By Jonathan Nda-Isaiah and Innocent Odoh, Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday hailed Joe Biden and Senator Kamala Harris on their inauguration as president and vice president of the United States of America (US), expressing hope that their presidency would mark a strong point of cooperation and support for Nigeria as well as the African continent.
Biden was sworn-in as the 46th president of the US, ending the era of immediate past President Donald Trump who refused to attend the inauguration held at the Capitol Hill Washington DC.
The low key event was however attended by former US Presidents Bill Clinton and his wife Hilary, George Bush, Barack Obama and others.
Amid tight security across the country, Biden was sworn-in at noon by US Supreme Court Justice, John Roberts, becoming the oldest president to take oath of office at 77.
This was preceded by the inauguration of the vice president, Kamala Harris, who became the first female, first black and first South Asia to be elected vice president of the US.
In a statement by his senior special assistant on media and publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu, President Buhari congratulated the new American leaders and the entire country on the successful transition, which he said marked an important historical inflection point for democracy as a system of government and for the global community as a whole.
He said, “We look forward to the Biden presidency with great hope and optimism for strengthening of existing cordial relationships, working together to tackle global terrorism, climate change, poverty and improvement of economic ties and expansion of trade.
“We hope that this will be an era of great positivity between our two nations, as we jointly address issues of mutual interest.”
President Buhari also rejoiced with President Biden, sharing the proud feeling that the first woman elected vice president of the United States has an African and Asian ancestry.
In his speech after his inauguration yesterday, President Biden pledged to unite all Americans, to heal the nation divided by rancorous politics and put them on the right pedestal to face the challenges ahead.
The new president said “I will be a President for all Americans, all Americans. And I promise you I will fight for those who did not support me as for those who did.”
He said that to overcome these challenges, to restore the soul and secure the future of America, requires so much more than words.
He said, “It requires the most elusive of all things in a democracy – unity. Unity. In another January on New Year’s Day in 1863 Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. When he put pen to paper the president said, and I quote, ‘if my name ever goes down in history, it’ll be for this act, and my whole soul is in it’.
“My whole soul is in it today, on this January day. My whole soul is in this. Bringing America together, uniting our people, uniting our nation. And I ask every American to join me in this cause. Uniting to fight the foes we face anger, resentment and hatred, extremism, lawlessness, violence, disease, joblessness, and hopelessness.
“With unity we can do great things, important things. We can right wrongs, we can put people to work in good jobs, we can teach our children in safe schools. We can overcome the deadly virus, we can rebuild work, we can rebuild the middle class and make work secure, we can secure racial justice and we can make America once again the leading force for good in the world.
“I know speaking of unity can sound to some like a foolish fantasy these days. I know the forces that divide us are deep and they are real. But I also know they are not new. Our history has been a constant struggle between the American ideal, that we are all created equal, and the harsh ugly reality that racism, nativism and fear have torn us apart. The battle is perennial and victory is never secure.
“We can see each other not as adversaries but as neighbours. We can treat each other with dignity and respect. We can join forces, stop the shouting and lower the temperature. For without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage. No nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. And we must meet this moment as the United States of America.”
President Biden is confronted with the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged the world even as he promised more realistic and potent response to the scourge.
His inauguration opens a new vista in the history of the US as a flurry of ugly incidents allegedly incited by former President Donald Trump trailed the largely divisive November 3 Presidential election, which heightened tension in the US when supporters of Trump attacked the Capitol to stop the certification of Biden’s victory by the Congress on January 6.
This desperate attack on the Capitol, one of the iconic symbols of US democracy, cast a blemish on the US democratic values and sent shock waves around the world while threatening internal security.
But the US institutions stood firm against the persistent assault by Trump and his supporters.
This led to the deployment of about 25,000 members of the National Guard to the Capitol Hill on inauguration day and tight security measures across the country.
Trump was later impeached for “incitement to insurrection” for his role in the Capitol mayhem, becoming the first president in US history to be impeached twice.