Former Commandant of the Nigeria Defence Academy (NDA), General Paul Tarfa has said that the Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, has never been a religious bigot, but a man committed to discipline.
He added that it is foolish for anyone to say that Buhari does not have school certificate.
Tarfa said in Abuja that most Nigerians who joined the army during the Nigerianisation of the Nigerian Army in the 1960s obtained their school certificates after becoming officers.
“I had the same Principal with General Buhari in person of Mr. West,” he said
Tarfa, who has lived a quiet life since he retired from the army, said: “I stand up here to say a few words about General Buhari because I am one of those who know him most.
“We met in 1963 as cadets and we shared one thing- discipline, punctuality and purposefulness.
“Like him, I heard erroneously that I am a fanatical Christian. I don’t know if I am, but I am a Christian to the letter.
“I remember that Buhari used to say that following the tenets of Islam does not make one a fanatic.
“If I read my bible before I sleep, does it make me a fanatical Christian?
“In addition to what has been said, I want to say that in 1984 when he was the head of state, I was posted to the Nigerian Army Ordinance Corps in Lagos from the Command and Staff College in Jaji. The Nigeria Defence Academy was on its way to becoming a degree awarding institution. I was in Lagos for only three months and there was a reshufflement and I was asked to go back to Kaduna.
“I reported to him that I had just come here and so, let me stay here. He said no, in the first place, your posting to the Ordinance Corps is wrong. I want you to go to the Defence Academy because I want our future officers to take after your character. So, I took my wife and family and returned to Kaduna.
“On my first week in the academy, I blew what we called the tattoo. Tattoo means blowing horn at 12 midnight or after to make sure you catch those who are not in their dormitory.
“Before then, Gen. Buhari had heard that our cadets were sleeping in surrounding villages. Some were going to Zaria to come back early in the morning, looking sleepy and not concentrating.
“When we blew the tattoo, everybody had to come out, even if you were sick and you had to be carried to the parade ground. When we counted, there were about 48 cadets absent that night. They were in the villages with prostitutes.
“I was with Prof. Ukpabi, who was then the Academy Provost. I said the number was too much for me to dismiss even though they were supposed to be dismissed.
“Out of the 48 errant cadets, about 32 were from the North, and out of these 32, the majority were from the far North. In other words, they were Muslim cadets.
“I flew to Lagos and met General Buhari and told him, ‘this is what you said we should do, bug look at the number.’
“Even though majority of them were Muslims, he said,’ dismiss them all.’ I told him that the number was too much and that if I did that, our Muslim brothers in Kaduna would kill me. He said, ‘They won’t. If these people become officers, they will not be good for us. There was no such thing as this during our time. We will not have half-baked officers, whether they are Christians or Muslims. If they are not good, it does not matter. So, dismiss them all.’
“When I came back, Prof, Ukpabi and I decided to dismiss the very bad ones and keep the good ones. That was how we restored discipline in the academy.
“What I am trying to say is this. where is the fanaticism here. He didn’t say because they were Muslims, we should leave them.
“This has been the character of General Buhari. If it is right, it is right.
“I am not trying to praise him, but to bring out the qualities in this man. A vote for General Buhari is a vote for change.
“People are thinking whether it is a do or die. To him, it is Nigeria first and not Buhari first. So, I believe a vote for Buhari is a vote for change; change for good.”
On Buhari’s educational qualification, he said: “Buhari’s principal was my principal. From their school, the principal, Mr. West was sent to our school.
“In those days when Nigeria was Nigerianising its military, many of the officers that you see today did not even have their school certificates until long after.
“When we were invited to go to Kaduna, we were given qualifying examination in English, Mathematics and General Knowledge, even before we took the school certificate exam. Some did not even wait to take their school certificates because vacancies were already waiting for them.
“It was after that qualifying exam that we were recruited into the army. By the time some had their school certificates, they had become officers.
“For example, Gen. Babangida never saw his school certificate until when he was head of state. I got my school certificate long after I became an officer.
“But there was officer cadet qualifying examination. About 240 of us sat for that exam in Kaduna”.
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