Nigerian Election 2015: Hope after Despair
Rahina Muazu reflects on the recent Nigerian election
On 28 March 2015, Nigerians made history. For the first time, an incumbent government was voted out and an opposition party was voted in. I never thought I would see such a day! It is certainly a great day for many Nigerians: it brings hope after despair to Nigeria, a country devastated by insecurity, poverty, and corruption but full of millions of intelligent, hard-working, and determined citizens.
After the abolition of the slave trade, modern Nigeria was born in 1914 by merging the northern and southern protectorates, a move designed to make life easier for the colonial powers. Nigeria gained its independence from Britain on 1 October 1960, bringing to an end the colonial period, which had begun in 1900.
Subsequently, attempts were made to exercise democratic rule but always overthrown by military powers, until Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. With a population of more than 170 million people, over three hundred languages, and two major religions (Islam and Christianity), Nigeria, which is constitutionally a secular state, is characterised by violent ethno-religious crises and insurgency both in the northern and southern parts of the country.
As the largest exporter of oil in Africa and the tenth largest in the world, Nigeria’s oil revenues totalled $50.3 billion in 2011. Regardless of this, the majority of Nigerians live in poverty. Many saw the 2015 election as an opportunity for change.
But Boko Haram, the Islamist extremist group that kidnapped more than two hundred schoolgirls last year and killed more than ten thousand people threatened to kill anyone who went out to vote. I - myself being in Berlin at the time of the elections - spoke to my brother in our hometown Jos a few days before the election and asked him if he was willing to vote despite the threat, and he replied, “The only thing that can stop me from voting is death; no amount of threat from Boko Haram can scare me.” That is what many young Nigerians felt. Boko Haram did attack and killed some people on polling day, but Nigerians went out and cast their votes – generally the election was considered peaceful in many parts of the country. The opposition party won and the incumbent president took us all by surprise by conceding defeat and congratulating the new president.
The historic victory of the president-elect Muhammad Buhari has brought a lot of hope to millions of Nigerians. Even though he was a military dictator, who ruled the country once in the 1980s for less than two years, he has a good reputation for sincerity, dedication, and zero tolerance for corruption. For many Nigerians these are qualities that our previous leaders lacked. As the common saying goes, “If Nigeria does not kill corruption, corruption will kill Nigeria.” The election means a lot to us:
- It means that our votes count!
- It means no more rigging!
- It means an increase in free and fair elections!
- It means we can vote politicians in and out!
- It means we can have a peaceful transition of power!
- It means Nigerians can vote and are willing to vote not based on religious and tribal sentiment!
- It means hope for the younger generation!
- It means a better future!