Saturday, 30 May 2015
A New Nigeria Beckons As Buhari Takes Over
• To relocate defence headquarters to Maiduguri as Boko Haram is taken head on
Onyebuchi Ezigbo, Senator Iroegbu, Jaiyeola Andrews and Chineme Okafor in Abuja
Amidst great expectations, Muhammadu Buhari was on Friday sworn in as the fifth civilian President of Nigeria, with a promise that his administration would firmly tackle the Boko Haram terrorists head on.
In this regard, he said the Defence Headquarters would be relocated to Maiduguri from Abuja.
The new President also pledged to tackle corruption, insecurity, epileptic electricity and a number of other challenges.
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo earlier took his own oath as Vice President at very colourful ceremony held at the Eagles Square in Abuja.
It was a historic moment as both the incoming president and outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan shook and embraced each other to the admiration of all who were gathered at the Eagles Square.
For Buhari, it was a dream come true having tried three times to return to the office he left 30 years ago without success.
Clad in flowing white Agbada kaftan dress, Buhari walked confidently to the podium at about 10.45 am to take the oath administered by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Mahmud Mohammed.
Buhari swore with the Quran. After the swearing-in, the Eagle square went into a joyful shout.
Buhari, also like Osinbajo signed the register of the oath of office.
Thereafter, Jonathan handed over the national flag to him and a copy of the constitution. The two are the instruments of office.
In a symbolic manner, the old National flag and the defence flag were lowered symbolising the end of Jonathan's era as President and Commander-in-Chief.
The flags were later folded by the military officers and handed over to the Regimented Sergeant Major (RSM) and later handed to the Chief of Defence Staff, Alex Barde who in turn handed it to Jonathan.
Later, a box containing two new flags were given to Buhari by Jonathan who also handed the flags over to Barde.
Barde in return gave the flags to RSM to be hoisted, which signified the beginning of a new era of Buhari's administration. At this stage, Jonathan stepped out with his vice-president, Namadi Sambo and were driven out of the square.
Jonathan left for the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport for onward journey to Otuoke via Port Harcourt. Namadi Sambo left straight for Kaduna.
At 11.09 am, Buhari released pigeons signifying peace and later the 21 gun salute heralding his administration followed. The President in mounted open jeep waved and acknowledged cheers from the crowd.
Buhari also inspected a Brigade of Guard parade.
All former living Nigerian Presidents and military Heads of State were in attendance at the Eagle Square.
General Yakubu Gowon and his wife, Victoria were the first to arrive.
Others that arrived later were General Ibrahim Babangida, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, Chief Ernest Shonekan, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and wife and former President Shehu Shagari.
Buhari in his inaugural speech said he was immensely grateful to God who made the day a reality.
He said Nigerians had shown their commitment to democracy and were determined to entrench its culture.
The President said: "Our journey has not been easy but thanks to the determination of our people and strong support from friends abroad we have today a truly democratically elected government in place.
"I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible for us to show the world that despite the perceived tension in the land, we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation.
"Together, we co-operated to surprise the world that had come to expect only the worst from Nigeria. I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing President will become the standard of political conduct in the country.
"Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians."
He added that he belonged to everybody and belonged to nobody.
The President urged every Nigerian not to exercise fears about his administration: “A few people have privately voiced fears that on coming back to office I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue.”
Buhari promised to tackle all challenges. He said: “At home we face enormous challenges. Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns. We are going to tackle them head on. Nigerians will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.
"In recent times, Nigerian leaders appear to have misread our mission. Our founding fathers, Mr Herbert Macauley, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Ahmadu Bello, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, Malam Aminu Kano, Chief J.S. Tarka, Mr Eyo Ita, Chief Denis Osadebe, Chief Ladoke Akintola and their colleagues worked to establish certain standards of governance.
“They might have differed in their methods or tactics or details, but they were united in establishing a viable and progressive country. Some of their successors behaved like spoilt children breaking everything and bringing disorder to the house.
"Furthermore, we as Nigerians must remind ourselves that we are heirs to great civilizations: Shehu Othman Dan fodio’s caliphate, the Kanem Borno Empire, the Oyo Empire, the Benin Empire and King Jaja’s formidable domain. The blood of those great ancestors flows in our veins. What is now required is to build on these legacies, to modernise and uplift Nigeria.
