Mubarak Sirajo Sidi hid weary eyes behind circular gold rimmed spectacles. He stood on a grassy triangular Island in the middle of an expressway, called Unity Fountain in Nigeria’s political center and capital city Abuja. It was Inauguration day, a day when the recently president Goodluck Jonathan formally handed over federal powers to new president Muhammadu Buhari through a swearing in ceremony at Eagle Square.
At Unity Fountain, which was four minutes away from the square, there was also a distinctly pro-Buhari energy, matched in intensity only by the Hausa language praise songs blaring from the speakers.
“Do you know why I wear these glasses?” said Sidi, “ It is not because I need them, it is because of Mahatma Gandhi,” he added, explaining his eccentric look. For Sidi, 29, the glasses are a symbol of civil disobedience, a nod to Gandhi’s iconic spectacles and his own zeal for radical activism.
Sidi, is an assistant lecturer of English language at the Liberal Studies department of the Federal Polytechnic in the north-western town of Kaura Namoda, Zamfara state. He travelled six hours by road to physically witness the inauguration ceremony of Buhari whom he describes as “a man with personal and public integrity” with “a credential that Africa badly needs.” He also compares him to Mahatma Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln.
Like many Nigerians, Sidi is scathingly critical of all levels of the Nigerian government. Though Buhari stands as an exception. Nigeria’s fifth democratically-elected president is beyond Sidi’s criticism and he spoke of high expectations for the new president, particularly in tackling issues like federal and state corruption.
A week before the ceremony, Nigeria’s electricity generation plummeted to 1000 MW, a supply barely adequate for a country of 180 million people, a fact Buhari noted in his inaugural speech “ Continuous tinkering with the structures of power supply and distribution have only brought darkness, frustration, misery, and resignation among Nigerians, ”said Buhari earlier that day, pledging to clean up the sector.
As the sun set over Abuja people that did not receive special invitations to attend the swearing in ceremony crowded around a battered red Honda, celebrating in their own way.
Petty traders, groundnut sellers, paper boys and street children danced to Hausa pop tunes and watched music videos from a TV strapped to the roof of the red Honda. Sidi stood quietly at the fringes and watched.
In the run up to the national elections in April, Sidi actively campaigned for the new president, even setting up a Facebook group called “Muhammadu Buhari 2015” with 1, 287 members. He carried a plastic bag full of Buhari memorabilia that included three large framed photographs of the new president.
For several months, Sidi has not received his monthly salary from the state government he says. Just last month he lost his family support network, his father, his Aunt and grandmother, within the space of a few weeks. A loss he blames on the inadequate care they received at the general hospital in Zamfara state.
Despite these hard times, Sidi is optimistic for the future. He sees Buhari’s role as president as a lifeline for everyday Nigerians like himself.
“For the last twelve years I have been an unapologetic Buharian, trying to see a huge change in Nigeria” he said he eyes welling up with tears “ today I am shedding tears of joy because I want a better future for my present generation and the those unborn,” he added.