It is important to cut through the fog of partisan smoke and mirrors both for and against Buhari/Obasanjo. Although both men have consistently served the nation, unfortunately, only one of them can claim the title of "The Ultimate Nigerian".
First Performance Metric: Performance During and After the Nigerian Civil War
Both served the Federal Government under Gowon as commanders during the Nigerian Civil War.
Sadly, Buhari's military group suffered heavy casualties while trying to enforce blockade of food supplies route used by Biafran troops along Oji River and Abagana. Many years after the war, President Buhari has consistently declined to appoint Igbos and Yorubas to sensitive positions, choosing instead to fill such positions with Northerners and relatives.
On the other hand, Obasanjo’s military division launched an attack that succeeded in splitting Biafran territory in two in 1969. Subsequently, his division led the final offensive code name “Operation Tail-Wind”, this offensive led to the collapse of Biafra, forcing Philip Effiong to surrender to Obasanjo on 12 January 1970. After the war, Obasanjo (as a civilian President) commuted to retirement all formerly dismissed Biafra soldiers. Why? That "justice must at all times be tempered with mercy." Surviving members of the Biafran army received their full monetary entitlements.
Verdict: Obasanjo displayed superior operational tactics during the war. He equally displayed a willingness to reintegrate Igbos.
Second Performance Metric: Performance as Military Head of State
Buhari became Head of State (1983-1985) through a coup, Obasanjo became Head of State because the previous Head of State (Murtala Muhammad) lost his life in a failed military coup lead by Dimka.
As Head of State (1976-1979), Obasanjo’s policies led to industrial expansion (vehicle assembly, local production of soap and detergents, soft drinks, pharmaceuticals, beer, paint, and building materials). Obasanjo partnered with the Soviet Union to build a steel mill in Ajaokuta, workers equally enjoyed a rise in per capita income. Obasanjo initiated a return to civilian rule, and successfully handed power to Shehu Shagari.
On the other hand, Buhari’s policies curbed and limited importation of goods and machineries, leading to job losses and closure of businesses. His policies equally contributed to high inflation and the rise in food prices, USD equally appreciated against the Naira during this period. Unsurprisingly, Buhari's lack luster performance led to his ouster through a military coup led by Babaginda.
Verdict: Obasanjo was a better Head of State.
Third Performance Metric: First Term Performance as Civilian President
Unsurprisingly, Obasanjo first term as a civilian President ushered in development after 16 years of looting by various military dictators. He traveled extensively in his bid to drum up investors to invest in Nigeria. He was the Chief Marketer of Nigeria and Nigerians. His efforts led to economic revival, shuttered companies reopened, foreign investments came pouring in, non-oil sector workers experienced exponential increase in their monthly pay checks, some earned over a million Naira per month for the very first time in the history of Nigeria. This sudden wealth created a thriving middle class, many of whom sent their kids to universities overseas.
On the other hand, nearly 4 years into Buhari's first term (as at 2019); Nigerians are shocked that Buhari doggedly repeated his economy wrecking policies of 1983-1985! Under Buhari's watch, Nigeria's middle class has dissappeared, while their kids are straddled abroad or have returned home. Things got so bad that some Nigerians exchanged kids for bags of rice (see https://punchng.com/man-abandons-son-for-bag-of-rice-in-kano/, https://www.vanguardngr.com/2017/06/man-abducts-exchanges-10-yr-old-boy-3-bags-rice/ and https://www.vanguardngr.com/2016/09/man-exchanges-two-siblings-bags-rice/). In a nut-shell, Nigerians are suffering through his misguided policies. I rest my case.
Verdict: Obasanjo’s first term brought hope and positive change, while Buhari’s ongoing first term brought glum and negative change.
Final Verdict: As @ January 2019, Obasanjo is The Ultimate Nigerian.
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