It is not anything near The Gettysburg Address delivered by President Abraham Lincoln of the United States to frame that solemn occasion of the commemoration of the national burial site in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. It can also be argued that the grand moment of Nigeria’s historic democratic fervour may not have been properly framed, but it was an efficient address. Perhaps not unlike the Spartan persona of President Muhammadu Buhari, his inaugural address of Friday, May 29, 2015 was spare but pointed and effective.
It was not devoid of sound bites and wow moments too as his line that “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody,” drew spontaneous applause. What the speech lacks in literary depth and finesse is amply made up for in the careful understanding and articulation of the critical issues of the day. It was indeed moving and inspiring in an efficient way.
The president’s elocution and enunciation was vibrant and active though his voice dropped at a point perhaps due to fatigue. But overall, it was a moving, inspiring and efficient; much better than what we have had in the last couple of years.
It was quite up-lifting and equally a show of statesmanship to acknowledge the outgoing president’s gracious acceptance of defeat early in the address. “I would like to thank President Goodluck Jonathan for his display of statesmanship in setting a precedent for us that has now made our people proud to be Nigerians wherever they are. With the support and cooperation he has given to the transition process, he has made it possible to show the whole world that despite the perceived tension in the land we can be a united people capable of doing what is right for our nation… I hope this act of graciously accepting defeat by the outgoing president will become the standard of political conduct in the country.”
The speech captured quite succinctly, the current fears and aspirations of the citizenry. It is a fleeting pathway to the road ahead and a presage of the tone and character of the Buhari administration.
“At home we face enormous challenges,” he said in broaching Nigeria’s immediate worries. He went ahead to outline them: “Insecurity, pervasive corruption, the hitherto unending and seemingly impossible fuel and power shortages are the immediate concerns.” Again, unlike our recent experience, President Buhari offered the people hope while reaffirming the people’s self-worth and confidence: “We are going to tackle them head-on. Nigeria will not regret that they have entrusted national responsibility to us. We must not succumb to hopelessness and defeatism. We can fix our problems.”
He dwelt a bit on some of the issues roiling the country and her people and stymieing the full realisation of her potential. Concerning electricity power, the president identified it as the single most debilitating cause of Nigeria’s poor economic performance. He noted that the close to the $20 billion spent since 1999 had only brought darkness, frustration, misery and resignation among Nigerians.
“We will not allow this to go on. Careful studies are under way during this transition to identify the quickest, safest and most cost-effective way to bring light and relief to Nigerians,” he vowed.
He has strong words for the insurgent Boko Haram group: “…a mindless, godless group who are as far away from Islam as one can think of.” He noted that though progress has been made in recent weeks by the armed forces, he thinks that victory cannot be achieved by basing the Command and Control Centre in Abuja. The Command Centre will be relocated to Maiduguri and remain until Boko Haram is completely subdued.
The inaugural address would not have been complete without a thought on the over 200 Chibok school girls abducted by the terror sect over a year ago. “Government will do all it can to rescue them alive,” he said.
The twenty-three paragraph speech spoke to Nigerians, capturing their mood, reflecting their fears and firing up their hope for a new tomorrow. Well spoken, but time is now for action. Nigerians will expect him to live by these words and by every word he has spoken, for instance not publicly declaring his assets as stated.