Last week was momentous for Nigeria and for the country’s democratic credentials. On the morning of Tuesday, 30 March, the Chairman of Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, announced that the opposition party’s candidate, Muhammadu Buhari had won the 2015 presidential elections, defeating incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan.
The day was historic and unprecedented in Nigeria’s 16-year democratic history not only because it was the first time that an opposition party had unseated an incumbent president, but also for the fact that the defeated candidate had graciously accepted the electoral verdict by congratulating the winner and deciding to step down.
Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party, an opposition coalition formed in the wake of the 2011 poll, won around three million votes more than the ruling
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Goodluck Jonathan. And, as stipulated by Nigerian electoral law, the APC also received over 25 percent of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states, thereby clinching a landslide a first-round victory.
The emergence of a former army Major-General and ne-time military coup leader as a democratically elected head of state, attests to the strength of Nigerian democracy and the people’s confidence in the power of the ballot to change government’s peacefully. That the electorate decided to give Mr. Buhari a vote of confidence, despite ignoring his three previous presidential election attempts, also underlines their disappointment with the leadership and corruption-marred governments of PDP, which dominated Nigeria’s 16-year democratic experience.
However, observers believe that it was the electorate’s frustration with the government’s inability to provide basic security to the country that nailed the hopes of yet another PDP-led presidency.
During an exclusive interview provided to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, shortly after being elected president, Mr. Buhari underlined theimportance of tackling the security situation. He said, “Instability and insecurity in the north-east and in the Delta area have been with the country long enough… we know how this started and what stage they are now and therefore we are confident that we will rapidly give attention to security in the country and I believe will effectively deal with them in a few months.”
Asked by Ms. Amanpour on what he would do different to tackle the Boko Haram terrorist organization from what the previous government had not already tried, the former army Major General said, “Well, I think firstly we have to register the cooperation of the neighboring countries, Cameroon, Chad and Niger; although efforts were made by this administration, it wasn’t good enough and it was too little too late. We expected the federal government at least four years ago to have sat down with these nations to make sure they don’t allow the terrorists free movement across borders, [host] training facilities and movement of weapons.
This was only done about two months ago.”
Pointing to recent positive outcomes from the multi-national cooperation in combating the terrorist organization and his confidence in the Nigerian armed forces, Mr. Buhari added, “We have enough reinforcement agencies to face the Boko Haram squarely… We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism and I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will.”
However he went on to say that Boko Haram was only one of the challenges that Nigeria faced; equally challenging was the corruption that undermined economic development of the country. “We shall make sure that corruption is eradicated in Nigeria… I think accountability at every step of leadership is one of the ways [of fighting corruption]… People must be held accountable at various levels about public funds and property. And I assure you that if we successfully plug the holes on corruption there can be resources that can be utilized to improve infrastructure.”
During his campaigning for the highest office, the president-elect also made several promises to diversify the nation's economy and give other sectors a boost. He promised to tap the nation's mineral resources for the benefit of all, boost agriculture and provide efficient delivery of healthcare. He promised to create jobs for its teeming unemployed youths and to revamp the education sector. “One of the legacies we can leave for this generation is good education, if that is done, most people will look after themselves," he said.
The newly elected president is scheduled at assume office on 29 May; how successful he will be in implementing his election promises remain to be seen.