Nigeria welcomed its new president yesterday, the military leader and northern Muslim, Muhammadu Buhari. Before the ballot count officially came to an end, his rival, Goodluck Jonathan made the call to concede and congratulate Buhari on his win.
The news has brought shockwaves throughout Nigeria and around the world because this is the first time in the country’s history that an incumbent has lost a presidential election. This is also the first time in 13 years Nigeria has seen a president from its northern states take office during its 16 years as a democracy. It remains to be seen how Buhari’s performance as president will compare to the previous administration, as well as how his military background will impact the future of the Boko Haram and its victims.
At age 72, Buhari capitalized on his past experience leading Nigeria in the 80s, his military background and his roots in Northern Nigeria to win over voters in this year’s election. Since his two-year reign as a virtual dictator from 1983 to 1985, Buhari has run for president in Nigeria four times. In his last bid for office, he ran with the old Congress for Progressive Change. This time, Buhari changed his party strategy which likely helped secure his win, running with the All Progressive Congress that allied his northern base with smaller, marginalized political parties in other parts of the country.
The concept of change was also a major part of Buhari’s campaign strategy. He was able to use voters’ frustrations with Jonathan to his advantage and promised to revolutionize Nigeria’s economy and national security while obliterating the Boko Haram and government corruption. His religious and regional views advanced his angle even further as Boko Haram has been terrorizing Muslims in northern parts of the country for six years. There’s been a count of 13,000 people that have died at the hands of the infamous terrorist group since 2009. Buhari’s religious status painted him as the perfect military answer to a very serious military problem.
Goodluck Jonathan has been in office since 2010 and he has been heavily criticized for taking too many years to aggressively tackle the Boko Haram in regions where he happens to be less popular. (Jonathan himself is a Christian from southern Nigeria.) Jonathan gained further criticism for pushing back the elections by six weeks.
The former president cited concerns about violence from Boko Haram and among civilians; tensions have risen to extreme heights in previous elections due to divides among religious and ethnic groups. Furthermore, the religious, education-hating thugs have used murder and intimidation tactics to rig election results. It is said that 800 people died after the results were announced in the 2011 elections. However, others took issue with Jonathan’s postponement of the election, arguing that it unfairly skewed the race in his favor because it gave him more time to combat the Boko Haram and gain confidence in the Nigerian public.
Time will tell how Boko Haram proceeds now that Buhari is taking office. Boko Haram has been cited for expressing their support for both candidates among their different, internal groups. However, while they did not strongly support Jonathan, they stood against Nigerian democracy in ways that were helpful to his campaign and were antagonistic to Buhari’s platform.
We’ll keep you updated on Nigeria’s latest news.