Nigeria's Buhari wins re-election

Wednesday February 27 2019

APC nigeria

People stand beside a billboard of All Progressives Congress (APC) President Muhammadu Buhari after his re-election in Abuja, Nigeria on February 26, 2019. PHOTO | KOLA SULAIMON | AFP 

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Muhammadu Buhari was on Wednesday re-elected Nigeria's president, after a delayed poll that angered voters and raised political temperatures, leading to claims of rigging and collusion.

With ballots counted in all of Nigeria's 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Buhari, 76, triumphed with some 15.2 million votes over his nearest rival Atiku Abubakar, who trailed by nearly four million votes.

"That Muhammadu Buhari, having scored the highest number of votes and satisfied the provision of the electoral act is hereby declared the winner of the presidential election," Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced early Wednesday.

Nigeria's Independent National Electoral
Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Mahmood Yakubu displays vote result sheets on February 25, 2019 in Abuja during the presidential elections announcement. PHOTO | KOLA SULAIMON | AFP

It was the second victory at the ballot box for Buhari, a one-time military ruler who in 2015 was elected to lead Africa's most-populous nation and leading oil producer.

Addressing supporters and party leaders at his All Progressives Congress (APC) campaign headquarters, he called his win "another victory for Nigerian democracy."


"The new administration will intensify its efforts in security, restructuring the economy and fighting corruption," he said. "We will strive to strengthen our unity and inclusiveness so that no section or group will feel left behind, or left out."


Supporters had gathered outside the party's offices in the capital Abuja late Tuesday as it became clear that Buhari had an unassailable lead, dancing and singing "We're popping champagne!"

Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo appeared in a video clip singing "Up we go!" in a reference to Buhari and his "Next Level" campaign slogan.

But there were none of the spontaneous street parties that marked his victory four years ago, when he became Nigeria's first opposition candidate to beat an incumbent president.

APC supporter waves a party flag while
APC supporter waves a party flag while celebrating initial results released by the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kano, on February 25, 2019, two days after general elections. PHOTO | LUIS TATO | AFP

To win the presidency, a candidate needs a majority of votes nationwide and at least 25 per cent of support in two-thirds of the states plus the FCT.

The results showed Buhari won 15,191,847 votes (56 per cent) while Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) won 11,262,978 votes (41 per cent).

APC supporters celebrate after initial results
APC supporters celebrate after initial results were released by the Nigerian Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in Kano, on February 25, 2019, two days after general elections. PHOTO | LUIS TATO | AFP

Buhari won in 19 states — including the two most populous, Lagos and Kano —while Abubakar was victorious in 17 states and the FCT.

There was no immediate official concession from Abubakar, whose party had earlier called on INEC to halt the count, citing irregularities.

Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS)
Federal Special Anti-Robbery Squad (FSARS) check disturbances by hoodlums at a polling station in Kano, commercial capital of northern Nigeria on February 23, 2019. PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI | AFP

In 2015, president Goodluck Jonathan won plaudits for conceding to Buhari in a phone call, when the results indicated he could not win.

The concession is acknowledged as having prevented a repeat of the political violence that has marked previous elections in Nigeria, in which hundreds of people have been killed.


This year's election — the sixth in the 20 years since the return of civilian rule after decades of military government —was initially scheduled for February 16.

But INEC postponed them for one week just hours before polls were due to open, citing logistical difficulties in delivering ballot boxes and other election materials.

Voting took place on Saturday after a week in which the APC and PDP intensified their war of words, accusing the other of conspiring with INEC to rig the result.

Buhari (left), flanked by his wife Aisha
Buhari (left), flanked by his wife Aisha Buhari, casts his vote at a polling station in his native hometown Daura in Katsina State, northwest Nigeria, on February 23, 2019. PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI | AFP

The PDP's claimed data from handheld devices used to authenticate voters' identities at nearly 120,000 polling units had been altered in favour of the ruling party.

It called for the results in at least two states to be re-run and for a reversal of the cancellation of tens of thousands of "valid, legal" votes elsewhere.

Reacting to PDP’s threat to reject the outcome of the vote, regional Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), African Union and United Nations had cautioned political parties to refrain from rejecting the outcome of elections and follow legal action to seek redress.

“At the conclusion of the process, all aggrieved parties and persons are encouraged to resort to legal means to seek redress in accordance with the constitution and relevant laws of Nigeria and its previously agreed in the peace Accord of 13th February, 2019,’’ the bodies said in a joint statement.

Observers also pointed out discrepancies in declared tallies.

Legal challenge

The claims —and Abubakar's insistence that he would only accept a free, fair and credible election— could be a prelude to a legal challenge of the outcome.

The vote was marred by violence, including 53 deaths, according to the Situation Room, an umbrella group of more than 70 civil society groups that monitored polling.

A Nigerian police SWAT personnel member sits
A Nigerian police SWAT personnel member sits alert with a machine gun on a vehicle stationed at the entrance of Rivers State collation centre in Port Harcourt, Southern Nigeria, on February 26, 2019. PHOTO | YASUYOSHI CHIBA | AFP

Some observers reported instances of vote-buying, intimidation and violence towards voters and officials, which have been a problem in previous polls in Nigeria.

The issues will likely prompt calls for electoral reform, including the introduction of technology capable of directly transmitting results from polling units.

Several international monitors meanwhile said repeated postponements could undermine confidence in the electoral process, after similar delays in 2011 and 2015.

A total of 72.7 million people were eligible to vote in the presidential poll as well as parliamentary elections held at the same time.

Pedestrians stand beside a campaign billboard
Pedestrians stand beside a campaign billboard bearing images of candidate of the ruling APC President Mohammadu Buhari and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on a road in Abuja on February 19, 2019. PHOTO | PIUS UTOMI EKPEI | AFP

Low voter turnout— in some places as low as 18 per cent — was blamed on a combination of apathy because of the delay, organisational and logistical problems, as well as unrest.

But Nana Nwachukwu, a lawyer and political activist, said: "If people could see the effects (of voting) they would care more.

"You pump your own water, fuel your own electricity, transportation is private. That apathy is their because people don't rely on government."