"The Federal Executive under my watch will not seek to encroach on the duties and functions of the Legislative and Judicial arms of government. The law enforcing authorities will be charged to operate within the Constitution.”
He said the legislative arm of government must keep to their brief of making laws, carrying out over-sight functions and doing so expeditiously.
He also said the judicial system needs reform to cleanse itself from its immediate past: “The country now expects the judiciary to act with dispatch on all cases especially on corruption, serious financial crimes or abuse of office. It is only when the three arms act constitutionally that government will be enabled to serve the country optimally and avoid the confusion all too often bedeviling governance today.
The President also pledged to curb corruption at all levels of government. He said: “Elsewhere, relations between Abuja and the states have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally, there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the federal government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments.
“Not least, the operations of the Local Government Joint Account. While the Federal Government cannot interfere in the details of its operations, it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked. As far as the constitution allows me, I will try to ensure that there is responsible/accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch."
The President described the Nigerian press as the most vibrant in Africa and appealed to the media – including the social media – to exercise its considerable powers with responsibility and patriotism.
He stressed that his appeal for unity among Nigerians was predicated on the seriousness of the legacy Nigerians are getting into.
Buhari noted that with depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts, the Nigerian economy was in deep trouble and would require careful management to bring it round and to tackle the immediate challenges confronting it.
He listed the challenges as Boko Haram, the Niger Delta situation, the power shortages and unemployment especially among young people.
For the longer term according to the president, "we have to improve the standards of our education. We have to look at the whole field of medicare. We have to upgrade our dilapidated physical infrastructure.”
On Boko Haram, he pledged to bring the menace to an end: "The most immediate is Boko Haram’s insurgency. Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory cannot be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. But we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents.
"This government will do all it can to rescue them alive. Boko Haram is a typical example of small fires causing large fires. An eccentric and unorthodox preacher with a tiny following was given posthumous fame and following by his extra judicial murder at the hands of the police. Since then through official bungling, negligence, complacency or collusion, Boko Haram became a terrifying force taking tens of thousands of lives and capturing several towns and villages covering swathes of Nigerian sovereign territory.
"Boko Haram is a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of. At the end of the hostilities when the group is subdued, the government intends to commission a sociological study to determine its origins, remote and immediate causes of the movement, its sponsors, the international connections to ensure that measures are taken to prevent a recurrence of this evil. For now, the Armed Forces will be fully charged with prosecuting the fight against Boko Haram. We shall overhaul the rules of engagement to avoid human rights violations in operations. We shall improve operational and legal mechanisms so that disciplinary steps are taken against proven human right violations by the Armed Forces.
Buhari said Boko Haram was not only the security issue bedeviling the country. He included the spate of kidnappings, armed robberies, herdsmen/farmers clashes, cattle rustlings, which he said helped to add to the general air of insecurity in the country: “We are going to erect and maintain an efficient, disciplined people – friendly and well – compensated security forces within an over – all security architecture,” said the President.
On the amnesty programme in the Niger- Delta which is due to end in December, he said his government intends to invest heavily in the projects, and programmes currently in place.
Buhari said: “I call on the leadership and people in these areas to cooperate with the state and federal government in the rehabilitation programmes which will be streamlined and made more effective. As ever, I am ready to listen to grievances of my fellow Nigerians. I extend my hand of fellowship to them so that we can bring peace and build prosperity for our people.”
On the power crisis, the new president promised Nigerians a new dawn: “No single cause can be identified to explain Nigerian’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW, and distributes even less. Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20b expanded since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians.
“We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians."
He concluded: "Your Excellencies, My fellow Nigerians I cannot recall when Nigeria enjoyed so much goodwill abroad as now. The messages I received from East and West, from powerful and small countries are indicative of international expectations on us. At home, the newly elected government is basking in a reservoir of goodwill and high expectations. Nigeria therefore has a window of opportunity to fulfill our long-standing potential of pulling ourselves together and realising our mission as a great nation.