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Idayat Hassan, Director of the Center for Democracy and Development says Buhari’s peaceful victory is being celebrated by Nigerians

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SHARMINI PERIES, EXEC. PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Sharmini Peries coming to you from Baltimore. The Nigerian presidential elections ended peacefully with the election of Muhammadu Buhari of the Progressive Congress Party. He unseated Goodluck Jonathan, the incumbent president of the People’s Democratic Party. General Buhari beat Mr. Jonathan by 2.5 million votes. Elections observers have generally praised the election, though there have been some allegations of fraud. Now, Buhari is a northerner ex-military ruler that took power in a military coup d’etat and led the country from 1983-1985. He is obviously favored in the country. Now joining us to talk about what is happening in Nigeria is Idayat Hassan. She’s the director of the Center for Democracy and Development in Abuja. It’s an Abuja-based think tank. She is a lawyer by training. Idayat, thank you so much for joining us. IDAYAT HASSAN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR DEMOCRACY AND DEVELOPMENT: Thank you very much for having me. PERIES: Idayat, give me your first take on the results. HASSAN: The elections cannot be said to be perfect, but that the will of the people is reflected, that for once in the sixteen years of our democracy that votes are actually counting, that Nigerians have participated, and no more [sleep] in these elections. And above all that the electoral outcome is accepted by the incumbent president has set another pace for the Nigerian democracy. And this is a welcome development, and this represents our ongoing movement. PERIES: Was there any violence related to this election? HASSAN: Yes. On Saturday March 28, when the election was held, there were pockets of violence across the country. But this violence, for instance the Boko Haram attack in Gombe, and Yobe [inaud.] but this did not stop the people from participating in the election. How soon in [inaud.] in the number there were of explosions, [inaud.] There were pockets of violence. But again there are already existing tensions that normally lead to violent conflict here in Nigeria. But after made the declaration of the elections, there is no violent conflict in any part of Nigeria. Rather, what we have seen is immense jubilation across the six geopolitical zones of the country. This is not a victory for the North, or a victory for the southern parts of the country. Because when you look at the kind of celebration that broke out in Akwa Iborn state yesterday, Akwa Iborn is in the south, south region of Nigeria, and it is being lead by People’s Democratic Party’s government. It [inaud.] But the kind of celebration that emanated from that part of the country shows that this is a victory that is welcomed by all Nigerians, irrespective of the geopolitical zone they are done. And this is a – PERIES: However, when you look at the electoral map, there appears to be a real North-South divide as far as who voted for whom. Goodluck Jonathan taking almost all of the entire regions in the South, and Mr. Buhari taking most of the Northern regions. Why is that so? HASSAN: Yes. Nigeria is bifurcated alongside north and south line. On the national level. So there has always been an existing divide, either the North to South, ethnic, or religious. So identity is a very big issue in the Nigerian contest. But at the same time, identity is very fluid. And in the prelude to these elections, this identity became very exacerbated, but at the same time it also disappeared. There is a thin line. It is very fluid. Now on the voting pattern. What you can really understand that even though General Buhari got the most of his votes from the Northern part of the country, and [Goodluck] from the Southwest. But he still had a better outing in the southeastern part of the country, and the south southern part of the country compared to what happened in the 2011 general elections. PERIES: Now, General Buhari is a military person. He had taken power in the country before through a coup d’etat, and we’ve come a long way now, he’s actually won through a democratic process, electoral process, at that. Now what do Nigerians expect from him? HASSAN: Nigerians expect a lot from the general. And some people call him the People’s General. People expect immediate gains. They expect to see improved security. They expect to see corruption nipped in the bud. They expect to see the basics of life in form of dividend of democracy, in terms of light or electricity or power, which is actually a very big challenge here in Nigeria. Improved water, improved health, improved education system. And in particular his ability to curb unemployment, security, and corruption. And people are actually looking up to him here, because he is said to be a disciplinarian. He is said to be a former military head of state who has actually said that he’s now a reformed democrat. He is a democrat, at the moment. PERIES: Now, we know that the, most recently, the Nigerian economy has been ranked as the largest growing economy in Africa. And also it has lots of oil wealth coming in. There isn’t any reason why every single Nigerian should not be benefiting from that oil wealth. What is General Buhari putting on the table in terms of distribution of wealth? HASSAN: Nigeria is deemed to be the largest economy in Africa now, but the truth is that the economy, this is, the wealth does not reflect in the lives of Nigerians. Inequality is widening, poverty has increased, and unemployment has peaked, so it’s a fact of life for us. And of course the oil wealth is not reflected in the lives of the people. One, the issue of corruption has become monumental. When they ask the question, what are the two big issues in Nigeria? The two big issues is that of security and corruption, and it is this corruption that is not allowing the dividend of democracy to flow down to the grassroots itself. And people expect General Buhari to have the matter of [power] with him. Not in his manifesto, in the manifesto of his political party. There are risks that they are going to curb corruption through strengthening institutions. The use of the freedom of information law. The removal of the immunity clause has become one of the biggest challenges with governance in Nigeria. Government officials, particularly at the executive level, the president, the governors, they embezzle lots of money. But because they have this immunity from being prosecuted while in office, they get away with this. And of course when they get out of office, they use the power familiar of office. And of course the judiciary thwarts the will of justice. So the [PCP] Government has promised to remove the immunity clause. [inaud.] welfare. They have in place a social welfare plan where they plan to feed children, not in school to improve in school, to improve education, but beyond that they are putting in place a $5,000 scheme. A 5,000 Naira every month scheme. 5,000 Naira is just like $25 per month for every person living with disability, the aged, the women, and to the the vulnerable in general, to alleviate poverty. They also promise to create employment opportunity I think [some 120,000] within a year of assumption of office. Of course, this is expected to trickle down from the federal level to the state level. One of their strategies is to actually call for more devolution of power. All these are plans which they have put timeline to implement in. But how it will eventually pan out, plus inauguration of the government, are questions we are still begging for answers to see. PERIES: Idayat Hassan, thank you so much for joining us today. HASSAN: Thank you very much. PERIES: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.


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