March 4. 2024. 11:02

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Nigeria elections: Bola Tinubu declared president-elect

Ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu has been declared the winner of Nigeria’s presidential election, as opposition parties cite fraud and call for a rerun.

Mr Tinubu (70), who ran for the All Progressives Congress (APC) party, has urged the other candidates to accept defeat, saying the election was “credible” and irregularities “immaterial” to the outcome. He achieved 8.79 million votes, compared to main competitors Atiku Abubakar, who received 6.98 million, and Peter Obi, who received 6.1 million.

Opposition parties allege that a new electronic system, which was introduced to make the voting process easier, was compromised, and that electoral officials unnecessarily delayed uploading results because they were being pressured into falsifying them.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country and biggest economy. Last Saturday’s vote was expected to be the tightest since the end of military rule in 1999, after Mr Obi, an unexpected third main candidate, challenged the monopoly of the two leading political parties.

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Mr Obi even won Lagos State, despite Mr Tinubu being a former governor there. The 61-year-old, who represents the Labour Party, managed to inspire notable support from young people. About 70 per cent of Nigeria’s population of more than 200 million are under the age of 30.

Outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari tweeted on Wednesday to say that although there were “technical problems … there is no doubt the people’s decision has been rendered in the results we look at today”.

He said “none of the issues registered represent a challenge to the freeness and fairness of the elections”, and that any challenge to the results should be done with evidence and in court. “It is now time to come together and act responsibly.”

Others were less certain. “There are so many question marks over this election,” said Ebenezar Wikina (30), a public policy specialist from the Niger Delta, who shared photos and videos showing long lines at his local polling station and people shouting “we must vote”.

Mr Wikina told The Irish Times that he waited until 9pm on Saturday but did not get the chance to cast a ballot. About 10 per cent of those who turned up to vote at his polling station managed to do so, he said. “We literally stood in queues from morning till evening.”

Hundreds were turned away because their data could not be found in the electronic system, he said. Nigeria is “still struggling with the basic issues around logistics, credibility, all of those things that we should have been able to move beyond as a country”, he added.

The electoral commission said a subsequent delay in results announcements was related to technical issues.

Mahmood Yakubu, the head of the Independent National Electoral Commission, apologised for this, as well as for delays related to the late arrival of electoral officials and materials, preventing the opening of polling stations. He also said armed men had attacked voting stations in various locations, including Delta State in the south and Katsina State in the north, while insurgents in Nigeria’s northeast attacked voters and officials from a mountain top beside Gwoza, which was once the headquarters of the Boko Haram Islamic militant group.

“Failing to upload the results in real time was the most egregious of the many irregularities of this election because it has destroyed the cautious trust with which many approached the process,” wrote celebrated Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in the New York Times on Tuesday. “There is growing disillusionment. A sludge of tension is in the air. A simmering rage.”

Emitomo Tobi Nimisire, a 26-year-old communications strategist and writer in Abuja, echoed that. She said Saturday was her first time to vote.

“There was violence, there was intimidation at many polling units and there were evident lapses” in the collation of results, she said. “This election has been anything but fair, it’s been anything but free, it’s been anything but trustworthy.”