Buhari takes historic victory in Nigeria

2015-04-01 06:42
Muhammadu Buhari. (File: AFP)

Muhammadu Buhari. (File: AFP)

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Abuja - Nigerian opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari took a historic victory in presidential elections, receiving congratulations Tuesday from incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.

The result makes Jonathan the first incumbent to lose a presidential election in Africa's most populous country since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.

Jonathan called Buhari "to congratulate him on his victory and assure him of maximum cooperation and a smooth transition," said Paul Ibe from Buhari's campaign organisation.

In a statement issued by the organization, the winner thanked Nigerians for believing in him, but warned them against wild celebrations that might spark violence.

Buhari won in 20 states and Jonathan in 15 states, according to the electoral commission. The president took a victory in the territory of the federal capital, Abuja.

Results remained to be announced from Borno state in northern Nigeria.

Buhari, 72, who governed Nigeria as a military ruler from 1983-85, heads the opposition coalition All Progressives Congress (APC). Jonathan, 57, who leads the People's Democratic Party (PDP), has ruled since 2010.

Celebrations broke out around the country, with many Nigerian's praising Jonathan for not trying to cling to power.

‘People need change’

In the western-central city of Minna, residents showed their contentment by driving around in cars and on motorcycles.

Jonathan "acted in the best interest of the nation. The writing was clear that people need change. The concession by Jonathan will douse tension," resident Alhaji Aliyu Abdul said.

"People were afraid that [Jonathan] would dispute the result and set the stage for confusion and another bloodbath," said Oloye Ademola, a taxi driver in Abuja. "We are happy for this gentlemanly conduct. God bless him," Ademola added.

Businessman Emmanuel Obaro said Nigerians were "tired of a weak leader like Jonathan and could not imagine him continuing for the next four years".

"Buhari will make a better leader because he has been tried, tested and found fit. During his time as military leader, Nigeria was better," said Salamatu Abdullahi, a petty trader in Abuja.

In a statement to the country, Jonathan expressed pride in a democratic handover of power and congratulated Nigerians.

"I promised the country free and fair elections. I have kept my word," he said. "I have also expanded the space for Nigerians to participate in the democratic process. That is one legacy I will like to see endure."

Jonathan urges peace

He urged anyone who might "feel aggrieved to follow due process" under Nigeria's constitution and electoral laws.

"As I have always affirmed, nobody's ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian," Jonathan said.

"The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else."

Nigerians elected a parliament, with 739 candidates contending 109 Senate seats and 1 780 candidates competing for 360 National Assembly seats.

A former minister from the ruling party accused Electoral Commission Chairman Attahiru Jega of manipulating the results in favour of fellow Muslim Buhari.

"You are partial, you are selective," Godswill Orubebe yelled at Jega at a counting centre, which the chairperson immediately denied.

29 killed

The PDP earlier denied allegations of interference with vote counting, after US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond noted in a joint statement that "disturbing indications that the collation process - where the votes are finally counted - may be subject to deliberate political interference."

In Lagos, offices and markets were closed following warnings of violence if the results were not accepted by all.

In southern Rivers state, police earlier tear-gassed demonstrators while a mob set an electoral office on fire following allegations of rigging. Regional authorities announced an overnight curfew, but police said they were not aware of such a measure.

The polls were largely peaceful, though there was violence on Saturday, when the vote took place, with 29 people killed in attacks blamed on the Islamist group Boko Haram. Some deaths were reported during protests against alleged vote-rigging in several places.

Voting had been postponed by six weeks for fear of Boko Haram attacks. The group has killed an estimated 14 000 people since 2009.

Read more on:    muhammadu buhari  |  jonathan  |  goodluck  |  nigeria  |  west africa  |  nigeria 2015 election

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