Upheaval: Nigerian opposition wins presidential election

African securityUpheaval: Nigerian opposition wins presidential election
Published 1 April 2015

Former General Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the Nigerian opposition, has won a decisive victory over the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in the Nigerian general election. The result of the election, held over the weekend, may signal a dramatic shift in Nigeria’s political history: If Jonathan allows for a smooth and peaceful transition of power, it will mark the first time in Nigeria’s 55-year history of a civilian government handing power to an opposition party to form another civilian government. For most of its history, Nigeria has been ruled by military governments. Jonathan has conceded defeat, but it is not clear whether elements in Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would be willing to relinquish power after holding it since 1999. Based on Nigeria’s checkered political history, it is possible that the PDP may fight the results in the courts, on the streets – or even from the barracks. The Nigerian election result would likely have a ripple effect across the continent, from South Africa, where the seemingly unassailable African National Congress (ANC) has held power since 1994, to countries such as Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, which do no more than pay lip service to the concept of pluralist democracy and opposition politics. The election results follow several unexpected political upheavals in Africa which may suggest incumbents today can no longer afford to ignore the will of the people and cling to power indefinitely.

Former General Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of the Nigerian opposition, has won a decisive victory over the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in the Nigerian general election. The result of the election, held over the weekend, may signal a dramatic shift in Nigeria’s political history: If Jonathan allows for a smooth and peaceful transition of power, it will mark the first time in Nigeria’s 55-year history of a civilian government handing power to an opposition party to form another civilian government.
For most of its history, Nigeria has been ruled by military governments.
The New York Times reports that by Tuesday night, election tallies showed Buhari leading with nearly 15 million votes, well ahead of Jonathan, with 12.8 million votes.
The president called Buhari to concede defeat, according to Buhari’s party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for the APC party, said: “He telephoned Muhammadu Buhari to congratulate him on with his victory. He will be a hero to concede because the tension will go down dramatically.”
Mohammed told supporters at the APC headquarters in Abuja that at “exactly 5.05[p.m.] the call came through. So anybody who now tries to foment trouble is doing it on their own.”
Analysts said that the stunning victory of the opposition was a milestone for a pluralist, multiparty democracy on the continent. Still, it was not clear whether elements in Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) would be willing to relinquish power after holding it since 1999. Based on Nigeria’s checkered political history, it is possible that the PDP may fight the results in the courts, on the streets – or even from the barracks.
Buhari, a 72-year-old Muslim from northern Nigeria, headed a military government for about twenty months in 1982-83, and gained a reputation a strict, no-nonsense ruler. He emphasized his military background in the current campaign, vowing to clean up corruption and uplift the morale of the armed forces.
His All Progressives Congress party carried Nigeria’s two biggest cities, Lagos and Kano, and gained impressive victories in its northern strongholds. Jonathan’s votes came mostly from his home territory in the south, which includes the oil-rich Niger delta. His campaign was hampered, however, but what appears to be a lackluster election-day get-out-the- vote effort.

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