Election in Nigeria is good news for Africa

2015-04-05 15:00

A young technocrat leader who led Nigeria’s growth path to becoming the largest economy in Africa is trounced by an ageing former military general who ran the country for a period of its dictatorship. Where’s the good news in that, you may ask – as we heard Muhammadu Buhari had beaten Goodluck Jonathan to become Nigeria’s new president.

For one, Buhari won at his fourth attempt. This shows elections in Nigeria are now regular, after democracy clawed the country loose from the grip of its era of military rule.

Another bit of good news is that Goodluck Jonathan has left his powerful post graciously.

Change of power through the ballot box in Africa is no longer unusual, but is too often still accompanied by incumbents clinging on through either wily power plays or by claiming electoral illegalities.

Aided by electronic voting, the poll outcome was widely accepted as legitimate, and Jonathan took his hat and left. His campaign cost billions of nairas, as did Buhari’s. Now Nigerians must benefit. The momentum gained in the extended electoral period in the battle against Boko Haram must be sustained – the group’s campaign of terror is leaving instability in its wake.

Buhari is anticorruption focused and said to live a modest life. If he brings those qualities into office, it will serve Nigeria well. Shared growth is another imperative. While Lagos and Abuja have luxury goods makers salivating at the pace of sales growth, the country remains significantly underdeveloped and poor. Shared growth will require Buhari to dent the power of pork barrel politicians and ensure the country’s growing wealth is better shared.

An oil price beaten into submission by effective shale gas exploration in the US can harm Nigeria.

But even if the price rises (as it is doing), the country generates too little electricity. Most homes and businesses still run on generators and an effective generation system should be among Buhari’s priorities.

The former military strongman has shown good democratic credentials. If Nigeria works, the rest of Africa works, so the poll outcome was good for the country and the continent.

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