveries in optics and human anatomy. His estimated IQ scores range from 185 to 200 by different measures.

He was also an Egyptologist who helped decipher the Rosetta Stone.

One of his most important discoveries was that the lens of the human eye changes shape to focus on objects at different distances, which ultimately led him to determine the cause of astigmatism. He was also the first to postulate how the eye perceives colors.

9. William Sidis
Wikimedia Commons
William Sidis

William Sidis (the inspiration for the film “Good Will Hunting”) was an American child prodigy whose IQ scores range from 200 to 300 by different measures. By the age of 2, Sidis was reading The New York Times and typing out letters on a typewriter – in both English and French.

He was accepted to Harvard at the age of 9, but the university wouldn’t let him attend due to his “emotional immaturity.” He attended Tufts instead, until Harvard finally let him in when he turned 11.

Reporters followed him everywhere, and he eventually became a recluse, moving from city to city under different names, to avoid the spotlight. He died at the age of 46 from a massive stroke.

8. Gottfried Leibniz
Wikimedia Commons/Johann Friedrich Wentzel
Gottfried Leibniz

Gottfried Leibniz was a German philosopher and logician who is perhaps best well known for inventing differential and integral calculus. His estimated IQ scores range from 182 to 205 by different measures.

In 1676, Leibniz founded a new formulation of the laws of motion known as dynamics, substituting kinetic energy for the conservation of movement.

His contributed extensively to the philosophy of language with his work on necessary and contingent truths, possible worlds, and the principle of sufficient reason.

7. Nicolaus Copernicus
Wikimedia Commons

Copernicus was a Polish mathematician and astronomer whose discovery of the heliocentric model of the universe — in which the sun and not the earth is the center of our solar system — revolutionized the study of the cosmos. His estimated IQ scores range from 160 to 200 by different measures.

His book, “De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium,” was banned by the Church after he died in 1543. The book remained on the list of forbidden reading material for nearly three centuries thereafter.

6. Rudolf Clausius
Wikimedia Commons
Rudolf Clausius

Rudolf Clausius was a German physicist and mathematician best known for formulating the second law of thermodynamics. His estimated IQ scores range from 190 to 205 by different measures.

Clausius made thermodynamics a science, coined the term “entropy,” and developed the kinetic theory of gases.

He was also one of the first scientists to suggest that molecules are made up of continually interchanging atoms, which later provided the basis for the theory of electrolytic dissociation (the breakdown of molecules into charged atoms or ions).

5. James Maxwell
Wikimedia Commons
James Maxwell

James Maxwell was a Scottish mathematical physicist who is best known for formulating the classical theory of electromagnetic radiation. His estimated IQ scores range from 190 to 205 by different measures.

Maxwell is credited with laying the foundations for quantum theory and was was revered by many, including Einstein. When Einstein was asked if he had stood on the shoulders of Newton, he replied: “No, I stand on Maxwell’s shoulders.”

4. Isaac Newton
Wikimedia Commons
Isaac Newton

Most famous for his law of gravitation, English physicist and mathematician Sir Isaac Newton was instrumental in the scientific revolution of the 17th century. His estimated IQ scores range from 190 to 200 by different measures.

He wrote “Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica,” widely believed to be the most influential book on physics and possibly all of science. Although some of his assumptions were eventually proven wrong, Newton’s universal principles of gravity had no parallels in science at the time.

3. Leonardo da Vinci
Wikimedia Commons
A self-portrait of Leonardo da Vinci.

A painter, sculptor, architect, musician, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer, Leonardo da Vinci was perhaps the most diversely talented person to have ever lived. His estimated IQ scores range from 180 to 220 by different measures.

He’s one of the most celebrated painters in history, revered for his technological innovations such as flying machines, an armoured vehicle, concentrated solar power, and adding machines. Da Vinci was a chronic procrastinator, though, and few of his designs were ever realized during his lifetime.

2. Albert Einstein
AP Photo
Einstein at work.

Albert Einstein was a German-born theoretical physicist and philosopher of science whose estimated IQ scores range from 205 to 225 by different measures. He is best known for his mass–energy equivalence formula E = mc2 which has been called the world’s most famous equation.

Einstein articulated the principle of relativity and attempted to disprove quantum theory until he died in 1955 at the age of 76.

1. Johann Goethe
Wikimedia Commons
An 1828 portrait of Goethe.

Considered by Einstein to be “the last man in the world to know everything,” Goethe was a German polymath who founded the science of human chemistry and developed one of the earliest known theories of evolution. His estimated IQ scores range from 210 to 225 by different measures.

He’s considered one of the greatest figures in Western literature: his 1808 poetic drama, “Faust,” is still widely read and studied today.

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“THE TRANSFIGURATION OF GENERAL BUHARI 28 Feb 2015 BY DELE MOMODU, Email: dele.momodu@thisdaylive.


28 Feb 2015

BY DELE MOMODU, Email: dele.momodu@thisdaylive.

Fellow Nigerians, miracles shall never end. That is the only way to describe the incredible story of Major General Muhammadu Buhari at this auspicious moment. No one could have envisaged or foretold the huge drama being enacted before our very eyes. It was not as if his popularity and cult-followership was ever in doubt but the general belief and assumption was that it was dominantly limited and restricted to a particular section or region of Nigeria. What was never expected was a cross-over appeal to all areas and segments of our nation.

