Nigeria’s Presidency And The Traditions Of Transition

There are a number of protocols to be complied with. And while some appear more ceremonial than others, essentially, they all offer a sense of political stability.


For only the fourth time in Nigeria’s 62-year history, a presidential transition from one democratically elected leader to another is culminated today with the inauguration of Bola Tinubu as President and Commander-in-Chief of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. 

And with it comes a number of rites of passage — including a very literal passing of the baton. But there are a number of other protocols to be complied with. And while some appear more ceremonial than others, essentially, they all offer a sense of political stability.

Below are some of the major activities that make up the traditions of presidential transition:

Transition Committee

Members of the Presidential Transition Council constituted by former President Muhammadu Buhari. (Photo: Office of the Secretary to the Government of the Federation)


Arguably the most significant first step of the entire transition process is the constitution of a Presidential Transition Committee, usually chaired by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF). 

The objective of the team is facilitating and managing the Presidential Transition Programme to ensure a seamless transition of power to the incoming government. This also entails developing the guidelines for the preparation of the handover notes, addressing any questions the incoming administration might have, and coordinating the swearing-in event.

On February 9 this year, two weeks ahead of the 2023 presidential election, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari approved the establishment of a 20-member Presidential Transition Council for facilitating and managing the 2023 transition programme.

Buhari signed the Executive Order No. 14 of 2023 on the Facilitation and Management of Presidential Transitions and the council was later inaugurated on February 14 by SGF Boss Mustapha. 

After winning the election, Tinubu last month wrote to Mustapha to nominate 14 others as additional members of the committee.

In a similar vein, Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, in April 2015 constituted a 27-member transition committee. The transition committee, made up of 14 members from the present government and 13 from the incoming administration, was led by then SGF Anyim Pius Anyim.

Buhari, then an opposition member, also set up another 19-member committee to “develop a clear framework for liaison with the out-going administration with the aim of itemising the most important or most urgent issues confronting the in-coming government”.

Receipt Of Handover Notes And Baton

Tinubu receives the transition documents from Buhari on Thursday, May 25, 2023


After a series of deliberations by the presidential transition committee members, handover documents are generated which the outgoing president presents to his or her successor.

Three weeks ago, Buhari handed over his administration’s transition documents to Tinubu at the State House Conference Centre in Abuja.

The files contained three key documents comprising briefing notes on each of nine priority areas covering key sectors. A compendium capturing the priority programmes and projects implemented by his administration as well as a Policy Status update were also handed to the then President-elect.

Tinubu was also handed the Baton of Service, which indicates that government is a continuum.

Two Houses And A Revolving Door 

Buhari gives Tinubu tour of the State House in Abuja on Friday, May 26, 2023


Now, how does one deal with the occupancy of the Presidential Palace in the midst of a transition? In one word, evacuate.

To afford the State House staff sufficient time to make the home to the liking of the new president, the incumbent and his/her family relocate to Glass House as the incoming president’s family takes up residence in Defence House — both situated within the expansive presidential estate often referred to as Aso Rock.

Traditionally, Glass House plays a crucial role in the transition of power, providing a symbolic and literal space for the outgoing president, leaving room for the incoming president to fully take charge, as Mrs Aisha Buhari explained to the new First Lady, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, while giving her a tour of the home.

With the Buhari family relocating to Glass House, Tinubu and his wife also moved into Defence House in April.

Dissolving The Cabinet

A session of the FEC meeting on Wednesday, September 11, 2019


One other expectation of the outgoing president is that they would dissolve their Federal Executive Council (FEC) as they exit office. The council, comprising the entirety of ministers and ministers of state, would then be mandated to hand over to the permanent secretaries of their respective ministries. 

Though Buhari had waited six months to appoint his first cabinet in 2015, he wasted no time in dissolving it at the end of his first term, asking the ministers to hand over their duties by May 28. 

During his exit from office, he did things a little differently. Subverting all expectation that he would stick to the tradition of ordering the cabinet members to quit ahead of Tinubu’s inauguration, the former president refused to dissolve his cabinet during the valedictory session of the FEC meeting last Wednesday.

Instead, he directed his ministers to return to their offices and continue work until May 29.

National Honours

Buhari confers the GCFR national honour on Tinubu on Thursday, May 25, 2023


Before stepping down, the outgoing president customarily confers national honours on the incoming president and vice president. The titles? Grand Commander of the Order of the Federal Republic (GCFR) and Grand Commander of the Order of the Niger (GCON), respectively.

With this singular act by Buhari, last Thursday, Tinubu joined an exclusive list of GCFR honourees that includes past civilian and military presidents, the late Chief Moshood Abiola, Muammar Gaddafi, Nelson Mandela, Obafemi Awolowo, and Queen Elizabeth II.

