The government-elect taking shape in Nigeria under General Muhammadu Buhari will have to contend with meeting not just the expectations of its own citizens but the high hopes of the wider continent. For almost a decade, there is a feeling of an ideas vacuum at the heart of Africa’s leading countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Egypt and Kenya. Although all four have benefited from the wave of high economic growth that has lapped across Africa in recent years, all four have been struggling to convert that into jobs for the swelling ranks of school-leavers and to tackle worsening insecurity and criminality. And their own political systems are mired in corruption.
That is why
Buhari’s promise to stop the rot in Nigeria, reinforced by his personal
asceticism, is drawing attention far beyond its borders. A more
youthful and martial Buhari had the same ambitions 30 years ago. This
time, the rot has run deeper, even as the economy and population have
grown. It is Buhari’s conversion to the tenets of pluralist politics –
he has gone out of his way to praise Goodluck
Jonathan for being the first
elected incumbent to concede that he has lost an election – while
retaining the stance of a disciplined general, that is intriguing
Nigerians and giving fresh hope.
Buhari, his policy team says, will be
a ‘big picture’ president. He will ask his advisors and ministers to
set up policies and systems to meet the election pledges on
anticorruption, jobs and security. His team of technocrats promises the
same technological flair they used in the campaign.