Honeymoon is over for Buhari

Fair elections, victory for the opposition and an incumbent president accepting defeat – this is fairly unusual in an African context. However, the honeymoon is over and tough challenges await newly elected Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari.

Last year’s holder of the Claude Ake visiting chair at NAI, Victor Adetula, identifies two key reasons for the outcome of the Nigerian elections. First, the work of reforming the electoral system began even before Goodluck Jonathan came to power, and continued during his presidency.

“But the major reason was that the people were so fed up with the government they would have voted for anybody who was against it. Even a former military ruler was preferable”, Adetula says.

No easy task

Even though President Buhari now says that the people of Nigeria should not expect miracles, he did promise to end state corruption during his campaign. This is no easy task in Nigeria. Adetula points out that the Nigerian people now know they have democratic power and they will not be fooled by sweet talk without follow-up action.

“Buhari won the elections on battle cries. That’s fine, but you can’t run a government on rhetoric. Now he and his ministers need to draw up a strategy with concrete measures. It is one thing to deal with corruption when you are dictator, but quite another when you lead a civil government”, Adetula adds.

Good governance

However, President Buhari’s military background may be an advantage in dealing with Boko Haram. The former government couldn’t convince the army to fight the terrorists, but with a former commander as president matters may change. However, according to Adetula, in the end Boko Haram will not be defeated on the battlefield.

“Only good governance in Nigeria will end the conflict. If the youth have jobs, they won’t be persuaded to join Boko Haram. Recruitment into terror movements is only possible when people don’t have alternatives and lack hope for the future”, he says.

Regional superpower

The potential for good governance is promising. The new government has strong support, including from the international community, so Buhari has plenty of room to manoeuvre.

Good governance is much needed in other African states as well. Perhaps the successful elections in Nigeria will have an effect on the rest of the continent.

“When Nigeria sneezes, neighbouring countries get a cold. It is the regional superpower and these elections could serve as a role model in West Africa”, Adetula concludes.

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