PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari was to have spent the first few days of Ramadan in his hometown, Daura, Katsina State. The plan changed with a nagging ear infection which he travelled out to obtain medical treatment for. Last weekend, he made it and it was a sort of triumphant homecoming. I was on the trip and witnessed the reception his people – the old, the young, men, women, boys and girls accorded him on the streets of the ancient town, the town of Bayyajida, a sojourner who came across the desert and for his bravery in slaying Sarki, the giant snake, which had prevented the people from accessing their well, their only source of water, earned himself the town’s queen, Daurama, for a wife.
Seeing him, their joy knew no bounds. The news of his ear disease and rumour of serious illness must have jolted them and now seeing him in good health, and in all his presidential glory, were certainly overwhelmed with happiness and overcome by emotions. His time as the chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF) is arguably the best Daura has had as a town. The role PTF played in bringing development to the town is legendary. I can recall that PTF under Buhari, against assertions of unbridled favouritism, paid great attention to building Daura roads and other infrastructure. But for that, it may never have enjoyed the facilities it has today.
For me too, going to Katsina was a sort of home coming. Yet, when I received my posting there years ago by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), I thought fate had treated me cruelly and contemplated seeking redeployment. I didn’t. The decision to go there proved to be divinely inspired. I cut my journalism teeth in the state, picked up the Hausa language and met most of the people that have shaped my whole life. Katsina is much changed from when I lived there but it was a wonderful feeling to still find familiar faces many of whom played a part in moulding the individual I have become.
But this is about President Buhari. Though just four days, it was an extended holiday for him; a time to get some more rest and catch up with his kith and kin. On Monday, the day he arrived from Abuja, the Katsina airport welcoming ceremony led by Governor Aminu Masari was brief. Buhari alighted from 001, that is, his Nigerian Air Force presidential jet, had a handshake with the welcoming party on the tarmac and soon after boarded the presidential chopper that airlifted him to his personal residence in Daura.
The major assignment the president had in his town was the breaking of Ramadan fast with the Emir of Daura, Dr. Farouq Umar Farouq along with his chiefs and some prominent sons of the emirate. This took place on Saturday evening with Masari, his Zamfara State counterpart, Abdulaziz Yari; members of the Katsina State executive council and the leadership of the state legislature also in attendance. The breaking of fast took place in a small hall inside the emir’s palace, a historical but modest edifice whose antiquated design had deliberately been preserved even though now incongruous with its modern surroundings.
People struggled to enter the hall to have the opportunity to share dinner with their most illustrious son. Unlike everywhere else, the atmosphere was relaxed with the usually overzealous presidential bodyguards appearing to keep their hotheaded emotions in check. They still managed to cut down on the number that could gain entry into the dining hall while tens of people including many almajarai, were left to roam unhindered just outside the door of the dinning hall.
The emir was generous with his feast. Having anticipated that there would be a surge of local crowd intent on eating or just eager for a chance of a close encounter with the president, he made an alternative arrangement for such people to be sheltered and fed a few rooms away. There was loud grumbling from a few of them who felt shut out from the main event but most others who had to relocate to the adjourning dinning room, were happy for the chance to eat.
As he had done on each occasion of breaking of fast, Buhari spoke about the direction of his administration, trying to allay fears about observed discriminatory tendencies of his government towards sections of the country. He told his people that he would be just, fair to all and would not marginalise any parts as he has been variously accused of doing. Therefore he said, he would objectively consider anything brought to his attention before taking decisions. As a man’s word is his bond, many will hope he sticks to this solemn pledge.