Tue. Jul 23rd, 2024

Historic succession complete as Buhari is sworn in as the president of Nigeria

He has been a military dictator, political prisoner and serial election loser. The rise and fall and rise again of Muhammadu Buhari was complete on Friday when he was sworn in as Nigerian president in front of cheering crowds and with a 21-gun salute.

Buhari made history when he became the first challenger to defeat a sitting leader in the west African country in a March election that was more peaceful than many had dared hope.

But in taking the helm of Africa’s biggest economy, the 72-year-old Muslim must get to grips with a deadly Islamist insurgency, high unemployment and even higher expectations – an inheritance that some analysts describe as a poisoned chalice.

On a day filled with symbolism, the outgoing president, Goodluck Jonathan, handed over the constitution and national flags. Buhari shook hands with the elected president he ousted 32 years ago, Shehu Shagari, and the general who deposed him 20 months later, Ibrahim Babangida, before taking the oath of office.

“I, Muhammadu Buhari, do solemnly swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to the federal republic of Nigeria,” he said, wearing traditional robes and an embroidered cap at the ceremony in Abuja’s Eagle Square. “That, as president of the federal republic of Nigeria, I will discharge my duties to the best of my ability and in accordance with the constitution of the federal republic of Nigeria and the law

He was sworn in by the chief justice, supreme court president Mahmoud Mohammed, and the crowd rose to their feet, dancing and singing his name. The former general then inspected troops in the plaza, decked out in the colours of Nigeria’s green and white flag, from the back of an open vehicle and waved at supporters who raced forward to record the moment on their phones.

“I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” he told the crowds. Striking a note of caution, he warned that the economy was in “deep trouble” and needed careful management to overcome the impact of low oil prices, slowing growth, high unemployment and the security threat from Boko Haram.

He vowed to tackle the militant Islamist group “head on” but said no victory would be complete without the rescue of more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in Chibok last year.

Security was tight at the ceremony attended by African leaders including Jacob Zuma of South Africa and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe, as well as US secretary of state John Kerry and France’s foreign minister Laurent Fabius. In 2010, two car bombs and a grenade blast triggered by militants from Nigeria’s oil-rich delta region killed 12 people at Independence Day celebrations.

During his brief spell as dictator in the mid-1980s, Buhari sent soldiers into the streets with whips to enforce traffic regulations and ensure commuters formed orderly queues at bus stops. Civil servants arriving late to offices were forced to perform frog squats. Around 500 politicians, officials and businessmen were imprisoned in a populist campaign against waste and corruption.

Buhari has described himself as a “converted democrat” who repeatedly contested and lost elections after civilian rule was restored 16 years ago. He has vowed to unite a nation of 173 million people riven by ethnic and religious fault lines and to hammer corruption. Nigerian newspapers carried unconfirmed reports that some politicians had already returned millions of dollars in the hope of avoiding scrutiny.

The most populous country in Africa is also $63bn in debt and borrowing to pay government workers. In the past week it has endured fuel shortages that crippled banks and businesses and grounded flights.

Boko Haram’s six-year uprising has killed more than 13,000 people and driven more than 1.5 million people from their homes. Gains have been made against the group since February in an offensive backed by neighbouring Cameroon, Chad and Niger but the region is far from peaceful.

The inauguration marked the end of the once unassailable reign of the People’s Democratic Party. When its defeat in the recent election became clear, the outgoing President Jonathan phoned Buhari to concede defeat, winning plaudits around the world.

Curled from theguardian.com

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