President Muhammadu Buhari has begun his second and last term in office after a low-keyed inauguration ceremony in Abuja. It is a transition from a change administration to one that has vowed to take the nation to the “next level”. Coincidentally, May 29 marked 20th year of uninterrupted democratic rule in Nigeria. It is called Democracy Day. Shortly after he was declared the winner of the 2019 presidential election, President Muhammadu Buhari delivered an acceptance speech at the Abuja headquarters of the presidential campaign council.
Buhari won the February 23 presidential election after polling 15,191,847 votes to defeat his closest challenger and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party. Atiku Abubakar, who served as vice president between 1999 and 2007, polled 11,262,978 votes to finish as runner-up.
The low tone of the inauguration is appropriate as it mirrors the national mood. The president is expected in this second term to hit the ground running unlike in his first term marked by hesitancy. The problems confronting the new government are many. It is a daunting to-do list, including reviving an economy still struggling to recover from a 2016 recession and quelling a decade-old Boko Haram insurgency that has killed thousands of people in the northeast, many of them civilians. There is also the challenge of widespread banditry in the Northwest.
Addressing supporters at the campaign headquarters of his All Progressives Congress (APC) party in Abuja, Buhari promised to tackle these issues. “The new administration will intensify its efforts in security, restructuring the economy and fighting corruption. We have laid the foundation and we are committed to seeing matters to the end. We will strive to strengthen our unity and inclusiveness so that no section or group will feel left behind or left out.” This last point is particularly important because Buhari’s first term government was seen to be dominated by loyalists from one part of the country. He also urged his supporters “not to gloat or humiliate” the opposition. Recall that Buhari, now 76, took office in 2015 and sought a second term with pledges to fight corruption and overhaul Nigeria’s crumbling infrastructure.
Enlarging this message of hope, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said during a pre-inauguration church worship service: “My short message is that the future is bright… I am deeply grateful to the Almighty God for enabling us to see this day and this season, and especially for preserving the life of Mr. President and myself through the past 4 years and giving us a second opportunity to stir the affairs of our nation.”
Stirring the affairs of the nation this second time around will not be any easier than it has been these past four years. Economic growth has been as fast as the government’s Economic Growth and Recovery Plan had projected. It estimated a growth rate of over 4 %, starting in 2019. However, the economy has grown by a meager 2.5% in the first quarter of the year. Conversely, the unemployment rate has climbed to 23%, up from 18 percent last year, according of the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS).
President Buhari, in his inaugural address today, is expected to lift the spirit of Nigerians. But mere talk will not do, the nation expects decisive action. This the president has started doing with his recent decision to retain the governor of the Central Bank, Mr. Godwin Emefiele whose stringent monetary police drive has helped to stabilize the naira against the runaway US dollar. The message is one of continuity. It is not going to be a bull in a Chinese shop. It is a message that is going to erase concerns in the investment world about the direction of the new Buhari administration.
The president, we dare say, should also move to heal the deep divisions the elections this year have created among Nigerians. This he should begin by making the government now more representative and inclusive than the first. This he has promised to do. Again promising to do so is not enough. He must walk his talk.