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Election Of Muhammadu Buhari Is Truly Revolutionary - Guardian UK



The most valuable asset in politics is credibility. Politics is persuasion and “to be persuasive we must be believable; to be believable we must be credible” wrote the American journalist Edward R Murrow.

Muhammadu Buhari has just been elected as the next president of Nigeria by a margin of more than 2m votes because on the issues that mattered to Nigerians, he had more credibility than his rival, current president Goodluck Jonathan.

Corruption and insecurity dominated the agenda of Nigeria’s most competitive presidential election since its return to democracy in 1999. Pew Research has shown that 72% of Nigerians are concerned about Islamic extremism while more than eight in 10 feel that corruption (86%) and crime (88%) are
“very big” problems.

Buhari and Jonathan both vowed to tackle these issues, especially with regards to Boko Haram, the Islamist terrorist group that has killed more than 13,000 Nigerians and displaced 1.5 million.

But Buhari, a 72-year-old retired general, enjoyed advantages on these fronts from the start. His record as Nigeria’s hard-headed military ruler from 1983 to 1985 lent credence to his promises to crush the Boko Haram insurgency. His reputation as an incorruptible politician who lives modestly rendered his pledges to tackle government graft believable.

Jonathan, on the other hand, couldn’t escape the fact that Boko Haram had grown in strength during his five years as president, or that he had failed to react swiftly to the kidnap of 276 girls from Chibok, most of whom are still missing.

Only six weeks ago, the Nigerian army, together with soldiers from neighbouring countries, launched robust operations to recapture territory lost to the Islamists who had declared a caliphate on Nigerian soil. The recent military successes, while welcomed, left many Nigerians wondering why Jonathan waited until the eve of an election before getting serious on terrorism. Regarding corruption, numerous financial scandals involving government ministers and allegations of billions going missing from public coffers in recent years made it difficult for Jonathan to convince Nigerians that he was serious about tackling what is widely regarded as the country’s biggest curse.
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The president’s campaign did what it could to try to discredit Buhari, but in a haphazard fashion. One day Jonathan’s people would accuse Buhari, a Muslim, of wanting to introduce strict Sharia law throughout Nigeria, the next they’d insist he wants to legalise same-sex marriage. Buhari, for his part, exhibited grace under fire throughout the campaign, maintaining an air of dignity. His never-say-die attitude invited respect; this was his fourth attempt at the presidency.

In the end, Nigerians responded in their millions to Buhari’s unoriginal yet effective slogan of “change”. People turned out to even in the troubled areas of the north-east, where Boko Haram had vowed to attack anyone who dared to vote.

Nigeria has suffered from mediocre leadership for as long as I can remember. Most heads of state have been corrupt, small-minded men, incapable of seeing further than the ends of their own nose. A principled man in the presidential office is nothing short of revolutionary in Nigeria. The excited reactions to Buhari’s victory in various parts of the country attest to the hope he inspires in many.

But his honeymoon with Nigerians will not last long. Millions of people believed in his message of change. Expectations are high and it will be easy to disappoint. It is not an easy country to govern.

With government revenues reeling from the slump in oil prices and a fast-growing population expected to reach 210 million by 2020 amidst high unemployment, Buhari will have his work cut out. If history is anything to go by, he will delegate economic policy to technocrats, and focus his own energies on tackling insecurity and reducing corruption in government.

But whatever happens, Nigeria will never be the same again. Something has changed in the psyche of the Nigerian citizen. For the first time since independence in 1960, Nigerians have defenestrated a sitting president. The masses now realise the tremendous might they can wield when they act collectively. It is a lesson that will embolden them. The era when Nigeria’s rulers could take the people for granted is no more.

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