Nigeria will have a new President this morning. He is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former state governor. He is taking over from outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari whose constitutional two-term tenure has run out. Like the latter, Tinubu is of the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Tinubu won the Feb. 25 presidential election with a hefty 8+ million votes, leaving other contestants trailing far behind. His tally was two million more than the 6 million received by Peoples Democratic Party’s (PDP) Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of Labour Party. The two are in court, asking that the victory of Tinubu be overturned in their favour. The legal contest, however, will not stop Tinubu’s swearing-in today. The electoral act gives 180 days for the legal challenge to be concluded.
In a farewell broadcast to the nation Sunday, President Buhari, referring to his successor by name, said: “I congratulate you on the realisation of your dream, which was propelled by a burning passion to put Nigeria amongst the leading nations of the world. You have indeed worked for this day and God has crowned your efforts. I have no doubt that your passion for excellence, reliance on competence, fairness in relationships, commitment to equity, loyalty to the country and desire for Nigeria to be globally relevant would come through for you, under God’s guidance, as you lead our country to levels higher than I am leaving. You are the best candidate among all the contestants and Nigerians have chosen well.”
There has been a torrent of support from world leaders for the Nigerian President-elect to the discomfort of those who ran against him and lost. President Joe Biden of the United States, for one, has sent a high powered delegation to Nigeria for Tinubu’s installation. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair visited last week, pledging his full support for the incoming Tinubu presidency.
The immediate past president of Kenya, Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta, attended Saturday’s presidential inauguration in Abuja. He told Tinubu, “The contest is now over and the hard work of building a prosperous and unified Nigeria now begins. Upon assuming the office of President, you would be wise to transcend from the tactical politics of an election and assume your role as Nigeria’s vision bearer.
“This will demand a complete overhaul of the adversarial mindset that we as politicians are conditioned to embrace during the electoral process. As President, you must learn very quickly to lead those who do not love you and those who love you with equal passion and commitment because you are now the father of all.”
Tinubu, in his address given by Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima, promised to deliver “prosperity and jobs”to Nigerians. He said he would promote “democratic institutions” to “advance substantial economic change that would lead to widespread prosperity, new job opportunities, and the realisation of the country’s latent potential.” He described democracy as the cornerstone for national progress and prosperity, stressing that “democracy was vital in advancing the nation’s interests.”
Tinubu’s formal inauguration makes him the sixth democratically elected president in a row since 1999. This is a spectacular achievement for a country whose citizens had seen in their lives more military dictators than democratic rulers. Another milestone was the first peaceful transition of government from one political party to another in 2015. It was the year this governing APC displaced the PDP at the centre. Tinubu will be the second popularly elected APC president at a stretch, after the outgoing Buhari. This means there is not likely to be any major policy shift under the incoming government. But there certainly will be a marked difference in style. Best of luck to the new government.