*Says he ran good race, finished his course as president
*Charges president-elect, incoming VP to lead with wisdom, courage, compassion
*Reiterates former Lagos governor has experience, capacity to lead country
*Tinubu to Buhari: Wherever you are, be it Daura or Niger Republic, expect knocks on your doors
*Says he’s aware of the enormous responsibilities ahead of him
*Vows not to disappoint
Deji Elumoye in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, conferred the two highest National Honours of the Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) and the Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON) on the president-elect, Bola Tinubu, and the vice president-elect, Kashim Shettima, respectively, at a colourful ceremony in Abuja. Buhari said he ran a good race in the last eight years and finished well as Nigeria’s president.
Speaking at the conference centre of the State House, Abuja, after the investiture of Tinubu and Shettima, the president declared, “I have run a good race, I have finished my course. It is now time for another to take up the baton.”
The investiture of the president-elect and vice president-elect sets the pace for their swearing in on May 29, and draws the curtain on the eight-year administration of Buhari, who served two terms from 2015 to 2023.
Exercising the power conferred on him, Buhari said, “in accordance with the Honours Award Act, 1963, Laws of Federation of Nigeria, (LFN), 2004, Presidents/Heads of State receive the Honour of GCFR while the Vice Presidents are awarded the GCON.
“Today, with the authority vested in me, as the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, I have conferred the National Honour of GCFR on His Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and that of the GCON on His Excellency Kashim Shettima respectively.”
The president congratulated both political leaders, who had served at various times in the Fourth Republic as Governor of Lagos and Borno states, respectively.
Buhari stated, “I extend my warmest congratulations to the president-elect, on his well-deserved victory at the February 25th, 2023 presidential election. The Nigerian people have recognised your leadership qualities, political acumen, and passion to serve our great nation, and have entrusted you with the burden of governing our beloved country.
“I have no doubt that Nigeria will continue to thrive and achieve new heights under your leadership. You were the best candidate at the elections and Nigerians have chosen wisely.
“I equally extend my congratulations to the vice president-elect. Your wealth of experience in governance, your unwavering commitment to the well-being of the Nigerian people, and your exemplary leadership during challenging times as Governor of Borno State, have made you a deserving candidate for this position. I have full confidence that you will serve our nation with utmost dedication and integrity.
“As we celebrate this auspicious occasion, let us not forget the immense responsibilities that come with leadership. The challenges facing our nation are significant, and it is the duty of the president and vice president to address them with courage, wisdom, and compassion.
“We must remain committed to the principles of good governance, transparency, and accountability, as these are the foundations upon which our nation’s progress and development rely.”
Buhari noted that Tinubu had the experience and capacity to lead the country, carry on the legacy of his administration.
He said, “President-elect, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, you have a long and illustrious track record of public service, marked by your exceptional achievements in various capacities. Your transformative leadership in Lagos State, where you left an indelible mark in the areas of infrastructure, education, healthcare, and economic development, speaks volumes about your dedication to the welfare of the Nigerian people.”
The president expressed his deepest gratitude to Nigerians for their unwavering support and trust throughout his tenure, adding, “It has been an honour and a privilege to serve this great nation, and I am confident that Nigeria is in capable hands as we embark on this new chapter.”
Buhari advised Tinubu to lead the country with wisdom, courage, and compassion.
“Once again, I congratulate president-elect Bola Ahmed Tinubu and vice president-elect Kashim Shettima on their well-deserved investiture,” he said, adding, “May the Almighty bless you and guide you in your endeavours to lead Nigeria towards a brighter and more prosperous future.”
The president said his administration was faced with many challenges at inception and he worked hard to tackle hydra-headed issues.
According to him, “This administration from inception has faced security challenges, such as insurgency, oil theft, kidnapping as well as corruption, which has eaten deep into the system.
“With the political will and support of many Nigerians, especially our dogged Armed Forces, insurgency, terrorism, and kidnapping have been reduced to their barest minimum while corruption has been tackled head-on.
“Despite the aforementioned challenges, our administration has made economic gains over the years. While acknowledging the turbulent times and global economic meltdown occasioned by the world oil crisis and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, our economy has remained afloat and strong.
“Our administration’s commitment and determination in infrastructural upliftment of Nigeria have remained unshaken.”
As part of his achievements, Buhari noted that the Second Niger Bridge, named President Muhammadu Buhari Bridge, had been completed and inaugurated.
“I am happy to say that no administration in Nigeria’s modern history has given so much attention to roads as we have done in the last eight years. In all, we have been able to construct and complete over 8,352.94 kilometers of roads across Nigeria.
“In spite of the shortfall in the federal government’s revenue, due to the weakness in the global economy that led to a drop in oil revenue, we have touched on all sectors of the Nigerian economy positively.
“As we celebrate the monumental infrastructural strides achieved by this administration, it is pertinent to acknowledge that these transformative endeavours have not only reshaped our physical landscape but have also paved the way for remarkable economic outcomes that reverberate across our nation.
