from EMEKA OKONKWO in Abuja, Nigeria
ABUJA, (CAJ News) – AN arduous task awaits the new government of Nigeria, which will take over the leadership of Africa’s biggest, crisis-riddled country at the end of May.
That is when Muhammadu Buhari will hand over the reins to Bola Tinubu, who has been announced the president-elect after hotly-contested polls held last Saturday. He is to be the fifth president since the return of civilian rule, deputized by his running mate, Kashim Shettima.
Early Wednesday morning, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced the All Progressives Congress’s (APC’s) Tinubu (70) the winner with 8 794 726.
This is almost 2 million more than his closest rival, Atiku Abubakar (76) of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who secured 6 984 520 votes.
Peter Obi (61) of the Labour Party was third on 6 101 533 after the party put on a credible performance that threatened the APC’s and PDP’s stranglehold on power since the advent of civilian rule in 1999, after decades of military rule.
Another frontrunner, Rabiu Kwankwaso (66), was a distant fourth on 1 496 687, for his New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP).
Tinubu’s win extends APC’s rule by four years. The party has been at the helm of the West African nation since 2015 after an election that was commended globally as then-incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, conceded defeat to Buhari before the official confirmation of Buhari as the winner.
This time, the announcement was beset by allegations of vote rigging and the PDP and LP discredited the results.
Despite the ructions, Buhari believes the exercise was a reflection of the deepening democracy in the volatile country.
“Within Nigeria, the results reveal democracy’s ripening in our country,” he said on Wednesday as he congratulated his would-be successor.
“Never has the electoral map shifted so drastically in one cycle. In the presidential election, states in all regions across the nation changed colour,” Buhari said.
APC, PDP and LP each won 12 states. NNP won one, as Kwankwaso secured a win in his home state of Kano.
A voter turnout of over 28 percent show a disinterest in politics by the majority while the violence that preceded and characterized elections, as well as the rejection of results by some opposition points to the grueling task of the new government uniting the country.
Buhari appealed to aggrieved parties to seek legal action if they believe the outcome did not reflect the will of the people.
“If they (presidential aspirants) feel the need to challenge, please take it to the courts, not the streets,” he said.
The outgoing head of state also reminded the parties of the peace pledge they signed days before the election.
“Let us move forward as one. The people have spoken,” Buhari concluded.
Tinubu also believes democracy was the winner.
“Today, Nigeria stands tall as the giant of Africa. It shines even brighter as the continent’s biggest democracy,” he said in his acceptance speech.
“I thank the Nigerian people for their abiding belief in our democracy,” Tinubu said.
He offered an olive branch to other presidential hopefuls.
“To my fellow candidates, former Vice President Atiku, former governor Kwankwaso, former governor Obi and all others, I extend the hand of friendship. This was a competitive, high-spirited campaign,” Tinubu, the ex-Lagos governor, said.
Besides the political polarization, the Tinubu government must resuscitate an economy that suffered its latest setback when Buhari’s government introduced new naira notes of higher denomination.
This triggered cash shortages, resulting in fiery protests in the weeks leading to elections.
Oil production is on a decline in Africa’s largest producer of the commodity. In addition to the cash shortages, there was a scarcity of fuel in recent weeks.
Buhari’s government made breakthroughs against the Boko Haram and other Islamist sects but their threat remain in the country of 219 million people.
– CAJ News