Buhari: Nigeria embraces democracy, 1-party state behind us

Nigeria Poll Makes History
Nigeria Poll Makes History

ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) - Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari said Wednesday it was time "to heal wounds," a day after Nigeria's president conceded defeat in a bitterly fought election.

Calling for conciliation across the political divide, Buhari said Nigerians have put a one-party state behind them and embraced democracy.

Buhari, 72, said his victory is a victory for Nigerians who showed they can bring about peaceful change through the ballot box. It is the first time in Nigeria's history that a sitting president has been defeated at the polls.

Buhari was the sole candidate of a coalition of the major political parties that formed two years ago and transformed Nigeria's political landscape by offering the first real challenge to the governing party that has been in power since 1999.

Results from Saturday's election show Buhari winning votes across religious, tribal lines and geopolitical lines.

Because of decades of military rule - Buhari himself ousted a democratically elected government in the 1980s - this is only the eighth election in Nigeria's history and the fifth since democracy was restored in 1999.

"You voted for change and now change has come," said Buhari, who describes himself as a convert to democracy. "Your vote affirms that you believe Nigeria's future can be better than what it is today." He was addressing supporters at his party secretariat in Abuja, the capital, around 6 a.m.

President Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat in a televised address to the nation late Tuesday, opening the way for a peaceful and unprecedented transition of power in Africa's richest and most populous state.

His concession has defused tensions and fears of post-election violence. Some 1,000 people died and 65,000 were made homeless in riots in the Muslim north after Buhari lost to Jonathan in 2011.

Originally published