The election last month of Nigeria’s opposition leader Muhammadu Buhari was a democratic revolution in modern Nigerian and African politics. It represents a victory for the Nigerian people and a victory for burgeoning democracy in Africa.
Despite what may be said about the process, the citizens voted for a new leader, and indications are that the incumbent, Goodluck Jonathan, has conceded peacefully. For this nascent democracy to effect a change in leadership from an incumbent to another candidate is proof-positive that Nigeria is maturing. This is a first for such change.
Nigerians have grown tired of endemic corruption and the constant threat of Boko Haram militants. This election was a big deal for Nigeria and its long-suffering people. It is our hope that this change augers in good governance for the largest economy in Africa.
As native Nigerians, we are thrilled with the election and the changes it represents for our home country as well as the diasporan community in Minnesota and around the United States. One of us spoke to an uncle in Lagos on March 31, right after the election. He said: “Today, God is a Nigerian.”
The growth in Nigeria’s democracy is shown in the dutiful obedience and adoption of election process and procedures. The announcement that ushered in this transition was openly done, and concession occurred when it was obvious that the incumbent had no feasible opportunity to win. Although a democratic electioneering process is not novel to one country, this was a typical Nigerian-nuanced process — suitable for Nigerians.
The results of the election make for a hopeful nation and provide the citizens with an opportunity to rebuild the country. The issue of Nigeria’s capacity to deal with the Boko Haram terrorism movement and other issues are handed over to a new group of leaders and likely new strategies.
There is much work ahead for the Buhari team. The education of millions of Nigeria’s children will be a priority. The support of Western governments and nongovernmental organizations will be crucial. Local groups such as the St. Paul-based Books For Africa can help by supplying books and other educational tools.
We in Minnesota can be proud that Books for Africa has sent more than 2 million books to Nigeria over the past 26 years. There has been a huge demand For books from K-12 to college from all over Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country. Through the organization’s Jack Mason Law & Democracy Initiative, Books For Africa and Thomson Reuters have sent 72 law and human-rights libraries to 20 African countries, including Nigeria, over the past six years.
These libraries and books in general help develop the country’s educational system and respect for the rule of law, an essential component of democracy. As democracy grows, economic development often follows.
Buhari’s election marks another season of spring for Africa: Going forward, unproductive incumbent leaders in Nigeria and Africa had better watch out. Opposition leaders everywhere in Africa will draw inspiration from the example of Nigeria’s political transition.
Atare Agbamu, an Oakdale businessman, is a member of the Books For Africa board of directors; Mike Essien, a St. Paul attorney, is a former member of the Books for Africa board and currently serves as the group’s volunteer country director for Nigeria. They are natives of Nigeria.