This coming weekend marks a turning point in the nation’s political history, specifically the its democratic journey and in particular the fourth Republic which started in 1999. A week-long series of events that would culminate in official termination of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure at 11.59 p.m. on Sunday, May 28 and swearing in of a new president on Monday morning, May, 29, began two days ago.
There is a flurry of activities by the outgoing president as he scrambles to clear his table of pending approvals and appointments, pending bills passed by the National Assembly awaiting his assent and commissioning, launching of a number of what may be termed landmark projects to his name. It is as though President Buhari is racing against time to ensure that he does all that is necessary to assure his legacy before he cedes power, authority to the new man as constitutional required. Thus the last ten days of Buhari’s administration are arguably, the busiest for him throughout his tenure.
On Monday, 22 May 2023, the president formally commissioned the Dangote Refinery and Petrochemicals in Lagos, reputed to be the biggest in Africa. Present were local and international VIPs, including foreign presidents. Nigerians are eagerly looking to this refinery actually starting production (projected to be sometime in July) as it would help to reverse our embarrassing tag as a nation that imports what it has, fuel. It would also help mitigate capital flight by way of scarce foreign exchange used in importing various kinds of fuel (PMS, aviation fuel, diesel, kerosene).
Noteworthy is that this Refinery is coming on stream at a time when government is primed to remove the controversial fuel subsidy that has been gulping trillions of naira. Recall that all four of Nigeria’s public-funded refineries, Warri, Kaduna, Port Harcourt 1 and 2, had been moribund for years. They can now be technically described as scraps.
Later this week, the outgoing president would also commission the Second Niger Bridge that connects the southwest and the south east, the busiest route in the country. This would be President Buhari’s gift to south easterners. Although it was not conceived by his administration, it had been dragging on for so long at snail speed with previous governments. It was more or less like an abandoned project. But the president on assuming office and despite the paucity of funds, took up the gauntlet revived it, committing funds to it and completed it with zeal and tenacity of purpose. Kudos to him and his Minister of Works, Raji Fashola for their zeal and dedication towards the project’s completion. It would not be out of place if the Third Niger Bridge is named after Muhammadu Buhari.
There are other important projects being commissioned by Buhari in this last week of his presidency. They include the Kajola Wagon Plant in Ogun state, the rehabilitated Lagos-Ibadan Expressway and so on and so forth. Nonetheless, one project which is apparently dear to him but which has not come to fruition is Air Nigeria. Outgoing Aviation Minister had promised that Air Nigeria would come on board before Buhari exits office. However this has not happened and is unlikely to be before May 29.
A valedictory Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting is holding today (Wednesday, May 24) during which I guess, President Buhari would officially dissolve his cabinet. Yesterday, Tuesday, at the Armed Forces Officers Mess, there was a Regimental Dinner in honour of the president as Commander in chief (C-in-C) of the armed forces of Nigeria. Buhari’s last set of duties as President and Commander –in-Chief of Nigeria’s armed forces continues tomorrow, Thursday as he confers on the President-Elect and Vice President-Elect, National Honours of Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR) and Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) respectively. He will also at same event handover the Transition Documents to the President-Elect, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Friday is devoted to Jumaat prayer at the National Mosque. On Saturday May 27, immediate past president of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta would deliver the inauguration lecture titled, ‘Deepening Democracy for Integration and Development’. This is apt as Nigeria is now witnessing 25 years of uninterrupted democratic rule since 1999. That day being International Children’s Day too, there would be a Children’s Day programme to commemorate it. It would consist of a Children’s Day parade (march pasts) and party at the Abuja Old Parade Ground and State House Conference Centre respectively. Hosting the children at this get together would be Mrs. Aisha Buhari’s last official duty as Nigeria’s First Lady. The transition programme would end on Sunday the 28th with an inter-denominational church service at the International Christian Centre and an Inauguration Dinner/Gala Night at the state House Conference Centre.
In all of above transition programmes, the President-Elect would play only a passive role, the outgoing president shallbbe in the commanding seat. Tinubu’s Hour would come at about 11a.m of Monday May, 29 when he would be sworn in as President and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Out-going President Buhari had said that he is eager to leave the presidential villa for his country home in Daura. This journey begins in the morning of May 29 when he heads to the Eagle Square for the swearing-in ceremony, still being driven in the presidential vehicle. Immediately after the inauguration and formal handing over, Buhari would depart to the airport in a different vehicle for onward transportation in the presidential jet to Daura. It would be the last time he would ride in the presidential jet.
Tinubu’s first duty as president would be hosting presidents, Heads of Government and other invited guest to a post-inauguration luncheon at the State House Banquet hall on same May 29.His first full working day as president would be on Tuesday, May 30, 2023. Thence would begin tabulation of the Tinubu presidency. What would his presidency bring for Nigeria and Nigerians? Only time would tell.
Ikeano writes via [email protected] 08033077519