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As Buhari Takes Over

Today, something historic is happening in the nation’s capital, Abuja. For the first time in the country’s history, a ruling party is handing over the reins of federal government to an opposition party following its defeat in a general election. This is a new political phenomenon, thanks to President Goodluck Jonathan. We congratulate the new president, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, and wish the outgoing president well.

In all but few states across the country, new governments are also being inaugurated. Democracy is indeed alive and growing in the land. Nigerians deserve to be congratulated.

As Mr. Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC), is sworn in as Nigeria’s sixth elected president and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, he becomes the nation’s number one public servant — a position that comes with enormous responsibilities.

It is not easy to predict how the new president will govern despite the fact that this is his second coming. In his first outing as military head of state (1984-1985), his austere and authoritarian style endeared him to some while alienating him from many. But the times have changed. Any prediction of how he would govern based on how he did nearly 30 years ago may be a mere conjecture. Still, it could offer a rough guide on what to expect from this spartan, seldom smiling former army general widely adored in many parts of the Muslim north and some corners of the south.

However Buhari chooses to govern, one thing is most expedient: he must see himself as the president of all Nigerians regardless of how they voted. He must treat all Nigerians even-handedly and avoid the temptation to disadvantage any section of the country for whatever reason. The new president has his job well cut out for him. His to-do tray is filled with matters pressing for urgent attention and action from a populace not known for suffering their leaders gladly.

Many are, no doubt, expecting miracles from the new president, especially given the many lofty promises he made while on the campaign trail. They expect the president to hit the ground running, to be right on his heels no matter how rough the ground may be. Nigerians want him to tackle corruption and graft, fix the ailing economy, create jobs, address the electricity conundrum   end the insurgency in the Northeast zone and the general insecurity that has plagued many parts of the country for decades now, fix the nation’s unwieldy criminal justice system, reintegrate Nigerians as well as resocialise them with a more development-inclined mindset. This, no doubt, is   a herculean agenda in four years.

In reality, fixing a higly dysfunctional society like ours will take more than good intentions, or prolonged and unnecessary finger-pointing at one’s predecessors. It will require clear vision, political courage and selfless leadership. The change that the new president promised can only come if he first gets Nigerians to put on a new mindset. No society can be more advanced than its people. So much is wrong with us as a people. These days discipline and decorum are scarcely Nigerian attributes. Changing this is where the new president should start.

While he was canvassing for votes earlier in the year, Buhari loved to say that the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) federal government had failed the Nigerian people. He must prove in the next four years that he has something much better to offer. He has the responsibility to build Nigeria into Africa’s power house and a globally respected nation.

One mistake the new president must avoid is undue recrimination. Looking back will not be much helpful. Forward he must look if he is to make any real positive impact in the next four years. To this end, a very important first step would be to cobble a credible and competent federal executive council of true patriots and visionaries. Every government will rise or fall on the strength of those who drive it. What Nigeria needs now are men and women imbued with a great sense of patriotism and courage to steer the country away from the many divisive faultlines afflicting it at the moment. This is not a time for undue political patronage. These are clearly unusual times. Nigerians won’t accept excuses from Mr. Buhari for failure to deliver on the many mouthwatering promises he made during the election campaign.

The president promised to fight corruption head on. We think he must. And in doing so mere tokenism will not do. He would do well well to look at how Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew did it in the Asian country and turned it into a shining global model. The battle won’t be easy but if the president is resolute he can win it, to wide acclaim. Winning the anticorruption battle will necessarily entail institutional reforms affecting the judiciary and the entire criminal justice system where the pace is too ponderous and proceedings opaque. He must take the on-going reforms in the electricity and petroleum sectors to their logical conclusion. What Nigerians want to see is real positive change, not mere platitudes. We wish the new president and governors a successful tenure.

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