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Nigeria’s Critical Election

ABUJA – After 16 years in power, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) will no longer lead Nigeria’s government, having lost last week’s presidential election to the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC). Moreover, the outcome marks the first time since Nigeria achieved independence from Great Britain in 1960 that an incumbent has been displaced by a rival political party without violence. This bodes well for the country at a time when it is facing unprecedented challenges.

Analysts had predicted that the election would be marred by violence like that following the presidential poll in 2011, which Muhammadu Buhari, a former military dictator and candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), lost to the PDP’s Goodluck Jonathan. The mainly Muslim northern part of the country – Buhari’s home base – was convulsed by anarchy and bloodshed as thugs and hooligans took to the streets, attacking Christians and non-northerners, whom they accused of voting for Jonathan.

The recent election also pitted Jonathan against Buhari. But this time the process was remarkably peaceful. Though logistical issues arose, the independent Nigerian Election Commission responded effectively, allowing voting in several areas to be extended by one day.

Another notable feature of the election was Jonathan’s concession to Buhari, which came as the results from Nigeria’s 36 states began to trickle into the election commission’s headquarters in the capital. Typically, losers of Nigerian elections accuse their opponents of cheating and ask the courts to determine the “real” winner.