Amid fears of a surprise attack by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram to disrupt Nigeria’s national elections, voters handed President Goodluck Jonathan a resounding defeat at the polls.
Although the final vote tally has not yet been made public, Jonathan conceded he had lost to his main rival, Muhammadu Buhari, a former military commander who rules Nigeria from 1983 to 1985.
His win ends nearly 16 years of rule by Jonathan’s ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), in power since military rule ended in 1999.
The win by Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) is also seen as the first democratic transfer of power in the oil-rich nation of 173 million people.
Buhari’s election campaign focused on Jonathan’s failure to secure and stabilize Nigeria’s northeastern states where Boko Haram has made its headquarters and raided towns and villages.
The violence increased significantly in recent months prompting the Nigerian Independent Electoral Commission to postpone elections from February to March 29.
But in the past few weeks, the Nigerian army began to make some gains against Boko Haram by repelling several attacks against the strategic town of Maiduguri in northeastern Borno state.
The Nigerian military had been largely on the defensive since Boko Haram began a coordinated campaign 18 months ago to expand territory even reaching neighboring Cameroon.
The repelled attack comes at the same time African Union (AU) leaders pledged to send 7,500 troops to assist the Nigerian, Chadian and Cameroonian armies in the conflict against Boko Haram.
The promise of troop deployment comes a year after Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan appealed to the UN for help in quelling what has become a full-scale rebellion in the north.
The troop pledge also comes after Chad announced in mid-January that it would deploy a military contingent to assist neighbor Cameroon which has been “invaded” by the Islamist Boko Haram in recent weeks.
On January 16, the Chadian parliament authorized the deployment of thousands of heavily equipped soldiers to northern Cameroon.
The AU appears to have responded to Cameroon President Paul Biya’s January appeal to African allies to join the fight against Boko Haram.
The BRICS POST with inputs from Agencies