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Nigeria had an election and something amazing happened

Flickr: Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung

Peaceful political transitions are a lot like a healthy colons. When things are going well, you hardly notice them, but when they all go to crap (pardon the pun) ohhhhh boy is it a problem.

This past week - something extraordinary happened. For the first time in the nation’s history, Nigeria saw an incumbent President lose an election.

Nigeria, the largest democracy in Africa, has seen elections plagued with violence and charges of vote-rigging since it gained independence.

While there was isolated violence this year, the poll was largely peaceful.

And for the first time ever, a sitting leader, President Goodluck Jonathan, handed over the reigns of power to the opposition candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, without shots being fired.

It’s hard to undersell what a huge deal this is.

While Nigeria is the most-populous and wealthiest nation in Africa, it still has more than 14 million people living in extreme poverty. Over the past few years, the country has also been dealing with brutal attacks by the terrorist group Boko Haram.

Both of those issues were a major part of this election, particularly and the previous government's failure to address both problems adequately played heavily in their losses.

Amid this milestone, there are still reasons for the international community to temper its optimism.

Buhari was formerly a military leader (1983 - 85) and while he calls himself a “converted democrat”, his previous government has had numerous charges of human rights abuses leveled against it.

Still: this is an historic moment.

Whatever the future holds, the decisions made by Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Buhari to conduct this transition peacefully is an event worth celebrating.