Nigeria election: Buhari in front after half of results declared


Opposition candidate opens up lead over Goodluck Jonathan based on returns from 18 out of Nigeria’s 36 states and capital city Abuja 
Handover of results
Independent national electoral commission (INEC) officer Prof Michael Faborode, right, hands over the result sheet for the Federal Capital Territory to INEC chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega at the national collation centre in Abuja. Photograph: EPA

Muhammadu Buhari took a significant lead over the Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, on Monday night with half of the results declared in a fiercely contested general election. Buhari, the opposition candidate, led with 8,520,436 votes against Jonathan’s 6,488,210, based on returns from 18 out of Nigeria’s 36 states plus the capital city. Turnout was consistently higher in the strongholds of Buhari, who ruled Nigeria in 1983-85 as a military dictator.

If the trend continues, Jonathan would be the first incumbent to suffer defeat at the ballot box in the history of Africa’s biggest democracy. The international community has called for a fair and peaceful election that would send a signal to the rest of the continent.

The first official results declared on Monday gave Jonathan’s People’s Democratic party (PDP) victory over Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) in Etiki state. But it was clear this would not be another walkover for the governing party when Buhari won Ogun and Kogi, both formerly loyal to the PDP.

Jonathan, 57, took the capital, Abuja, but 72-year-old Buhari won the state of Nigeria’s second biggest city, Kano, in the mainly Muslim north by an overwhelming margin: nearly 2m votes against 215,779. This may well have put him on track for the presidency.

James Schneider, editorial director of New African magazine, who was analysing the results as they came in, tweeted: “The story of the night is #Buhari getting his vote out in his areas and #Jonathan not doing so enough.”

The commercial capital, Lagos, and some of Jonathan’s bastions in the largely Christian south, including the oil-rich Niger delta, are yet to declare, and a final result is not expected until Tuesday.

Femi Fani-Kayode, spokesman for the PDP presidential campaign, told Nigeria’s Channels television: “One thing we can all agree on is this is a very close election, probably the closest election in the history of Nigeria, but we believe at the end of the day we will pull through.”

He complained of irregularities, however, including alleged APC voters who were underage or brought in from neighbouring Chad and Niger. “It’s likely we’re going to challenge some of the results coming from the north-west, but we’ll cross the bridge when we get there.”

Fani-Kayode warned: “We have always said right from the outset that we are prepared to accept the announcement of any election result as long as it is the manifestation of the will of the Nigerian people. We will live with it. What we will not accept is any interference in the electoral process from INEC [Nigeria’s electoral commission], the opposition or anyone else. If it does not reflect the will of the Nigerian people, we shall resist it with everything that is available to us. That you can rest assured of.”

The official collation of votes was carried out at an election centre in Abuja in the presence of party representatives, national and international election observers and media. Wearing traditional white agbada and gold-rimmed glasses, national election chief Attahiru Jega occasionally grilled the returning officers. “When a polling unit is cancelled, we need to know how many votes were cancelled. So I’m going to require that you … resubmit your results,” he told the returning officer for Kogi state.

The winning presidential candidate needs not only the most votes, but at least 25% support in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and Abuja to avoid a run-off.

Voting went relatively smoothly in a nation of 170 million people despite deadly attacks by Islamist extremists, allegations of political violence, and technical glitches that forced polling stations to reopen for a second day in some areas. Nigeria’s Transition Monitoring Group, which had observers across the country, said: “These issues did not systematically disadvantage any candidate or party.”

But in a rare intervention on Monday, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his British counterpart, Philip Hammond, said both countries would be “very concerned” by any attempts to undermine the independence of the electoral commission and distort the will of the Nigerian people.

“So far, we have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process,” they said in a joint statement from the sidelines of the Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland. “But there are disturbing indications that the collation process – where the votes are finally counted – may be subject to deliberate political interference.”

Santiago Fisas, head of the European Union election observer mission, also told reporters that “there is not evidence of a systematic subversion of the voting process so far”. But he stressed that “collation is the most critical problem … We are watching this”.

Even before collation began, the APC demanded fresh elections in the southern states of Rivers and Akwa Ibom, alleging irregularities that include missing and false results sheets and electoral officials being replaced by government officials loyal to Jonathan. The national election commission said it is investigating numerous complaints.

Some 2,000 women protesting against the conduct of the elections in Port Harcourt, Rivers, were teargassed as they tried to converge on the local electoral commission offices. APC women’s leader Victoria Nyeche told Agence France-Presse: “What happened today was unprecedented … All we want is a fresh election because what happened on Saturday was a fraud.”

But fears that the election, thought to be the most expensive in African history, will be polarising and that the losing side will not accept the outcome persist. After Buhari lost to Jonathan in 2011, 800 people died and 65,000 were forced from their homes by riots in the north.




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