AFRICANGLOBE – President Muhammadu Buhari was on course to secure a second term in Nigeria’s elections on Tuesday with votes in more than two-thirds of states counted, but his main rival rejected the results and opposition supporters called them “incorrect and unacceptable”.
With results officially declared in 27 of the 36 states, plus the Federal Capital Territory, Mr Buhari was leading Atiku Abubakar, former vice-president, by roughly 3.5m votes, at 56 per cent to 40 per cent. His lead was “unassailable”, according to reports, based on data.
If the trend holds, the former general will take charge of Africa’s most populous nation for another four-year term after an election marred by a low turnout and lengthy delays. The electoral commission said it would announced the full results by the end of the night.
The pace of vote-counting in the poll, which took place on Saturday after being postponed for a week, has been glacial. At a conference room in Abuja, electoral officials announce the result for every state individually by calling out the vote totals for each of the 73 parties that fielded candidates. There are also often breaks between each state’s result.
Mr Abubakar’s People’s Democratic party (PDP) continued to contest the credibility of the results on Tuesday, accusing the ruling party of rigging the contest. In particular, the party has pointed to big gains made by Mr Buhari in the country’s south-east, where he has long been unpopular, as a sign of widespread manipulation. The government denies the claims.
Uche Secondus, the PDP chairman, said the results were “incorrect and unacceptable”. But it was unclear whether the party planned to mount a legal challenge and others in Mr Abubakar’s camp privately conceded they could not win.
“No matter what they say, it’s finished,” said one adviser close to Mr Abubakar.
Nigeria’s conduct of the election received mixed reviews from observers. Many criticised the country’s Independent National Electoral Commission for first delaying the election by a week just hours before polls were meant to open and then opening most polling stations hours late on the rescheduled election day.
The Situation Room, an umbrella group of civil society organisations, called for an inquiry into the “significant shortcomings” of the process.
“The election has been a step back from the 2015 general election and actions should be taken to identify what has gone wrong and what can be corrected,” the group said in a statement.
In order to claim victory, a candidate must win the most votes as well as at least a quarter of votes in two-thirds of Nigeria’s states and the Federal Capital Territory. A second round will be called if no candidate achieves that.
The Youth Initiative for Advocacy, Growth and Advancement, a civil society group, which ran a robust observation and polling mission, predicted that a clear winner would emerge although no candidate would win more than 55 percent of the vote.
About 73m Nigerians collected their voter cards — almost 90 percent of those registered — but Yiaga estimated that turnout had probably fallen below 40 percent, down from 44 percent in 2015.
Analysts said voting was depressed in part because of the delays but also because Nigerians faced an uninspiring choice between two septuagenarians who have run for president a total of nine times combined.
At least 47 people are estimated to have died in election-related and post-election violence, with scattered reports of ballot box snatching, the burning of counting centres and voter intimidation across the country.
Mr Abubakar and Mr Buhari fought an acrimonious campaign in what is widely thought to be the last chance for their generation to rule Nigeria.
Mr Buhari campaigned on his reputation for being untainted by scandal in a country known for political corruption, while attacking Mr Abubakar, a wealthy businessman, over allegations of crony capitalism. Mr Abubakar denies the claims.
Mr Abubakar pitched himself as the pro-business candidate who could fix Africa’s largest economy, which he argued Mr Buhari had badly mismanaged.
If he emerges victorious, Mr Buhari will be faced with choosing whether to continue with a strategy that has seen infrastructure spending rise but unemployment nearly triple to more than 23 percent on his watch. Many analysts hope he will tackle some of the structural issues that plague Africa’s largest economy.
By: Neil Munshi