By Adam Nossiter
With anger swelling over corruption, inequality and a devastating Islamist insurgency in the nation’s north, Nigerians chose a former general who once ruled with an iron hand to be their next president, according to election results on Tuesday.
The election was the most competitive presidential race ever in Nigeria, one of the largest democracies in the world. Now, if power is handed over peacefully, it will be a major shift for the nation — the first transfer of power between civilians of different parties in a country that has spent much of its post-colonial history roiled by military coups.
With all but one of Nigeria’s 36 states counted, the former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, held a lead of more than two million votes over President Goodluck Jonathan.
The remaining state is in the north, where Mr. Buhari enjoys broad support and the government has been widely condemned for allowing the Boko Haram militant group to sweep through villages and towns, killing thousands of civilians.
Since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigeria has been governed by a single, dominant party — Mr. Jonathan’s Peoples Democratic Party.
But on Tuesday, Mr. Buhari’s campaign said that the president had called the challenger at 5:15 pm to acknowledge defeat — a step that, if confirmed, many Nigerians would consider a big leap forward after previous elections marred by fraud and incumbents clinging to office.