Former two-term Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged as the winner in Nigeria’s presidential election — the most closely contested leadership poll there since 1999.
The 70-year-old contender won 37% of the vote, beating out Atiku Abubakar (who had 29%), the 76-year-old former vice president on his sixth presidential bid, and Peter Obi (who had 25%), a 61-year-old third-party candidate and political outsider popular among Nigeria’s youth.
Now Tinubu leads Africa’s most populous country and largest economy. His supporters say his experience improving infrastructure and civil services in Lagos, the nation’s commercial hub, means he is well-equipped to take on Nigeria’s spiraling economic and security crises.
Here’s what you need to know about Nigeria’s new leader, who takes office in May.
Who is Bola Ahmed Tinubu?
Tinubu is a political veteran and member of the ruling All Progressive Congress who served as the governor of Lagos from 1999 to 2007. Because of his political clout, Nigerians dubbed him the “Godfather of Lagos.” This election, he ran on the slogan: “It’s my turn.”
But, in a major blow, his opponent Obi won the majority of the vote in Lagos state, a tribute to Obi’s hold over the country’s large population of frustrated youth.
Tinubu, on the other hand, won the support of the outgoing president, Muhammadu Buhari. He served two terms that saw two recessions, a surge in youth unemployment and a general proliferation of violence.
“My track record should speak for me. Look at Lagos: Before I came, we had dead bodies on the road, a chaotic traffic system, robbery daytime and nighttime,” Tinubu said this week, distancing himself from the ruling party, Reuters reported. “Come on: clap for me,” he said.
In multiethnic Nigeria, major parties typically ensure that both the mostly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south are represented on the ticket. But Tinubu, a southern Muslim from the Yoruba ethnic group, selected a northern Muslim, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate.
“This is the man who turned Lagos from a dangerous, often scary place where crime was the norm, into a relatively safe and crime-free place it is today. He has the IDEAS. He has the TRACK RECORD,” one of Tinubu’s Twitter campaign videos proclaims.
Tinubu has also faced allegations of corruption, charges that he deny. Critics have questioned how he accumulated his wealth. They also raised alarms over his health after he fumbled words on the campaign trail.
What issues does Tinubu face?
Nigeria, home to over 200 million people, is rapidly growing and the United Nations projects it will be the third-most populous country by around 2050.
But its economy needs to grow faster, the World Bank said. Despite the nation’s vast oil riches, more than 60 percent of Nigerians live in poverty. The country is also dealing with severe inflation, youth unemployment and a crippling cash shortage.
Insecurity remains a concern, even as threats from the Islamist militant group Boko Haram have subsided in recent years. Mass abductions of schoolchildren, kidnappings by gangs, banditry, as well as violence from Islamic State offshoots, are still prevalent.
Nigeria has a very young population, with around 70 percent under the age of 30. But many of the youth are frustrated — the World Bank found in 2021 that 43 percent of Nigerian youth are unemployed and 52 percent want to leave the country.
“Everything is hanging on this election,” said Alexandra Maduagwu, 27, who planned to vote for Obi, told The Washington Post leading up to the election. “People are at their limits right now. Their only saving grace is that when the election comes, they know things are going to change. We just don’t know if it’s for better or for worse.”
Tinubu’s acceptance speech
“My fellow Nigerians,
I am profoundly humbled that you have elected me to serve as the 16th president of our beloved republic. This is a shining moment in the life of any man and affirmation of our democratic existence. From my heart, I say thank you.
Whether you are Batified, Atikulated, Obidient, Kwankwasiyya, or have any other political affiliation, you voted for a better, more hopeful nation and I thank you for your participation and dedication to our democracy.
You decided to place your trust in the democratic vision of a Nigeria founded on shared prosperity and one nurtured by the ideals of unity, justice, peace and tolerance. Renewed hope has dawned in Nigeria.
We commend INEC for running a free and fair election. The lapses that did occur were relatively few in number and were immaterial to the final outcome. With each cycle of elections, we steadily perfect this process so vital to our democratic life.
Today, Nigeria stands tall as the giant of Africa. It shines even brighter as the continent’s biggest democracy.
I thank all who supported my campaign. From President Buhari who adeptly led my campaign as its chairman, to my Vice Presidential Candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima.
To the progressive governors of our party and this nation, to the party leadership, to our loyal party members. I owe you a debt of gratitude. To the entire campaign organization, I thank you sincerely.
I thank my loving wife and dear family whose support was ceaseless and inspiring. Without you, this victory would not be possible.
I am grateful to Almighty God. By His mercy, I was born a son of Nigeria and through His sublime purpose I find myself the victor of this election. May He grant me the wisdom and courage to lead the nation to the greatness He alone has destined for it.
Finally, I thank the Nigerian people for their abiding belief in our democracy. I shall be a fair leader to all Nigerians. I will be in tune with your aspirations, charge up your energies and harness your talents to deliver a nation that we can be proud of.
To my fellow candidates, former VP Atiku, former governor Kwankwaso, former governor Obi and all others, I extend the hand of friendship. This was a competitive, high-spirited campaign.
You have my utmost respect.”