Handing over the reins of power in Nigeria

President Goodluck Jonathan will hand over to Muhammadu Buhari, as Will Ross reports

They may not have been slapping each other's backs and smiling ear-to-ear but as Goodluck Jonathan welcomed the man who defeated him in the election, he did give Muhammadu Buhari a sneak preview of the presidential villa and presented him with a box containing the outgoing president's handover notes.

"Since that famous telephone call you made, you have changed the course of Nigeria's political history," Muhammadu Buhari said.

He was referring to the moment President Jonathan conceded victory and put paid to the daunting prospect of a disputed and probably violent aftermath to the election.

It was the first time ever in Nigeria's history that an opposition politician had won an election and both men were ready for the historic transition.

'Not paid'

Many Nigerians have huge expectations of their next head of state, but one man who has worked for three different presidents including the former military ruler Sani Abacha says Muhammadu Buhari needs to be aware that it is easy to get cut off from reality once ensconced in "The Villa".

A vendor sells wrist watches with portraits of Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari ahead of the handover ceremony in Abuja, on 28 May  2015 Nigerians have huge expectations of Mr Buhari, the first opposition presidential candidate to win an election

"As cocooned as Abacha was, I remember he was very fond of talking to the gardener. He would ask him 'Danzaria, what is happening in town?'" former minister Dr Aliyu Modibbo Umar told the BBC.

"'Today there are a lot of queues at the fuel stations', Danzaria would say or 'We have not been paid our salary'," said Dr Modibbo recalling the early 1990s when he was a special advisor in the presidency.

"If you are taciturn like some of the heads of state it is very easy to be in a cocoon and to only listen to a few people," Dr Modibbo said, adding that another President, Olusegun Obasanjo, was one of the few former heads of state to have kept his finger on the pulse of the country.

He put this down to his exuberant and outgoing nature.


As well as working as a minister under President Obasanjo, Dr Modibbo was also in Umaru Musa Yar'Adua's government. He believes that like Mr Yar'Adua, Goodluck Jonathan had also allowed himself to become isolated with just a few officials around him.

Dr Aliyu Modibbo Umar (left) with Sani Abacha Former minister Dr Aliyu Modibbo Umar (left) has worked with numerous presidents including Sani Abacha (right) during the 1990s
A woman sells hats ahead of the presidential inauguration of former General Muhammadu Buhari, in Abuja (28 May 2015) A huge weight of expectation will rest on the new president's shoulders

"How could you come out and not believe the Chibok girls had been kidnapped if you were not cocooned?" he said, referring to the fact that the president and his ministers were at first reluctant to admit that more than 200 schoolgirls had been seized by jihadists in April 2014. The 219 girls are still missing.

Corruption issues

Some analysts suggest Goodluck Jonathan may be slightly relieved to be handing over, given the challenges facing the country.

The fact that Muhammadu Buhari has been head of state before may alert him to some of the dangers he is likely to face but he will be in no doubt as to how difficult it will be to deliver the changes so many Nigerians are craving.

Even on his way to the inauguration he is likely to see the fuel queues snaking for kilometres across Abuja - the latest sign that oil production and fuel importation are in need of a major overhaul.

As well as tackling jihadist extremism and helping create jobs, fighting corruption is the loudest call on the streets.

Namibia's President Hage Geingob receives guard of honour upon arrival at the airport in Abuja (28 May 2015) Numerous world leaders have arrived in Nigeria for Friday's inauguration
Nigeria's General Sani Abacha pictured in 1997 General Abacha keep in touch by speaking to his gardener

But will the new administration go after corrupt individuals in the outgoing government? This is a key factor which could affect Nigeria's stability after the handover.

At a newspaper stand in Abuja the headlines have prompted some fierce debate with arguments over whether all former governments should be investigated, or just Mr Jonathan's, or none at all.

"Jonathan urges Buhari not to be selective with probes," says This Day newspaper.

"Don't probe me alone - Jonathan tells Buhari," is the front page of the Daily Trust.

"It is good if he investigates the previous government because any money that he recovers from them he can use on the infrastructure like roads, electricity and so on," says one reader, James Isaac, as he scans the headlines.

But others are not so sure.

"If we say he should start investigating all the previous leaders, his whole tenure will finish before he settles down to work on Nigeria's issues," says another man joining the debate.

Muhammadu Buhari in focus:
A party member kisses a poster depicting former Nigerian military ruler and presidential aspirant of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) Muhammadu Buhari - December 2014 Gen Buhari has finally got a kiss of approval from voters
  • Age 72
  • First opposition candidate to win a president election
  • Military ruler of Nigeria from 1984 to 1985
  • Deposed in a coup
  • Poor human rights record
  • Seen as incorruptible
  • Disciplinarian - civil servants late for work had to do frog jumps
  • Muslim from northern Nigeria
  • Survived an apparent Boko Haram assassination attempt

Muhammadu Buhari profile


Others like newspaper buyer Engineer Paul argue that the corruption of today did not start from President Jonathan's time in office.

"Every past democratic government has done something terrible to the citizens of Nigeria," he said.

"They have managed this country as if it is their family business," said Mr Paul, who feels all former governments should be made to account.

He also argues that Mr Buhari came to power with help from some corrupt politicians and that could have consequences.

"If a thief should crown you he will still steal the crown from your head," he reflects, adding that the new president may be in for a rough ride if he falls out with some of his allies in the coalition.

His to-do list may be long and daunting but the way Muhammadu Buhari stays in touch with reality outside State House and the way he handles the politicians who are supposedly close to him are two vital tests he faces.

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Nigeria decides: 2015

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