Inexplicably, there was resounding applause when President Bola Tinubu announced that there would no longer be subsidy for Premium Motor Spirit (PMS, popularly known as petrol) from inauguration day.
Many in the audience could not believe their ears at the applause and decision, raising the scepter of an early day showdown with labour unions that have threatened trouble under President Buhari, if subsidy was removed.
The President commended the action of the Buhari administration to phase out fuel subsidy which he said would save the country at a time of drying resources.
Speaking extempore, away from the official speech released to journalists, the new President said he had gone through the budget for the year and did not find any provision for subsidy, and announced the death of the controversial policy.
“We shall instead re-channel the funds into better investment in public infrastructure, education, health care and jobs that will materially improve the lives of millions.”
But he has appealed to Nigerians to burry political differences and join him in a new journey of healing, nation-building and economic prosperity.
In his inaugural address after taking the oaths of office and allegiance administered by the Chief Justice of Nigeria Justice Kayode Ariwoola, at the Eagles Square, Abuja, Tinubu pledged to be a president for all, irrespective of the circumstances of history and political differences.
As he took the oath and signed the dotted lines, a gracious former president Muhammadu Buhari and his wife Aisha as well Senator Oluremi Tinubu, the wife of the new president, and other family members stood by, watching with admiration.
Before Tinubu took the stage for the oath of office, the CJN had administered similar oaths on Vice President Kashim Shettima.
President Tinubu who was symbolically dressed in the national colours of green and white, charged Nigerians to not allow the opportunity for a greater development of the country to slip away.
“Our constitution and laws give us a nation on paper. We must work harder at bringing these noble documents to life by strengthening the bonds of economic collaboration, social cohesion, and cultural understanding. Let us develop a shared sense of fairness and equity.
“The South must not only seek good for itself but must understand that its interests are served when good comes to the North. The North must see the South likewise.
“Whether from the winding creeks of the Niger Delta, the vastness of the northern savannah, the boardrooms of Lagos, the bustling capital of Abuja, or the busy markets of Onitsha, you are all my people. As your president, I shall serve with prejudice toward none but compassion and amity towards all,” President Tinubu said.
He said in its over 60 years history Nigeria has endured hardships that would have made other societies crumble, but for it’s resilience and strength of its diversity the country has remained intact.
“To the surprise of many but not to ourselves, we have more firmly established this land as a democracy in both word and deed,” he said.
The president stated that, “This handover symbolizes our trust in God, our enduring faith in representative governance and our belief in our ability to reshape this nation into the society it was always meant to be.”
To advance the common vision of a better Nigeria, the president solicited the support of all Nigerians “to join me in making Nigeria a more perfect nation and democracy such that the Nigerian ideal becomes and forever remains the Nigerian reality”.
President Tinubu explained that though he fought hard to win the February 2023 election, the win does not make him any more Nigerian than his opponents, who he pledged to relate to as compatriots.
“The outcome reflected the will of the people. However, my victory does not render me any more Nigerian than my opponents. Nor does it render them any less patriotic.
“They shall forever be my fellow compatriots. And I will treat them as such. They represent important constituencies and concerns that wisdom dare not ignore,” he said.
He described the election that brought him to power as tough but fairly won, and dedicated his victory to the country with a promise to do his all to advance its progress.
“This is the proudest day of my life. But this day does not belong to me. It belongs to you, the people of Nigeria,” he said.
On the economy, President Tinubu said his administration would target a higher GDP growth and significantly reduce unemployment.
He promised to offer budgetary reform that would stimulate the economy without engendering inflation.
“Second, industrial policy will utilize the full range of fiscal measures to promote domestic manufacturing and lessen import dependency.
“Third, electricity will become more accessible and affordable to businesses and homes alike. Power generation should nearly double and transmission and distribution networks improved. We will encourage states to develop local sources as well.”
He said his administration would review all complaints by investors about multiple taxation and “various anti-investment inhibitions.
“We shall ensure that investors and foreign businesses repatriate their hard earned dividends and profits home.”
President Tinubu said “security shall be the top priority of our administration because neither prosperity nor justice can prevail amidst insecurity and violence”
To tackle unemployment, Tinubu reiterated the salience of creating “meaningful opportunities for our youth”, as he pledged to honour his campaign commitment of one million new jobs in the digital economy.
“Our government also shall work with the National Assembly to fashion an omnibus Jobs and Prosperity bill. This bill will give our administration the policy space to embark on labour-intensive infrastructural improvements, encourage light industry and provide improved social services for the poor, elderly and vulnerable.”
President Tinubu said Nigeria’s monetary policy needs thorough housecleaning as he charged the Central Bank of Nigeria to work towards a unified exchange rate.
“This will direct funds away from arbitrage into meaningful investment in the plant, equipment and jobs that power the real economy.”
President Tinubu said his administration would treat both new and old naira notes as legal tender, saying despite it’s intended merits, the controversial currency swap policy of the CBN “was too harshly applied” given the number of unbanked Nigerians”.
The President said his “primary foreign policy objective must be the peace and stability of the West African subregion and the African continent,” promising to work with ECOWAS, the AU and willing partners in the international community to end extant conflicts and to resolve new ones.