Nigeria’s ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu was declared the winner of the country’s presidential election on Wednesday after polling was marred by transparency concerns and widespread technical problems.
The 70-year-old former governor of Lagos State gained 8,794,726 votes, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) concluded, amounting to 36% of the votes counted in Nigeria’s most tightly contested election since its return to civilian rule in 1999.
The main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar polled 29% and Labour Party candidate Peter Obi, who mounted the first serious challenge to the two dominant parties and notched a surprise win in Tinubu’s home state of Lagos, notched around 25%.
Tinubu succeeds President Muhammadu Buhari, who is stepping down after reaching the two-term limit, with the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) securing a third successive term.
A total of 18 candidates vied for the presidency in Africa’s most populous nation, and its largest economy, across 36 states and Federal Capital Territory (FCT) of Abuja. Around 90 million people were eligible to vote, with polls taking place against a backdrop of worsening security conditions and deep economic hardship.
The APC, PDP and Labour Party won 12 states apiece, while the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) candidate Rabiu Kwankwaso claimed one state. However, the PDP, Labour Party and several other opposition parties had already rejected the results by the time Tinubu was declared president-elect on Wednesday.
In a joint press conference on Tuesday, the PDP, Labour Party and African Democratic Congress (ADC) demanded the resignation of INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu and a rerun of what they called “sham” presidential and National Assembly elections.
Labour Party National Chairman Julius Abure accused the INEC of failing to comply with the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, introduced by the Buhari administration to build trust in the country’s election process and ensure free and fair elections.
“We have a responsibility to the millions of Nigerians who put their faith in us and our presidential candidates to defend our country from the forces that seek to tear us apart,” Abure said.
“President Buhari, this is the time of great test of your integrity, use your office to save Nigeria from this electoral mismanagement and save your legacy.”
However, Buhari on Wednesday morning congratulated Tinubu and said he was the best man for the job, asserting that the legitimacy of the election was not in doubt and urging opposition parties seeking to challenge the result to “take it to the courts, not to the streets.”
Tinubu is credited during his two terms as governor of Nigeria’s economic capital of Lagos with increasing the state’s revenue and bolstering economic activity.
However, he caused controversy during the campaign by choosing a fellow Muslim as his running mate, violating an unwritten rule in Nigerian politics to share power between Christians and Muslims.
‘Lack of transparency and operational failures’
A European Union Election Observation Mission said on Monday that a “lack of transparency and operational failures reduced trust in the process and challenged the right to vote.”
Though largely peaceful, the election was held against a backdrop of insecurity and prevailing shortages of both fuel and the country’s naira currency, which the EU EOM report said hampered INEC’s operational capacity, along with attacks on certain INEC premises and voter intimidation.
“Abuse of incumbency by various political office holders distorted the playing field and there were widespread allegations of vote buying,” the EU EOM report said.
The widely welcomed Electoral Act included the introduction of a Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and result viewing portal (IReV), technologies perceived as an important step in shoring up the integrity and credibility of future elections.
However, the EOM noted that delayed training and inadequate mock testing, along with a lack of public information on the technologies, diminished expectations among voters and “left room for speculation and uncertainty.”
INEC acknowledged that “technical hitches” had delayed the uploading of results onto the IReV, which had recorded only 20% of presidential election votes by noon the day after polling.
A Commonwealth Observer Group led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki delivered a more favorable preliminary assessment on Monday, determining that “notwithstanding the shortcomings identified in these elections, Nigerians were largely accorded the right to vote.”
“We congratulate all Nigerians for their determination, patience and resilience displayed throughout the electoral process,” Mbeki told journalists on Monday.
However, the COG also highlighted a host of logistical problems that resulted in voter disenfranchisement, long queues, technological issues, “not always positive” behavior from party agents and procedural inconsistencies in closing and counting ballots.
Both observation missions will deliver final reports in the coming days.
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