Tags: buhari | nigeria | incumbent

Buhari Does Unthinkable in Nigeria, Beats Incumbent in Election

Wednesday, 01 Apr 2015 08:52 AM

After three failed runs for the presidency, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari accomplished something few Nigerians believed possible: defeating an incumbent in an election that didn’t collapse into widespread violence.

The improbability of what Buhari, 72, did is clear from history. His victory marked the first time an opposition candidate beat a sitting president since independence from the U.K. in 1960. And while at least 80 people were killed during the election campaign, according to the European Union, and there were some allegations of rigging, most international and local observers called the vote relatively free and fair.

As the electoral authorities in Abuja, the capital, neared the end of announcing the results, celebrations broke out across Buhari’s strongholds in the mainly Muslim north, with people honking car horns and chanting “only Buhari.”

“We are happy about everything and it was peaceful,” said Baba Shagari Elisha, a 27-year-old security guard in Abuja. “It was how God wanted it.”

President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat on Tuesday evening, an unprecedented step in a country accustomed to post- election violence and turmoil.

“I promised the country free and fair elections,” he said in a statement. “I have kept my word.”

The planning for Buhari’s win over Jonathan, a 57-year-old southern Christian, by a 52.4 percent to 43.7 margin, went back two years ago when three major opposition parties decided to unite to unseat the ruling People’s Democratic Party, which governed Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999.

Unified Opposition

That alliance, the All Progressives Congress, helped Buhari make inroads in the southwest, home of the Yoruba people where Christians and Muslims live side by side, as well as in some central regions that he didn’t win in previous elections, said Tunji Lardner, executive director of the West African NGO Network.

Buhari was aided by the failure of the Jonathan government to end a six-year-old war against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram that’s killed more than 13,000 people and an economy that’s reeling from a 50 percent drop in the price of oil, its main export, since June.

“Jonathan’s government didn’t benefit me at all, we are all one, everybody should benefit,” Cyprian Nnaji, a 29-year- old building contractor, said in Abuja. “Nothing is working.”

Buhari and Jonathan had signed peace accords promising that their supporters would not react violently to the result. After Jonathan defeated Buhari in 2011, about 800 people were killed in post-election clashes.

‘Maturing Democracy’

“The successful conduct of these polls is a testament to the maturity of Nigeria’s democracy,” United Nations Secretary- General Ban Ki-moon said in an e-mailed statement.

Kelechi Uzogu, a 46-year-old Lagos-based banker, was so frightened that the elections would spark violence that he took his wife and children back to his home state of Imo.

“The victory of Buhari and the fact that nobody was cheated in the election helped to calm the country,” he said.

In most areas, the worst fears didn’t happen, and Nigerians voting to change the government, for once, got their wish.

“There are all sorts of tectonic shifts that occured in the political landscape and it has been a long time coming,” Lardner of the West African NGO Network said by phone from Abuja. “Nigerians want to change their political system, somehow the will of the people prevailed.”


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After three failed runs for the presidency, former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari accomplished something few Nigerians believed possible: defeating an incumbent in an election that didn't collapse into widespread violence.The improbability of what Buhari, 72, did is clear...
buhari, nigeria, incumbent
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2015-52-01
Wednesday, 01 Apr 2015 08:52 AM
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