The political rebirth of Nigeria - CNBC Africa

The political rebirth of Nigeria

Western Africa

by Godfrey Mutizwa 0

General Muhammadu Buhari's crushing victory over President Goodluck Jonathan has rightly taken on fabled status. PHOTO: UNCOVA

Nigeria and Nigerians just got a second life.

General Muhammadu Buhari's crushing victory over President Goodluck Jonathan has rightly taken on fabled status.

History is a word you will see a lot of in this article. That's because there is a lot of history here.

The final figures show Buhari won 52.4 per cent of the vote compared to Jonathan's 43.7 per cent. It is true to say it's a historic victory and deserves all the other clichés that have accompanied it. 

It's the first time in the country's history that the opposition has won.

It's first time in 16 years that the ruling party won't be called the People's Democratic Party, (PDP).

It's the first time a civilian will hand over power to another civilian in the form of the retired general. 

It's historic too across Africa, as Jeffrey Smith of We-are-Africa.Org says by his count it's only the seventh time it's happened in sub-Saharan Africa since 2010. Puntland (Somalia), Zambia, Senegal, the Ivory Coast, Malawi, Lesotho and Mauritius having set the bar earlier.

It can also be referred to as an unprecedented political rebirth which South Africa’s Institute of Securities Studies says may well launch Nigeria into a world leadership role, ahead of South Africa, the standard democracy bearer in Africa for the past two decades.

So excuse me if I sound breathless rattling off all this history. I am not alone. 
Lagosians and indeed Nigerians are as breathless.

Conversations across this land of 170 million are in awe and people realise the magnitude of what they have just done.

'Sai Baba, Sai Buhari', they exchange in offices and markets from Lagos to Kaduna, in the North where they turned up in overwhelming numbers to give the general Aso Rock at his fourth attempt. For the uninitiated, ‘Sai’ is Hausa for 'forward with'.

Wale Tinubu, CEO of Oando Plc, the country’s biggest locally owned oil company said, “I am inspired that more Nigerians are getting involved in choosing our leaders instead of being surprised at the damage our indifference creates.”

Buhari himself has led from the front as he did more than three decades ago when he ruled the country for 18 months with an iron hand.

“It is you, Nigerians, that have won,” he said calling for a peaceful transition. “You are all my people, I will treat you all as mine. I will work for those who voted for me, voted against me and those who didn’t vote at all.”

Perhaps the loudest platitudes must go to the man who had ruled Nigeria for the past six years.

Jonathan largely delivered the free and fair poll he promised and by conceding in a stately manner may have given the country’s biggest gift outside of independence.

It is an example the rest of the continent, which has some of the world’s longest rulers at more than three decades, would do well to learn from.

Analysts say the impact on this half a trillion dollar economy will be felt for years to come but caution that against a background of lower oil prices, insecurity in the north and teething problems of a new administration, progress may be slow at first.

Investec, which manages 117 billion dollars expects no immediate policy changes but sees more potential ahead.

“In the short term, there is still a risk of disruptions and violence, which will be observed carefully,” Joseph Rohm, who co-manages its Africa fund said in a statement.

“We believe the fundamentals underpinning Nigeria’s long-term structural growth prospects have not changed. It remains a strategically important economy for the continent thanks to the size of its market, its attractive demographics and the reforms the country has made so far to attract international capital.”

The peaceful handover of power will give Nigeria and Nigerians, a fillip like no other. It's second chance for a country that promised so much but delivered so little of its potential.

“The vote for Buhari is a profoundly important moment in Nigeria and indeed Africa’s history,” said Charles Robertson, chief economist at Renaissance Capital.

“It is a testament to the building blocks of civil society that have emerged since the end of military rule.” 

It is a restart Nigerians can be proud of. Africa and the world will be watching and hoping the second dawn in Nigeria will deliver on the promise first seen in 1960.