Abuja, Nigeria – Muhammadu Buhari has comfortably secured a second term as Nigeria’s president, according to official results.
The 76-year-own, of the All Progressive Congress (APC) party, won 56 percent of of the votes, compared with 41 percent for his top rival Atiku Abubakar, a candidate for the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Following the electoral commission’s announcement on Wednesday, Abubakar rejected the result as “the implementation of grand theft of the people’s will” and said next steps would be revealed shortly.
At the end of a long electoral process that was hit by a last-minute weeklong postponement, delays in the opening of polling stations and instances of violence, Al Jazeera spoke to Kingsley Moghalu – an opposition presidential candidate from the Young Progressive Party (YPP) – about Nigeria’s political system, the challenges ahead and the credibility issues arising from the just-concluded elections.
Al Jazeera: What was your experience running for the presidency?
KM: At some point there was an epiphany when it became clear to me that the rate of poverty in this country, the rate of population growth, the rate of unemployment was all heading towards a social cataclysm in the years ahead if the trajectory is not broken now.
In the past 20 years of our democratic experience, we have only gotten poorer. What can Nigeria take into the 21st century as a modern and prosperous nation? I answered the question – a visionary, competent and technocratic leader.
I have been a technocrat as a senior policymaker as the deputy governor of the Central Bank. I have been a professor of international business and economic policy. I’ve been a United Nations official for 17 years.
But the democratic legitimacy that is conferred by being elected at the ballot box is the deciding factor of the progress or lack of progress of any country.
Al Jazeera: But in Nigeria, we still have this issue of the electorate still voting along party lines and not really about the manifesto of candidates.
KM: It is because of the lack of political education, which my campaign really was about. My campaign was a process of political education but we did not have enough time in one year to educate the people away from habits that have been ingrained over the past 20 years.
Buhari reelected as Nigeria’s president: Electoral commission
[Secondly], the fact that there are too many people who are poor and hungry and for them, the immediate need is for survival in the moment and they don’t have time for the fine luxuries of electing a good and competent leader. They are just looking for somebody who can give them food today.
Right now, [the people] can see the vision, they are sympathetic to it but clearly, they were not just ready to act.
Many people who wanted to vote for me decided ultimately to vote for the PDP because the overriding priority was for them to defeat Buhari. They then asked themselves the question, who can defeat Buhari?
In their view, it was only the PDP because it was an old established structure but then they don’t realise these are the same very people who have contributed together with the APC to bringing us to where we are today. They do not have the sophistication of making that distinction – it was just anybody but Buhari.
Al Jazeera: And in 2023, do you think if you run a successful campaign you could win?
KM: I believe so. I believe that a number of practical factors will be more in our favour than the situation today – 2019 is the last grasp of the old order.
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By the way, the election is not yet over. We are still not sure who has won. The process itself has so many problems of credibility that we have to see whether it will survive all kinds of possible challenges, judicial or otherwise.
I know a lot of my votes were stolen – stolen by rigging, stolen by voters’ oppression, stolen by vote-buying by the two big parties, the APC and the PDP. I believe the two of them were rigging the election and it’s possible that one might out rig the other and have victory declared for it.
Clearly, a lot of our votes are stolen so that means that this election has serious credibility problems and everybody is complaining about it. Let’s just assume that if it were to play out that somebody “won” and that our democracy remains. In 2023, I don’t see why I won’t be able to win.
Al Jazeera: Rigging has been more enshrined in the system over the years.
KM: Part of our planning for 2023, if we were to come out again, is to learn the lessons from 2019 including the question of rigging, vote buying. We now have four years to begin to educate our people, to strengthen our political structures across the 774 local government areas.
And who knows – time could meet opportunity. This is what happens to many politicians. In Buhari’s case, for example, he was against the time three times but on the fourth time, people were so fed up with Jonathan that they decided to vote for him.
My problem is that Nigeria hasn’t gotten to the problem of voting for people for positive reasons; instead they vote against them. They don’t care very much who they vote for. That has to change.
Al Jazeera: Money politics is a big problem in Nigeria and obviously you didn’t have the deep pocket of the two big parties – how do you intend to surmount the challenge in 2023?
KM: I believe that political education and a very strong structure can over time educate people and graining it into them as to why voting for leaders like myself serve the purpose of themselves and the society. I think if you have enough time to do that, I think you could be successful.
Al Jazeera: You talked about the credibility of the polls and the main opposition PDP has come out today rejecting the results. What are the options for the opposition to ensure that these polls get the credible backing it needs?
KM: Well I don’t know because the opposition is fractured, it’s divided. There is the new breed of political parties and politicians like myself, there is the old breed like the PDP which is the main opposition force politically today,
I cannot speak for them; I can only say the process has not been finally concluded. I will take a position when the process is concluded and we hear the final resolution. So it’s a bit premature for me to go into that discussion now.
Al Jazeera: There has been a campaign for the youth and you talked about the old folks like their time is up. But then in 2023, you’ll already be inching 60 years – won’t you be considered to be old?
KM:No. In Nigeria, what we refer to as old is not [necessarily] the numerical age because somebody who is 60 is not old by any definition – he’s mature but not old.
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What’s more important is not their physical age, it is the age of their ideas. That’s [what we mean] when we talk about old and new.
People might have a higher numerical age but they can still be in tune with new ideas about leadership and transparency and governance.
[When we refer to ‘old people’ we mean that] they represent a certain tendency, a certain habit that has been formed over the past 20 years and it is those habits and those tendencies and this pattern of thinking that we reject completely.
It’s about the way people think and mislead a nation that is the issue. If you have done that for a long time starting from when you were in your mid-thirties or your mid-seventies, the likelihood that you’d be able to change when you are in your early seventies is very slim.
That is what we mean when we talk about old politicians, the people who have been at it for a long time. Some of them are in their 60s, some are even in their late 50s but are still part of the old political order, so it’s not about numerical age.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity