Key points in Buhari's Nigerian election win

Phil Hazlewood
Supporters of newly-elected Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari sit on top of a bus as they celebrate the victory their candidate in Lagos on April 1, 2015 (AFP Photo/Pius Utomi Ekpei)

Lagos (AFP) - Did Muhammadu Buhari win or Goodluck Jonathan lose? Either way, a number of factors contributed to the first ever democratic transfer of power between political parties in Nigeria's history.

- Voter ID card readers -

Previous elections in Nigeria have been hit by electoral fraud on an industrial scale but this year was different with the introduction of biometric voter identity cards and handheld readers.

Jonathan's Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) opposed the use of the new technology, saying it had been insufficiently tested and questioned officials' ability to use them.

Embarrassingly, the device malfunctioned as Jonathan tried to accredit himself for the vote but elections chief Attahiru Jega said such glitches only affected 0.25 percent or 374 of the 150,000 machines used.

There were still claims of vote-rigging and other irregularities, including election officials being locked up or disappearing, but international observers broadly praised the conduct of the vote.

On Wednesday, Nigeria's Transition Monitoring Group, which ran its own tally from a representative sample of polling units, said it "confidently verifies the accuracy of the official results".

- Political support -

Buhari stood for the presidency in 2003, 2007 and 2011 for smaller political parties without the huge financial backing that is required to win support in Nigeria.

Four years ago he won an impressive 10 million votes, mostly in the north, but by joining the better-organised and wealthier All Progressives Congress (APC) he was in a much stronger position.

"He won because he built a stronger, broader national coalition," said political commentator Chris Ngwodo.

"In this country, you win the presidency by building bridges over the divide, between the (Muslim-majority) north and (largely Christian) south and he has done that.

"He has a very strong following in the north. What was different this time is that he was able to hitch to a very organised political machine in the southwest. That made him a more national figure."

- Boko Haram -

Jonathan's inability to stem the Islamist violence in the northeast was incomprehensible to many Nigerians proud of their military and its role at the vanguard of past UN peacekeeping missions.

A tipping point was reached when Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls on April 14 last year, sparking global outrage at the crime but also at Jonathan's handling of the crisis.

The APC capitalised on this as well as former military ruler Buhari's background as an army general to position him as qualified to handle the insurgency, although not everyone is convinced.

J. Peter Pham, from the Atlantic Council, said: "Buhari may be viewed as a Muslim and a pious one by many Nigerians but he is clearly not Muslim enough for the extremists.

"He is a former military man but it's been three decades since he's been in uniform."

- Change -

Quite simply, many Nigerians had had enough of the PDP, which has been in power for 16 years since the end of decades of military rule.

In that time, Nigeria may have increased its share of billionaires but perennial problems of lack of constant electricity and clean water persist, living standards remain low and corruption rampant.

Buhari became Nigeria's anti-corruption crusader in chief, particularly in the eyes of voters either too young or not born when he was military ruler, cracking down -- often harshly -- on graft.

"Buhari's message of change resonated with an emerging demographic of young, independent urbanites who simply wanted governance," said Ngwodo.

"They didn't care for identity politics and were repelled by the identity politics of the incumbent president."

- Economy -

Nigeria may have become Africa's biggest economy during Jonathan's time in office but few felt the benefits, with the success cancelled out by the global fall in oil prices, on which the economy depends.

Government revenues have been squeezed and the country's budget estimates revised, adding to inflationary pressures as the naira currency weakened sharply against the US dollar.

Buhari's economic credentials are uncertain but he didn't have to do much to take advantage of the situation. His moves to address Nigeria's economic difficulties will now be closely watched.

"We think a Buhari win implies reformist policies, including austere fiscal policy and a clampdown on graft," said Charles Robertson of Renaissance Capital.

"However, leading a coalition may undermine his ability to make difficult decisions," he added, underlining that his cabinet appointments will be "crucial".