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Buhari passes baton to Tinubu, says I’ve run a good race  

By Terhemba Daka (Abuja) and Adewale Momoh (Akure)
26 May 2023   |   3:40 am
Despite being encircled by the weight of witnesses to the contrary, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, chest-thumping himself, said he has run a good race and finished his course as Nigeria’s leader for the past eight years.

Baton Exchange: President Buhari, yesterday passed the baton to President-elect, Bola Tinubu during the investiture of national honours, which took place at the State House Conference Centre of the Presidential Villa, Abuja,

• Confers GCFR, GCON on Tinubu, Shettima
• Osinbajo takes Shettima on familiarisation tour of VP office
• Wherever you are, Daura or Niger, expect knocks on your door, Tinubu tells Buhari
• Fashola: Buhari will borrow, award contracts till last day in office

Despite being encircled by the weight of witnesses to the contrary, President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, chest-thumping himself, said he has run a good race and finished his course as Nigeria’s leader for the past eight years.

Therefore, he said, it was in order for him to pass the baton of service to another leader who will lead the country for the next four years.

Buhari said this after he conferred the national honours of the Grand Commander of the Order 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.

The conferment of the highest national honour of the rank of the GCFR by President Buhari on his successor is in accordance with the tradition of honouring all presidents and vice presidents respectively.

The investiture of national honours, which took place at the State House Conference Centre of the Presidential Villa, Abuja, was part of the lineup of events for the 2023 Presidential Inauguration Ceremony slated for Monday, May 29.

He also performed the handover of Transition Documents and transferred the Baton of Service to the President-elect.

While economic indices and factsheets on all spheres of the polity show a below par performance, Buhari gave himself a pat on the back when he said: “I am confident that Nigeria is in capable hands as we embark on this new chapter. I have run a good race. I have finished my course. It is now time for another to take up the baton.”

The President-elect urged President Buhari to be ready to continue being of service to the nation, as he would constantly be consulted by the new administration, wherever he might be.

Apparently reacting to the President’s recent comments, where he said he is anxiously looking forward to a time of rest after office, Tinubu, who also assured his soon-to-be predecessor, pledged not to disappoint in the effort to provide quality leadership to the nation.

He said: “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.”

President-elect Bola Tinubu (middle) being decorated with the award of Grand Commander of the Federal Republic (GCFR) by President Muhammadu Buhari, as his wife, Oluremi, looks on, at the State House, Abuja…yesterday.

Tinubu further extolled President Buhari for his democratic credentials, making history by recognising the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe as winners of the 1993 presidential elections and honouring them with GCFR and GCON honours, respectively.

“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.”

Meanwhile, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, late yesterday, took the Vice-President-elect, Shettima, on a familiarisation tour of the ‘VP’s wing’ of the presidential villa. Speaking to newsmen shortly after the tour, Shettima said: “On the instance of the Vice President, who is a friend and contemporary, I came here to exchange ideas on how to move the nation forward.

“He took me round the offices out of courtesy and I want to commend him, I want to thank him for extending that courtesy to me.”

On how soon Nigerians should begin to feel the impact of the Tinubu-Shettima presidency, he said: “I believe Tinubu will hit the ground running from day one. He does not have the luxury of time. And I will be the Vice President, I don’t want to be presumptuous, I don’t want to make loud proclamations, but my interaction with him has shown that we will hit the ground running from day one.”

On his conferment with the national honour, he said it was a historical and humbling experience. “We are what we are not because of our intellect, physical prowess, pedigree or political sagacity. It’s just a gift from God to humanity, four years or eight years in this time. I believe it is a humbling experience, is a call to national duty and by God’s grace we need the support of all of you, especially the media to succeed.”

Vice President-elect, Kashim Shettima, being decorated with the award of Grand Commander of the Niger (GCON) by President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja…yesterday. PHOTOS: PHILIP OJISUA

The presidency has stated that a ‘perfect’ arrangement had been put in place to ensure a seamless handover ceremony, assuring that the embarrassing moments that allegedly trailed the Goodluck Jonathan government on the day he exited office would not happen.

Speaking on the state-run Nigeria Television Authority (NTA), Senior Special Assistant to President Buhari on Media and Publicity, Shehu Garba, said Tinubu and his deputy, Kashim Shettima, had 60 per cent of the total invited guests, just as he added that Buhari has since quit the main building at the state House for the smaller ‘glass house’ in preparation for May 29.

Specifically recalling the embarrassment at the airport in 2015, when then outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan, was reportedly disallowed from taking the presidential wing while exiting to Bayelsa State, Garba also noted that whereas he got handwritten notes from his predecessor, it would not be the case this time as Buhari had signed an executive order which would expressly ensure a smooth transition.

“When former President Jonathan handed over to President Buhari at the Eagle Square on May 29, 2015, there were very embarrassing moments that followed reportedly. In fact, the former president trended at some point because the story was told that by the time he got to the airport, security operatives will not allow him the use of the presidential wing of the airport, and all of that.

“So, all of these things have been foreseen. So, you would expect a perfect process of exit and incoming processes involving the two leaders, that is the outgoing president and the incumbent president,” he stated.

Garba also stated that the State House has now been emptied for the incoming president to bring in his own employees, especially political appointees.

According to him, the incoming president will make the choice who to go into the State House with him, including his personal staff, but recalled that aside from himself, Femi Adesina and a protocol member of staff, Buhari did not make any major appointments until the third day.

On whether any staff of the Buhari administration had already started switching allegiance to the incoming president, Shehu argued that it was the nature of humans to do so, but noted that Jonathan’s case was more pronounced because many of his aides were angry with him for deciding to handover power peacefully when he lost the 2015 presidential poll.

He stressed that the relationship between Tinubu and Buhari remained cordial, noting that the president-elect had once thanked Buhari for being neutral and allowing him win the poll.

“It’s going to be a perfect relationship, because it is going to be the same government although different administrations. He’s APC. When he (Tinubu) took his certificate from INEC, the first thing he did was that he flew to Daura and showed it to the president.

“The incoming president never gets tired of saying that the president allowed him to win. It is very significant. He allowed him to win in a free and fair process,” he stressed.

In reference to the President’s charge to his cabinet on Wednesday to keep working until May 29, the Minister of Works and Housing, Babajide Fashola, explained yesterday the reasons why President Buhari has continued to award contracts as well as borrow despite having just a few days left until the end of his tenure.

According to Fashola, the tenure of the Buhari-led administration will officially wind down at midnight on May 28, hence most of the projects embarked on must be funded, particularly that governance must be up and running till the president’s last day in office.

The former Lagos State governor disclosed this while flagging off the dualisation of the Akure-Ado highway, which has for years been in a deplorable state.

While stressing that infrastructural development can only be actualised through borrowing or taxation, Fashola stated that the project, which will cost N90 billion, will be taken care of by the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Limited (NNPCL) through the tax credit policy of the Federal Government.

With the project awarded to Samchase Nigeria Ltd. and Kopeck Construction Company slated for completion within the next 24 months, the Minister disclosed that lies had been peddled against him over the delay of the project, which was earlier awarded to Dantata and Sawoe Construction Firm.

He said: “People are asking why we are still awarding contracts when we have just a few days to go. Should we stop this road now and wait for the next government? It is a juvenile conversation. They forgot, among other things, that the term of this administration ends at midnight on May 28.

“This road really represents the paradox about governance, about roads, and about public debts. This is the real story. The work looks easy from the outside, but one decision leads to other consequences. But we have now given you contractors who have worked with you.”