Africa Center Director J. Peter Pham writes for The Hill on Nigeria’s smooth presidential transition and its impact for democracies across Africa:
Nigerians made history last week as ordinary citizens turned out in their tens of millions to cast ballots in what was not only the most competitive presidential race many had ever witnessed, but, arguably, the election with the highest stakes, given the security challenges and economic pressures buffeting Africa’s most-populous country and its biggest economy. And, even more significantly, their votes counted.
For the first time since achieving independence in 1960, Nigerians voted out an incumbent head of state and, perhaps just as important if not more so, President Goodluck Jonathan promptly conceded to his challenger, retired Major Gen. Muhammadu Buhari. Had the election results been closer, as many observers thought they might be, some of the those in Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party, which has held power since Nigeria’s transition back to civilian rule in 1999, might have been tempted to tinker with the tallies and the consequences in that tense environment would have been terrible, with violence and civil conflict very real possibilities. Instead, the smooth transition that Jonathan promised Buhari in a telephone call made last Monday even before the final returns were announced by the electoral commission represents not only a critical milestone for Nigeria, but a powerful boost for democracy across Africa, one which the United States and other countries would do well to support.