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Week Of New Beginnings, Next Level



President Muhammadu Buhari and Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo on Wednesday  morning in Abuja took their oaths of office for a second term of four years. The day was declared a public holiday by the Federal Government.

All entrances leading into the Federal Capital City, Abuja were manned by heavily armed security personnel amid fears of a possible breach of security. As early as 6am, motorists and travellers intending to connect other parts of the country through Abuja faced hard traffic gridlock from the Keffi and City Gate axes as a result of the road blocks mounted by the security operatives.

Residents intending to move from one part of the city to another, including some guests invited for the inauguration ceremony, were held in the traffic for hours. At 9am that morning I managed to find myself at the venue of the event.

The event, which was held at the Eagle Square in the Abuja city centre, was attended by prominent Nigerians and businessmen as well as top members of the ruling All Progressives Congress and some of the outgone ministers.

The APC national chairman, Adams Oshiomole, alongside national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, former chairman, John Oyegun and Bisi Akande were in attendance. Surprisingly, Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, were also in attendance.

Recall that Saraki was the director general of the Atiku Abubakar campaign organisation. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate is challenging the electoral victory of Buhari at the courts.

Also in attendance are Kogi State governor, Yahaya Bello; Ekiti State governor, Kayode Fayemi; Ondo State governor, Rotimi Akeredolu, and former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, among other high profile guests.

Buhari took his oath of office at 10:38 am, with his wife, Aisha, beside him. This was shortly after Osinbajo took his, also in the company with his wife, Dolapo. The oaths were administered on them by the acting Chief Justice of Nigeria, Ibrahim Tanko Mohammed.

After signing the Oath Register, the president remained on the rostrum to witness the symbolic lowering of the Nigerian and defence flags and hoisting of new ones by the military at the centre of the square.

This was followed by the military 21-gun salute, after which the president was driven round the square in an open vehicle from which he waved to guests and inspected the military guard of honour mounted by men and officers of the Nigerian Army, Navy, Air Force and Police.

That same day, an inauguration dinner was held at the old banquet hall of the Presidential Villa. In my four years covering the presidential Villa, I have never seen or experienced the kind of traffic I saw at the seat of power. From the gate of the Villa to the banquet hall, a drive of five minutes took me almost an hour to get to my destination. Some of my colleagues said they spent close to two hours in the traffic.

On entering the Banquet Hall, it was a different story all together. The hall was rowdy and filled to the brim, with many people standing because there were no seats. However, it was not all gloom as  the vice president was at his jocular best. In his remarks, he gave details of how Nigeria did not have a president and vice president for more than 10 hours, until shortly before he and Muhammadu Buhari  were inaugurated on May 29.

Osinbajo said that as a lawyer and a law teacher, he always liked to test and interrogate legal scenarios. He stated: “At one minute past midnight today, the four-year term of Mr President and I ended by effluxion of time. So, from one minute past 12 of last night, May 29 to about 10:30am when we were sworn in for a second term, there was no president or vice president.

“Interestingly, nothing went wrong; all was okay. When such a situation arises, it is the Senate President who acts as president. So, when I arrived at Eagle Square this morning, some may have noticed that the Senate President and I were enjoying a joke. He said to me jokingly, “You better be careful you know I am the acting president now. So, we thank Mr Senate President for not doing anything funny.”

Vice President Osinbajo cracked another joke, saying: “As you know, our campaign slogan was ‘Next Level’. And you know that very few people forget campaign promises, even those who are closest to you. My cook in Lagos, as soon as he saw me after we won the elections started to sing ‘everything to the Next Level’. I didn’t know how to respond because I knew that the chap was thinking of a next level salary.

“By the way, it is not just junior staff who are always talking about the Next Level. General Gowon, a few minutes ago, was telling me that he asked Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, the APC Chairman, why he was not wearing his customary Khaki shirt and trousers and of course the Comrade pointed out that this is Next Level.

“But the worst example of this Next Level is a rude fellow who said to me: ‘You people promised change when you came and after you resumed office you started saying change begins with you. Let me warn that Lai Mohammed; if he tries Next Level begins with you…I will kidnap him.”