By Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis, Deborah Tolu-Kolawole, Stephen Angbulu and Gift Habib
•President says Nigeria will continue to exist, promises not to be a dictator
•IPMAN opposes fuel subsidy removal, queues resurface in Abuja, Lagos, others
•Biden writes President Tinubu, says Nigeria’s success is world’s success
President Bola Tinubu, on Monday, in Abuja, took the oaths of office and allegiance as the 16th President of Nigeria with a vow that the country would not break up.
Tinubu in his inaugural address at Eagle Square also unveiled a series of steps he would take to position the country on the path of economic development, stability and prosperity.
Shortly after his inauguration, the President met with envoys from the United Kingdom, United States, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Israel, Cape Verde, Somalia and Nicaragua at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The diplomats presented their goodwill messages and letters of support and solidarity to Tinubu.
Dressed in white agbada and buba with a green cap adorned with his trademark logo, the oaths were administered on the new President and the Vice President, Kashim Shettima by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Olukayode Ariwoola as former president Muhammadu Buhari and his wife Aisha as well Senator Oluremi Tinubu, the wife of the new president, and other family members watched in admiration.
Several African heads of state, diplomats and representatives of foreign governments also witnessed the colourful ceremony which featured a march past by the armed forces as well as dances and other performances by the National Troupe.
African leaders present
African leaders who graced the inauguration included President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, South African President, Cyril Ramaphosa, Algerian President, Abdelmadjid Tebboune, President of Tanzania, Samia Hassan; President of the Republic of Congo Brazzaville, Denis Nguesso, President of Guinea Bissau, Umaro Embaló and his Liberian counterpart, George Weah.
Also present were the President of Burundi, Évariste Ndayishimiye; the Transitional President of Chad, Mahamat Déby; the President of Niger Republic, Mohamed Bazoum; and President Nana Akufo-Ado of Ghana.
Delegations from Sierra Leonean and Qatar were also present. The Qatari team was led by the Foreign Minister, Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani.
Representatives of the governments of the US, UK, Canada, India and others also attended the event.
Also in attendance were former Head of State General Yakubu Gowon, former President Goodluck Jonathan, Senate President Ahmad Lawan, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, serving and former governors, traditional and religious leaders, captains of industry and members of the diplomatic corps among others.
After handing over the reins of power to his successor, former president Muhammadu Buhari was driven in a black SUV to the Nnamdi Azikiwe Airport and flown in a Nigerian Air Force plane alongside his family to his hometown, Daura.
Addressing Nigerians shortly after taking over power, Tinubu urged his compatriots not to allow the opportunity for greater development of the country to slip away.
He stated, “Our constitution and laws give us a nation on paper. We must work harder at bringing these noble documents to life by strengthening the bonds of economic collaboration, social cohesion, and cultural understanding. Let us develop a shared sense of fairness and equity.
“The South must not only seek good for itself but must understand that its interests are served when good comes to the North. The North must see the South likewise.’
“Whether from the winding creeks of the Niger Delta, the vastness of the northern savannah, the boardrooms of Lagos, the bustling capital of Abuja, or the busy markets of Onitsha, you are all my people. As your president, I shall serve with prejudice toward none but compassion and amity towards all,” the President promised.
He said in its over 60-year history, Nigeria had endured hardships that would have made other societies crumble, but for its resilience and strength of its diversity, the country has remained intact.
“To the surprise of many but not to ourselves, we have more firmly established this land as a democracy in both word and deed.”
He said instead of disintegrating, Nigeria had continued to exist “as Africa’s most populous nation and as the best hope and strongest champion of the black race. “
Saying Nigerians were determined to keep the country united, Tinubu stated, “ As citizens, we declare as one unified people devoted to one unified national cause, that as long as this world exists, Nigeria shall exist. “
Speaking on the transition, Tinubu noted, “This handover symbolises our trust in God, our enduring faith in representative governance and our belief in our ability to reshape this nation into the society it was always meant to be.”
To advance the common vision of a better Nigeria, the President solicited the support of all Nigerians “to join me in making Nigeria a more perfect nation and democracy such that the Nigerian ideal becomes and forever remains the Nigerian reality.”
The president explained that though he fought hard to win the February 2023 election, the victory does not make him any more Nigerian than his opponents, who he pledged to relate to as compatriots.
“The outcome reflected the will of the people. However, my victory does not render me any more Nigerian than my opponents. Nor does it render them any less patriotic.
“They shall forever be my fellow compatriots. And I will treat them as such. They represent important constituencies and concerns that wisdom dare not ignore,” he affirmed.
He described the election that brought him to power as tough but fairly won and dedicated his victory to the country with a promise to do his best to advance its progress.
On the economy, the President said his administration would target a higher GDP growth and significantly reduce unemployment.
He promised to offer budgetary reform that would stimulate the economy without engendering inflation.
“Second, industrial policy will utilize the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.
“Third, electricity will become more accessible and affordable to businesses and homes alike. Power generation should nearly double and transmission and distribution networks improved. We will encourage states to develop local sources as well,’’ he maintained.
