KANO, NIGERIA —
Men in flowing robes and women wearing headscarves crowded the streets of Nigeria’s second largest city late Tuesday, celebrating the apparent victory of Muhammadu Buhari in the presidential race.
Kano is a Buhari stronghold and capital of a state that gave the former military ruler more than 1.9 million votes in the weekend’s voting— backing was crucial to power Buhari to a resounding defeat of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.
Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party had won every election since the country’s returned to democracy in 1999. Despite vigorous campaigning, Jonathan was unable to overcome concerns about corruption, a faltering economy and the Boko Haram insurgency in the north.
Buhari and his All Progressives Congress rode that voter dissatisfaction to victory, adopting a broom—to symbolize a clean sweep— to send a message of change.
Moneychanger Alfazazi Baba Dala celebrated in Kano’s streets, as cars sped by, with passengers hanging out the windows and waving brooms.
“The change we have seen we have been targeting all this change for long, but now we have got it now,” Dala said. “This is why you see, this all crowd, this crowd you have seen. We thank God about the change we have got now.”
Buhari has his work cut out for him running what is both Africa’s most-populous country and largest economy. For the moment, though, student Amiru Adado said, all the people of Kano want to do is celebrate.
“I think we’re going to celebrate from now till tomorrow, maybe even next morrow. We’re going to celebrate, celebrate and celebrate again,” Adado said.
Buhari’s tasks include managing a budget rocked by the declining price of oil, the government’s biggest revenue earner. Buhari must also find a way to defeat the brutal the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast.
Matti Kamaradeen, a transport worker, said he kept track of the results and called the victory even before the Independent National Electoral Commission.
"We are even celebrating now," he said. "The results are here. We are celebrating already. Let them just count the remaining results for us. We are celebrating already.
Johanna Andrew, a 30-year old businesswoman, said she was confident that Buhari was going to win.
“I was 100 percent sure from day one this man is going to win because he has ruled the country before," she said. "Though I was a little child, what I heard about him, he ruled this country very well. There was no corruption. This is a man that will support you and take care of you."
Murtala Olatunji, a teacher, said the country needs a new leader.
“We need change because what’s going on in this country is very bad," she said. "When you look at the dollars before we change it for 190. Now its 250. The economy is going very bad. We want change. We want general Muhammadu Buhari to change this country for us.”
The vote returns Buhari to power after a 30-year absence. The 72-year-old retired general served as the country's military ruler in 1984 and 1985 following a coup.