Nearly 30 years after he was ousted from power, and after three failed attempts to return, Muhammadu Buhari, one of Nigeria’s oldest former army generals and dictator, who embraced democracy and politics at the break of the 21st century, was sworn into office today as the nation’s 15th leader.
At exactly 10:45a.m. Friday, Mr. Buhari was inaugurated as the second Nigerian after Olusegun Obasanjo, to lead the nation as a military officer, and later a civilian president.
He also joined the ranks of opposition leaders in Africa – Frederick Chiluba (Zambia, 1991); John Kufour (Ghana 2000); Abdoulaye Wade (Senegal, 2000); Mwai Kibaki (Kenya, 2002); Yayi Boni (Benin Republic, 2006); Ernest Bai Koroma (Sierra Leone, 2007); Alhassan Quattara (Cote d’Ivoire, 2010); and Peter Mutharika (Malawi, 2014) — who defeated incumbents in the last two decades.
Yemi Osinbajo, a professor of law, a senior advocate of Nigeria and pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God, was sworn in as Vice President on Friday.
At an elaborate event witnessed by several world leaders at the Eagles Square, Abuja, Nigeria made history, transferring power peacefully and democratically from a ruling party to an opposition – the first time it would happen in all of Nigeria’s 55 years of post-independence history.
First to be sworn in was Mr. Osinbajo, a former attorney general of Lagos State, who was barely known nationally until after the December 2014 presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress, now Nigeria’s ruling party.
Mr. Osinbajo was escorted to the podium by his wife, where he took the oath of office administered by the Chief Justice of the Federation, Mahmud Mohammed.
Mr. Buhari later mounted the rostrum, alongside his wife, and outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan, as the crowd at the Eagles Square erupted in cheers.
After the oath, Mr. Buhari released white pigeons and balloons, a symbol of peace. That was followed by a 21 gun salute by the Nigerian military which mounted the parade. He later inspected a parade of detachment of the Nigerian Armed Forces and the police.
Mr. Buhari emerged victorious in the March 28 presidential election defeating Mr. Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party.
He polled 15,416,221 votes to Mr. Jonathan’s 12,853,162 votes in the election in which 12 other candidates participated.
For Mr. Buhari, it was a long journey back to power, which he first tasted through a coup d’état on December 31, 1983.
His brief martial rule, remembered for its authoritarian decrees, war against indiscipline and corruption, ended in a humiliating dismissal by his former friend and trusted colleague, retired General Ibrahim Babangida, who led another coup August 27, 1985.
Mr. Buhari himself had earlier toppled the civilian regime of Shehu Shagari, who came to power in 1979.
President Buhari’s journey back to power began late 2002 when he reneged on his earlier promise not to participate in the nation’s politics. He picked the presidential ticket of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party, then Nigeria’s main opposition party.
He was, however, defeated by Mr. Obasanjo, then the incumbent president on the PDP platform.
In that election, Mr. Buhari came a distant second to the PDP flag-bearer who beat him by 24,456,140 votes to 12,710,022.
In the 2007 presidential election, Mr. Buhari contested again on the ticket of the same party, but was beaten by PDP’s Umaru Yar’Adua who scored 26,638,063 to his paltry 6,605,299.
Again, in the 2011 presidential poll, he was beaten to the second place by Mr. Jonathan who flew the PDP ticket. In that election, Mr. Buhari, who ran on the ticket of the Congress for Progressives Change, secured 12,214,853 votes against the President Jonathan’s 22,495,187.
Although the 72-year-old Mr. Buhari, who hails from Daura in Katsina, assured after that election that he would not contest, he was soon to change his mind following the successful alliance of some opposition parties in the country into APC.
The parties were Mr. Buhari’s Congress for Progressives Change, Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party and a section of the All Progressives Grand Alliance.
In a letter to some eminent Nigerians sometime in 2014, he attributed the change of mind to the need to fix Nigeria. He explained that he was concerned about the nation’s deteriorating economy and security situation hence his plan to contest again.
The former head of state went on to win the APC primaries by defeating five others, namely former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governor Rabi’u Kwankwaso, Governor Rochas Okorocha, and publisher of Leadership Newspaper, Sam Nda-Isaiah.
On October 15, 2014, when he formally declared his intention to run for president for the fourth time, Mr. Buhari said the last 16 years of PDP government had witnessed decline in all critical sectors of the nation’s life.
He said apart from the general insecurity in the land, power outages had taken a frightening dimension while the economy continued to deteriorate.
“Quite apart from Boko Haram, there is prevalence of armed robbery, kidnappings and killings, cattle rustling, market and farmland arson,” Mr. Buhari said at the time. “These outrages have taken a new and a frightening dimension, disrupting economic and social life across whole communities.”
“The economy continues to deteriorate. While the government continues to announce fantastic growth figures but manufacturing is down, agriculture is down, commerce is down.”
Mr. Buhari said if elected president, his administration would protect lives and property, pursue economic policies for shared prosperity and immediate attention on youth employment, quality education for development, modernity and social mobility, agricultural productivity for taking millions out of poverty and ensuring food security.
He also said he would revive industry to generate employment; develop solid minerals exploitation which will substantially attract employment and revenue for government; restore honour and integrity to public service by keeping the best and attracting the best; and tackle corruption which has become blatant and widespread.
“The rest of the world looks at Nigeria as the home of corruption,” he said. “Nigeria is a country where stealing is not corruption.”
On Friday, he repeated those vows in his inaugural speech.
“Nigerians will not regret choosing us,” Mr. Buhari said. He assured that he “belongs to everyone and belongs to no one”.