A call for unity

It is no longer news that former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari has become the first Nigerian to defeat a sitting president through the ballot box, putting him in charge of Africa’s most populous nation and its biggest economy.

Buhari was declared winner of the March 28 presidential election after he gained 2.7 million more votes than his rival, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

The retired Army General also managed to secure more than 25 percent of votes in 24 states as required by the constitution, ruling out a run-off vote.

To win the election, Buhari had needed more than 50 percent of the total votes nationally – and take at least 25 percent of the vote in two thirds of the states.

Jonathan had, to the delight of many Nigerians, publicly conceded defeat and conveyed his “best wishes” to the president-elect.

He had urged his supporters to follow “due process” in channeling their frustrations at losing the election amid fear of violence.

“Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian,” he said in a statement issued after his election defeat. “The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.” This statement was with the position during the electioneering campaign.

The All Progressives Congress (APC) party earlier said that Buhari had received a phone call from incumbent Jonathan during which he immediately conceded defeat and congratulated him on his victory.

“There had always been this fear that he might not want to concede, but he will remain a hero for this move. The tension will go down dramatically,” Lai Mohammed, spokesman for the APC, said.

Victory for Buhari marks the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition party has democratically taken control of the country from the ruling party.

It would be recalled that Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has governed Nigeria since it returned to multiparty democracy 16 years ago.

While Buhari has received several congratulatory messages from home and abroad, Jonathan has also been commended for being a statesman and preempting violence in the country.

The President’s gesture signposts a victory for our democracy and for which we must all be proud. This is because past elections have been blighted by vote-rigging and deadly clashes.

President Jonathan has demonstrated by his action that elections are not a matter of life or death. You win. You lose. Life continues.

Everyone had thought that the March 28 general election would result in a blowout, that corpses would litter the streets but President Jonathan coming forward showed leadership – solid leadership – at a critical moment.

Despite the bitterly fought presidential race, in his victory speech, Muhammadu Buhari hailed President Jonathan and told his compatriots it is time for unity.

“You voted with your heart. This is not the time for confrontation. This is a moment that we must begin to heal the wounds and work towards a better future. We have voted for a party and president that will serve and govern, but never rule over you,” the president-elect said in his acceptance speech.

Everyone must take a cue from the posture of these two great leaders.

Truth is that Nigeria had been sharply divided along ethnic and religious lines in the run up to the presidential election, but now that the election is over, we must all work together in unity for a greater and prosperous nation.

As outgoing President Jonathan said, “We must begin to heal the wounds and work towards a better future.”

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