According to him, his administration would review all complaints by investors about multiple taxations and “various anti-investment inhibitions. We shall ensure that investors and foreign businesses repatriate their hard-earned dividends and profits home.”
He also mentioned his plan to make security a priority ‘’because neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence.”
To tackle unemployment, Tinubu reiterated the imperative of creating “meaningful opportunities for our youths”, as he pledged to honour his campaign commitment of one million new jobs in the digital economy.
“Our government also shall work with the National Assembly to fashion an omnibus jobs and prosperity bill. This bill will give our administration the policy space to embark on labour-intensive infrastructural improvements, encourage light industry and provide improved social services for the poor, elderly and vulnerable,” he projected.
He revealed that rural incomes shall be secured by commodity exchange boards guaranteeing minimal prices for certain crops and animal products even as he will undertake a nationwide programme for storage and other facilities to reduce spoilage.
Tinubu promised to create agricultural hubs nationwide to increase production and engage in value-added processing.
Also, the livestock sector will be introduced to the best modern practices and steps taken to minimize the perennial conflict over land and water resources in this sector.
“Through these actions, food shall be made more abundant yet less costly. Farmers shall earn more while the average Nigerian pays less,” he noted.
The President commended the decision of the Buhari administration to phase out fuel subsidy which he said would save the country at a time of drying resources.
He noted, “We shall instead re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions.”
He explained that the nation’s monetary policy needs thorough house cleaning as he charged the Central Bank of Nigeria to work towards a unified exchange rate.
This, he said, would direct funds away from arbitrage into meaningful investment in the plant, equipment and jobs that power the real economy.
Tinubu said his administration would treat both new and old naira notes as legal tender, saying despite its intended merits, the controversial currency swap policy of the CBN “was too harshly applied given the number of unbanked Nigerians.”
He explained that his primary foreign policy objective must be the peace and stability of the West African sub-region and the African continent, promising to work with the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union and willing partners in the international community to end conflicts and to resolve new ones.
“As such, my primary foreign policy objective must be the peace and stability of the West African sub-region and the African continent. We shall work with ECOWAS, the AU and willing partners in the international community to end extant conflicts and resolve new ones.
“As we contain threats to peace, we shall also retool our foreign policy to more actively lead the regional and continental quest for collective prosperity,” he assured.
Describing Monday’s inauguration as the “proudest day of my life” Tinubu promised to “govern” and never “rule” Nigerians.
“Our administration shall govern on your behalf but never rule over you. We shall consult and dialogue but never dictate.’’
Envoys meet with Tinubu
Several countries on Monday formally presented their goodwill messages and letters of support and solidarity to Tinubu at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The letters were presented to the president by the special envoys and heads of missions of the countries after his inauguration as the 16th President of Nigeria.
Among the countries are the United Kingdom, United States, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Brazil, South Korea, Israel, Cape Verde, Somalia and Nicaragua.
While congratulating Tinubu, the new UK High Commissioner to Nigeria, Richard Montgomery, presented letters from British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, King Charles and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.
The US delegation led by Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Marcia L. Fudge, paid a courtesy call to Tinubu and had a brief bilateral discussion with him.
A statement by the media aide to the President, Tunde Rahman, disclosed that the South Korean delegation had bilateral discussions with Tinubu.
While delivering a letter of invitation from South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for Tinubu to visit that country soon, the delegation also sought to increase relations between the two countries.
The Saudi Arabian delegation similarly delivered a goodwill message from the Saudi Royal House to the Nigerian president.
A special envoy of the Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida equally paid a call on the President and extended a hand of support and fellowship.
The statement read, ‘’In the same vein, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sent a delegation which met with Tinubu and expressed willingness to work with the country in the area of fintech.
‘’Others, who met with President Tinubu and pledged cooperation with Nigeria, included delegations from Brazil, Somali, Cape Verde and Nicaragua.’’
Biden pledges support
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden has pledged his commitment towards working with Tinubu to strengthen ties between his country and Nigeria.
Biden stated this in a statement shortly after Tinubu’s inauguration on Monday.
Biden said the US would continue to work closely with Nigeria to deliver a more peaceful and prosperous future for the world, noting that ‘’Nigeria’s success is the world’s success.’’
The statement read, “On behalf of the people of the United States, I send warm wishes to the government and people of Nigeria as they inaugurate a new President.
“My administration has worked to strengthen ties between the United States and Nigeria, and I look forward to continuing this work with President Tinubu to support economic growth, advance security, and promote respect for human rights.
“The people-to-people connections between our two countries run particularly deep, nurtured by a vibrant Nigerian Diaspora in the United States.
“As we further deepen our partnership with Nigeria, I look forward to drawing even more on the ideas and energy of this dynamic connection between our countries. ‘’
Biden further stated, “As Africa’s largest democracy and economy, Nigeria’s success is the world’s success. Elected leaders owe it to their people to show that democracy can deliver for their needs.
‘’And the United States will continue to work closely with Nigeria, as a friend and partner, to deliver a more peaceful and prosperous future for our world.
“We shall reach out to all but never put down a single person for holding views contrary to our own. We are here to further mend and heal this nation, not tear and injure it.’’
PUNCH Newspapers Ltd