In Brief

Nigeria: can Muhammadu Buhari really defeat Boko Haram?

New president vows to succeed where Goodluck Jonathan failed and rid Islamist militants from the north

Muhammadu Buhari has officially been sworn in as president of Nigeria after ousting Goodluck Jonathan in elections in March.

In Nigeria's first democratic transition of power since military rule, Buhari was greeted with loud cheers from the crowd as he pledged allegiance to his country and constitution. Afterwards, the announcer declared to the audience: "Change has come to Nigeria."

In his final week in office, Jonathan offered a prayer for his successor, urging him to "build a stronger and more prosperous nation," The Guardian reports.

"He will need prayers to have the courage and wisdom to confront the huge tasks he will inherit immediately after he is sworn in," writes Nigerian journalist Sola Odunfa. His many challenges include a weakening currency, endemic corruption and the insurgency from Islamist group Boko Haram.

During the election campaign, Buhari repeatedly criticised the government's handling of the security crisis in the north of the country and vowed to take a tougher approach to dealing with the militants.

"Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace," he said in his first speech after winning the election. "We should spare no effort in tackling the insurgency. We have a tough and urgent job to do."

However, Goodluck Jonathan made similar promises throughout his presidency, and some have questioned whether Buhari will be able to deliver on his pledge.

Security, particularly in the North, topped the list of issues Nigerians wanted the president to address in 2015, Channel 4 News reports.  Buhari received over 90 per cent of the vote in Borno state, a region which has seen the worst of Boko Haram's violence.

Many Nigerians believe the former military ruler – who himself survived an assassination attempt by the Islamist militants – is the only person capable of addressing the threat.

They feel "his military background and his disciplinarian credentials are just what the whole country needs to get to grips with the Islamist insurgency in the north," the BBC reports.

A Muslim from the north who has previously given his support to Sharia, Buhari has repeatedly been forced to deny allegations that he is a radical Islamist.

Boko Haram militants have killed more than 8,000 people since the start of 2014, and kidnapped hundreds more, including more than two hundred schoolgirls from Chibok. 

Despite having the biggest army in West Africa and the largest economy on the continent, Nigeria's military has consistently failed to push back the militants. Security analysts point to a lack of investment and corruption as key reasons.

Before the elections, Buhari blamed President Goodluck Jonathan's weak military approach for the rise in the insurgency. The general also vowed to sweep out the corruption that is endemic in both politics and the military.

"He retains a rare reputation for honesty among Nigeria's politicians, both military and civilian," says the BBC.

Nigerian election: Muhammadu Buhari ousts Goodluck Jonathan

1 April

Opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari has won the Nigerian election, beating the incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan by more than 2.5 million votes in the country's first democratic transition of power since military rule.

Thousands took to the streets to celebrate his historic victory, many of them brandishing brooms  – a symbol of Buhari's pledge to sweep out corruption – and chanting "change, change". 

"The victory writes a new chapter in the country's often turbulent history after six military coups since independence in 1960 and 16 years of unbroken civilian rule by Jonathan's party," says South Africa's Mail and Guardian.

Jonathan telephoned Buhari shortly after the final results were announced to concede defeat and congratulate him on his win. He said he had given his "best wishes" to the president-elect and urged "those who may feel aggrieved to follow due process in seeking redress," the BBC reports.

Buhari thanked Jonathan for peacefully relinquishing power. "There had always been this fear that he might not want to concede but he will remain a hero for this move," his spokesperson added. "The tension will go down dramatically."

The close election was marred by allegations of voting irregularities, glitches in new computer equipment and sporadic violence from militant group Boko Haram. Despite this, the election has been largely praised by international observers. "I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word," said Jonathan.

"Of course in a close election there will be many voters who are not pleased with this outcome but the whole process is a sign that democracy is deepening in Nigeria," says the BBC's Will Ross.

Nigerians are beginning to believe that it is possible to remove leaders through the ballot box. "It's not about Muslim or Christian or any party. It's about politicians knowing that if you don't do the job, we can kick you out," said one voter.

The 72-year old former army general led the country's military regime in the 1980s, but now describes himself as a "converted democrat". A Muslim from the north of Nigeria, Buhari reportedly survived an assassination attempt by Boko Haram. Although he has a poor human rights record, he is widely described as "incorruptible."

Buhari faces many challenges when he assumes power in May. He will be expected to deal with the threat of Boko Haram, wipe out endemic corruption and revive an economy that is struggling with a fall in the price of oil.  

"After this historic election, the former military general will know the potency of the call for change could come back to bite him," says Ross.

Nigerian election: opposition leader Buhari in the lead

March 31

Nigerian opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari holds a lead of more than 2.5 million votes, putting him ahead of incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in an election that has been marred by allegations of voting irregularities and violence.

The final result of the closest elections since the end of military rule is still difficult to call, as counting continues in several of Jonathan's strongholds in the south.

The People's Democratic Party (PDP) said it was "unperturbed by the results of the elections so far," and vowed that results from its strongholds will "overwhelm" those from the north and give Jonathan "a clean and clear victory at the end of the day."

Some experts say it will be almost impossible for Jonathan to overcome Buhari's significant lead due to low voter turnout in some of the southern delta regions where support for the PDP has traditionally been strong, the Daily Telegraph reports.

Votes will continue to be counted across the country today, with final results expected by the end of the day. The winning candidate needs to secure a majority of the votes as well as at least 25 per cent support in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory in order to avoid a run-off.

This is former military leader Buhari's fourth attempt at the Nigerian presidency. "His prospects this time have been buoyed by frustration over endemic corruption, criticism over Jonathan's handling of Boko Haram's six-year Islamist uprising and a better organised opposition," reports AFP (as quoted in the Mail Online).

The elections in Africa's largest economic power have been disrupted by outbreaks of violence by Boko Haram militants and protests by opposition supporters, as well as conflicting reports of vote rigging.

The US and the UK have issued a joint statement expressing concerns over possible "political interference" in the count, reports the BBC.

"So far, we have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process," said UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond and US Secretary of State John Kerry. "But there are disturbing indications that the collation process, where the votes are finally counted, may be subject to deliberate political interference."

The majority of international observers have praised Nigeria for its handling of the elections, despite the late delivery of some election materials and technical problems with new voter identification equipment. Kayode Idowu, spokesman for the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), said he found "no evidence of political interference".

Counting underway in tight Nigerian election

30 March

The winner of the Nigerian election could be revealed today, following a poll marred by technical issues and violence.

Counting is under way in the presidential election, with the incumbent president, Goodluck Jonathan, facing a significant challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. It is expected to be the closest result since the end of military rule in 1999.

Sky News's Alex Crawford has forecast victory for Buhari. He said: "Early indications are that the voting is going to [the] opposition's way and if that is the case political history will have been made here as the first democratic transfer of power." However, the Daily Telegraph insists the result is "too close to call".

Polling spilled into a second day in some parts of the country after problems with new electronic card readers. Boko Haram fighters attacked voting stations in north-east Nigeria and a governor demanded elections be cancelled in an oil-rich southern state yesterday as the count started.

Thousands of Nigerians have taken to the streets in protest over alleged voting irregularities and reports of killings of opposition campaign workers. The All Progressive Congress (APC) claims scores of its members have been killed.

The APC described the election as "a sham and a charade". It added: "Whatever trash will be announced as the result of today's election is not acceptable to us."

But the United Nations secretary-general Ban Ki-moon has praised the "determination and resilience" of Nigerian voters.


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