CHIBOK, Nigeria — In Chibok, the village in northeastern Nigeria’s restive Borno state that is still suffering the loss of more than 200 schoolgirls, residents welcomed Monday's election results showing Muhammadu Buhari had defeated President Goodluck Jonathan.
Many in Chibok view Jonathan as a failure and are hoping that Buhari will offer solutions to ensuring the return of the missing girls.
“I am very happy because I now have a new government that I can also try to engage with to make sure our girls come back,” said Allen Manasseh. “I tried to engage the government of Goodluck Jonathan but the government treated us as if we were criminals just because we were demanding our girls.”
Some voters traveled hundreds of miles to cast their votes in Saturday's landmark presidential election.
“I know it was a huge risk but it is my civic duty to cast my ballot,” said Allen Manasseh, who traveled over 400 miles from the capital, Abuja, to Chibok, his hometown, where he cast his vote on Saturday. His cousin Maryam was one of the kidnapped girls, and Manasseh is still hoping for her return. “We will keep demanding for our girls to come back,” he said.
Like many in Chibok, Manasseh is disappointed in Jonathan’s handling of the mass abduction of the schoolgirls on April 14 by Boko Haram. It took more than a week for Jonathan to make a public comment on the abduction, and he has still never visited the troubled community to express his condolences. “I tried to engage the government of Goodluck Jonathan, but the government treated us as if we were criminals just because we were demanding our girls,” Manasseh said.
Chibok voters went to the polls on Saturday, and the main opposition party, led by the former military ruler Buhari, won by more than 7,000 votes. Nationwide, Buhari defeated Jonathan by a landslide, with a margin of more than 2 million votes. Jonathan issued a statement on Tuesday congratulating Buhari, and across Africa’s most populous nation, Buhari supporters celebrated an unprecedented moment — the first time an opposition candidate has won a presidential election in Nigeria, and an expected peaceful transition of power.
Buhari’s campaign slogan of “change” appealed to Nigerians seeking an administration that will tackle rampant corruption and an economy suffering from a falling currency. But for many in northeastern Nigeria, where Boko Haram has killed more than 13,000 people and displaced more than 1 million in its campaign to establish a state ruled by their extreme interpretation of Sharia, security is the number one issue.
“Security is the priority,” said Bulus Mungopark, a leader in Chibok’s vigilante force. “And concerning our girls, we believe Buhari will do everything to find our girls because Jonathan is too weak to do so.”
Buhari’s military background appeals to those frustrated with Jonathan’s inability to defeat Boko Haram after more than six years. Nigerian soldiers have been accused of being too heavy-handed in their attempts to clear villages of suspected Boko Haram fighters, and also of running away from oncoming Boko Haram attacks. The armed group has turned into a threat to regional security, and Nigeria’s neighbors have stepped into the fight.
Mungopark traveled for two days from Maiduguri to Chibok to cast his vote. He said he has engaged with Boko Haram fighters on numerous occasions, sometimes alongside Nigerian troops. Since February, the Nigerian military has made some gains in the fight against the armed group.
“I am very much happy because there is a change,” said Mungopark.