Nigerians Want ‘Magic’ from President-Elect

Nigeria's president-elect Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria's president elect Muhammadu Buhari. Photo used with permission from Statecraft Inc (Photo: Kelechi Amachi Obi, Styling: Uche Nnaji).

On March 28, Nigerians went to the polls to elect a president. The two main contenders were Dr Goodluck Jonathan — the incumbent — and General Muhammadu Buhari. History was not only made but the ‘impossible’ happened — a Nigerian incumbent lost an election. General Muhammadu Buhari was elected as the President of Nigeria beating Dr Jonathan with over 3 million votes. Buhari will be sworn in on May 29, 2015.

The euphoria of victory was palpable considering the near ‘impossibility’ in the African context for a sitting president to be voted out of office. Besides, there was significant fear of post-election violence with the International Criminal Court in The Hague issuing a stern warning to Nigerian politicians: “incite violence and go to jail”. In addition, many mainstream foreign media had stoked tension with false reporting during the vote. 

Esther Agbarakwe was not happy with the stereotyped narrative:

Highlander said: 

Sifa Gowon was furious: 

Joghead Jones warned thus:

However, this anger was averted by the gesture of the incumbent, Dr Jonathan, who immediately conceded defeat when the outcome became clear and phoned the President-elect to congratulate him. The video of President Jonathan’s concession speech can be watched here, below is the text:

Fellow Nigerians, I thank you all for turning out en-masse for the March 28 General Elections. I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word. I have also expanded the space for Nigerians to participate in the democratic process. That is one legacy I will like to see endure. Although some people have expressed mixed feelings about the results announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I urge those who may feel aggrieved to follow due process based on our constitution and our electoral laws, in seeking redress. As I have always affirmed, nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else…. 

The president-elect, Buhari also gave an inspiring acceptance speech:

I am immensely grateful to God for this day and for this hour. I feel truly honoured and humbled that the Nigerian people have so clearly chosen me to lead them. The official announcement from INEC was the moment the vast majority of Nigerians had hoped and been waiting for. Today, history has been made, and change has finally come. Your votes have changed our national destiny for the good of all Nigerians.

INEC has announced that I, Muhammadu Buhari, shall be your next president. My team and I shall faithfully serve you. There shall no longer be a ruling party again: APC will be your governing party. We shall faithfully serve you. We shall never rule over the people as if they were subservient to government. 

Buhari also promised to fight corruption, which he described as an “evil worse than terrorism”:

Furthermore, we shall strongly battle another form of evil that is even worse than terrorism—the evil of corruption. Corruption attacks and seeks to destroy our national institutions and character. By misdirecting into selfish hands funds intended for the public purpose, corruption distorts the economy and worsens income inequality. It creates a class of unjustly enriched people. Such an illegal yet powerful force soon comes to undermine democracy because its conspirators have amassed so much money that they believe they can buy government. We shall end this threat to our economic development and democratic survival. I repeat that corruption will not be tolerated by this administration.

The example of people's votes actually counting in Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, has great implications for the continent as a whole. How long will sit-tight leaders in other countries be able to hold out for now?

Yet Nigeria’s president-elect will be burdened by expectations, explains Simon Kolawole:

To be honest, I don’t know whether to rejoice or sympathise with Gen. Muhammadu Buhari anytime I read all the sweet comments about him on social media — especially on Twitter. I don’t know any presidential candidate who has been so idolised in recent times — which is an excellent accolade any politician will gladly take. On the one hand, it is good for him. He will not be complaining at all. No politician will complain about such good fortune, especially with only a few weeks to an election. On the other hand, my God! The expectations are sky-high. Incredible. From what I am reading, Buhari is expected to perform nothing short of magic in Aso Rock

Micheal Olorunfemi thinks that Buhari has to make tough economic decisions especially in the key petroleum industry, which low world prices have rocked:

Two major areas I expect him to work on are, the upstream and the downstream of our oil and gas sector. At the upstream, multi-national companies are not investing in the country’s oil and gas because they can’t make profits. Our re­serves are depleting because exploration is not done to expand it. Indigenous investors don’t have the finance to undertake exploration. The plummeting price of oil has also made things more difficult.

Two is the question of the downstream, which today is a total collapse. With the refineries not working, we continue to depend on importation of products from outside. That is why on the question of subsidy, gov­ernment must have to come out and clear that and remove subsidy. If there are no more sub­sidies, any marketer can import and sell at the market price. Government would still be there to ensure marketers don’t sell above the mar­ket price or exploit Nigerians. The government must stop sustaining deficits in terms of oil and gas.

Professor Remi Sonaiya, the only female presidential candidate in this election, advised General Bihari:

I also wish to note that the expectations of Nigerians for a better quality of life are very high. I pray that God will grant the General the wisdom to rise up to the challenge and live up to the challenge and live up to the promises of his campaign.

But the expectations Nigerians have for the president-elect's first term in office are “overwhelming” says newspaper publisher, Sam Nda-Isaiah:

I congratulate General Muhammadu Buhari for this feat. The political rescue mission that started with the 2003 presidential election through the 2007 and 2011 presidential elections and which cost the lives of people like Marshal Harry, Chuba Okadigbo, and many others, has finally come to fruition. But I also sympathize with the president-elect because majority of Nigerians want change in their lives like from the day after his swearing in as president. That would be expecting magic.


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