Nigeria swears in new president

Presidential candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu arrives at a polling station before casting his ballot in Ikeja, Lagos, Nigeria on February 25

Bola Tinubu won the February elections with 37% of the vote, a victory disputed in court

The next president of Africa’s largest democracy, Nigeria, is due to be sworn in on Monday.

Bola Tinubu, 71, won the February elections with the promise of renewed hope – but he faces tough economic and security challenges.

He will succeed President Muhammadu Buhari for two terms amid high inflation, record debt levels and rising cases of kidnapping for ransom.

Mr. Tinubu’s victory is being challenged in court by his two closest rivals.

They say the result was manipulated.

But the incumbent president, who did not stand for re-election after eight years in office, said the results were “credible” and the vote was “fair and transparent”.

Dignitaries from across the continent, including South African President Cyril Ramaphosa, are expected to attend the swearing-in ceremony in the capital, Abuja, reflecting the significance of the event.

Mr. Tinubu may have little time to celebrate. Nigerians expect quick action.

Inflation is at its highest level in almost 18 years, one in three people are unemployed and output from the vital oil industry is shrinking.

He will have to act quickly to convince those who did not vote for him that he is up to it.

The trained accountant is unlikely to be fazed by the challenges. As Governor of Lagos for two terms, he has revitalized Nigeria’s commercial hub – no easy task – and is well aware of the problems.

His allies say he will take the same technocratic, thoughtful approach to leading Nigeria, a vast country of more than 200 million people.

But opponents of the new president say he has lost the vitality he used to forcefully modernize Lagos.

Since the election, he has traveled abroad twice, raising questions about his health. In 2021, he spent months in London being treated for an undisclosed illness.

He brushed off criticism, saying the job doesn’t require the physical fitness of an Olympic athlete – and his associates are quick to remind everyone that US President Joe Biden is older, at 80.

But if the second- and third-placed candidates – Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi – in February’s presidential election are successful, then Mr Tinubu may not stay in power for very long.

The Electoral Court is expected to start hearing the main arguments on Tuesday and the outcome of the case is expected to be known within the next six months.

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