- 29 governors take oath of office in low-key ceremonies
- 91 world leaders to attend June 12 Democracy Day event
Iyobosa Uwugiaren, Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari raised eyebrows yesterday as he failed to deliver a speech at his inauguration at the Eagle Square, Abuja. But his media aide, Malam Garba Shehu, told THISDAY, that the address would be made on June 12, the new Democracy Day, which he said 91 foreign heads of government have indicated interest to attend.
Shehu gave the figure of visiting heads of government while featuring on a programme on Arise News, THISDAY’s sister global television network.
He also said the president, who took his oath of office yesterday in Abuja to herald the commencement of his second term in office, would formally deliver his inaugural speech on June 12.
Buhari, contrary to tradition, did not deliver an inaugural address yesterday after he was sworn in along with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at a low-key ceremony.
Outside Abuja, 29 governors also took the oaths of allegiance and office. Seventeen of them are returning for second term while 12 are fresh.
The first term governors who mounted the rostrum for oath taking are Mr. Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Alhaji Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara), Prof. Baba Gana Umara (Borno), Alhaji Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Alhaji Mai Mala Buni (Yobe), Mr. Audu Sule (Nasarawa) and Mr. Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), all of APC.
Their colleagues from the PDP are: Mr. Seyi Makinde (Oyo), Hon. Bello Matawalle (Zamfara), Senator Bala Mohammed (Bauchi), Mr. Emeka Ihedioha (Imo) and Alhaji Garba Fintiri (Adamawa).
The ranking governors were Chief Nyesom Wike (Rivers), Mr. Darius Ishaku (Taraba), Senator Ifeanyi Okowa (Delta), Prof. Benedict Ayade (Cross River), Chief Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Enugu), Dr. Okezie Ikpeazu (Abia), Mr. Udom Emmanuel (Akwa Ibom), Chief Dave Umahi (Ebonyi), Dr. Samuel Ortom (Benue) and Hon. Aminu Tambuwal (Sokoto), from the PDP.
The APC returning governors are Malam Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Alhaji Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Alhaji Bello Masari (Katsina), Senator Abubakar Bagudu (Kebbi), Mr. Simon Lalong (Plateau), Alhaji Mohammed Abubakar (Jigawa) and Alhaji Sani Bello (Niger).
However, the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), said Buhari failed to address Nigerians at the presidential inauguration because he and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), are overburdened by the guilt of the “rigged” presidential election.
Giving more insight into why Buhari did not deliver his inaugural address yesterday, Shehu said the president deliberately refused to do so because he was reserving it for the elaborate ceremony that will hold on June 12, describing yesterday’s event as “low key.”
The president took oaths of service for a second term in office at Eagle Square, Abuja along with Osinbajo without delivering the much-anticipated inauguration speech.
Whereas the nation was waiting for the president’s speech after he was sworn in, many were, however, shocked to watch him leave the scene without any remarks.
However, Shehu explained to THISDAY in another telephone conversation that the president only took oaths of service yesterday to avoid a breach of constitutional provisions, which stipulate that inauguration of a new president shall take place on May 29 of every four years.
The president had last year announced his decision to change Democracy Day from May 29 to June 12, in commemoration of the June 12, 1993 presidential election won by a business mogul, Chief Moshood Abiola.
Abiola died in custody while fighting to reclaim his mandate that was annulled by the then military president, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida.
However, a bill seeking to amend the constitution and change May 29 Democracy Day to June 12 is still before the National Assembly. Although the bill has been passed by the Senate, the House of Representatives is yet to concur.
Against this background, Shehu said every other inauguration activity, including the president’s speech for a fresh four-year term, would hold on June 12 as the president had earlier explained through the immediate past Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
According to him, yesterday’s inauguration was meant only for oath taking in compliance with the constitution.
“The president has said it. Today (yesterday) is for oath taking. It has to take place today (yesterday) because it is the constitution. Every other thing including the inauguration speech is moved to June 12th,” he explained.
The president arrived at the Eagle Square venue of the inauguration yesterday, accompanied by his wife, Aisha, at 10.03 am and was sworn in by the Acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Mohammad.
Osinbajo, Senate President Bukola Saraki; Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Yakubu Dogara; the acting CJN and service chiefs who had arrived a few minutes earlier in ascending order of importance, received the president on arrival.
However, APC National Chairman, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, overreached himself by opting to join the top government functionaries listed above to receive the president.
But a military officer, who viewed Oshiomhole’s action as a breach of protocol, politely walked him out of the place and directed him back to his seat.
After exchanging pleasantries with the dignitaries who received him while walking through the red carpet, the president took his seat and the National Anthem was rendered to signal the beginning of the ceremony.
The president formally took the oath of service at 10.40 am, immediately after Osinbajo took his own oaths of service as the vice-president.
Both men took two oaths – the oath of allegiance and oath of office- respectively.
After the swearing-in, the flag was lowered to mark the end of a term, and the lowered flag was presented to the president by the Chief of Defence Staff, General Gabriel Olonisakin.
Olonisakin in turn received the new flag from the president and handed it to sergeant majors that hoisted it to commemorate the beginning of a new tenure of four years.
A 21-gun salute followed the flag-hoisting ceremony after which the president inspected the guards’ parade. Thereafter, the president moved round to shake hands with dignitaries at the event and the rendition of the National Anthem at 11.22am ended the event.
At the event, only General Yakubu Gowon (rtd.) was present among Buhari’s predecessors in office.
Others at the event were former Chief of General Staff, Gen. Oladipo Diya (rtd.) as well as Governors Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo), Godwin Obaseki (Edo) and Yahaya Bello (Kogi).
Also present were a national leader of the APC, Senator Bola Tinubu; former Interim National Chairman of APC, Chief Bisi Akande; former APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun; former Senate President, Senator Ken Nnamani; former Governor of Zamfara State, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari; former Governor of Osun State, Mr. Rauf Aregbesola, former Minority Leader, Senator Godswill Akpabio and immediate past ministers.
Responding to the refusal by the president to make an inaugural speech, the PDP said in a statement by its spokesman, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, that it showed Buhari’s insensitivity and the level of derision with which his handlers and party, the APC, hold Nigerians.
The PDP said the failure by Buhari and the APC to make any commitment at the ceremony reinforced the “truism that a product of a flawed electoral process” cannot serve the people or meet their aspirations under a constitutional democracy.
It said: “The poor attendance and passivity of the audience at the ceremony at a time that Nigerians were trooping, in their millions, to the inauguration of state governors elected on the platform of the PDP, manifestly show the despondency of Nigerians.
“It is indeed pathetic that at a ceremony such as presidential inauguration, where truly elected leaders address their people, make commitments and unfold their governance direction, President Buhari did not showcase his plans or commitment to the development of critical sectors of our polity.
“It also speaks volumes that President Buhari had nothing to say to the victims of mindless killings and acts of violence in various parts of our country.”
The opposition party said the president had no directions toward stemming the economic distress under his administration, for which Nigerians are now resorting to suicide and slavery mission abroad as options.
“In failing to address Nigerians, President Buhari turned the inauguration to a parody. The PDP, however, urges Nigerians to take solace in their determination to retrieve our stolen presidential mandate at the tribunal so as to entrench a leadership that can lead our nation out of her present predicament,” the party added.