Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Historic First, Nigeria's Former Dictator Buhari Beats Incumbent President

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

In Historic First, Nigeria's Former Dictator Buhari Beats Incumbent President

Article excerpt

Gen. Muhammadu Buhari was announced as Nigeria's new president on Tuesday in a stunning victory after a draining and dramatic election in Africa's richest and most populous nation.

In a statement released just before the final result was announced, Mr. Buhari gave thanks to the Nigerian people for choosing him and said that President Goodluck Jonathan had called to congratulate him. Buhari is due to make an acceptance speech later tonight.

The win was historic: Buhari is the first candidate to defeat an incumbent president since Nigeria restored democracy in 1999. He will be the second to rule Nigeria as both a military dictator and as a freely elected president, after former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

"This is a very good political development in our country. It shows the progress we have made ...and what is possible when people want change and work hard at it no matter how long it takes," says Niyi Akintola, a senior lawyer.

Buhari's All Progressive Congress (APC) party gained the lead halfway through a count that was publicly tallied and broadcast over two days from the electoral commission headquarters in Abuja. He ultimately beat Mr. Jonathan and his People's Democratic Party (PDP) by over 2 million votes.

Buhari also carried 21 of 36 states, including states that Mr. Jonathan was expected to win like Benue, Ondo and Kogi. In Kano, one of Nigeria's largest states and a Buhari stronghold, he received 1.9 million votes to Jonathan's 215,800.

The wide margin stands as a referendum of Jonathan's six years in office, during which the Boko Haram insurgency grew and Nigeria officially became Africa's largest economy.

Now efforts are turning toward healing a country after a campaign that raised tribal and religious ire. Before the final tally was announced the APC released a statement calling its supporters to remain calm and peaceful.

Tackling Boko HaramAs president, Buhari is tasked with ensuring the acceptance of his presidency by all of Nigeria, tackling Boko Haram in the north, and reviving Nigeria's economy. As a result, says Obo Effanga, a program manager at ActionAid Nigeria, a development agency, he "has little time to even consider a celebration."

"He has to boost citizens' confidence, rebuild the economy, fight insurgency, fight inequality, cut down on the cost of running the government and stem corruption," says Mr. Effanga. "He has to run an all-inclusive government that recognizes the whole gamut of our diversities."

Buhari's military background was touted throughout the campaign. He cited his experience crushing the Maitasine sect, which ravaged parts of the north in the 1980s, as his credentials for taking on Boko Haram.

"I believe his approach will be different, "says Richard Akinnola, a human rights activist. "When he takes over, things will change because he is a retired general. …

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