Zuma sings Nigeria’s praises at Buhari’s inauguration

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari salutes his supporters during his inauguration in Abuja, Nigeria, on Friday. Picture: AP/Sunday Alamba
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari salutes his supporters during his inauguration in Abuja, Nigeria, on Friday. Picture: AP/Sunday Alamba

President Jacob Zuma has praised Nigeria’s democratic transition to a new government with the swearing in of its new president, Muhammadu Buhari.

Former president Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat after the country’s tense but largely peaceful polls two months ago. It is the first time since Nigeria’s independence in 1960 that an opposition figure has won the presidency.

Zuma told Nigeria’s Channels TV: “The fact that this has happened in Nigeria in the manner in which it has – particularly if we take Nigeria as one of the leading countries on this continent which must lead by example – this is a very perfect example. It is encouraging to us. We are very happy.”

Nigerian and South African diplomats have speculated that Buhari’s presidency could see a thawing of relations between South Africa and Nigeria after tense periods under Jonathan’s rule.

President Zuma travelled to Abuja on Thursday with International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane to attend the swearing in ceremony on Friday.

Zuma also said he was committed to working closely with Buhari “to enhance the good bilateral relations that exist between South Africa and Nigeria”, focussing on “the strengthening of economic cooperation”.

Nigeria’s economy overtook South Africa’s as the biggest on the continent last year after a rebasing of its gross domestic product.

On Friday, Buhari had a brief conversation with Zuma as he went around to greet the presidents in attendance at his inauguration – a grand ceremony that included a military parade.

The event was attended by 50 heads of state and government, including African Union chairperson Robert Mugabe.

In his inauguration speech, Buhari thanked Jonathan for conceding defeat and promised increased prosperity for the country, saying his administration would tackle the “immediate challenges” confronting Nigeria, which include Boko Haram, conflict in the Niger Delta region, power shortages and unemployment. In the long term, he said education standards had to improve, and the country had to look at its healthcare system and upgrade dilapidated infrastructure.

He assured the international community that he was ready to cooperate “and help to combat threats of cross-border terrorism, sea piracy, refugees and boat people, financial crime, cybercrime, climate change, the spread of communicable diseases and other challenges of the 21st century”

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