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Opposition Candidate Defeats Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan


Nigeria is poised to make history. An opposition candidate appears to have un-seated a sitting president through the ballot box for the first time ever. This could also be the first peaceful transfer of power in Africa's largest democracy. Results show voters chose former military leader Muhammadu Buhari by a wide margin to be their next president. Among the president-elect's first challenges, making good on his pledge to defeat Boko Haram. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in Nigeria's capital, Abuja. She joins us now, where people are still very much reacting to the news.

Ofeibea, describe the scene.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Well, I'm outside Muhammadu Buhari's campaign headquarters and all you can hear are car horns, supporters screaming and everybody is waving in the air traditional brooms because that is the campaign slogan of the Buhari camp. And it's because he says he's going to sweep out corruption and sweep out all that has been bad in the past here in Nigeria.

CORNISH: So, tell us more about Muhammadu Buhari's background.

QUIST-ARCTON: Muhammadu Buhari is a Northerner, he's a Muslim and he is a former military ruler here in Nigeria in the 1980s. Many people called him a dictator then. He was tough on crime, he was tough on journalists, he was tough on corruption. And he says now that he is a re-born Democrat that he is going to be tough on the insurgency in the North and especially tough on corruption. He feels that President Goodluck Jonathan has not done enough, that Nigeria is a hugely rich country - the richest country in Africa, the biggest economy, the leading crude oil exporter - but that Nigerians are not feeling the wealth, that it has not trickled down to the poor. And many people are calling Muhammadu Buhari the people's general, the people's president because they feel that he is the one who is going to work for the poor as well as the elites.

CORNISH: So Ofeibea, was this as much a rejection of President Goodluck Jonathan as a vote for Buhari?

QUIST-ARCTON: Many, many, many analysts will say it was an anti-Goodluck Jonathan vote but that Buhari won because people see in him some sort of integrity although he's been a military ruler in the past and the fact that they think of him as being somebody who is basically honest, and they feel that corruption has been allowed to fester far too long here in Nigeria. But let me just go back to the issue of these missing schoolgirls. It's only in the last six weeks when this election has been - and the election was of course postponed by six weeks, that President Goodluck Jonathan's military, helped by the armies of neighboring countries, have actually begun trying to subdue Boko Haram. Many Nigerians say that was much too late, it was a political ploy and now Nigerians are punishing him, but especially for not having shown enough compassion about the plight of these schoolgirls and their families. They feel very much that that went against Goodluck Jonathan in this campaign.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking to us from Abuja, Nigeria.

Ofeibea thank you so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.