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Africa

Buhari’s village celebrates its son as new president

As Nigeria inaugurates Muhammadu Buhari as its next president, the small village of Daura is bubbling with excitement. The normally sleepy little town on the edge of the Sahel is the birthplace of the new leader.

They are the main attraction at the weekly market in Daura. Five musicians move from stand to stand playing their small drums. Once they stop, children quickly gather around them. At the end of the performance, there is applause and some money is given to the musicians.

But this May morning, money is not the only thing making musician Abdulkarimu Abamu smile. "We are happy that we can celebrate here General Buhari as the new president," he says, beaming. Daura is the birthplace of Nigeria's new head of state who is being sworn in on Friday.

There is nothing spectacular about the small village which is home to about 25,000 people. It lies on the edge of the Sahel, next to the border with neighboring country Niger. The clay buildings in the center resemble those found in other West African countries, such as Mali and Burkina Faso. Apart from the market, there are a few schools, banks and petrol stations. Most people survive on subsistence farming.

Men standing in front of a yellow house where Nigerian incoming president Muhammadu Buhari was born.

The house in Duara where Muhammadu Buhari was born and raised

Buhari's childhood home

In Daura people know each other. Everyone knows where the birthplace of Muhammadu Buhari is. A narrow road leads to the yellow clay building in the old town. Even today, part of his family still lives there. His best friend and later personal adviser, Lawal Aliyi, lives next door. "I can't remember when we first met", he told DW. "Our houses are next to each other. Children at that time knew everyone. He (Buhari) was senior to me but all the same, we grew up together and played together."

The two friends attended different schools. Buhari later chose a military career while Aliyi pursued a career in administration. However, they have kept their friendship to this day. Speaking a few days before the swearing in of Muhammadu Buhari, Aliyi was particularly proud that his childhood comrade was democratically elected to the highest office in the land. "People just wanted to have him there," Aliyi said.

That has not always been the case. Buhari's first time as Nigeria's leader began with a coup on December 31, 1983. He governed the nation under military rule for 20 months until another coup ended his reign.

International media and human rights activists have questioned Buhari's first democratic mandate, due to past alleged violations of human rights and his style of governance. Under Buhari's military regime, demonstrations and strikes were banned while critics of his government were arrested. "But tribunals were established and lawyers were allowed to come and defend people," Munir Yakubu, a long-time companion of Buhari and deputy governor of Katsina State said.

Election posters showing Muhammadu Buhari in Duara, northern Nigeria.

The northern town of Duara is proud of its 'son' Buhari

'Incorruptible leader'

According to Yakubu, Buhari had no choice. "Even then and now, corruption was so deep seated and certain actions had to be taken." 30 years on, Buhari is still seen as an incorruptible figure, especially in Daura. They regard Buhari's simple house with its large garden as relatively modest, compared to some of the magnificent buildings owned by Nigerian politicians and business people in Abuja or Lagos.

That is typical of Buhari, Yakubu said. "He wears common clothes that the people on the street wear and he talks the way that ordinary people on the street understand. That's why they love him."

Alhaji Munir Yakubu, an ally of Nigerian incoming president Muhammadu Buhari

Yakubu, the new president's long-time ally, says Buhari had to be tough in order to fight corruption

Even before taking office, the new president made it clear that his hometown should not expect any gifts from him. He also demanded that family members should not accept bribes.

Some villagers in Daura told DW they expect no special favors from the incoming president. However, many of them admitted that they wish to see the supply of electricity improve and their homes connected with running water. Presently, most residents get their water from boreholes.

At the weekly market in Daura, where local products are on sale, farmer Usman Kango has another expectation. "We want to see a change in agriculture, where machinery would be used so that yields will increase." Kango is confident that Muhammadu Buhari will take care of that. After all, Nigeria's new president is one of them and knows their problems.

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