“The link between infrastructure and economic prosperity is undeniable. It is through the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and other critical assets that we unlock the true potential of our nation, leading to better communication, facilitating trade, and propelling economic growth.”
The president said, “To avoid a repeat of our 2015 experience,” Executive Order No. 14 of 2023 was made, which established the legal framework for conducting presidential transitions at the federal level.
According to him, the Executive Order established the Presidential Transition Council chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and Ministerial Transition Teams headed by the Permanent Secretaries.
He explained that the primary responsibility of the two ad-hoc bodies was to ensure that every piece of information that would help a new administration get off to a speedy start was made available in a usable format and in a timely manner.
He stated, while giving the president-elect the transition documents, “Today, I am so proud to have handed over to you my successor, Your Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu, three key documents that will guide you as you aim to define a path for your administration.
“It is my earnest desire that you will find these documents useful as this would be the first time in the history of this country that such detailed documentation will be produced for handover to a new administration. I strongly encourage you to uphold this legacy and make the experience even better for your successor by the time you are to leave office.
“It may also interest you to know that apart from these three documents, all the ministries and their agencies have also prepared their handover notes, ready to brief their new political leadership. I want to sincerely thank the Secretary to the Government of the Federation and his team for this great feat.”
On the transfer of a symbolic baton to Tinubu, Buhari said the incoming government would continue with the race of advancing democracy and development.
He said, “This is a first in the history of our nation’s transition process. To preserve this remarkable history for generations to come, I have directed that the baton be preserved in the presidential history wing of the National Archives and I hope that president-elect, Tinubu, and those after him will build on this tradition.”
In his response, Tinubu told Buhari to be ready to serve the country in other capacities after leaving office on May 29, saying he would always be consulted, wherever he may be within or outside Nigeria.
He also vowed not to disappoint in the task of providing quality leadership to the country.
Tinubu told Buhari, “Whether you go to Daura or Niger or anywhere, you’ll expect knocks on your doors.
“We are determined, as enumerated, on security, economy, agriculture, jobs, education, health and power, and in all sectors. We must make headway as you’ve charted the course, the people deserve no less. You said so. I shall not disappoint you.”
The former Lagos State governor hailed Buhari for his democratic credentials, and for making history by recognising late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as winners of the 1993 presidential election and honouring them with GCFR and GCON, respectively.
He, however, noted that he was not oblivious of the enormous responsibilities facing the administration he was about to lead, adding that he would not disappoint the expectations of Nigerians.
Tinubu said regarding Buhari, “Your devotion to progressive and democratic governance is unassailable. I stand here today, renewed in hope and dedication to our national greatness. I also feel full of pride that this moment is our moment and I know what it represents.
“This stately occasion is proof that Nigeria is a vibrant and true democracy. It confirms that our democratic path is right and nothing will deter us from sticking to it, I assure you.
“Our ways shall not be always smooth, yes, democracy is ‘rough and tumble’, hill and valley, yet we are imbued with faith in our purpose and believe in our collective ability to overcome the challenges that confront us.
“President Buhari, you have shown courage in taking tough decisions others avoided. One such decision is to recognise the injustice of the annulment the 1993 election, to designate June 12 as a Democracy Day and to bestow the nation’s highest honour on late MKO Abiola.
“As much as anyone could, you reached back into history to set the record straight and heal the festering wound. Thank you. The justice you did in this matter lends special meanings to today.
“The people have put their trust in us, you have done your part, Mr. President, now a great duty will descend on me. I understand the meaning of the honour given to me today and the magnitude of the task that awaits.”
He congratulated the president on the provision of a strong and visionary leadership for eight years, saying, “it is a great honour for me to stand before you today, but let me first of all say thank you Mr. President. I can only call you Mr. Democrat. You have bestowed the nation’s highest on my vice president-elect, Shettima, and me.
“Our deep thanks also for the Transition Documents, which clearly enumerated the efforts of the past eight years. The documents summarise the immense works of your administration. They consist an impressive and noteworthy scorecard. You have made history and no one can deny your contribution to our national development.”
Before the investiture ceremony, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Boss Mustapha, who is also Chairman of the Presidential Transition Council (PTC), gave a detailed briefing on the transmitted Transition Documents, which he said included three documents.
Mustapha stated that the transition documents handed over to the president-elect by Buhari were basically made up of briefing notes on each of: the nine priority areas of the outgoing administration, a compendium of the federal government’s priority programmes and projects; and the status of policies implemented.
Speaking at the event, also, Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume, noted that the election that ushered the president-elect and his vice in, had been adjudged the most credible in the history of Nigeria, adding that the credit for the process must go to Buhari.
Meanwhile, guests in their hundreds, including members of the diplomatic corps, braced the State House snail-speed security checks on the roads traversing from the Federal Secretariat and Fire Service routes, to witness the epoch making conferment.