President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo were sworn-in Wednesday for their second term of four years in a colourful ceremony at the Eagle Square, Abuja. Witnessed by a modest audience of local and the diplomatic community, the acting chief justice of the Federation, Justice Tanko Mohammed administered the presidential oath and oath of allegiance at a brief ceremony that lasted about one hour, twenty minutes.
The attendance, which was strictly on invitation, was intentionally kept low because of the Democracy Day that has been shifted to June 12. According to the former minister of information, Lai Mohammed, the country cannot afford two expensive ceremonies in less than two weeks. To this end, all the major activities that follow inauguration have been shifted to June 12 when Nigeria will open her portals to the international community to witness the journey of democracy since 1999. An unspecified number of heads of states, mostly African countries, are expected to grace the occasion.
This notwithstanding, today’s event was no less colourful. Yakubu Gown, a former military head of state was the only former president in attendance. All the others: Goodluck Jonathan, Olusegun Obasanjo, Abdulsalami Abubakar, and Ibrahim Babangida were absent.
The Presidential protocol did not show present political friction as Bukola Saraki, Senate president, and Yakubu Dogara, Speaker of House of Representatives, took their places beside the President and the Vice President, all attired in flowing white Agbada. Wives of the President and Vice President took their places by the sides of their husbands. Adams Oshiomole, national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, was by the side of Acting CJN and was seen whispering to him repeatedly. All the service chiefs were arrayed in their ceremonial dignities; while the former ministers who all handed over to their permanent secretaries yesterday made a muted appearance.
June 12 may end up more celebrated but May 29 carries the power until the two dates are eventually harmonized by the National Assembly, with the benefitting president getting a tenure elongation of about two weeks. This is so because today the power was transferred. The President and Vice President were sworn in. The National flag and the military flag of the just ended era were lowered, removed and handed over to the President who received them and handed over a new pair to the commander of the Guards Brigade. The new flags were hoisted solemnly and Buhari’s second term was well under way. Every other is a ceremony. What else will the visiting heads of states see on June, other than ceremony without power?
A prominent politician who did not fully understand the transition to June 12 wondered that the President did not ‘promise anything new’. By this, he meant that Buhari did not read an inaugural address from where the trust of his government in the next four years may be gleaned. Unknown to him the address had been shifted to June 12. Many Nigeria are also erroneously bickering over this.
However, the two oaths, below, which Buhari and Osinbajo reaffirmed at Eagle Square are said to be enough for good governance if they are faithful to them.
“I do solemnly swear/affirm that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability, faithfully and in accordance with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the law, and always in the interest of the sovereignty, integrity, solidarity, well-being and prosperity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will strive to preserve the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will not allow my personal interest to influence my official conduct or my official decisions; that I will to the best of my ability preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that I will abide by the Code of Conduct contained in the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; that in all circumstances, I will do right to all manner of people, according to law, without fear or favour, affection or ill-will; that I will not directly or indirectly communicate or reveal to any person any matter which shall be brought under my consideration or shall become known to me as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, except as may be required for the due discharge of my duties as President; and that I will devote myself to the service and well-being of the people of Nigeria. So help me God.”
Though low keyed, a state banquet at the State House in the evening will bring inauguration activities to an end.
Boss Mustapha, secretary to the government of the Federation, chaired the inauguration activities. The President dissolved his cabinet on the eve of the swearing-in but the SGF appears to be set for reappointment. In addition to that, about ten ministers are also strongly linked to return but Buhari has kept it close to his chest. Some possible new personal advisers have been sounded but the old ones are lobbying strongly for a comeback.
Buhari is seen to be conservative in appointments so people close to him are not expecting any radical change in appointments. What is sure is that he will come out more strongly in the fight against corruption. In his first term, it took him five months to appoint a cabinet and this vacuum according to economist lead Nigeria to a painful recession. It is hoped that setting up the government will not be that slow this term.
Goodluck Jonathan, a former president was nostalgic in his reaction to the day. He took to his Twitter page to celebrate the day:
“Exactly twenty years ago, our nation turned the corner with a general election that signaled the end of a long spell of military dictatorship. With that came promises of good governance, equity, and justice under the ambience of leadership driven by the will of the people. Our celebration of democracy is, therefore, a mark of our commitment to the virtues of liberty, justice and the people’s freedom to daily engage government on how best to achieve our national goals. We may not have realized these promises and all that are possible in the new dispensation but democracy to me remains an incubator for great ideas, visions, development, and hope. That is why I urge all citizens not to give in to pessimism and despair as our nation battles the challenges of insecurity, the scourge of unemployment and prevalent poverty, all of which threaten national peace and unity.
“As a nation, it is imperative for us to continue to strive for improvements in our electoral processes. There is a need to deepen the gains so far attained by advancing the frontiers of credible electoral processes, fidelity to the rule of law & adherence to constitutionalism. Our celebration of democracy is, therefore, a mark of our commitment to the virtues of liberty, justice and the people’s freedom to daily engage government on how best to achieve our national goals. Democracy has come to stay. So let us stay in the creed and virtues of justice, equity, and love which makes democracy a solid ground of freedom, good governance, peace, and hope. Happy Democracy Day Nigeria.”
Saraki in a statement signed by Yusuph Olaniyonu, his Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, said it was ”a thing of joy in view of the many positive developments the country had witnessed since May 29, 1999…We should avoid conflicts and blood-letting as no country can develop in the midst of chaos. We should all steer clear of issues, comments, and situations that emphasize our fault lines.”
According to him, “It is a thing of absolute joy and national pride that we are today celebrating two decades of sustained democratic governance in the country. It is my hope that every Nigerian will look back at how far we have come in the last 20 years and resolve to continue to preserve our democracy – not minding the observed lapses in the operation of the system. We should continue to strive to preserve the present form of democratic governance because democracy still remains the best system of government.”
Buhari is beginning his second term amidst deep uncertainties. Security concerns persist across the country, including his home state, Katsina. The Central Bank Governor, Godwin Emefiele, has raised alarm over another possible recession. Added to these is the challenge of his victory at the election tribunal. He will have to overcome and make hay while the sun shines.