Nigeria’s election may have ended with a winner and a loser, but it was more about the process than the candidates. And there, great gains were made. For the first time in the country’s short electoral history, an incumbent lost. By holding a politician accountable, Nigerians have made it more likely that their leaders will be responsive in the future. President-elect General Muhammadu Buhari can build on this progress by appointing a cabinet that reflects Nigeria’s ethnic diversity, making good on his reputation as an anti-corruption crusader, and providing quick signals about economic policy to shore up his credibility with investors.
Voting began on March 28 and was extended to March 29. Counting took another two days thanks to technical glitches with a new voter-identification system. But by Tuesday afternoon in Nigeria, with totals for most of the country’s 36 states submitted, it was clear that Buhari had won more votes than outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan. The challenger’s camp soon reported that Jonathan had called to admit defeat and offer his congratulations. Buhari’s inauguration is scheduled for May 29. Assuming a smooth and peaceful transfer of power, the focus will soon move to how he will pick his ministers.
For now, however, the majority of Nigerians seem overjoyed. Twitter and call-in shows were a clamor of happy voices gushing over the historic election. They heaped praise on the Independent National Electoral Commission for overseeing a complicated and thorny process, and gave thanks to Jonathan for reportedly conceding. Nigerians can pat themselves on the back, too, for largely peaceful and orderly polling days.
Indeed, after a long and tense campaign, which featured a six-week delay to the original voting date, there was actually less violence this time than last, in 2011. When Nigerian financial markets opened Monday morning, the prices of stocks and bonds rose in response. The governments of the United States and the United Kingdom warned about troubling reports of politicized ballot, and at various points, both of the
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