Opposition Early Leads Raise Hope for Change of Government in Nigeria
Nigeria faces an uphill task as election 2015 compilation of election results continues in bid to choose a new leader who will run the affairs of the state in the next four years. However, an uncomfortable lead recorded so far by the opposition has not been hoped upon as results from the incumbent president’s home base are expected to knock off all pessimism on the opposition camp. Buhari has been leading with more than 2.million votes
The year’s election is viewed as the most keenly contested with two major contestants, incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and former Military dictator, Muhammadu Buhari running neck-to-neck in the released result on Monday night.
Two days of voting has seen the most populous nation in African continent in continuous experimentation of democratic system, recording above average mark in 19 years. The system gets more matured as citizen turned up en-masse in the ongoing election to express their will with less trouble and determination of purpose to choose the right candidate.
However, with the election proceeding in an orderly and peaceful manner, and results being released in trickles, the real challenge for the nation is the morning after when the whole result might have been collated and released giving way to the emergence of a new leader in fight many analysts describe as a battle between opposition’s craved change and continuity of a change that has taken place by the ruling party. All Progressives Congress (APC) claimed to symbolise a new change while the ruling Peoples Democratic Party parades that change has come and the populace should vie for continuity in the transformation that is on-going in the country.
However, the nation faces an uphill task as more results are emerging and both PDP and APC are confident of victory and with the level of desperation from both sides, the morning after the release of the final result matters to the future and continued unity and co-existence of all the regions of the nation.
Both sides of the main two opposition parties are confident and vowing never to settle for anything less than victory.
Femi Fani-Kayode, spokesman for the PDP presidential campaign, told Nigeria’s Channels television: “One thing we can all agree on is this is a very close election, probably the closest election in the history of Nigeria, but we believe at the end of the day we will pull through.”
He complained of irregularities, however, including alleged APC voters who were underage or brought in from neighbouring Chad and Niger. “It’s likely we’re going to challenge some of the results coming from the north-west, but we’ll cross the bridge when we get there.”
Fani-Kayode further warned: “We have always said right from the outset that we are prepared to accept the announcement of any election result as long as it is the manifestation of the will of the Nigerian people. We will live with it. What we will not accept is any interference in the electoral process from INEC [Nigeria’s electoral commission], the opposition or anyone else. If it does not reflect the will of the Nigerian people, we shall resist it with everything that is available to us. That you can rest assured of.”
The credibility of the election and its attendant free and peaceful conduct are commendable and it is hoped that reactions after the announcement of the final result would not taint the final stages of the election.
As at Tuesday morning, opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari took a significant lead over president incumbent Goodluck Jonathan with nothing less than half of the results already declared. The opposition candidate is leading with 8,520,436 votes as against Jonathan’s 6,488,210, being result from 18 states. Now, another 18 states are being expected. There has been strong turn out from both party leaders’ regional areas and the trend has once again portrayed the reality that Nigeria still births in political tribal sentiments..
If the trend continues, Jonathan would be the first incumbent to suffer defeat at the ballot box in the history of Africa’s biggest democracy. The international community has called for a fair and peaceful election that would send a signal to the rest of the continent. Vote counting continues at 10.00am local time on Tuesday.
The first official results declared on Monday gave Jonathan’s People’s Democratic party (PDP) victory over Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) in Etiki state. But it was clear this would not be another walkover for the governing party when Buhari won Ogun and Kogi, both formerly loyal to the PDP.
Jonathan, 57, took the capital, Abuja, but 72-year-old Buhari won the state of Nigeria’s second biggest city, Kano, in the mainly Muslim north by an overwhelming margin: nearly 2m votes against 215,779. This may well have put him on track for the presidency.
James Schneider, editorial director of New African magazine, who was analysing the results as they came in, tweeted: “The story of the night is #Buhari getting his vote out in his areas and #Jonathan not doing so enough.”
The commercial capital, Lagos, and some of Jonathan’s bastions in the largely Christian south, including the oil-rich Niger delta, are yet to declare, and a final result is not expected until mid-day Tuesday.
The official collation of votes was carried out at an election centre in Abuja in the presence of party representatives, national and international election observers and media. Wearing traditional white agbada and gold-rimmed glasses, national election chief Attahiru Jega occasionally grilled the returning officers. “When a polling unit is cancelled, we need to know how many votes were cancelled. So I’m going to require that you … resubmit your results,” he told the returning officer for Kogi state.
The winning presidential candidate needs not only the most votes, but at least 25% support in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and Abuja to avoid a run-off.
Voting went relatively smoothly in a nation of 170 million people despite deadly attacks by Islamist extremists, allegations of political violence, and technical glitches that forced polling stations to reopen for a second day in some areas. Nigeria’s Transition Monitoring Group, which had observers across the country, said: “These issues did not systematically disadvantage any candidate or party.”
But in a rare intervention on Monday, the US secretary of state, John Kerry, and his British counterpart, Philip Hammond, said both countries would be “very concerned” by any attempts to undermine the independence of the electoral commission and distort the will of the Nigerian people.
“So far, we have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process,” they said in a joint statement from the sidelines of the Iran nuclear talks in Lausanne, Switzerland. “But there are disturbing indications that the collation process – where the votes are finally counted – may be subject to deliberate political interference.”
Santiago Fisas, head of the European Union election observer mission, also told reporters that “there is not evidence of a systematic subversion of the voting process so far”. But he stressed that “collation is the most critical problem … We are watching this”.
Even before collation began, the APC demanded fresh elections in the southern states of Rivers and Akwa Ibom, alleging irregularities that include missing and false results sheets and electoral officials being replaced by government officials loyal to Jonathan. The national election commission said it is investigating numerous complaints.
Some 2,000 women protesting against the conduct of the elections in Port Harcourt, Rivers, were teargassed as they tried to converge on the local electoral commission offices. APC women’s leader Victoria Nyeche told Agence France-Presse: “What happened today was unprecedented … All we want is a fresh election because what happened on Saturday was a fraud.”
But fears that the election, thought to be the most expensive in African history, will be polarising and that the losing side will not accept the outcome persist. After Buhari lost to Jonathan in 2011, 800 people died and 65,000 were forced from their homes by riots in the north.