Military’s stabilising role in Nigeria
General Muhammadu Buhari scored an historic win when he defeated incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan by 2.5 million votes in the Nigerian presidential elections of March 28, 2015, writes Prince Michael of Liechtenstein.
The 72-year-old former military ruler and leader of the All Progressives Congress (APC) party has become the first opposition candidate to win a presidential election in Nigeria.
General Buhari is a Muslim from northern Nigeria, while Goodluck Jonathan is southern Christian. Much of General Buhari’s support was in the north - in particular the northeast which has suffered from the militant group Boko Haram's six-year insurgency. But General Buhari also carried a good share of the southern vote too.
Nigeria's politics has always called for a balance between the predominantly Muslim north and the Christian south.
Goodluck Jonathan’s leadership - from 2010 to 2015 - was relatively unsuccessful, marked by flourishing corruption which is endemic in Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan was particularly unsuccessful in the fight against Islamic militants Boko Haram and its atrocities. His government was unable to deploy the Nigerian military, which is better equipped and superior in number to Boko Haram. Even the smaller armies of Cameroon and Chad were more successful fighting the insurgents.
All action by Goodluck Jonathan's government was lacklustre, slow and ineffective. This confirmed the Nigerian population’s perception that the government could not be trusted.
Nigeria has a tradition of military coups. General Buhari lead a military coup against a supposedly corrupt civilian government in 1983 and became head of state for the two following years.
It is nothing new in Nigeria for a former military dictator to become a democratically elected president years later.
Olusegun Obasanjo was also head of a military government (1976-1979). Some years later he was elected president (1999-2007) and was highly regarded internationally.
It appears military leaders are more highly respected in the chaos permeating Nigeria.
Nigeria is not the only country where the military fulfills an important stabilising function, ending government stalemate and allowing the country to return to civilian rule.
Military coups are frequently triggered by a collapse of democratic systems, and can be a way back to functioning governance and a restart of democracy.
A precondition therefore is motivation by responsibility and not by power, along with an absence of corruption among the military officers.
Nigeria demonstrates to the world for the second time that it has called for the return of a former military ruler through a democratic vote.