Former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari is preparing to formally take over as Nigeria’s elected head of state following his election victory in March 28 elections.
Buhari will attend a swearing-in ceremony in Abuja, the capital, on Friday after becoming the first Nigerian to oust a sitting president through the ballot box.
On Thursday, outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan hosted a dinner event at the state banquet hall in Aso Villa, the presidential villa, to mark his handover to Buhari.
Attending Thursday night’s event were former heads of state, representatives and presidents of various countries.
Earlier on Thursday, Jonathan, who as he entered his final week in office had offered up a prayer for the success of Buhari, showed the president-elect around his new quarters.
The 57-year-old took Buhari and his vice-president-elect Yemi Osinbajo on a tour of Aso Rock before submitting his formal handover notes.
Buhari, 72, takes over as head of Africa’s most populous nation, top economy and leading oil producer as it limps back to normality after fuel shortages that brought the country to a near standstill.
Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) accused Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of orchestrating the fuel crisis to scupper the transition.
But Jonathan told him: “Our administration has done its best to intervene robustly and impact positively on key aspects of our national life.”
Expectations are high, some say too high, that Buhari can fix Nigeria, with corruption seemingly entrenched in public life and decades of mismanagement.
The enormity of his task includes not just preventing further fuel supply problems but bringing an end to the Boko Haram insurgency, which has claimed at least 15,000 lives since 2009.
“Victory is now in sight and within our reach,” said Jonathan, referring to a military offensive that has driven out the armed group from many captured towns and territory in the northeast.
“However, the cost in blood of citizens and heroes and the diversion of national treasures from urgent needs for development have been very high.”
Hundreds of kidnapped women and children have been freed in recent weeks and Jonathan said it was his “sincere hope” that 219 schoolgirls held since April last year would soon be rescued.
Jonathan was criticised for his response to the mass abduction but nothing has been seen or heard from the schoolgirls since May last year, when many of them appeared in a Boko Haram video.
Buhari has said he cannot make promises for their safe return but his government “will do everything in its power to bring them home” and vowed to lead from the front to end the violence.
“What I want first is for him to fight Boko Haram and corruption,” said psychology student Stephen Anongo, 25, as he got his hair cut at a roadside salon in the capital.
“[On Friday] I’m going to spend the little money I have to celebrate with my fellow brothers.”
Heads of state, including South Africa’s Jacob Zuma, and Western dignitaries such as US Secretary of State John Kerry, are to attend Friday’s inauguration, which starts at 9am (0800 GMT).
Roads have been closed around the Eagle Square inauguration venue, where dozens of international flags have been hoisted alongside the Nigerian green and white tri-band and soldiers patrolled.
The venue was surrounded by barbed wire and giant posters of Buhari had been hung, alongside vice-president-elect Osinbajo, as workers rolled out red carpets and arranged flowers.
Nigeria’s federal police chief Solomon Arase said the security measures were imposed “to ward off possible plans by insurgents to carry out widespread violence and coordinated attacks”.
On the streets, traders were gearing up for Friday’s event, selling watches, badges, hats and green and white polo shirts emblazoned with his campaign slogan “Sai Buhari” (Only Buhari).