The Nigerian presidential elections appear to be going in favour of the main opposition leader and former military strongman, General Muhammadu Buhari, as early results put him in a commanding lead ahead of incumbent Goodluck Jonathan.
Buhari of the rainbow opposition coalition – All Progressives Congress (APC) – is in the race with 13 other candidates, including President Jonathan of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the toughest election since Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999.
PDP has since been in power, winning all the elections with wide margins.
It is Buhari’s fourth attempt at the presidency, having contested previously against Obasanjo, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua of blessed memory and lately, Jonathan in 2011.
Strangely, Buhari won in the polling station where Obasanjo voted, indicating that the retired general enjoys the support of his former boss (Obasanjo).
Obasanjo told journalists that he was satisfied with the conduct of the elections, hoping that other parts of the country would be as peaceful as his ward.
“What I have seen at my polling station is satisfactory. I have talked to a few people here in Abeokuta and they have also given satisfactory reports. I will appeal to all Nigerians to maintain this type of satisfactory report,” he said.
Buhari, from Daura emirate in northern Nigerian state of Katsina, was a Minister of Petroleum during Obasanjo’s military government in the late 70s.
He later became a military head of state after toppling the Shehu Shagari government in a 1983 coup before he was also dislodged by General Ibrahim Babangida, his army commander, in a palace coup in August 1985.
Buhari, an anti-graft campaigner, rode on the back of change campaign, with the electorate calling for change, while some insist Jonathan must be retained.
Reports from the 36 states and the federal capital, Abuja, indicated as at press time yesterday, a high turnout of voters as long queues were recorded on the polling day – Saturday.
Unconfirmed report suggests that some influential people in the country were prevailing on the president to concede defeat for the sake of peace.
Buhari is reported to have swept the votes in about 15 northern states and five states in the south-west, putting him in a poll position to clinch victory.
He also performed creditably in some southern states, except Bayelsa – the home state of Jonathan – where the president had a clean slate, winning about 90 percent.
Polling was marred by logistical challenges in isolated polling stations, totalling about 309 out of over 150,000, compelling voting to be extended to yesterday in those polling stations.
……Jonathan Loses Aso Rock
Early results announced indicated that President Jonathan lost the two polling stations at the Presidential Villa – Aso Rock – Saturday night.
People’s Democratic Party’s Goodluck Jonathan polled 595 to Buhari’s 613 votes.
The APC Senatorial and House of Representatives candidates also defeated the ruling party’s candidates. Senatorial and House of Representatives elections were run alongside the presidential polls, leaving the state governorship and state house of assembly elections for April 11, 2015.
The announcement of the final results in the two polling stations at the Presidential Villa sparked a wide jubilation from APC supporters, sending a strong signal that Jonathan might be on his way out of the presidency.
Jonathan won the two polling stations in the previous polls. His predicament started early on Saturday when the card reader to authenticate his identity rejected his voter’s card. He was finally verified manually with his wife, Patience Jonathan, as the machine failed to recognise all the earlier four attempts.
He had to personally complain to the Chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof Attahiru Jega, about the development.
After he was accredited, Jonathan said, “I am not a ghost voter. My wife is not a ghost voter. We just have to be patient. So let us be patient with INEC.”
In Lagos elections were peaceful, aside the poor logistics which resulted in poor voters’ accreditation.
Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State joined a long queue to cast his vote at Eric Moore area of middle class Surulere suburb, appealing to residents to accept the outcome.
He was upbeat that APC would clinch victory and that Buhari would take over on May 29, 2015 as the new president to be sworn in.
INEC officials arrived late in some polling stations, delaying the process that was supposed to start at 8am, while card readers in some polling units were not working. The affected polling stations had their elections postponed to yesterday.
In Isheri Magodo area of Kosofe Local Government in Lagos, voters kept vigil to cast votes in the evening, defying an afternoon heavy downpour.
Nigerians also showed their enthusiasm as many voters volunteered their generators to assist electoral officials to charge their card reader machines due to power outage. Electricity supply is a huge problem for residents – a factor that may nail the coffin of Jonathan’s administration.
In some cases, generators were provided to provide lighting to the polling stations.
Some leading figures in PDP, particularly the Yoruba-dominated south-west, lost the election in their polling stations. Some of them included former Nigerian High Commissioner to Ghana and Minister of State at the Defence Ministry, Musiliu Obanikoro, at the high brow Ikoyi area in Lagos; Femi Fani-Kayode, PDP Presidential Campaign Media and Publicity Director; Jimi Agbaje, PDP governorship candidate for Lagos State and Vice President Namadi Sambo, who lost at his polling station in the strategic north-west city of Kaduna.
However, there were a few isolated ugly incidents in the Saturday polls as hoodlums hacked activists from both sides.
There were cases of bomb blasts in Enugu in the Enugu State and Awka in Anambra State – all in south-eastern Nigeria.
The election was generally peaceful in the Lagos metropolis.
Soldiers were deployed to strategic areas to contain any possible breakdown of law and order.
From Fortune Alimi, Lagos