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Buhari through Omoboriowo’s lens

The president’s life and ascendancy to the nation’s highest position is captured in glossy, crisp images by his personal photographer, Bayo Omoboriowo, in a book.

GIVEN President Muhammadu Buhari’s reputation as an ascetic, one was pleasantly surprised to see him not just holding hands with a lady but dancing with her!  Yes. Shorn of any footwear and attired in a simple safari, he has a little smile on his lips as he dances at a reception in his honour in Manila, the Phillipines.

The black and white photo  taken in 1977 when Buhari was Nigeria’s Federal Commissioner of Petroleum Resources , is one of the several interesting images in the 315-page photography book, ‘Buhari: A New Beginning’ by the President’s personal photographer, Bayo Omoboriowo.

Omoboriowo tells Buhari’s story from childhood, education, his military years, foray into politics and eventual emergence as a democratically elected president. With a foreword by former Commonwealth Secretary General, Chief Emeka Anyaoku and an introduction by the Vice President, Professor YemiOsinbajo, the expansive book is divided into six parts; ‘The Beginnings’, ‘The Historic Campaign’, ‘Transition’, ‘Moments of Decision’, ‘Statesman’ and ‘The Man, Buhari’.

What most  may find fascinating however is the first part where we are shown monochromatic images of the President’s mother and sisters, his days at the Nigerian Military Training College and a photograph of him and his late wife, Safinatu with their four daughters when he was military head of state. Military historians will also find this chapter interesting as it chronicles Buhari’s life as Brigade Commander, Governor of the North Eastern state, Federal Commissioner of Petroleum Resources and head of the military government.

Though the photographs in this section were obviously not taken by Omoboriowo, he has done well to include them for the reader to understand how modesty, discipline and integrity have been hallmarks of Buhari’s life from the onset.

There’s an amusing photo on page 78 in the second chapter where we see Buhari kneeling to take the title Ogolagi 1 of Aba from His Royal Majesty, Eze Isaac Ikonne Enyi 1 of Aba. Among the onlookers is Minister of Labour, Dr. Chris Ngige with a look that appears to be saying “yes, we have done it!” on his face. As has been well documented, the 2014/2015 campaign was characterized by brinksmanship, color, political rhetoric, brash sloganeering and innovative strategy. Despite its elaborate marketing strategy, Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) had issues selling their candidate in the South-East and South-South which may well account for the happy, contented look on Ngige’s face. A page before that, we see Buhari during a visit to the matriarch of the Awolowo dynasty, Yeye HID Awolowo at the family residence in Ikenne, Ogun State on January 13, 2015. Other striking images in this section include a man riding his specially-decorated APC campaign three-wheeler in Imo State (page 87) and a man with his transistor radio glued to his ears monitoring the election result, appearing to confirm  that the average northern male will not go anywhere without his radio.

Colourful images from Buhari’s inauguration at the Eagle Square on May 29, 2015 are presented in the third chapter but preceding them is the memorable photograph of Buhari receiving the famous telephone call from ex-President Goodluck Jonathan congratulating him for his victory at the March 28, 2015 presidential election (page 105).

The euphoria of inauguration over, the opening image of chapter four, ‘Moments of Change’ is Buhari in a contemplative mood, reflecting on the onerous task before him, especially given the massive changes he and his party had promised.  Photos of the President with some of his key men including VP Osinbajo, ministers and state governors are presented here. We see Buhari as a statesman receiving in audience eminent personalities including Pastor Enoch Adeboye, ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo and General Yakubu Gowon amongst others in the penultimate chapter. His visits to other countries and international organizations as Nigeria’s number diplomat arealso showcased in well composed images.

The last chapter shows Buhari’s simple life. We see him at work and at play, reading a newspaper, taking a selfie with his children, playing with his grandchildren and inspecting his cows during a visit to his farm in Daura.  A photograph of the Presidential Villa (supposedly populated by dark forces according to Dr. Reuben Abati) at night closes the book.

A tree does not a forest make and though Omoboriowodisplays his dexterity as an artist with his crisp composition and exclusive photos, he benefits from the inputs of Buhari’sexperienced media aides, Femi Adesina and Garba Shehu, who provide the texts in the book. The veteran photographer, Tam Fiofori and Lukman Olaonipekun, who has two similar books of photographs on Fashola also assisted him in telling his boss’ story with these rich images.