President-elect Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to rid Nigeria of ‘terror’ after his historic election victory marking the first democratic transfer of power in Africa’s most populous nation.
The 72-year-old former military ruler also pledged reconciliation with political opponents who fear a return to his autocrat regime of the 1980s, and a government representing ‘all Nigerians’.
‘I assure you that Boko Haram will soon know the strength of our collective will and commitment to rid this nation of terror and bring back peace,’ he said in an acceptance speech on Wednesday after his dramatic election win.
‘We shall spare no effort until we defeat terrorism.’
Boko Haram, whose rampage through northeastern Nigeria has left more than 13,000 people dead in six years, is Buhari’s most pressing security problem.
He also promised to address a culture of political impunity and the ‘evil’ of rampant corruption but said there would be no witch-hunt and his beaten opponent Goodluck Jonathan had ‘nothing to fear’.
‘Our long night has passed and the daylight of new democratic government has broken across the land. Democracy and the rule of law will be established in the land.’
Buhari’s victory wrote a new chapter in Nigeria’s often turbulent political history after six military coups since independence in 1960 and 16 years of unbroken civilian rule by Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US President Barack Obama led the congratulations for Buhari.
But it was the first unprecedented opposition victory against a sitting president in Nigeria that won most plaudits.
‘The last few days have shown the world the strength of Nigeria’s commitment to democratic principles,’ Obama said, while his top Africa diplomat said Nigeria had raised the bar for the continent.
‘Nigeria is a trailblazer,’ Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield told AFP.
‘They have sent a huge, huge example across Africa that democracy and change of government can work and it can work in a free and fair election.’
Buhari had singled out Jonathan for statesmanship in conceding defeat before the final result was declared, helping to defuse the potential for poll-related violence and lengthy legal wranglings.
Buhari’s victory by 2.57 million votes, confirmed early on Wednesday, came after a gripping weekend contest hit by glitches with new voter technology, claims of irregularities and Boko Haram fears.