Buhari’s fate as a perennial contestant was supposed to have been sealed by many debilitating factors. The first and most crucial till this day is on account of his odoriferous reputation as a coup plotter and rabidly draconian dictator who appeared mercilessly vengeful. Depending on whom you talked to in the past, Buhari conjured different images to varied people. Some saw him as an Angel who represented a sword of Damocles to the wicked and reckless politicians who wreaked havoc on Nigeria’s economy and wrecked the collective future of our citizens. But to others, he was a Luciferous character who must have escaped from the pit of hell to haunt God’s creatures on planet earth.
I will not attempt to bore you with well-rehashed tales of his cardinal sins, both real and imagined. They are in the realm of fables and mythology and already in public domain courtesy of his opponents and unrelenting attackers. But one can never gloss over the allegations of religious bias and intolerance. If possible, many would want us to see and hold Buhari as Nigeria’s version of Osama bin Laden who was regarded as the world’s most notorious terrorist. Buhari would forever bear the cross of ever defending his personal faith and the interests of his Northern people like most of us would normally do. Many quotable quotes have been ascribed to him but most have never been properly validated by his accusers thus casting doubts on the veracity of those vituperations.
The last but not the least albatross against Buhari is the matter of old age. I must confess that I belong in the category of the vociferous proponents of sacking most of our ancient leaders and replacing them with young and vibrant whizzkids.
I must sincerely thank the media and publicity committee of the People’s Democratic Party for finding my past comments and stance on Buhari so important and worthy of sponsored countervailing advertorials in several newspapers and social media platforms. They were generous enough to put me in good company by attaching me to accomplished Nigerians such as Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Mallam Nasir El Rufai. On a serious note, it was such a great honour seeing all manner of caricatures about me including the one stuffing my brains with noodles.
The truth is that I, like many other Nigerians, was a veritable victim of the almost unprecedented propaganda against Buhari. In my purview, the definition of propaganda is not about telling lies but an attempt to magnify non-fiction until it becomes what the famous author Kole Omotoso called “faction”, when you mix facts with fiction. The demonization of Buhari was therefore a fait accompli emanating from the many years of ferocious regurgitation of his supposed misdemeanours. But, still, I would never have imagined that a day would come when I, and so many former antagonists of Buhari, would not only change my mind about this walking firebrand but actually plunge myself fully into his presidential campaign while not being a member of his political party. Strange are the ways of God indeed.

In my nearly 55 years on earth, this is the second time I would witness a complete transfiguration of a Nigerian from being most hated to most loved. My first recollection was in 1988 as I searched frantically for a job.

My dream then had been to get a teaching appointment after concluding a Master’s degree in Literature-in-English at the great Obafemi
University, Ile-Ife. I was already contributing articles on the opinion pages of The Guardian which was edited by Odia Ofeimun and The Sunday Tribune, edited by Folu Olamiti. I was then subsequently invited by my friend, Onukaba Adinoyi-Ojo, a prodigiously gifted journalist, to try my luck in Lagos. He tried to get me a job at the African Guardian, edited by Nduka Irabor, but wasn’t successful.
Onukaba then suggested that I should try the African Concord magazine, owned by Chief Moshood Abiola and edited by Lewis Obi but I was most reluctant. Just imagine that though I was desperately in need of a job, but I was not very keen about working in the Concord Group. You, like me, will laugh at my reasons now. I was discouraged by so many things I had read or heard about the fabulously wealthy ‘Money Kudi Owo’ Abiola, who was supposed to have been the biggest thief in Africa, courtesy of Fela’s album, ITT, International Thief Thief. That song had done incalculable damage to Chief Abiola as many self-righteous people, including myself, completely tuned off the man.
I remember very vividly how there was a war of words between the Awoists (who believed the support of Chief Abiola, a Yoruba, for the National Party of Nigeria was partly responsioble for robbing Chief Obafemi Awolowo of victory against Alhaji Shehu Shagari who won the Presidential election in 1979) and the Abiola supporters who felt there was nothing wrong in Yorubas belonging to opposing parties. The Nigerian Tribune had fiery writers led by Chief Olabisi Onabanjo, Ebenezer Babatope (aka Ebino Topsy) while The Concord Group assembled some of Nigeria’s finest journalists including Doyin Abiola, Dele Giwa, Ray Ekpu, Yakubu Muhammed, Duro Onabule, Sina Adedipe and so many others. The columnists of both rival papers tackled themselves endless and joined issues on various national and personal matters. Of particular interest to me was a columnist popularly known as Abiodun Aloba (also known as Ebenezer Williams) who wrote so brilliantly that I asked God for his kind of diction.

In the middle of all this confusion, I would have preferred to work in the less controversial and highly cerebral environment of The Guardian but here I was being asked to try my luck at the African Concord. I had imagined all sorts about having to work in a religious conclave, all the restrictions, prejudices, and so on, but the real fear of hunger was the beginning of wisdom for me. I approached Mr Lewis Obi as suggested by Onukaba who introduced us and was shocked that I got a job on the spot. I had to plead with him to let me resume in another two weeks as I needed to return to Ile-Ife for proper preparation for this journey of a lifetime. The rest is history!
The meat of this story is that I resumed work on May 2, 1988, about fourteen days to my 28th birthday. But contrary to my mortal fears, The Concord Group was one of the most relaxed and pleasant companies I would ever work. It was by far the biggest media conglomerate in Nigeria. Chief Abiola rarely came around but he breezed in every now and then and everyone felt the tremor of his presence as well as the aftershocks after he’s been long gone. The Concord titles did not discriminate against any tribe or religion. I won’t be surprised if most of us were Christians. The most senior employees paraded a galaxy of more Christians than Moslems. We had a bush Canteen within the premises where we were allowed to eat or drink even alcohol as journalists love to do. Our Chairman avoided the News Room as much as possible because he was certain to be welcomed by some whiff of cigarette smoke.

