Will Buhari's presidency offer change or a charade?

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Nigeria’s President-elect Muhammad Buhari is being inaugurated today as the country’s third democratically elected president since its return to constitutional democracy in 1999.

Since his election in March, a lot has been said about the historic transition of power from an incumbent president to an opposition candidate. Many have savored Nigeria’s moment of democratic ethos, but his administration faces enormous challenges, including corruption, power outages, unemployment, poverty and Boko Haram.

The stakes are so high that Nigerian observer Murray Bruce recently said, “Buhari may wish he did not win the 2015 elections when the reality of our economic situation sets in.” Buhari is the second person to get a second chance to govern Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation. How he approaches the country’s myriad challenges will determine whether the transfer of power is truly a change or charade. His two major tests will be to rein in the country’s corrupt political and business class and to end the hemorrhaging of Nigeria’s resources, especially oil revenues.

During his brief tenure as the head of state in the 1980s, Buhari built a reputation for incorruptibility. If this record is any guide, Nigerians should look forward to a disciplined presidency. But the young and energetic Buhari of 1984 is not the same as today’s, in his 70s. His diminished zest and the current democratic restraints may mean that he won’t be able to enforce order and discipline as he did 30 years ago. This is one of the many known unknowns in Nigeria currently and possibly for the next few years.

Buhari ran for president an unprecedented four times. Unlike his predecessor, who found himself in the exalted office with little preparation, Buhari’s success may hinge on his deep knowledge of the country. And regardless of his experience, as Nigeria transitions to a new administration, so should Buhari. As a military leader, he issued orders at his whim, commands that will now be subject to review and resistance from the legislature and judiciary. (Olusegun Obasanjo, his onetime colleague in the military and a former president, had a difficult time making a shift from soldierly impulses to civilian accommodation and tolerance.) In addition, Buhari must learn to accept criticism from citizens, the media and his opponents.

Please see Aljazeera.com


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