Jonathan or Buhari? Nigerians wait anxiously for election results

2015-03-31 07:53

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Lagos, Nigeria – Nigerians awaited early results from the weekend election with bated breath yesterday as they trickled in from the country’s 36 states.

The contest between incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan (57) and opposition presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari (72) was too close to call, but early indications were that Jonathan had suffered some losses in previously secure states like Enugu.

Some observers predicted trouble should Jonathan lose, but his People’s Democratic Party spokesperson Olisa Metuh yesterday said party leaders would abide by the law even if the party lost.

“We are democrats, we are law-abiding citizens. There is no substitute for a democracy,” he said.

Even though observers from the African Union and the United Nations gave the elections the thumbs-up as having been “conducted in a peaceful atmosphere”, ordinary Nigerians were still cautious about coming out onto the streets yesterday.

Fears about major violence and terror attacks by Boko Haram had been allayed by the mostly peaceful polls, but in Lagos some traders still stayed away from generally crowded market places while expats working for multinational companies were told to rather work from home.

Those who did go out on to the streets crowded around newspaper sellers to read the headlines, which reflected the general suspense about the closely-contested poll.

Some newspapers, like The Nation, published unofficial results favouring Buhari, while others like The Guardian carried the caution of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairperson Attahiru Jega against distributing results on Twitter.

Business Day reflected on its online poll that 46% of those who took part said they wanted the new president to fix the country’s irregular electricity supply.

Work slowed down as Nigerians, from cleaners to bankers, watched the live television broadcast of results announcements from Abuja by chief voting officers from each state, starting after lunch time.

Twitterati in Nigeria did not wait for the final results before posting their wishes – including nonsense ones such as keeping apart goats and yams, a local staple, – under the hashtags #BabaNowThatYouAreThere (Buhari supporters) and #GEJNowThatYouHaveReturned.

Demonstrations by the opposition, All Progressives Congress, over problems with the voting process in Rivers State, in the oil-rich Niger Delta and one of Jonathan’s 2011 strongholds, led to television and Twitter debates about the credibility of the poll, but the INEC yesterday refuted claims of fraud.

In Gombe state seven people were killed in suspected attacks on polling stations on voting day on Saturday, but ordinary Nigerians said they believed the blanket ban on driving around in vehicles on elections day helped them feel safe.

These elections were the first in Nigeria’s history using special voters’ identity cards, but the failure of many card reader machines meant the elections were extended into a second day on Sunday.

In some cases checks had to be done manually.

The closely-contested Nigerian elections have been compared in importance with South Africa’s 1994 poll by the New African Magazine, because it could be the first time that power changes hands democratically in Africa’s biggest economy.

Full results are expected to be out today.

The presidential winner is determined by a first-past-the-post system, provided that the winning candidate got more than a quarter of the votes in at least 24 of the states.

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