Even the cynical would have to admit that there’s something hugely uplifting about the end of Nigeria’s election. The fact that the defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan actually rang his victorious rival to congratulate him, seems exceedingly mature in terms of a country’s democratic age (which isn’t very long at all because the military was in charge till 1999.)
And then for the new president elect,Muhammadu Buhari, to congratulated the outgoing president for peacefully relinquishing power, thereby becoming the first Nigerian politician to unseat a sitting leader at the ballot box.
“It seems so civilised,” burst out one foreign commentator within hours of the announcement of the results. That may sound patronising, insulting even, but I don’t think he meant it like that. It was an expression of surprise that Africa’s most populous country (and its biggest economy and whose name is virtually synonymous with corruption) should seem so very disciplined. So restrained.
This is why even though the new president-elect is a former military dictator who has been out of power for three decades, his emphatic election seems to signal new hope among Nigeria’s people that they can hold their politicians to account.
Now all that remains is for the outgoing government to manage a peaceful handover on May 29th when its term ends.