General Muhammadu Buhari has won the Nigerian Presidential Elections, in a truly historic moment. For the first time since the end of military rule, an opposition party has won an election in a country where power never changes hands.
President Goodluck Jonathan, in swiftly calling General Buhari to congratulate him, adds a final adorning piece to a legacy many Nigerians will not remember well. Whilst his presidency has been beset with controversy his departure falls with uncharacteristic grace, and adds to the precedent of this moment. Nigeria’s free-est and fairest presidential election to date will not spark the degree of post-election violence that previous, bitterly disputed elections have always done.
The election will also be the first that is not settled after legal challenges, but by the popular vote. Results from 35 out of 36 states, along with the FCT (Federal Central Territory), give Buhari an unassailable lead with 53% of votes to Jonathan’s 45%. The final result will be announced by the Electoral Commission, INEC at 8pm.
The announcement of the result from the final state, Borno, will be ceremonial in regards to the outcome, but also fitting. Borno, more than any other state, has borne the brunt of the insurgency by Boko Haram. It is the state where 276 girls were kidnapped almost a year ago, and it is also the state whose vote will close the chapter on a government whose resolve against terrorism hardened only when the politics required it.
There are countless stories to unpin from a gruelling election campaign that took 3 days to complete. The role of technology and civil society groups in tracking the election results have been hugely significant. Thousands of internally displaced citizens in Northern States voted in spite of the threats from Boko Haram to disrupt the elections. And the Chairman of the INEC, Attahiru Jega, resolute under immense pressure, has been the gatekeeper of the most transparent and reformed election process.
But at the core of this presidential election story is a tectonic shift in power. The Muslim, Northern General Buhari, and the Christian, Southern President Jonathan, like Nigeria’s politics, are more than the tags they’re labelled with. Nigerian voters are younger, and markedly more sceptical than ever.
It is infamous that Nigerian politics has corruption, but now it also has balance. With two political forces where it has always had one, Nigerians have a real political choice, and a greater tool to hold.
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