Based on the much vaunted alleged prejudices of the owner, Chief MKO Abiola, I tried very hard to find out any shade of religious intolerance but never found one. He was not a saint but he towered above many of his peers. His love for the poor marked him apart from others. He lived for the needy and touched too many lives. He had attended a Christian school, Baptist Boys High School, Abeokuta, and could recite Biblical
passages by rote. He attended church services when required to do so and even sang Christian hymns from memory at my wedding in 1992. It was a great lesson for me that we can all misconstrue many things based on rumours and gossip without seeking to ascertain the factual reality.

Chief Abiola worked assiduously at turning around the wrong impressions about him. Not everyone ever gets that lucky. It takes a lot to change human misperceptions. Many are often too rigid and too set in their ways. As Abiola himself used to say, the deaf always repeats the last songs he heard before he lost his hearing. It was one of those miraculous occurrences that Abiola was eventually able to endear himself to Nigerians from all works of lives. The secret of his larger-than-life image was quite simple. He never disconnected himself totally from the poor even as he wined and dined with the rich and famous. It is a lesson I hold very dear. Abiola was ready to fight the cause of the common man despite belonging to the oppressor class himself. The ability to relate to both with equal competence was uncommon. The truth is he never forgot his humble beginnings and made sure that this reflected in the way he related with all manner of people.
I wasn’t surprised when he returned from his self-imposed political sabbatical and jumped into the fray in 1993. He had bided his time and knew when to make the right move. Ordinary Nigerians responded in kind and in sincere appreciation of his genuinely generous gestures. Even the elites who initially viewed him with suspicion and likely disdain finally embraced him warts and all as the most unlikely man became so radicalised that he became a symbol of our struggle for democracy and good governance. Ironically, Fela’s Brother, Beekololari Ransome-Kuti joined in that epic battle, and likewise many who were never fans of Abiola.
As I watch events unfold around Major General Buhari today, I just can’t help but draw some comparison and highlight the similarities between the People’s General and Abiola, the only difference being that Buhari cannot by any stretch of the imagination be called a wealthy man. Both men had powerful enemies. They were assumed to be religious bigots. Although, Abiola was a Yoruba man it was felt that he was too partial to the North as is the wrong perception of General Buhari’s parochial feelings for his home region. They derived their power from the poor. Their passion for Nigeria could never be in doubt. Abiola was rejected by the political class resoundingly just like Buhari has not been able to win the presidential election a record third time. However, like Abiola, Buhari seems to have gotten his groove finally and disabused the Nigerian public of these erroneous views and opinions.

This deal was finally saved and delivered at The Chatham House, London on February 26, 2015. At a public lecture which he delivered at that world renowned venue, Buhari mesmerised the world with his presence, carriage, and childlike innocence. He did not pretend to be who he wasn’t. It was such a glorious moment as he introduced himself as a former dictator turned reformed democrat. He spoke calmly and firmly in front of a distinguished audience. He answered the questions fired at him with candour, sincerity and common-sense. Many were shocked to see a Buhari they thought they knew but didn’t know. Standing before the world was a man whose image was falsely that of a Muslim fundamentalist, stark illiterate, aged and tired soldier, wicked and miserable soul, hypnotising everyone with his carefully chosen but intelligent words coupled with great wit and humour. This was a truly transfigured Buhari, who certainly has a date with history and it is certainly only a matter of time before he gets his well-deserved apotheosis.


“Prospects for Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Nigeria’s Transition” – By General Muhammadu Buhari

“Prospects for Democratic Consolidation in Africa: Nigeria’s Transition” – By General Muhammadu Buhari

