Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari defeated incumbent Goodluck Jonathan in Nigeria’s presidential poll by 2.57 million votes, the country’s electoral commission announced on Wednesday, ending Jonathan’s rule of Africa’s most populous nation.
Three decades after seizing power in a military coup, Buhari became the first Nigerian to oust a president through the ballot box, putting him in charge of Africa’s biggest economy.
The Independent National Electoral Commission said the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate won 15,424,921 votes, or 53.95 percent of the 28,587,564 total valid votes cast.
Jonathan, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), won 12,853,162 (44.96 percent).
As the scale of this weekend’s electoral landslide became clear, Jonathan called Buhari on Tuesday to concede defeat to the opposition leader, an unprecedented step that should help to defuse anger among Jonathan’s supporters.
Jonathan’s quick concession could help alleviate fears of a repeat of post-election violence that saw 1,000 killed after Jonathan defeated Buhari in 2011.
As vote counts rolled in and Buhari’s victory looked ever more assured, thousands of people spilled into the streets of northern Nigeria’s biggest city Kano to celebrate.
For Buhari, 72, it has been a long road back to the pinnacle of Nigerian politics. A former army general, Buhari overthrew president Shehu Shagari – widely seen as inept and corrupt – in a military coup in 1983. As the head of a military government in the 1980s, he earned a reputation for his tough stance against nepotism and fraud.
Voter dissatisfaction with Jonathan – whose time in office has been marked by the rise of militant Islamist group Boko Haram and allegations of failing to tackle endemic corruption in the oil-rich country.
He also promised to stamp out Boko Haram’s insurgency in the north, which has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people and left some 1.5 million homeless.
Buhari has also managed to bridge the traditional ethnic and religious fault lines of Nigerian politics – typically divided between the mainly Christian south and Muslim north.
As a Muslim from the north, Buhari for the first time won states in the southwest and even took one-third of votes in a southeastern state – an unprecedented development that some say reflects voter dissatisfaction with Jonathan more than it does enthusiasm for Buhari.