Global attention shifts to the world’s most populous black nation on the planet, Nigeria, where the country’s fifth democratically elected president, Muhammadu Buhari, will be inaugurated on Friday (today).
Contrary to speculations, indications emerged on Thursday that the outgoing President, Goodluck Jonathan, will attend the historic occasion which would mark the first time a sitting president would hand over power to a victorious challenger.
The event expected to be witnessed by many world leaders will take place at the Eagle Square, Abuja, the nation’s hilly capital city.
As of the last count, no fewer than 20 world leaders have flown into the country in readiness to attend the ceremony.
Activities at the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja, peaked on Thursday as Presidents and representatives from many countries landed at the facility and were subsequently driven to their various hotels.
The PUNCH learnt that Jonathan, whose administration had earlier expressed the wish to hand over power to Buhari a day before the May 29 official date, has decided to attend the event in demonstration of his sportsmanship.
It was gathered that the outgoing President would fly the flagship of the presidential fleet codenamed “Nigerian Air Force 001” or “Eagle One” in an official capacity as President for the last time today.
After the inauguration, the aircraft will fly Jonathan to the Port Harcourt Airport, Rivers State, from where he is expected to be flown in a helicopter to Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, en route a homeward journey in a convoy of cars to Otuoke, his hometown.
Speculations were rife that Jonathan might shun the inauguration ceremony owing to the acrimony that greeted the election.
But a top Presidency official, who pleaded anonymity, told our correspondent that Jonathan would attend the event.
He said if Jonathan failed to attend the event, he might end up portraying himself as a bad loser despite the fact that he conceded defeat to Buhari shortly after the election.
The official, however, expressed the hope that the leaders of the All Progressives Congress would prevail on their supporters not to do anything to humiliate the outgoing President at the event.
The official said, “Immediately after the inauguration, the outgoing President will travel to his state on Air Force 001 for the last time.
“As a former President, any of the smaller aircraft in the presidential fleet can be made available to him on request, but not the 001. The only reason why he can fly that aircraft again is either if he becomes the President again or if he is to accompany a sitting President on a trip.”
Jonathan out, Buhari in
Jonathan is leaving office after a five-year stint as the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Jonathan, who became the President in May 2010 following the death of the late President Umaru Yar’Adua, finished the one year remaining in his former boss’ administration and went ahead to contest the 2011 presidential election which he won.
He contested the March 28 presidential election but his re-election bid was thwarted by Nigerians who chose Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress.
Jonathan and his handlers believe that as he is bowing out of office, he is leaving a legacy that is unparalleled in the nation’s history.
The government’s programmes were centered on what he called Agenda for National Transformation.
His administration prided itself as having succeeded in the areas of electoral reform, revamping of the railway system, remodelling of airports, privatisation of power sector, agriculture, and rule of law, among others.
Critics of Jonathan are, however, of the opinion that his administration aided corruption and impunity.
This has fuelled the calls on Buhari to probe the outgoing administration, especially the oil sector, where the allegation of missing funds was rife.
Buhari will be taking his Oath of Allegiance and Oath of Office today before Nigerians and friends of the nation with a burden to run his government differently in accordance with his party’s “change” mantra.
10 world leaders arrive for inauguration
It was learnt that before 5pm on Thursday, the aircraft of over 10 African countries had touched down at the tarmac of the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja.
Our correspondent gathered that the two recently inaugurated lounges for pilots and international protocol officers located close to the international wing of the airport, were beehives of activities as some guests were received at the new facilities.
Officials at the NAIA stated that the Presidents of the different nations were sighted at the presidential wing of the airport while countries, whose Heads of State could not show up, sent representatives.
The flags of the visiting countries were displayed on the airplanes.
“Some of the countries whose Presidents or representatives are now in Nigeria include Mali, Sudan, South Africa, Namibia, Chad, Morocco, Burkina Faso, Senegal, the Gambia and Guinea,” an official of NAIA said.
The President of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, was sighted at the airport, according to our source, who added that the advance teams of France and the United States were on the ground as of the time of filing this report.
The official stated that the flight of the US government was scheduled to land around 3am on Friday.
Our source said, “Other countries whose Presidents or representatives also arrived Abuja airport on Thursday included Togo, Angola, Lesotho, France, Ghana, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, Brazil and Saudi Arabia. More are still coming, going by the manifest that we have.”
Obama sends Kerry, Olajuwon
The United States President Barrack Obama has detailed the US Secretary of State, John Kerry, including basketball icon and Olympic Gold medallist, Hakeem Olajuwon, to the inauguration. Other members of the delegation are the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria, James Entwistle, and the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Department of State, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.
Also in the delegation are Commander, U.S. Africa Command, General David Rodriguez, and the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs, National Security Council, Grant Harris.
Court dismisses bid to stop Buhari’s inauguration
Meanwhile, a Federal High Court in Abuja on Thursday dismissed an application seeking to stop the inauguration.
A non-governmental organisation, Advocacy for Societal Rights Advancement and Development Initiative, had on Tuesday filed a suit as well as an ex parte application seeking an interim injunction restraining the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, from inaugurating Buhari on Friday.
