President Muhammadu Buhari has reportedly won the first six of 36 states in early results, which the main opposition party claimed were being manipulated following an election marred by delays and sporadic violence that killed at least 39 people.
Buhari, 76, defeated his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, in the southwestern state of Ekiti, where he lost four years ago, and retained Kwara with a large majority, Osun, Gombe and Kogi, the Independent National Electoral Commission announced Monday in the capital, Abuja.
He also won narrowly in Nasarawa, where he lost last time and which is next to the capital territory where Abubakar triumphed by a wide margin.
As many as 73 million people were eligible to vote Saturday in a tight race between Buhari, an ex-general who campaigned on an anti-graft platform, and Abubakar, a 72-year-old businessman and former vice president. INEC’s announcement of the full results is expected Tuesday or Wednesday.
The chairman of Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party, Uche Secondus, accused the government of using “inducements, manipulation and incarcerations” and enlisting the police and national army “to silence the voices of our long suffering people.” In a statement, he threatened to challenge some results and said “our democracy is under threat of derailment.”
The presidential and parliamentary election in Africa’s top oil producer was the continent’s biggest-ever democratic exercise. Much will depend on turnout, which was less than 44 percent four years ago when Buhari became the first opposition candidate elected to the presidency in the West African nation’s history.
The election pitted two men of contrasting economic views, with Buhari, who favors a strong government role, against Abubakar, a pro-market multimillionaire who has said he would float the national currency and sell stakes in the state oil company.
Wall Street banks such as Citigroup Inc. say Nigerian equities and bonds will probably rally if Abubakar wins. The stock market closed up 0.6 percent in Lagos on Monday to extend its gains this year to 4 percent.
At least 39 people were killed in election-related violence, Clement Nwankwo, the chairman of Situation Room, a monitoring group, told reporters Monday in Abuja. The inspector general of police, who didn’t give a death toll, said 128 people were arrested across the country for offenses such as homicide and snatching of ballot boxes. INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu said an election worker was killed by a stray bullet in Rivers state.
“Serious operational shortcomings placed undue burden on voters,” the European Union observer mission said, while the African Union called the vote “largely peaceful and orderly.”
To win, a candidate must get the majority of votes and at least 25 percent in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and Federal Capital Territory. If none of them achieve that, there’ll be a second round. Analysts were more or less split down the middle over who would win ahead of the election.
Abubakar’s PDP suffered an early blow when one of its highest-profile politicians, Senate President Bukola Saraki, lost his seat in the southwestern state of Kwara to the candidate from Buhari’s All Progressives Congress, according to INEC results.
“Whilst the environment was tense and divisive, overall, fundamental freedoms of association, expression, assembly and movement were generally respected,” the chairman of the Commonwealth Observer Group, former Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, told reporters in Abuja.
Both Buhari and Abubakar are northern Muslims in a country split roughly evenly between a Christian south and Islamic north.
Buhari ruled the country briefly in the 1980s and morphed into a civilian politician who won on his fourth try for the presidency in 2015. Abubakar, a former vice president, has business interests ranging from oil and gas services to food manufacturing and a private university.
Buhari and his APC have faced sharp criticism for their handling of the economy. The president imposed capital controls as the naira currency came under pressure amid plunging revenue from oil, the country’s main export, and foreign investors fled. After an economic contraction in 2016, the economy expanded 1.9 percent last year, the fastest since Buhari’s election.
Yet Nigeria now has more extremely poor people, 87 million, than any other nation, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank. The United Nations expects its population to double to 410 million by 2050, overtaking everywhere bar India and China.
Buhari’s supporters paint him as an honest politician who provides a sharp counterpart to the PDP that governed Nigeria for 16 years from the end of military rule in 1999.
Buhari’s suspension of Chief Justice Walter Onnoghen, accused of falsely declaring his assets, just weeks before the presidential election, was criticized by the legal community, the U.S. and the European Union, because the vote results may be contested in the Supreme Court.
Abubakar portrays himself as someone who knows how to get things done and his pro-market policies have won some favor among investors. While he’s faced allegations of corruption, he denies any wrongdoing and has never been indicted at home or abroad.