Chatham House, London, 26 February 2015

Permit me to start by thanking Chatham House for the invitation to talk about this important topic at this crucial time. The 2015 general election in Nigeria is generating a lot of interests within and outside the country. This is understandable. Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country and largest economy, is at a defining moment, a moment that has great implications beyond the democratic project and beyond the borders of my dear country.
So let me say upfront that the global interest in Nigeria’s landmark election is not misplaced at all and indeed should be commended, for this is an election that has serious import for the world. I urge the international community to continue to focus on Nigeria at this very critical moment. Given increasing global linkages, it is in our collective interests that the postponed elections should hold on the rescheduled dates, that they should be free and fair, that their outcomes should be respected by all parties, and that any form of extension, under whichever guise, is unconstitutional and would not be tolerated.
With the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, the collapse of communism and the end of the Cold War, democracy became the dominant and most preferred system of government across the globe. That global transition has been aptly captured as the triumph of democracy and the ‘most pre-eminent political idea of our time.’ On a personal note, the phased end of the USSR was a turning point for me. If you will, that was my own road to Damascus experience. It convinced me that change can be brought about without firing a single shot. As you all know, I had been a military head of state in Nigeria for twenty months. We intervened because we were unhappy with the state of affairs in our country.
We wanted to arrest the drift. Driven by patriotism, influenced by the prevalence and popularity of such drastic measures all over Africa and elsewhere, we fought our way to power. But the global triumph of democracy has shown that another, and a preferable, path to change is possible. It is an important lesson I have carried with me since, and a lesson that is not lost on the African continent.
In the last two decades, democracy has grown strong roots in Africa. Elections, once so rare, are now so commonplace. As at the time I was a military head of state between 1983 and 1985, only four African countries held regular multi-party elections. But the number of electoral democracies in Africa, according to Freedom House, jumped to 10 in 1992/1993 then to 18 in 1994/1995 and to 24 in 2005/2006.
According to the New York Times, 42 of the 48 countries in Sub-Sahara Africa conducted multi-party elections between 1990 and 2002. The newspaper also reported that between 2000 and 2002, ruling parties in four African countries (Senegal, Mauritius, Ghana and Mali) peacefully handed over power to victorious opposition parties. In addition, the proportion of African countries categorized as not free by Freedom House declined from 59% in 1983 to 35% in 2003. Without doubt, Africa has been part of the current global wave of democratisation.
But the growth of democracy on the continent has been uneven. According to Freedom House, the number of electoral democracies in Africa slipped from 24 in 2007/2008 to 19 in 2011/2012; while the percentage of countries categorised as ‘not free’ increased from 35% in 2003 to 41% in 2013. Also, there have been some reversals at different times in Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Cote D’Ivoire, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Lesotho, Mali, Madagascar, Mauritania and Togo.
While we can choose to look at the glass of democracy in Africa as either half full or half empty. While you can’t have representative democracy without elections, it is equally important to look at the quality of the elections and to remember that mere elections do not democracy make. It is globally agreed that democracy is not an event, but a journey. And that the destination of that journey is democratic consolidation—that state where democracy has become so rooted and so routine and widely accepted by all actors.
With this important destination in mind, it is clear that though many African countries now hold regular elections, very few of them have consolidated the practice of democracy. It is important to also state at this point that just as with elections, a consolidated democracy cannot be an end by itself. I will argue that it is not enough to hold series of elections or even to peacefully alternate power among parties.
It is much more important that the promise of democracy goes beyond just allowing people to freely choose their leaders. It is much more important that democracy should deliver on the promise of choice, of freedoms, of security of lives and property, of transparency and accountability, of rule of law, of good governance and of shared prosperity. It is very important that the promise embedded in the concept of democracy, the promise of a better life for the generality of the people, is not delivered in the breach.
Now, let me quickly turn to Nigeria. As you all know, Nigeria’s fourth republic is in its 16th year and this general election will be the fifth in a row. This is a major sign of progress for us, given that our first republic lasted five years and three months, the second republic ended after four years and two months and the third republic was a still-birth. However, longevity is not the only reason why everyone is so interested in this election.
The major difference this time around is that for the very first time since transition to civil rule in 1999, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is facing its stiffest opposition so far from our party the All Progressives Congress (APC). We once had about 50 political parties, but with no real competition. Now Nigeria is transiting from a dominant party system to a competitive electoral polity, which is a major marker on the road to democratic consolidation. As you know, peaceful alternation of power through competitive elections have happened in Ghana, Senegal, Malawi and Mauritius in recent times.
The prospects of democratic consolidation in Africa will be further brightened when that eventually happens in Nigeria.
But there are other reasons why Nigerians and the whole world are intensely focussed on this year’s elections, chief of which is that the elections are holding in the shadow of huge security, economic and social uncertainties in Africa’s most populous country and largest economy.
On insecurity, there is a genuine cause for worry, both within and outside Nigeria. Apart from the civil war era, at no other time in our history has Nigeria been this insecure. Boko Haram has sadly put Nigeria on the terrorism map, killing more than 13,000 of our nationals, displacing millions internally and externally, and at a time holding on to portions of our territory the size of Belgium. What has been consistently lacking is the required leadership in our battle against insurgency.
