Nigeria has a new president - congratulations to President-elect Muhammadu Buhari.
President Goodluck Jonathan, unfortunately, lost the elections (as expected) given his main two challenges: tackling corrosive corruption in the military/security forces and countering Boko Haram.
But who is Mr Buhari and what message did the Nigerian people send by giving him a mandate?
Muhammadu Buhari was born on the 17th of December of 1942 and he is a retired Major General in the Nigerian Army. After having participated in a coup d'état, he became the President of Nigeria from 1983 to 1985.
During this year's electoral campaign Mr Buhari described himself as a "born-again democrat", an interesting expression with a Christian ring to it, as some sort of atonement for his dark past (ref: authoritarianism and poor Human Rights record); nevertheless, as a head of state, he carried out brave measures in order to fight corruption and impose fiscal discipline in his country – measures that would make any European austerity policy pale in comparison - and to that end his regime launched the “War Against Indiscipline” programme (intended to promote positive values in the Nigerian society). In spite of Mr Buhari's incorruptibility, his government didn't know when to stop and its authoritarian stance led the people to retrieve their support, thus causing the military to carry out a coup against Mr Buhari.
But that was then. Now in 2015, during a much more transparent election (prepared by President Goodluck Jonathan), the Nigerian people decided to elect a former head of state: is it a call to fight corruption, due to President-elect Buhari's reputation of being incorruptible? Is it a call to fight Boko Haram, since Mr Buhari is known for being a disciplinary? Well, he has already stated that he'd "spare no effort in squashing Boko Haram": very strong wording indeed, but perhaps that's exactly what Nigeria needs right now, a military man with a strong hand and willingness to set his country straight...by all means necessary.
The Nigerian electorate knows this 72-year old man's record yet they made their choice. Could Nigerians be starting an electoral trend for countries where liberal democracy doesn't really work?
The BBC's five reasons for why President Goodluck Jonathan lost the race should be somewhat disputed:
“Harder to Rig” - The BBC's tendentiousness is remarkable. We all know that the network is profoundly socialist but there's no need to suggest that President Jonathan (a conservative) rigged elections or ever intended to do so, when these elections were harder to rig exactly because Goodluck Jonathan made efforts to implement a more transparent voting system.
This low blow, on the part of the BBC, is a way of inducing the British electorate to relate bad political practises to the conservative party – a day after PM Cameron (a conservative) launched his electoral campaign.
“Boko Haram and Security” - Indeed, this issue played a serious role in castigating Mr Jonathan. This blog warned him about this twice, but as it usually happens to politicians who insist on ignoring us: he suffered the consequences.
“United Opposition. Crumbling PDP” - It's true that the Nigerian conservative party was suffering a severe disintegration (many of its members defected to the party of the President-elect; reminding me of Kadima, a party quickly formed to receive members from Likud and the Labour parties, only to fall a few years later) and the opposition took advantage of that. President Jonathan prepared Nigeria for the future (see here how) but, somehow, got lost along the way - an analysis of where along the path he got lost should be made.
“Economy” - Despite having become the number one African economy, under Pres. Jonathan, half of Nigeria is still extremely poor and the country still suffers from widespread corruption. The combination of such ingredients result in a lethal venom for any candidate of the 21st century. But then we have to ask ourselves: if Nigeria has been suffering from the same main ailments practically since its independence, what could be the formula today to end the plague of corrosive corruption?
“Time for a change” - President Goodluck Jonathan only served one term, not two; and having one party in power for a long time means little when all its elected presidents ruled and behaved differently – so what kind of change are we talking about? And let's remember President-elect Buhari's record: truth be told, he's more conservative than anything else. His party's consultative affiliation to International Socialism is a strategic diversion.
So, again, the BBC tried to relate the Nigerian elections to the British ones: a wish that PM Cameron loses his seat after one term in office only.
Nigerians used the power of their vote to punish Goodluck Jonathan for his apparent lack of capacity to tackle pressing issues and for his perceived lack of resolve (when it came to the military). Paying millions of dollars to American lobbyists and PR companies may not have helped either.
Nigerians' message is clear: they elected a strong military man, and an incorruptible disciplinarian. They did so because they expect him to be ruthless on criminals and terrorists. This man is now 72 years old: will his resolve to obliterate Boko Haram clash with the “convert democrat” in him?