Buhari confers the GCON national honour on Shettima on Thursday, May 25, 2023


Shettima also received the GCON title, like his predecessor Prof. Yemi Osinbajo before him, and other reverred Nigerians such as Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Mike Adenuga, and Aliko Dangote.

The investiture was held at the State House Conference Centre in Abuja as part of the inauguration.

Tour Of Aso Rock

Buhari takes Tinubu on a tour of the Council Chambers on Friday, May 26, 2023


The incoming president’s tour of the Presidential Villa at the invitation of the incumbent is a tradition that goes all the way back to Olusegun Obasanjo presidency.

On his penultimate day in office, May 28, 2007, the former president took his successor, Umaru Yar’Adua, around the State House, showing him the various facilities, including the President’s office, meeting rooms, the FEC Chambers, the Press Auditorium, the Tea Room, and the residence.

Likewise, Jonathan showed Buhari around the State House on his second to last day as president, during which the then incoming president was presented with the handover notes.

Last Friday, it was Tinubu’s turn to receive the grand tour, courtesy of Buhari. After their observance of the Friday prayers in the Presidential Villa mosque, they visited some departments of the State House, including the Council Chamber and Press Gallery.

Osinbajo also did the rounds, taking Shettima on a familiarisation tour of the Vice President’s wing of the Villa. The new VP described the experience as an opportunity to exchange ideas on how to move the nation forward.

Farewell Address

Buhari during his farewell address to the nation on Sunday, May 28, 2023


One of the final activities the outgoing president embarks on is a farewell address to Nigerians.

This is an avenue for the president to give his final thoughts on his journey and highlight issues of note. For Buhari, he was leaving Nigeria better than he met it in 2015. In his address on national television last Sunday, he reflected on the past eight years with a sense of fulfillment and progress for the country under his watch.

But not all farewell presidential speeches are done in a special broadcast. After conceding defeat at the 2015 poll, Jonathan gave his final remarks at a farewell service organised in his honour by the Anglican Communion and held at the Cathedral Church of Advent Life Camp Gwarimpa, Abuja.

In his message to Nigerians after the service, the former president said his decision to concede defeat was not an easy one, but that he saw no reason why anyone should shed blood because of his political ambition.

Praying for the success of the incoming administration, he pledged that as long as he lives, he would continue to do his best for peace to reign in the country.

The Inauguration

Bola Tinubu (middle) is sworn in as Nigeria’s President on May 29, 2023 at the Eagle Square in Abuja. Photo: Channels TV/Sodiq Adelakun


Ahead of the new president’s inauguration, a series of events are organised to commemorate the occasion. The events comprise the Presidential Inauguration Public Lecture and Juma’at Prayer, inter-denominational church service, non-religious Presidential Inauguration Lecture, and Dinner/Gala Night.

The aforementioned events dovetail into the D-Day — the inauguration.

In many respects, the May 29 swearing-in is the final step of the presidential transition process, often necessitating the declaration of a public holiday in advance.

Held on the sprawling Eagle Square grounds in Abuja with all the pomp and ceremony it deserves, the event is typically graced by a who’s who of Nigerians and world leaders.

The order of events begins with the arrival of invited dignitaries, followed by the president-elect and vice president-elect, outgoing vice president, and then president. After the last two take their last salutes, separately, the outgoing aide-de-camp hands over the old military colours to the outgoing president.

The Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) swears in the new vice president, followed by his/her principal. The outgoing president then hands over the new colours to the new president and instrument of office.

With that, the now ex-president leaves for the airport in a vehicle stripped of the presidential emblems, en route to their home state on the Presidential Jet NAF 001 for the last time.

The new president then mounts the inspection car to take their first salute and inspect the Guards of Honour. 

Next, the inaugural presidential address is delivered, and soon after, they are driven to the Villa in the official presidential vehicle bearing the presidential seal, closing out the ceremony.

The new president hosts VIP guests, including visiting presidents and heads of state, heads of delegations, ambassadors, development partners, former ministers, and members of the National Assembly, among others.

In the evening, a state banquet is held where a toast will be made to the new president.

New Portraits And Digital Face

The official portrait of President Bola Tinubu


An update of the official portraits of the president and vice president, particularly at Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs), brings a sense of finality to the transition. (It is also not unusual to find street traders hawking unofficial portraits of the new leaders.)

With the retirement of all portraits bearing the image of the last president and his deputy, a new administration becomes that much more tangible for the governed.

Further crystallising the acceptance of a new administration, particularly for the masses, is the official takeover of social media accounts serving the new president, vice president, and their offices.