A new era dawns in Nigeria today as President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, receives the baton of the nation’s leadership from outgoing president, Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan. The inauguration of Buhari as president, following the defeat of Jonathan in the March 28 presidential election represents for Nigerians, fresh hope for new solutions to intractable problems that have kept our country on its knees for much of its 100-year history.
To signify the importance of this momentous milestone in Nigeria’s history, no fewer than 50 world leaders are expected to witness the swearing in of the new president at a colourful ceremony at the Eagle Square, Abuja, this morning. State governors who got the mandates of their people in the April 11 gubernatorial polls will also be sworn into office in their various state capitals as we celebrate Democracy Day today.
Buhari, who is of the erstwhile leading opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), ended the 16-year stay of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) at the helm of the nation’s affairs, with a decisive victory at the polls. His message of change, which swept across the country like a tornado, resonated with beleaguered Nigerians who elected to hinge their hope for a new country that works on him. All the predictions of cataclysm over the presidential election collapsed like a pack of badly-stacked cards, and Nigerians are happy today to join the league of countries where power is transferred peacefully from one president and political party to another in polls that are widely acknowledged to be free, fair and credible.
We congratulate Buhari on the inauguration of his government, and urge him to do everything within his power to fulfill his campaign promises. Outgoing president, Dr. Goodluck Jonathan, and the country’s electoral agency, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), also deserve commendations for seeing this transition to a fruitful conclusion.
We salute all Nigerians on this great occasion. It is, undoubtedly, their resilience and commitment to the peace and stability of the country that has made today’s joyful event possible. We also thank all friendly countries and international development organisations for their contributions to the success of the elections. Nigerians, indeed, have a reason to celebrate the change of baton at the presidency and the affected states. The nation’s 16 years of unbroken democracy, with four transitions and the unprecedented acceptance of defeat in an election by a sitting president portend great hope for our democracy. It is an indication that our nascent democracy is finally on its way to maturity.
Sadly, however, Buhari is coming into office at a very difficult time in our national history. The nation was virtually grounded earlier this week on account of a lingering fuel scarcity caused by a strike of oil marketers over humongous fuel subsidy debts, which they have put at N200 billion, even though the government admitted only N156 billion. Power supply, put at under 2000 megawatts recently, is at one of its lowest ebbs.
The nation’s debt shot up by about $21 billion, to reach to $63.7 billion (about N2.3 trillion), under the watch of the Jonathan administration, with about 80 percent of the sum said to be domestic debts. Many states have been crippled by debts. A good number of them have been unable to pay salaries for several months on account of shortfalls in revenue from the Federation Account, because of the crash in the international price of crude oil, which is the nation’s main revenue earner. There is a drastic fall in the exchange rate of the naira and widespread dilapidation of public infrastructure, while the monster of corruption has to be decapitated.
The new president, therefore, has his plate full of challenges. He must hit the ground running and put in place a team of experts in various fields who can help to bring his promise of change to reality. Expectations from the Buhari presidency are huge and the task ahead is daunting. The new president must not disappoint the people.
He has, in the days running up to this inauguration, rightly sounded a note of warning to Nigerians to be patient and cooperative as his administration steadily tackles the nation’s problems. We think this is in order, as there is no magic to end the nation’s mountain of problems that piled up over several decades. It is good that the new administration has tempered expectations by sounding the note of caution that it does not have a magic wand. Nigerians, however, will not brook any excuses for non-performance. The Buhari administration must deliver on its promises.
Let Nigeria borrow a leaf from countries that confronted and overcame their challenges. The Singaporean example under the late and much celebrated Lee Kuan Yew readily comes to mind and the present leadership must draw inspiration from it. Singapore did not have oil or other mineral resources. It was on the verge of a total collapse based on the withdrawal of significant patronage by its major benefactor, yet it found the courage to rise from the threat of imminent annihilation, to greatness. That is the stuff of which great leaders are made and Nigerians need leadership in this mould to actualise their long-held dreams of a great nation.
Thankfully, the new administration has itemized its priorities, namely: security, economy and the fight against corruption. It must now proceed with verve and courage to execute them. On the issue of security, the nation has never been more challenged. From petty robberies at independence, things have progressively degenerated to militancy, kidnapping and now insurgency and terrorism. The abduction of the Chibok girls has become a sore on the nation’s thumb, as they are yet to be found.
The nation’s major problems that were enumerated earlier are well known to the people and our new leaders. What has been lacking is the political will on the part of our past leaders to confront and surmount them. Nigeria must break away from this inglorious past. Buhari should address the fuel subsidy imbroglio, diversify the economy and build efficient refineries. He should tackle our high debt profile, unworkable interest rate, low value of the naira and the huge deficit in critical infrastructure, especially power.
Buhari and the state governors must focus on agriculture with renewed zeal and stimulate job creation. Will the Buhari administration stand up for the country? We expect that it will, and we urge all citizens to support the new government as it takes difficult decisions, which may take us out of our comfort zones in the short run.
In Nigeria, corruption has become a hydra-headed monster that must be killed. As Buhari aptly captured it sometime ago, “we either kill corruption, or it kills us.” The battle line is drawn and the ball is now firmly in the new government’s court. Electioneering campaigns are, indeed, over and it is time to govern.
The campaigns sharply divided Nigeria along its known fault lines of religion and ethnicity, and for the first time, the attacks on personalities reached new heights of infamy. But now, Buhari is the president of the whole country, and not some sections of it. His appointments, especially into sensitive offices, must reflect that.
All hands must be on deck if Nigeria is to attain its potentials. Politicians of the new opposition party, the PDP, and all those who lost out in the last election, should resist the temptation to constitute themselves into a cog in the wheel of governance. This, however, is not to say that civil society groups and opposition elements should not play their very important role of constantly keeping the government on its toes.
Today, indeed, marks a renewal of hope in the Nigerian project. Let both the ruling APC and the opposition PDP act in the best interest of Nigeria at all times. Buhari and APC must never forget their change mantra. Governance, this time, must not be business as usual.