The disciplinarian former military ruler has been elected as president for the second time, but Buhari’s task is harder than it was before.
Nigeria’s former general and self-described converted democrat, Muhammadu Buhari secured his second term on Tuesday as president of Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation.
“I am deeply humbled and profoundly grateful to you for judging me worthy of continuing to serve you and for your peaceful conduct,” Buhari said in his victory speech. He also promised to tackle systematic corruption, the county’s deadly insecurity problem and the economic crisis that has sent youth unemployment skyrocketing.
Buhari won 56 percent of the vote, compared with 41 percent for the main opposition candidate and wealthy businessman Atiku Abubakar, who sought to tap into discontentment at unemployment and inflation by vowing to create jobs and double the size of the economy.
However, soon after the election results were announced, Abubakar rejected the re-election of incumbent Buhari and vowed to challenge the “sham” result in court.
Abubakar’s rejection has raised concerns that the dispute could stir more bloodshed with at least 47 people already killed during the voting process which was delayed for a week.
Buhari: The man of rules
Buhari made history in the 2015 elections as the first Nigerian to oust a president through the ballot box. When he unseated then-incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan, he was welcomed as a ‘Messiah’ due to his reputation for harsh discipline.
The majority of Nigerians hoped clean Buhari would crush the Boko Haram insurgency and corruption that has blighted Nigeria for decades. Wielding a broom, Buhari played up the role as the clean-up man.
His reputation came from his career in the army. When he seized power in 1983 as a military ruler, he promised to clean the stables of a mismanaged country and took a tough line including deploying the soldiers armed with whips at bus stops to prevent unruliness in bus queues.
During his first term in the office, the disciplinary former general showed that his pledge to fight corruption remained popular, particularly when combined with the extended social welfare programmes and infrastructure projects.
Despite inheriting widespread goodwill, his first term has been difficult, and he faced serious — and unanswered — questions about his health. He spent more than 150 days outside the country for unspecified medical treatment in London.
His long absence from May 2016 until mid-2017, also sparked one of politics' more unusual conspiracy theories - that he had died and been replaced by a lookalike called Jubril from Sudan. He was forced to deny rumours and prove he was real Buhari.
‘The Messiah has failed us’
A year into his term, Nigeria's heavily oil-dependent economy, Africa's largest, fell into its first recession in 25 years when global crude prices crashed. The recession storm subsided but growth remains slow, and the president was criticised for hurting the currency, the naira, with overly protective measures.
While Buhari points to progress in agriculture and infrastructure to appeal to his large base of rural supporters, many people grumble that both inflation and unemployment, now at nearly 25 percent, are painfully high. Nigerians can rattle off dramatic changes in prices from before Buhari took office until now, down to the smallest naira.
Moreover, the last straw for the Nigerians was the World Poverty Clock report which showed Nigeria as the number one country with the highest number of people living in extreme poverty.
In Lagos, Nigeria's bustling commercial centre, where Buhari won a tightly fought election, 63-year-old Ade Monday pointed out the crowds on the streets, saying: "Look at the faces of the people, look.”
He added: “In 2015, celebrations in the area were joyous. Last time people thought he was like the Messiah coming but now look, the Messiah has failed us."
But the economic crisis is not the only problem Buhari has had to deal with. Few countries have the variety of deadly threats that Nigeria faces: oil militants and pirates in the south, Boko Haram splinter groups in the northeast and clashes between largely Christian farmers and largely Muslim herders in the central region over increasingly scarce land.
Hence, his critics also called into question his strongest political asset, his military credentials. Although Boko Haram militants suffered heavy losses and Buhari repeatedly claims they have been “technically defeated”, the terror groups have had a huge effect on the entire of northeastern Nigeria, having killed 35,000 people and left 7.7 million Nigerians in a serious need of humanitarian aid.
Some Nigerians are still optimistic. They believed Buhari when he became the president in 2015. They say the country, that was under the 16-year rule of opposition PDP, was deeply troubled and Buhari needs four more years.
"Changing the country takes time, that's what people need to understand," said one supporter in Lagos, brandishing a maroon hat with Buhari's ‘Next Level’ campaign slogan.