The application was adjourned till Thursday for hearing following the failure of the representative of the plaintiff or its lawyer, Mr. Philip Ekpo, to show up in court on Wednesday when the application was initially fixed for hearing.
After hearing the plaintiff’s lawyer on Thursday, Justice Ahmed Mohammed, dismissed the application for lacking in merit.
He held that the urgency which the application was predicated on was self-induced because the election in which Buhari emerged as president had held about two months before the suit was filed.
Justice Ahmed held, “The presidential election in which the 1st defendant (Buhari) emerged winner took place on March 28, 2015; today is May 28. It is now two months the election took place. Now, I sincerely ask, how can a court grant an interim injunction on the issue?”
“Where was the plaintiff/applicant before and after the election? Is it that the applicant did not know about the presidential election of March 28 or what?
“The inauguration of the 1st defendant will be held tomorrow (Friday) and the applicant is talking about urgency.
“This motion ex parte is a clear case of self induced urgency. Therefore this application is devoid of merit and accordingly dismissed.”
The judge subsequently adjourned the suit till June 24.
Buhari’s counsel, Lateef Fagbemi (SAN), had earlier asked the court to hear the application but the request was rejected.
The court agreed with the plaintiff’s lawyer’s submission that Order 26 rule 9 of the Federal High Court forbade him from being heard in such an application filed as an ex parte.
Buhari, the Independent National Electoral Commission, the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Mahmud Mohammed, are the 1st to the 3rd respondents in the suit respectively.
The plaintiff is seeking an order restraining the CJN from inaugurating in the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, on Friday, May 29.
The suit also seeks an order nullifying the Certificate of Return issued to Buhari by INEC.
The plaintiff hinged the suit on the allegation that Buhari did not qualify to contest the presidential election on the grounds that he gave a false information about his academic qualification to INEC.
Between January and February 2015 there were about 10 cases instituted by various plaintiffs challenging Buhari’s eligibility to stand for the polls on the grounds of his academic qualification controversy. But after he won, the cases were withdrawn.
In the fresh suit filed by its lawyer, Mr. Philip Ekpo, the group alleged that Buhari did not meet the qualification enshrined in the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act to stand for the March 28, 2015 presidential election.
The plaintiff is seeking an order of interim injunction restraining the CJN “or any person acting in his capacity” from swearing in Buhari as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria on May 29, 2015 or any other date thereof pending the determination of the Motion on Notice.
Police assure of security
The Nigeria Police Force has assured Nigerians and foreign dignitaries of adequate security for the inauguration.
The Force Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Ojukwu, in a telephone interview on Thursday, explained that the police had deployed an anti-bomb squad as well as thousands of riot and conventional policemen nationwide.
According to him, operatives had been dispatched to various strategic parts of Abuja, including vulnerable areas, hotels and shopping plazas to ensure a hitch-free transition.
He said, “Our men are on the ground nationwide to ensure a successful inauguration programme in Abuja and the states. The different squads and units have been deployed and we want to assure Nigerians and our international guests that adequate manpower has been deployed and the security of everyone is guaranteed.”
When asked to give the number of personnel that would be on duty for the inauguration, Ojukwu declined, saying he could not do that for strategic security reason.
“I can’t give you the number of personnel that we have deployed, but I can tell you that adequate manpower had been deployed nationwide to protect lives and property and to ensure a smooth inauguration ceremony,” the spokesman stated.
NSCDC deploys 55,000 operatives
In a related development, the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps said it had deployed 5,000 officials in the Federal Capital Territory and 50,000 others across the states.
The NSCDC Public Relations Officer, Emmanuel Okeh, told our correspondent that sniffer dogs and surveillance vehicles would be on duty throughout the period of the inauguration.
He said, “We are deploying 55,000 personnel nationwide as well as sniffer dogs and other units. Five thousand operatives would be on duty in the FCT while the rest would work in the states in collaboration with our sister agencies.”
Meanwhile, the major hotels in Abuja have been playing host to foreign dignitaries and diplomats who are billed to attend the inauguration.
Foreign visitors including journalists from different countries were seen checking into the Transcorp Hilton and Sheraton hotels on Thursday.
As part of measures to make the visitors comfortable, the Transcorp hotel had reserved two lifts for VIPs.
Respect rule of law, Mark tells Buhari
Senate President, David Mark, on Thursday, urged the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, to adhere strictly to the rule of law and respect human rights while discharging his constitutional responsibilities.
He specifically appealed to him to “do the needful for citizens and anchor his actions on adherence to rule of law, respect for human rights, freedom of expression, equity and justice.”
The senate president said he anticipated an egalitarian society under the new government where all citizens would be safe and protected to live and carry out their legitimate duties without fear of molestation or harassment in any part of Nigeria.
Mark, who stated this in his goodwill message to Nigerians on the occasion of Democracy Day celebration, also said, “All hands must be on deck as everyone plays his or her role to ensure that our democracy endures.”
Culled from Punchng.com