President Muhammadu Buhari on Friday warned political forces or anyone who thought he would be answerable to him in the next four years, saying he belonged to nobody.
He spoke soon after he was formally inaugurated as the successor to Dr. Goodluck Jonathan at the Eagle Square, Abuja, the nation’s capital.
Amid intermittent applause and shouts of “Sai Baba” and “Sai Buhari” from the audience, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Muhammed, administered the oaths on Buhari at exactly 10.47am
In his inaugural speech, Buhari dressed in a cream-coloured kaftan with a brown cap to match stated that while he was prepared to serve Nigerians, who voted him into power on March 28, he would not be under the control of anybody.
“Having just a few minutes ago sworn on the Holy Book, I intend to keep my oath and serve as President to all Nigerians. I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” Buhari said.
He allayed the fears by some suspected past corrupt leaders who might view Buhari’s presidency as coming to victimise them.
He reassured such persons that their fears were unfounded, adding that he had opted to put the past behind him.
“A few people have privately voiced their fears that on coming back to office, I shall go after them. These fears are groundless. There will be no paying off old scores. The past is prologue,” Buhari said.
Rather than going after such persons, the President said the immediate task before him was to address the major concerns of Nigerians, mainly insecurity, “intolerable corruption” and epileptic power supply.
Although his speech did not clearly indicate the drastic steps he would take to solve the problem of the power sector, he recalled that the $20bn spent on the sector since 1999 had only left Nigeria in “darkness and misery” which must be “addressed.”
The President said, “No single cause can be identified to explain Nigeria’s poor economic performance over the years than the power situation. It is a national shame that an economy of 180 million generates only 4,000MW and distributes even less.
“Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution and close on $20bn expended since 1999 have only brought darkness, frustration, misery and resignation among Nigerians. We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians.”
On insecurity, he admitted that the Boko Haram sect remained the major threat to Nigeria, saying that the Federal Government under him “must” do everything within its powers to bring insurgency to an end.
He arrived at the Eagle Square, Abuja, view of the inauguration at exactly 9.40 am, the time slated for him to arrive the venue in the programme of events.
Buhari promised to relocate the command headquarters of the fighting forces of the military to Maiduguri, Borno State, until Boko Haram was defeated.
The President added that his government would work tirelessly to ensure that the Chibok schoolgirls and other captives held by the terrorist group were released alive.
He said, “Progress has been made in recent weeks by our security forces but victory cannot be achieved by basing the command and control centre in Abuja.
“The command centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued. But we cannot claim to have defeated Boko Haram without rescuing the Chibok girls and all other innocent persons held hostage by insurgents. This government will do all it can to rescue them alive.”
On corruption, the President asked other tiers of government to support him in the arduous task of cleaning the country of sleaze, particularly in the public service.
He said, “Elsewhere relations between Abuja and the states have to be clarified if we are to serve the country better. Constitutionally, there are limits to powers of each of the three tiers of government but that should not mean the Federal Government should fold its arms and close its eyes to what is going on in the states and local governments. Not least the operations of the Local Government Joint Account.
“While the Federal Government cannot interfere in the details of its operations, it will ensure that the gross corruption at the local level is checked.
“As far as the constitution allows me I will try to ensure that there is responsible and accountable governance at all levels of government in the country. For I will not have kept my own trust with the Nigerian people if I allow others abuse theirs under my watch.”
The President also gave an insight into how he would relate with the National Assembly and the Judiciary.
He noted that while he would not interfere in the activities of the legislature, Buhari advised the National Assembly to stick to its “brief of making laws.”
Buhari called on the judiciary to free itself from the mistakes of the past where some judicial officers were perceived to be corrupt. He also sought the cooperation of labour unions, organised private sector, the press and civil society organisations.
According to him, employers and workers must unite in raising productivity so that everybody will have the opportunity to share in increased prosperity.
“The Nigerian press is the most vibrant in Africa. My appeal to the media today – and this includes the social media – is to exercise its considerable powers with responsibility and patriotism,” he said.
Acknowledging the task before him, Buhari said, “With depleted foreign reserves, falling oil prices, leakages and debts the Nigerian economy is in deep trouble and will require careful management to bring it round and to tackle the immediate challenges confronting us.”
The challenges, he said, included Boko Haram, the Niger Delta situation, the power shortages and unemployment, especially among youths.
Buhari said, “For the longer term, we have to improve the standards of our education. We have to look at the whole field of medicare. We have to upgrade our dilapidated physical infrastructure.”
Before the inauguration, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo, former Vice-President, Namadi Sambo and other top officials of government had arrived the Eagle Square amid cheers.
Buhari and Jonathan too had arrived in succession, acknowledging cheers from the surging crowds.
It was Osinbajo, in company with his wife, Dolapo, who first took the oath of office and oath of allegiance at 10:30 am as dignitaries and supporters of the All Progressives Congress cheered.
When Buhari took his turn, the surging crowd nearly enveloped the podium, giving security operatives very tough time to control.
A 21-gun salute soon followed amid a colourful parade by a combined party of the military and the Nigeria Police Force.
Jonathan, who did not come with his wife, Patience, soon took his leave after handing over the symbol of authority to Buhari.
The former President waved his final goodbye, but without uttering a word as the brief ceremony lasted.