Nigerian election winner Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, has congratulated outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan for peacefully relinquishing power on Wednesday, a day after becoming the first politician in Nigeria’s history to remove a sitting leader at the ballot box. The Sun reports.
In an unprecedented step, Jonathan phoned Buhari to concede defeat and urged his supporters to accept the result, a signal of deepening democracy in Africa’s most populous nation that few had expected.
“President Jonathan was a worthy opponent and I extend the hand of fellowship to him, We have proven to the world that we are people who have embraced democracy. We have put one-party state behind us.”
The 72-year-old general, who first came to power three decades ago via a military coup, campaigned as a born-again democrat intent on cleaning up Nigeria’s corrupt politics.
Buhari's 15.4 million votes to Jonathan’s 13.3 million was enough to prevent any challenge.
“President Jonathan has placed his country’s interests first by conceding the election,” U.S. President Barack Obama said.
Nigeria’s main stock index soared 6.7 percent, posting its single biggest gain this year, and Nigerian dollar-denominated bonds also climbed amid relief at the absence of the violence and fraud that has blighted previous elections.
“The context has changed … There have been 16 years of democracy, there’s a constitution, there are legal safeguards,” British High Commissioner Andrew Pocock told BBC radio.
Investors are also cautiously optimistic that any crackdown on corruption by Buhari will stimulate investment and boost flagging growth in Africa’s biggest economy.
The rules state that Jonathan must officially hand over on May 29.
His People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been in charge since the end of army rule in 1999 but had been losing support due to several oil sector corruption scandals and the government’s performance in combating Islamist Boko Haram militants.
“You voted for change and now change has come,” Buhari said.
Cities in the largely Muslim north, where Buhari’s core support base lies, erupted in celebration.
Jonathan’s appeal to his supporters that “nobody’s political ambition is worth blood” meanwhile helped calm their frustrations, reducing the chance of post-election violence that blighted the 2011 poll, when Buhari lost to Jonathan.
Despite the killing of more than a dozen voters by Boko Haram gunmen who had pledged to derail the poll the election was one of the most orderly in the country’s history.
He acknowledged the hard work ahead in building bridges.
Gen. Muhammadu Buhari came in to power in a 1983 coup and was thrown out 18 months later by another general. He has subsequently embraced democracy, running in several elections and despite losing he always managed to bounced back.