- The Washington Times
Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Victorious Nigerian President-elect Muhammadu Buhari praised his defeated rival Goodluck Jonathan for overseeing smooth elections and said his victory over the incumbent president in Sunday’s vote signaled a new era of democracy and reconciliation for Africa’s most populous country.

In his acceptance speech Wednesday, Mr. Buhari, a former army general who briefly led the country in the mid-1980s following a military coup, asked Nigerians to congratulate Mr. Jonathan for his “statesmanship” for acknowledging the election result, while vowing that his administration will take the fight to Boko Haram Islamist militants with new fervor.

The largely peaceful vote was seen as a milestone for Nigeria, in what would be the first true transfer of power from one civilian to another since the country achieved independence in 1960. Mr. Buhari will be inaugurated May 29.

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“President Jonathan engaged in a spirited campaign and was a worthy opponent,” said Mr. Buhari at the party’s national headquarters in Abuja. “I extend my hand of fellowship to him. I look forward to meeting him soon as we plan the transition from one administration to another.”

Nigerian officials are anxious to avoid a repeat of the 2011 election, in which an estimated 800 people died in post-election violence after Mr. Goodluck defeated Mr. Buhari amid charges of voter fraud and ballot-rigging.

Mr. Buhari spoke publicly for the first time after Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission certified that he had won the election, which was delayed for several weeks because of violent attacks by Boko Haram.

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“This is not the time for confrontation,” the 72-year-old winner said. “This is a moment that we must begin to heal the wounds and work toward a better future.”

Mr. Jonathan, a Christian from Nigeria’s south who was seeking a second full four-year term, said on his official Facebook page Wednesday that Sunday’s vote fulfilled his promise of free, fair and nonviolent democratic process. Mr. Jonathan has conveyed his best wished to his successor, a Muslim with a political base in the country’s predominantly Islamic north.

“As I have always affirmed, nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian,” Mr. Jonathan wrote.

President Obama on Wednesday congratulated both candidates for the successful vote, pledging to work with Mr. Buhari.

Despite his unexpectedly decisive win, Mr. Buhari and his All Progressives Congress coalition inherit a slew of major problems, including the fight against the Boko Haram movement and revamping an economy reeling from falling global prices for its key export, oil.

The new president vowed that his government would “spare no effort” to defeat Boko Haram, which recently declared its allegiance to the Syria-based Islamic State movement.

Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will. We should spare no effort,” Mr. Buhari said. “In tackling the insurgency, we have a tough and urgent job to do.”

In an endorsement from investors, Nigeria’s stock market rose 8 percent after the election.

Bonds also climbed, while the naira, which has lost 20 percent of its purchasing power in two devaluations since November, gained 0.5 percent on the black market to 217 to the dollar. It remained fixed at 197 in official interbank trade.

Two weeks before the vote, Standard & Poor’s cut Nigeria’s credit rating and on the eve of the polls Fitch lowered its outlook — both moves that will increase Abuja’s borrowing costs.

A fall in global oil prices means that Nigeria’s oil is now around $55 a barrel, half the level of a year ago and a blow to a country that relies on crude sales for 80 percent of government revenues and 95 percent of foreign exchange.

Because of decades of military rule this was only the eighth election since Nigeria won independence from Britain in 1960, and the fifth since democracy was restored in 1999. Mr. Buhari, who calls himself a convert to democracy, ran unsuccessfully in 2003, 2007 and 2011 before finally winning.

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