I, as a retired general and a former head of state, have always known about our soldiers: they are capable, well trained, patriotic, brave and always ready to do their duty in the service of our country. You all can bear witness to the gallant role of our military in Burma, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Darfur and in many other peacekeeping operations in several parts of the world. But in the matter of this insurgency, our soldiers have neither received the necessary support nor the required incentives to tackle this problem. The government has also failed in any effort towards a multi-dimensional response to this problem leading to a situation in which we have now become dependent on our neighbours coming to our rescue.
Let me assure you that if I am elected president, the world will have no cause to worry about Nigeria as it has had to recently, that Nigeria will return to its stabilising role in West Africa, and that no inch of Nigerian territory will ever be lost to the enemy because we will pay special attention to the welfare of our soldiers in and out of service, we will give them adequate and modern arms and ammunitions to work with, we will improve intelligence gathering to choke Boko Haram’s financial and equipment channels, we will be tough on terrorism and tough on its root causes by initiating a comprehensive economic development plan promoting infrastructural development, job creation, agriculture and industry in the affected areas.
We will always act on time and not allow problems to irresponsibly fester, and I, General Muhammadu Buhari, will always lead from the front and return Nigeria to its leadership role in regional and international efforts to combat terrorism.
On the economy, the fall in prices of oil has brought our economic and social stress into full relief. After the rebasing exercise in April 2014, Nigeria overtook South Africa as Africa’s largest economy. Our GDP is now valued at $510 billion and our economy rated 26th in the world. Also on the bright side, inflation has been kept at single digit for a while and our economy has grown at an average of 7% for about a decade. But it is more of paper growth, a growth that, on account of mismanagement, profligacy and corruption, has not translated to human development or shared prosperity. A development economist once said three questions should be asked about a country’s development: one, what is happening to poverty? Two, what is happening to unemployment? And three, what is happening to inequality?
The answers to these questions in Nigeria show that the current administration has created two economies in one country, a sorry tale of two nations: one economy for a few who have so much in their tiny island of prosperity; and the other economy for the many who have so little in their vast ocean of misery. Even by official figures, 33.1% of Nigerians live in extreme poverty. That’s at almost 60 million, almost the population of the United Kingdom. There is also the unemployment crisis simmering beneath the surface, ready to explode at the slightest stress, with officially 23.9% of our adult population and almost 60% of our youth unemployed. We also have one of the highest rates of inequalities in the world. With all these, it is not surprising that our performance on most governance and development indicators (like Mo Ibrahim Index on African Governance and UNDP’s Human Development Index.) are unflattering. With fall in the prices of oil, which accounts for more than 70% of government revenues, and lack of savings from more than a decade of oil boom, the poor will be disproportionately impacted.
In the face of dwindling revenues, a good place to start the repositioning of Nigeria’s economy is to swiftly tackle two ills that have ballooned under the present administration: waste and corruption. And in doing this, I will, if elected, lead the way, with the force of personal example.
On corruption, there will be no confusion as to where I stand. Corruption will have no place and the corrupt will not be appointed into my administration. First and foremost, we will plug the holes in the budgetary process. Revenue producing entities such as NNPC and Customs and Excise will have one set of books only. Their revenues will be publicly disclosed and regularly audited. The institutions of state dedicated to fighting corruption will be given independence and prosecutorial authority without political interference. But I must emphasise that any war waged on corruption should not be misconstrued as settling old scores or a witch-hunt. I’m running for President to lead Nigeria to prosperity and not adversity.
In reforming the economy, we will use savings that arise from blocking these leakages and the proceeds recovered from corruption to fund our party’s social investments programmes in education, health, and safety nets such as free school meals for children, emergency public works for unemployed youth and pensions for the elderly. As a progressive party, we must reform our political economy to unleash the pent-up ingenuity and productivity of the Nigerian people thus freeing them from the indignities of poverty.
We will run a private sector-led economy but maintain an active role for government through strong regulatory oversight and deliberate interventions and incentives to diversify the base of our economy, strengthen productive sectors, improve the productive capacities of our people and create jobs for our teeming youths. In short, we will run a functional economy driven by a worldview that sees growth not as an end by itself, but as a tool to create a society that works for all, rich and poor alike. On March 28, Nigeria has a decision to make. To vote for the continuity of failure or to elect progressive change. I believe the people will choose wisely.
In sum, I think that given its strategic importance, Nigeria can trigger a wave of democratic consolidation in Africa. But as a starting point we need to get this critical election right by ensuring that they go ahead and depriving those who want to scuttle it the benefit of derailing our fledgling democracy. That way, we will all see democracy and democratic consolidation as tools for solving pressing problems in a sustainable way, not as ends in themselves.
Permit me to close this discussion on a personal note. I have heard and read references to me as a former dictator in many respected British newspapers including the well regarded Economist. Let me say without sounding defensive that dictatorship goes with military rule, though some might be less dictatorial than others.
I take responsibility for whatever happened under my watch. I cannot change the past. But I can change the present and the future. So before you is a former military ruler and a converted democrat who is ready to operate under democratic norms and is subjecting himself to the rigours of democratic elections for the fourth time.
You may ask: why is he doing this? This is a question I ask myself all the time too. And here is my humble answer: because the work of making Nigeria great is not yet done, because I still believe that change is possible, this time through the ballot, and most importantly, because I still have the capacity and the passion to dream and work for a Nigeria that will be respected again in the comity of nations and that all Nigerians will be proud of.

