Posted on :
18 Apr, 2011
18 Apr, 2011
The Nigerian president, Goodluck Jonathan, last night appeared to have secured victory in an election intended to draw a line under decades of coups, violence and vote rigging.
Jonathan had an unassailable lead as votes were tallied from around Nigeria, despite a strong showing by his rival Muhammadu Buhari in his mainly Muslim strongholds.
Buhari, a former military ruler from the north, was hoping to at least force a second round against Jonathan, a Christian and the first head of state from the oil-producing Niger delta.
That looked impossible, with a Reuters tally of results from 35 of 36 states across Africa’s most populous nation showing Jonathan on 22m votes to 12m for Buhari.
Jonathan’s officials said there would be no victory claim until results were announced by the independent national electoral commission, but they were upbeat. Oronto Douglas, a senior adviser to the president, said: “This is no time for triumphalism. It is a time for deep reflection, for strengthening the bond of our union and for all of us to work together.”
Jonathan, 53, a fedora-wearing zoologist from the south, inherited the presidency last year when Umaru Yar’Adua, a northerner, died during his first term. Some members of the ruling People’s Democratic party said another northerner should have be allowed to stand for what would have been Yar’Adua’s second term.
As expected, the results revealed a geographical divide. Jonathan did particularly well in the predominantly Christian south, while Buhari swept many of the Muslim-dominated northern states.
Since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigerian elections have been widely condemned for state-sponsored manipulation and fraud bordering on the farcical. Observers generally gave a clean bill of health to this year’s vote.
The former president of Botswana, Festus Mogae, who leads the Commonwealth observer group, told the Associated Press: “In recent decades, Nigeria had come to be known for flawed elections. People outside and Nigerians themselves had come to believe that elections could not reflect the will of the people, but today people showed that they can change that.
We seem to be witnessing a giant of Africa reforming itself and putting its house in order.”A senior political source, however, told the Guardian he could see a different picture emerging from election monitor reports. “I’m afraid they’ll be singing a different tune,” said the source, who did not wish to be named. “I can see there are massive complaints, including the abandonment of collection centres. It’s very disquieting.”
There were allegations of underage voting in the north and the snatching of ballot boxes in the south-east.
Fearing the ruling party would try to fiddle the results, Buhari supporters took to the streets in some northern cities. Bello Ar-Adam, a representative of Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, told Reuters: “Rigging is the stock in trade of the PDP. A leopard doesn’t change its spots.”
Trouble flared in isolated areas. Police said a bomb was detonated at a hotel in the city of Kaduna, wounding eight people on Saturday night. A PDP official’s house was burned down in the town of Azere.
Shots were fired in Bauchi and a car thought to be carrying fraudulent ballots was set ablaze in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Young men stalked the streets armed with bows and arrows.
There were signs that young people had voted in record numbers. Chude Jideonwo, the co-founder of EnoughisEnough Nigeria (EiE), a youth voter registration campaign, said: “Young people came out massively to vote across the country, including in rural areas. This election disappointed the cynics and defied even our expectations.”
Jideonwo added that, curiously, social media sites such as Twitter had seemed to indicate a likely victory for Buhari, but now results suggested Jonathan would win. “Goodluck Jonathan spent five or six months trying to engage young people in various ways.
“His strategy was to emphasise his likeability by being positive and reluctant to criticise. A week ago I would have said it’s too passive, but now it seems to have been a good strategy.”
Jonathan, whose PDP lost seats in a parliamentary election last week, cast his ballot in his home state of Bayelsa in the Niger delta and hailed the election as a “new dawn in Nigeria’s political evolution”.
“If the ballot paper means nothing then there is no democracy,” he said. “Nigeria is now experiencing true democracy where we the politicians have to go to the people.”
Source: Guardian UK