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A New Chapter Opens

Newly elected political leaders, including President Goodluck Jonathan take their oaths of office

President Goodluck Jonathan on Sunday, May 29, 2009, took the oath of office as Nigeria’s fourth executive president for a fresh term of four years. The oath, which was administered by Aloysius Katsina-Alu, chief justice of the Federation, at the Eagle Square, Abuja, had almost all the African presidents and heads of governments in attendance, while their European counterparts were represented by their ambassadors and other members of their diplomatic missions in Nigeria. 

In a speech after taking the oath of office, Jonathan said that the just concluded general elections showed that Nigerians were hungry for democracy. Such determination, he said, derives from the typical Nigerian spirit of resilience and doggedness even in the face of the greatest of odds.  This spirit has also, over the years, stirred up hopes, doused fears and encouraged Nigerians to come together to build a strong nation even when others doubted their capacity.  The result is that “today, our unity is firm, and our purpose is strong.”

Jonathan told his countrymen that his victory in the presidential election was a clear illustration that Nigeria has come of age. “A decade ago, it would have been a mere daydream to think that a citizen from a minority ethnic group could galvanise national support, on an unprecedented scale, to discard ancient prejudices, and win the people’s mandate as President of our beloved country,” Jonathan said.

  According to the president, the success of the 2011 elections and the widespread acclaim which the exercise received was evidence of the uncommon patriotism and diligence exhibited by many Nigerians, including members of the Armed Forces, and the National Youth Service Corps, NYSC.

He said, despite the free, fair and transparent manner in which the elections were conducted, a senseless wave of violence in some parts of the country led to the death of 10 members of the NYSC and others. He described them as heroes of our democracy and national transformation. 

But their death would not be in vain. Jonathan assured that in the days ahead, the death of these noble Nigerians would be a challenge to every elected public official to demonstrate an equal sense of patriotism and passion that would match the hopes and aspirations of the Nigerian electorate. “We must demonstrate the leadership, statesmanship, vision, capacity, and sacrifice, to transform our nation. We must strengthen common grounds, develop new areas of understanding and collaboration, and seek fresh ideas that will enrich our national consensus because it is the supreme task of this generation to give hope to the hopeless, strength to the weak and protection to the defenceless,” Jonathan said. 

Getting down to specifics, Jonathan said his administration would tackle the knotty power problem by pursuing the sector’s reform, which is at the heart of the country’s industrialisation strategy, to its logical conclusion. He would also focus attention on rebuilding the country’s decaying infrastructure and create greater access to quality education and improved health care delivery. On agriculture, the president promised a special attention to the sector to ensure food security and massive job creation for jobless Nigerians. His administration would also actively promote the development of the Niger Delta on the understanding that historical experience has shown that peaceful resolution of the Niger Delta crisis was crucial to the health of the country’s economy.

However, in spite of the persuasiveness and eloquence of its delivery, some Nigerians have criticised the president’s inaugural speech as mere rhetoric and lacking in concrete action plan to transform the country. Babatope Babalobi, co-ordinator, Movement for Revolutionary Change, MRC, described the inaugural speech as more of a motivational speech than an action statement.  The speech, he said, was full of promises but bereft of policy statements. “The inaugural speech was bare on the basics, merely rhetorical, and does not marshal any plan of achieving the national transformation, which the President talked so much about,” Babalobi said.

While the president was taking his oath of office in Abuja, the swearing in ceremony for elected governors and their deputies were held in 26 state capitals. In Imo State, Rochas Okorocha took his oath of office as governor of the state at the Dan Anyiam Stadium, Owerri. The oath was administered to him by Benjamin Nzemanze, chief judge of Imo State. In his first policy statement as the governor of Imo State, Okorocha promised to implement free and compulsory education that will run from primary to secondary school.  Other areas that would be accorded priority by his administration are enforcement of fundamental human rights and job creation. “A child without education is a futureless child,” he said.

Okorocha was not the only one promising free education. Ibikunle Amosun, governor of Ogun State, made a similar promise at primary and secondary school levels. But unlike Okorocha who said that he had no time to witch-hunt Ikedi Ohakim, his predecessor, Amosun said he would look into cases of abuse of power by Gbenga Daniel, former governor of the state. In Gombe State, Ibrahim Hassan Dankwambo, said that he would pay attention to solving the problems that have hindered the development of the educational sector at all levels to enable the state produce skilled manpower to drive its development.

 In Ilorin, capital of Kwara State, Abdullfatah Ahmed said he would remain faithful to his election promises as job creation and workers’ welfare would be the major priorities of his administration.

For Kashim Shettima, who was sworn in as the new governor of Borno State, tackling the security challenge posed by the Boko Haram would top the agenda of his administration.

Isiaka Abiola Ajumobi, new governor of Oyo State, who took over from Adebayo Alao-Akala, announced that his swearing in ceremony marked the beginning of the journey of restoration of integrity and infrastructural renewal in the state. His first executive act was to freeze the accounts of the state and local governments in Oyo State.

 Benue, Lagos, Taraba, Niger, Enugu, Ebonyi and Abia states equally witnessed the swearing ceremony of their re-elected governors, namely Gabriel Suswam, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Danbaba Suntai, Babangida Aliyu, Sullivan Chime, Martin Elechi and Theodore Orji respectively.  Other re-elected governors are Chibuike Amechi, Emmanual Uduagham, Jonah David Jang, Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa, Sule Lamido and Ibrahim Gaidam of Rivers, Delta, Plateau, Kaduna, Jigawa and Yobe States respectively.  These governors who were re-elected for second term made continuity in service delivery their watch words.

But the swearing-in ceremonies in various state capitals did not go without memorable side attractions. In Rivers State, the event turned out to be an occasion for Amechi and Peter Odili, former governor of the state to reconcile their political differences that has lasted for four years. The reconciliation occurred when Odili joined Amaechi at a church service which took place at Corpus Christi Cathedral in Kaduna Street, Port Harcourt, which preceded the governor’s inauguration. The two lavishly embraced themselves to the admiration of their supporters. Amaechi expressed joy that the long standing misunderstanding between him and his mentor was over. He described the day as historic and remarkable in his life. ‘Today is very historic to me, not just for my swearing-in for a second term, but for the reconciliation with my political godfather and boss, Dr Peter Odili and his wife, Justice Mary. I can’t forget Dr Peter Odili for helping me to start my political journey,” he said.

However, in some states, the out going governors snubbed the swearing in ceremonies of their successors. Ohakim and Daniel, former governors of Imo and Ogun states respectively travelled out of the country two days before May 29. In Oyo State, Akala preferred a thanksgiving service in his village to the swearing in ceremony of his successor in Ibadan, Oyo State capital.

Reported by Godfrey Azubike



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