Thank You All


Full text of Charles Soludo’s article on missing N30trn


My attention has been drawn this morning to an article entitled: “Jonathan Replies Soludo over “missing N30 trillion” claim”— extracting from Mr. President’s interview as published by Thisday newspaper.
ThisDay quoted Mr. President as saying that “Soludo said that under Ngozi’s watch they stole N30 trillion” but that since the sum of the federal budget over the last four years was less than N30 trillion, such an amount could not have been “stolen”.
According to the President, “it is all political”. I had earlier stated that I would not make further comments on the issues until probably after the elections but since Mr. President has decided to join the fray, I am constrained to make a further brief clarification.
For me, President Jonathan is a gentleman and a friend but I have a fundamental disagreement on his management of the economy. On the issues at stake, I believe that the pressures of office and the hectic electioneering campaigns have not allowed him time to read my articles or that his staff have not explained the contents to him hence he totally missed the point in his comments. For the avoidance of doubt, let me clarify as follows:
In my article entitled “Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and the Missing Trillions”, I presented some rough calculations covering: oil theft, money that ought to accrue to stock of foreign reserves, unbudgeted oil subsidy payments, customs duty waivers, leakages through the self-financing government parastatals, unremitted sums by NNPC, etc.
I concluded that section of my article by noting that: “I have a long list but let me wait for now. I do not want to talk about other ‘black pots’ that impinge on national security. My estimate, Madam, is that probably more than N30 trillion has either been stolen or lost or unaccounted for or simply mismanaged under your watchful eyes in the past four years.”
It is evident that the monies I referred to are “off-budget”. These are monies that did not make it to the budget. I find it funny that the Government deliberately avoided the issues raised above but instead has sought to divert attention by focusing on the “federal budget”.
Let me state for the record that I believe that the amount of resources that are either stolen from the economy or out-rightly mismanaged by government far exceeds the federal budget per annum.
Ours is about a N100 trillion economy, and I will be shocked if the government pretends that it does not know that currently about 10% of the GDP falls into a ‘black hole’ on annual basis.
We have not added figures based on counterfactual analysis such as the cost to the aggregate economy of bad or misguided economic policy. For example, in today’s Thisday newspaper, a headline news reports that “Aliko Dangote, Africa’s Richest Man, Loses $7.8 Billion as Naira, Stocks Plunge” while reporting that “In dollar terms, the devaluation has knocked more than $40 billion off the value of Nigeria’s economy”. Of course, most people predicted that oil prices would soon fall but we were caught unprepared, and today, the parallel market exchange rate is N225 to the dollar.
Thus, the kind of analysis in today’s Thisday is just one little example of the kind of collateral damages–‘costs’ or ‘losses’– that mismanagement foists on the system. To repeat, my article did not focus on the federal budget: the mismanagement of the consumption budget and its unprecedented debt accumulation (with low value-for-money expenditures) are entirely different matters.
What I found particularly disconcerting as a Nigerian from the comments I read is the fixation to validation from the World Bank. According to Mr. President, “we asked the Minister how her colleagues at the World Bank saw the accusation”. I shook my head in disbelief. It is instructive that no one asked what Nigerians thought or ‘how Nigerians saw it’ but rather what was important to government was the impression of the World Bank. If this is the mind-set of our leaders, then ordinary citizens have real cause to worry.
Well, I have read several editorial comments of Nigerian media and they do not agree with the ‘impression’ of the World Bank official. I read a similar comment by a high government official stating that World Bank officials and CNN had told them that government was doing well and therefore who else could question them.
But neither the World Bank nor CNN conducts comprehensive independent surveys on the economy— they comment based on the data they are given— and their subjective “opinions” cannot substitute for hard facts.
The World Bank is not a statistical agency. I can provide a long list of countries that World Bank reports praised as ‘star performers’ and they slumped into deep crisis almost immediately after. Check out the World Bank and IMF reports on the US and other countries’ economies shortly before the unprecedented global financial and economic crisis in fifty years (the Great Recession of 2008/09).
Actually for many countries once they start getting such ‘praises’, then perceptive officials begin to worry. Nigeria is probably the only country where its government officials quote the World Bank while ignoring data from its own statistical agency!
A serious concern is that while government relies on external validation (opinion) as ‘proof’ of its performance, it is selective in the process—accepting the positive ones and disparaging the negative ones. Our recent exchanges illustrate the point. In my first article (26th January): “Buhari Vs Jonathan: Beyond the Elections”, I argued that “the economy seems to be on auto pilot, with confusion as to who is in charge, and government largely as a constraint.
There are no big ideas, and it is difficult to see where economic policy is headed to. My thesis is that the Nigerian economy, if properly managed, should have been growing at an annual rate of about 12% given the oil boom, and poverty and unemployment should have fallen dramatically over the last five years”. No one has credibly challenged the above, except what the Financial Times of London described as a “furious response by the Minister”. But, the influential Economist Magazine of London and New York Times agreed with us.
According to the Economist editorial (7th February, 2015): “… as Africa’s biggest economy stages its most important election since the restoration of civilian rule in 1999, and perhaps since the civil war four decades ago, Nigerians must pick between the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, who has proved an utter failure, and the opposition leader, Muhammadu Buhari.
“The single bright spot of his rule has been Nigeria’s economy, one of the world’s fastest-growing. Yet that is largely despite the government rather than because of it, and falling oil prices will temper the boom. The prosperity has not been broadly shared: under Mr Jonathan poverty has increased. Nigerians typically die eight years younger than their poorer neighbours in nearby Ghana.”
I gave the Government an “F” grade on economic management, and the Economist described its performance as “utter failure”.
The Economist also basically agreed with me that the re-basing of the economy and its observed ‘growth’ have nothing to do with government policy. Again, government has not credibly challenged the above or is the Economist’s view also ‘all political ’? Government simply waved it off. My point is that if Government has to rely on the “impressions” of external bodies, then it should be consistent and comprehensive.
In conclusion, let me re-state that I firmly stand by my earlier statements. These are weighty statements which I weighed carefully before issuing. I appreciate that this is an election time and so attempts would be made to trivialize, or either play politics with, or divert attention from, them. In a serious society, we should have had a good debate on these matters as they could provide some of the building blocks in trying to pick the pieces after the elections.
Part of our citizen duty in a democracy is to raise such issues and demand for answers. In the meantime, I grant that our leaders are busy with campaigns but these issues won’t go away until we have a transparent resolution. Be assured that after the elections, we will be back with even more questions!


The Political Armed Robbery In Ekiti By Sonala Olumhense | Sahara Reporters

The Political Armed Robbery In Ekiti By Sonala Olumhense | Sahara Reporters.

The Political Armed Robbery In Ekiti By Sonala Olumhense

The audio tape, as analyzed by specialists and people who know the participants, identify one of them as Musiliu Obanikoro, a former Nigeria ambassador to Ghana, former Senator and at the time, a junior Minister of Defence in the government of President Goodluck Jonathan. He has recently been renominated for another Ministerial chair.

Please Read on…

The Buhari Of My Personal Experience Ignatius C. Olisemeka

The Buhari Of My Personal Experience
Ignatius C. Olisemeka


Without ever knowing or meeting me, Buhari gave me a chance. As I now write, I have never met him one-on-one. We have never spoken to each other. It is an extraordinary experience of an unusual man.

I was sitting on my desk in the Ministry of External Affairs, 40 Marina Lagos in 1984, when I received a letter appointing me Ambassador to the United States of America. My place of origin did not matter. Incidentally, I am from Ibusa, a famous town now in Delta State; then, in Bendel State. My religion did not matter either. I had no worthwhile contacts with Dodan Barracks. All I knew, and had always known, was to work hard and to express my views as candidly and as courageously as I could, regardless of the consequences; provided I was convinced they were right. It was never easy or smooth-sailing. Of course, that had its bitter consequences; but at the end, now at 83, looking back, it worked out just right.

Of all the Nigerian leaders, with the possible exception of Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe and Alhaji Tafawa Balewa, Buhari has been the one that has most approximated my dream of what a Nigerian leader should be. Without any attempt at self-advertisement, but simply as a matter of fact, I knew and had worked and interacted with most, if not all of our leaders. I worked with Sir James Robertson, the last colonial Governor-General of Nigeria, after graduating from the University College, Ibadan in 1957. I served as Clerk to the Privy Council and as Assistant Secretary (Administrative Officer) in charge of Security. I worked up to my immediate boss, Mr. C. O. Lawson, the then respected Secretary to the Cabinet in the Governor-General’s office. As part of my schedule of duties as officer in charge of security, I had the privilege and honour of being a member of a 3-man-panel, two of them British, which interviewed and recruited the first batch of Nigerian military officers into the Nigerian army in 1958. This batch included Olusegun Obasanjo.

