April 15, 2015

Muhammadu Buhari made history in March by becoming the first candidate to oust a sitting Nigerian President through the ballot box. Now he has to live up to voters’ expectations. From battling the Boko Haram insurgency to tackling endemic corruption, Buhari has many challenges ahead. The greatest may be overcoming his past as a military ruler who seized power in 1983. Already the born-again democrat is demonstrating the inclusivity necessary to lead a nation riven by ethnic and religious tensions. “We must begin to heal the wounds and work toward a better future,” he said in his April 1 victory speech. “We do this first by extending a hand of friendship and conciliation across the political divide.” It’s a promising start for a President-to-be who wants to leave a legacy to match the historic conditions of his election.

Baker is TIME’s Africa bureau chief

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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