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Nigerians Await New President With High Hopes


An art student takes part in a competition by drawing a portrait of President-elect Muhammad Buhari, during an art exhibition by Malami Leadership Foundation showcasing portraits of Nigeria's former presidents and heads of state in Abuja, May 27, 2015.

An art student takes part in a competition by drawing a portrait of President-elect Muhammad Buhari, during an art exhibition by Malami Leadership Foundation showcasing portraits of Nigeria's former presidents and heads of state in Abuja, May 27, 2015.

Muhammadu Buhari assumes office as president of Nigeria on Friday (5/29). People across Africa’s most-populous nation have high expectations for their new president.

When the pomp and circumstance of the inauguration ends in the capital, Abuja, Buhari will sit down to the hard task of governing Nigeria.

The country is just starting to recover from a fuel shortage that crippled businesses nationwide. Strong oil production is offset by the low price of crude and the loss of billions of dollars to the economy.

Meanwhile, more than one million people have fled the country’s northeast to escape the Boko Haram insurgency, which despite recent military advances continues to threaten the region.

Buhari's agenda

Buhari outlined his priorities after his March election: tackling corruption, insecurity and unemployment. The former military ruler has his detractors, but many Nigerians are nonetheless hopeful the next four years will see improvements in Africa’s largest economy.

In the southern Niger Delta town of Ughelli, civil servant Samson Onoriede says he thinks Buhari has what it takes to reform the country’s oil sector, which is riddled with allegations of waste and corruption.

“He has the guts. But you know what, nobody can predict the leader until he has been sworn in,” he said.

Up north in the city of Kaduna, Suleman Yakubu says Buhari should prosecute corrupt politicians from outgoing president Goodluck Jonathan’s government.

“Corruption has eaten deep, which I am sure will make the country to be stagnant," he said. "He must bring some people, bring people back, those [in] the outgoing government, bring them back so that they answer or bring [back] our money they stole.”

Accountability

Kaduna resident Faith Fatima says she wishes simply for a government that is honest and accountable.

“I expect this government to be truthful, to also be accountable to the masses who have elected them, not their self-centered interest of political empowerment, but they must know that Nigeria is rich enough to take care of its populace, and they should make sure they obey the rule of law,” she said.

But when it comes to corruption, Fatima says she is not so sure Buhari can solve it from his office in Abuja’s Aso Rock Presidential Villa.

“For us to handle corruption as a nation is a collective responsibility. Because we are all responsible for the state that our country has found ourself," she said.

In theory, Buhari has enormous tools at his disposal to accomplish his agenda; his party controls both houses of the National Assembly, and has a majority of governorships. But much political power rests in the hands of vested interests and power brokers, and Buhari must struggle with them to bring Nigerians the change he promised.

Hilary Uguru reported contributed reporting from Ughelli, Nigeria and Ibrahima Yakubu from Kaduna, Nigeria.

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