In 1958, I transferred to the Ministry of External Affairs, making a career in the Diplomatic Service which lasted forty-two (42) years, from where I eventually rose as Foreign Minister, having served as Ambassador in Nine (9) countries, a few with concurrent accreditation, including Kenya under Jomo Kenyatta, Botswana under Sir Seretse Khama, Lesotho under King Moshoeshoe I, Spain, The Holy See under three Popes, (John Paul VI, John Paul I and John Paul II), the United States of America, Canada and, lastly, in Israel for six (6) years, a mission I established and rose to be Doyen of the Diplomatic Corps. In between, I was Chief of Protocol of the Federation to Zik and Balewa, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as Directing Staff in the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, for two years (1988/1989).

I am now a retired pensioner, carefully minding my own business and tending my personal affairs. I do not belong to any political party and have never belonged to any. In the best tradition of the colonial public service of my days, I have remained strictly anonymous and aloof; occasionally, making my views and opinion privately known to the appropriate authorities of the day on any issue I feel strongly about. I seek no office and no financial or material favours. All I am doing is to put on public record my private opinion, views and experience, which may not be available and known to many Nigerians.

Major General Muhammadu Buhari not only gave me the opportunity to serve Nigeria as Ambassador in the United States, he did even more than that. He entrusted to me the care and welfare of his family; still without our knowing or meeting each other. He sent his wife and two children to me in Washington D.C. for medical treatment. He took his chance and dealt with me strictly on a professional basis. His family were with me in Washington D.C. when the General was overthrown in a coup d’etat. We did the best we could and sent them back home safely under the trying and traumatic circumstances they found themselves- still, never a word from this unusual person. In 1988 after I returned as Ambassador from Washington D.C., I was assigned as a punitive measure as Directing Staff to the National Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (NIPSS), Kuru, for two years.

The subject of our research in that year led the Syndicate I headed to visit Buhari’s State of origin. With the approval of government, members of the Syndicate visited Buhari who was then under house arrest in his home town, Daura. This most extra-ordinary man received us with warmth and courtesy. We found him living in a modest, sparsely furnished three or four bed-room bungalow which was his house. He still did not know who I was; nor did I disclose my identity to him. It was unbelievable, even in those days, that a former General in the Nigerian Army and a former Head of State could live in such a modest, spartan abode. What further struck me was a complete lack of bitterness; unless the Fulani in him, concealed and dissembled it!

What do all these tell me about this man, Buhari? Others may have a different opinion of him. I absolutely concede to them the right to hold their views. As far as I am personally concerned, four short phrases summarise my overall impression and opinion of Buhari. An incorruptible man. A patriotic Nigerian devoid of any trace of ethnicism and parochialism. A deeply religious man. Above all, a sterndisciplinarian.

We so often talk glibly of the giant strides Asian Tigers have taken to leap from the state of underdevelopment to developed nations. We refer tirelessly to the achievements of men like Lee Kuan Yew. I have, personally, met Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore. I did so in the company of General Yakubu Gowon when he returned from exile from the United Kingdom. Little do we know or appreciate the agonizing hardship, pains and sufferings all Singaporeans, Chinese, Malays, Indians and other ethnic nationalities, had to endure for Singapore to attain its present height as a respected nation. Gold must be smelted in hot burning furnaces before unleashing its shine and purity. Lee Kuan Yew was a benevolent democratic autocrat. He subjected his people to a good dose of rigorous healthy discipline. No country makes that type of progress Singapore made without an unwavering sense of disciplined direction. Moreover, Lee Kuan Yew was an inspirational leader of his people. He governed by example.

It is not just the question of the number of kilometres of roads you build that elevates a nation. It is not a matter of the megawatts of power you generate nor the number of buildings you erect for the populace. Not even the refineries you build or the volume of agricultural products produced and exported. These are important. Any leader surrounded by brilliant experts, excellent technocrats and loyal advisers can achieve those basic and essential needs. Leadership calls for much greater attributes than the performance of those feats. A leader must have a strong, solid, moral and disciplined background, the inspirational ability to galvanize his people to higher, lofty and common purpose. These are not ordinary attributes available to every man. They are uncommon gifts and talents dispensed and bestowed only to a few. This makes the difference between one man and the other; one woman and the other. It is not often we have a Ghandi or a Mandela; an Ataturk, or a Winston Churchill, a Charles de Gaulle, or a Konrad Adenauer, who became one of the most respected Chancellors of Federal Republic of Germany at the ripe age of 81, a Margaret Thatcher, or even our own often quoted Obama. Nearer home, with all their imperfections, considering that a prophet is without honour in his own country, we must reckon with Azikiwe, the Sardauna, Awolowo, Aminu Kano and J.S. Tarka, the real and genuine ‘founding fathers’ of our nation.

Buhari, in my view, belongs to the last and passing generation of this group of Nigerian leaders. It was a pity that fate thrust him into leadership limelight at a period in time when military revolution and coups d’ etats were in vogue and held sway. In a democratic setting, as we now have, I believe that the real worth and essence of this man, encapsulated in an exemplary and enigmatic personal life, will blaze through and shine forth. It will soon be clear that those of his followers of questionable and dubious pedigree who think they can latch on to the reputation of this rare Nigerian would be the first to be highly disappointed.
I also believe that what is badly needed at this stage of our national life is a leadership that will turn the country around; and rescue us from the depth of chronic indiscipline, disorder and decadence we have, over the years, gradually descended and slided into. What I believe we need is a strong hand at the helm, with the support of our people, who will instil in us a much needed sense of order and discipline; inspire us into patriotic zeal and sacrifice; bring out the best in each one of us; and encourage in us the love of nation.

