This week the United States remembers one of the country’s most popular presidents, Abraham Lincoln. It was this week 150 years ago that Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth, at the Ford Theater. A memorial for the slain president is being held in the capital city of Albany, New York. Coinciding in a timely fashion, on Saturday the results of a Nigerian election proved victorious for Muhammadu Buhari. Buhari a is leader who, in his dedication to his pursuits and perseverance in overcoming critics, is being compared to the late American president by some.
Much like Lincoln, Buhari has been faced with a divided nation and assassination attempts. Fortunate for the Nigerian leader, his adversaries, who are most likely members of the terrorist group Boko Haram, have not taken his life. This election victory is seen as representing the “wishes of the Nigerian people” and a move in the right direction for a country that has been devastated by terrorist activity.
Kola Odepeju, with All Africa, has written that Buhari is like Lincoln in how Lincoln promoted democracy as being a “government of the people, by the people and for the people…Buhari has taught us how to keep hope alive; that with determination and doggedness nothing is unachievable.” Buhari himself has had to fight off allegations that he is associated with Islamic extremists, an issue that has cost him Christian votes in the south in the past. However, now his militant background and relentless agenda may be what is needed to pull Nigeria though these turbulent times.
This was not Buhari’s first election. Again, similar to Lincoln who was not an immediate success but eventually won the U.S. presidency, Buhari has struggled along the way to finally earn the support of the people. A contributing factor suggests Odepeju is that Buhari embodies one of Mahatma Gandhi’s warnings for politicians: “Avoid politics without principle.” This has been reflected in the Nigerian leader’s commitment to one party. This is a characteristic not found in many of his opponents.
While this week Nigeria celebrates their new president, the U.S. remembers one if its favorite presidents. The National Parks Service along with Albany have organized a two-week rolling program that will travel from Washington, D.C., to Springfield, Ill. where Lincoln was from. There will also be several reenactments of Lincoln’s speeches and debates. Harold Holzer, a renowned Lincoln scholar, explains, “no state grieved at his assassination more publicly and more passionately. … This is an amazing event, virtually untold story of which all New Yorkers should be proud.”
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and late U.S. President Abraham Lincoln share a kind of determination that leads one through unsuccessful elections towards the one that ends in victory. Although the two are separated by 150 years Buhari embraces the historic leader’s character and is making an effort to change his nation for better today. As memorials are underway in the U.S. this week and election celebrations are held in Nigeria, both nations honor the spirit of democracy as seen through the eyes of their tenacious leaders.
By Joel Wickwire
Photo by Chatham House – Flickr License
Photo by Gage Skidmore – Flickr License