A former coup plotter is Nigeria’s new president, the first in the country’s history to oust an incumbent in an election.
Muhammadu Buhari, who seized power in a military coup 30 years ago, swamped President Goofluck Jonathan in Tuesday’s election, putting him in charge of Africa’s biggest economy and one of its most turbulent democracies.
Jonathan called Buhari to concede defeat to the opposition leader, an unprecedented gesture that should help to defuse anger among Jonathan’s supporters, Reuters reported Wednesday.
But Jonathan’s supporters in the Niger Delta, his 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.
Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been in charge since the end of army rule in 1999 but had been losing popularity due to a string of corruption scandals and the rise of Boko Haram’s Islamist insurgency in the northeast.
A final tally of the results compiled by Reuters gave the sandal-wearing and ascetic Buhari 15.4 million votes against 13.3 million for Jonathan, a margin of victory that is likely to render any legal challenges irrelevant.
Despite some technical glitches and the killing of more than a dozen voters by Boko Haram gunmen, the election has been the smoothest and most orderly in Nigeria’s history.
“There are probably lots of reasons why the PDP might have lost but I think the key one is that the elections just haven’t been rigged,” said Antony Goldman, a business consultant with high-level contacts in Nigeria.
Buhari seized power in a 1983 coup only to be ousted 18 months later by another general.
Since then, Buhari has declared himself a convert to democracy, running and losing several elections but always coming back for more on a ticket of cleaning up Nigeria’s dirty politics.
Before Jonathan conceded defeat, Buhari received a tacit endorsement from Washington, with an official acknowledging his role in building a “new” Nigeria, a pillar of a rapidly modernizing and growing continent.
“His leadership of the opposition over these years has demonstrated a commitment to democracy that would seem to suggest he is participating in Nigeria’s new era that began in 1999,” the official said.
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