The nation’s sense of indiscipline and disorder is evident and all pervasive even in very simple things and matters of the day and moment. A road-side mechanic claims to be an Engineer (Engr) and insists on being so styled. A traditional herbalist insists he must be called and respected as a professional medical Doctor (Dr) and, indeed, hugs the appellation. An ordinary traditional village community leader who flamboyantly styles himself a Chief and clownishly attired in a self-designed robe, is addressed not only as “Your Highness”, but takes offence if he is not properly addressed as “Your Royal Highness”. A number of respected Kabiyesis no longer have regard for their beautiful traditional titles, unless we, their ‘subjects’, address them as “Your Majesty” or worse still, “Your Royal Majesty” The same applies to the ‘Ran kadades’, most of our Emirs and prominent men in authority revel in when interacting with the poor subservient so-called talakawas. May I also observe that the awkward title of ‘His Eminence’ is a misnomer which should be revisited and reconsidered.

Members of our legislative houses feel incomplete and uncomfortable until they are addressed as ‘Honourables’ or ‘Distinguished Senators’. They are no longer plain ‘Mister’ or ‘Madam’.

I believe it is time we became a little more creative and find suitable traditional and local substitutes for these foreign appellations which portray us as caricatures and ridicule us as people and nation in the outside world. What a pride and beauty to have one of the foremost traditional rulers of the land being regaled with the title Omo N’Oba N’Edo Uku Akpolokpolo Oba Erediauwa! Why can we not start emulating and adopting this practice in most of our national institutions? It will give us a sense of pride and self-worth.

Ambitious pseudo-intellectual self-publicists cleverly thrust their mediocrity and opinions on us and flaunt their borrowed, half-baked, ill-digested ideas, concepts, jargons and clichés. Pages of our national newspapers are replete with lavishly self-serving advertisements of obituaries, weddings and birthday celebrations. Why not severely tax those who place these wasteful advertisements to rake in and release funds to charities or other good causes such as sporting and educational development of the country.

Hitherto decent, pretty, confident young ladies on our television sets in order to make themselves more attractive and acceptable, bleach their skin to pale sickening white, with their veins thinly exposed; their bare knuckles and elbows still looking jet black. They should be reassigned to the back room offices, decorated with mirrors, left to rue their new look which has become an eyesore to many viewers. Our television channels have suddenly become a babel and cacophony of crude and embarrassing noise makers, reflecting the values of a sick society, drunk with democratic excesses.

Honorary degrees are sold, bought and conferred on underserving personalities by many of our Universities and these personalities shamelessly parade them at will. A few prominent church leaders have relocated their pulpits from their churches to the seats of secular power while a number of Imams have not been able to teach their adherents the purity of their religion which preaches respect for human lives.

Our youths need impeccable high level connections before gaining employment at any level, both decent or menial. Impunity freely reigns in the land more than ever before. The temples of justice are daily being desecrated. The Lady now has her eyes wide open; seductively beckoning and soliciting for favours.

More painful still, is the near-absolute control of our entire being and lives as a people by others. We appear helpless to cast off that yoke and burden even though we claim to be independent; helpless to govern ourselves with any modicum of self-respect and dignity and take our destiny into our hands.

The list is endless. Am I a part of this messy order? Certainly, yes. None of us can pretend not to be part of it, in one way or the other, in differing roles. Only that some exacerbate it more than others. This situation calls for a man who, by personal example, can firmly and fearlessly put an end to these vulgarities and inanities.

This is one side of the coin. There is another side of the coin to our national life for which we can proudly hold our heads very high. This is the side no other single country in the world I know can ever match. The list is inexhaustive and much longer than our shortcomings. We do not, however, necessarily need to dwell on them or spell them out here, as we search for positive measures and values that will enhance and edify our nation.

Buhari represents, in my opinion, the last opportunity we have to get things reasonably right before the baton passes permanently on to the next and coming generation. After him, the generation of the ‘founding fathers’ would have faded away; with their legacies, left behind, hopefully for good. He should be given the chance to restore and consolidate the disappearing values of that ‘golden age’ so sadly disrupted by the military, to which paradoxically and tragically, he and those in that generation, and that before him, were willy-nilly pressed into being a part of.

He carries on his frail, ageing but reliable shoulders a historic responsibility and burden of getting it right. He has a bounden duty to realign the nation towards achieving its manifest destiny. He has no excuses for failure. Otherwise, why should he be seeking power at his age? It makes absolutely no sense. Why not take a comfortable and relaxed back seat like most of us. History will judge him very harshly should he fail.

The immediate challenge before him, I feel convinced, is how to curb the excesses of the teaming mass of followers who, undoubtedly, adore him. The next, is to rein in the display of empty, hollow pompousness and offensive arrogance by a few of his elitist, lazy patronage-seeking associates; who, if victorious, will flock to him without discrimination. I had always instinctively recognised and resented this feeling at first hand, even from a distance.

I believe it is time for us to begin anew. Let us begin to lead our lives as normal human beings; and not in self-delusion and self-deceit. This is the real transformation needed. This is the revolution we yearn for at this point in time in our national life. I can now start understanding what drove past Chinese leaders into staging the “Cultural Revolution”. Nigeria is ripe; indeed, over ripe for a non-violent revolution which will shake us all up like a volcanic eruption from our present national stupor. Who will sweep out the quacks and charlatans in our midst? Who will guarantee us enduring values? Who will cleanse the cobwebs from our national home?

All said, let no one forget there is no better country than Nigeria in the whole world. I feel happiest when I am in Nigeria; despite the agonizing frustrations; despite the infuriating hardship; and even when I am being driven daily to the brink of desperation.

Ignatius C. Olisemeka
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs