…but will the transition be peaceful?
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has officially conceded defeat in this week’s elections. Initial counts suggest he lost by more than 2 million votes.
Those of you familiar with Nigeria’s political evolution understand what a huge step this concession is toward getting through the election season; operatives on the ground in Nigeria anticipated violence, and for good reason. Fighting following 2011’s highly-contested elections led to the deaths of over 800 people after allegations surfaced that efforts were made to disenfranchise voters unlikely to support the incumbent regime.
So, a public concession is a huge deal—but it’s not been effective at diffusing all tension:
As the scale of this weekend’s electoral landslide became clear, President Goodluck Jonathan called Buhari on Tuesday to concede defeat to the opposition leader, Buhari’s camp said, an unprecedented step that should help to defuse anger among Jonathan’s supporters.
In the religiously mixed northern city of Kaduna, where 800 people were killed in violence after the last elections in 2011, Buhari supporters streamed onto the streets, waving flags, dancing and singing in celebration.
There was no word from Jonathan himself*. But supporters in the Niger Delta, the defeated president’s home area and the heart of Africa’s biggest oil and gas industry, were despondent.
“Goodluck is a stupid man for conceding, a disappointment for Nigeria,” one waitress in the oil city of Port Harcourt said, throwing a beer bottle top at a fridge.
(*As mentioned above, Jonathan did eventually offer a public concession.)
Jonathan’s concession emphasized the continued push for inclusion in the democratic process. He said, “I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word,” and that “nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian.”
So, Muhammadu Buhari is set to take power.
The former military ruler managed to win more than 25% of votes in 24 states, meaning he avoided the possibility of a run-off with Mr Jonathan.
He dominated the country’s north-western states, which have suffered most from attacks by Islamist militant group Boko Haram.
In Borno state, one of the worst-affected by Islamist violence, Gen Buhari won 94% of the vote.
It is the fourth time that Gen Buhari, 72, has sought the presidency.
He ruled Nigeria from January 1984 until August 1985, taking charge after a military coup in December 1983.
Buhari got mixed reviews when he was in control of Nigeria’s government, but many supporters now claim that he is in the best position to harness the power of coalition forces to defeat Boko Haram.
I’m skeptical that Nigeria will make it through this announcement without violence, but anything is possible. Boko Haram did their best to prevent a fair and free election, and I expect them to take full advantage of any dissension or upheaval.
The regime change is unprecedented—I just hope the new figureheads understand what they’ve gotten themselves into.DONATE
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