Will Nigeria’s New President Do a Better Job of Defeating Boko Haram?

The newly elected president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, during a campaign event in Lagos Dec. 11, 2014  PIUS UTOMI EKPEI/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
The newly elected president of Nigeria, Muhammadu Buhari, during a campaign event in Lagos Dec. 11, 2014

For Nigeria, this recent presidential election was a pretty big deal.

All Progressives Congress challenger Muhammadu Buhari bested incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan by more than 2 million votes. Results were still streaming in Tuesday, and international observers were still sweating allegations of vote tampering, but the size of Buhari’s lead over Jonathan was just too significant to push back.

More importantly, it’s the first time in Nigeria’s nearly two-decade history as a democracy that it has experienced the electoral ousting of a ruling party. Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party had been holding on to power since Nigeria barely crawled out of military rule in 1999.

In a land that’s been plagued by despots, military regimes and lifelong dictators, that’s something to call home about. Not only is it significant for Africa’s largest country by both population and economic power, but it’s another stable, all-black African election sending ripples of democratic change across the continent. And in a nation of 173 million gripped by a civil war that’s displaced nearly 2 million, that’s no small accomplishment.

Now for some bad news.

Nigeria just picked its former military dictator as its new president. In an almost Vladimir Putin-like move, retired Major Gen. Buhari returns to power even though he was one of the country’s more brutal despots—courtesy of a bloody coup—from 1983 to 1985. This was the dude who sentenced legendary global pop star Fela Kuti to 10 years in prison.

Yet, Buhari’s win makes sense simply because Nigeria is saddled with a raging, multiborder civil war driven by terrorist insurgency Boko Haram. Voters were, understandably, in a state of panic. Islamist militants continue wreaking havoc throughout the country’s northeast, even as federal troops (in conjunction with neighboring Chad, Cameroon and Niger) have made substantial gains in recent months. Hence, Nigerian voters placed their bets on the former army junta commander with battlefield experience rather than the disappointing lifelong pol who still didn’t bring thosekidnapped schoolgirls back.

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Source: The Root | 

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