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Buhari praises Jonathan in landmark Nigeria poll

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President elect Muhammadu Buhari extends “hand of fellowship” to Goodluck Jonathan after winning historic elections.

Nigerian election winner Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated outgoing President Goodluck Jonathan for peacefully relinquishing power, a day after becoming the first Nigerian politician to unseat a sitting leader at the ballot box.

“President Jonathan was a worthy opponent and I extend the hand of fellowship to him,” Buhari told journalists and supporters to loud applause on Wednesday.

“We have proven to the world that we are people who have embraced democracy. We have put one-party state behind us.”

The margin of victory – Buhari got 15.4 million votes to Jonathan’s 13.3 million – was enough to prevent any legal challenge.

In an unprecedented step, Jonathan called Buhari to concede defeat and issued a statement urging his supporters to accept the result, a signal of deepening democracy in Africa’s most populous nation that few had expected.

He urged his supporters to follow “due process” in channelling their frustrations at losing the election amid fear of violence.

“Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian,” he said in a statement issued after his election defeat.

“The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.”

The rules state he must officially handover on May 29.

His rival All Progressives Congress Party (APC) wasted no time in crowning him a “hero” for his good sportsmanship.

Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has been in charge since the end of army rule in 1999 but had been losing support due to several oil sector corruption scandals and killings by rebel group Boko Haram in the northeast.

“You voted for change and now change has come,” Buhari said.

Former military ruler Buhari became the first Nigerian to defeat a sitting president through the ballot box.

Al Jazeera’s Yvonne Ndege, reporting from the capital Abuja, said Buhari was declared the winner after he gained 2.7 million more votes than his rival, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

“There had always been this fear that he might not want to concede, but he will remain a hero for this move. The tension will go down dramatically,” Lai Mohammed, spokesman for the APC, said.

Victory for Buhari marks the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition party has democratically taken control of the country from the ruling party.

Resource: Al Jazeera, April 1, 2015

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