The results of the 2015 Nigerian presidential and parliamentary elections have been confirmed, and the country has a new leader. The election saw former President Goodluck Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party face off off against Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressive’s Congress (APC).
Nigerians turned out en masse to elect Buhari in the most competitive presidential race in the country’s history. The campaigning was intense and there’s still controversy.
What just happened? Here are 12 things you should know about Nigeria’s elections.
Sources: Edition.CNN.com, Telegraph.co.uk, ABCNews.Go.com, BBC.co.uk, TheGuardian.com, NYTimes.com, Reuters.com
After results were counted from all of Nigeria’s 36 states, Buhari received nearly 55 percent of the vote to Jonathan’s 45 percent. Assuming that the transfer of power is handled peacefully, it will represent the first transfer between civilians of different parties in Nigeria. President Jonathan called Buhari on March 31, at 5:15 p.m. local to concede defeat, an unprecedented move in Nigerian elections which are often marred by claims of corruption and losing parties refusing to accept defeat.
One week before the originally scheduled election date, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission decided to postpone the election due to security concerns. The military said it needed more time to secure polling stations and security for regions controlled by the extremist group Boko Haram. The decision to delay for six weeks was unpopular with many Nigerians. Protests have been common throughout the country over the past month.
Voting was extended to Sunday, March 29, after some of the new electronic card readers — introduced to prevent fraud — failed Saturday. Some were unable to read voters fingerprints. Even President Jonathan, along with three governors from his ruling party, could not have their fingerprints read, and their details had to be processed by hand. The PDP, which opposed introducing biometric technology from the beginning, called the failure a “huge national embarrassment.” The INEC, however, said just a small fraction of the 150,000 machines failed.
Amid claims of corruption, some protesters took to the streets Sunday after the first day of voting. Gunshots were fired and an electoral office in Rivers state was set on fire. Protesters believed vote rigging and voter intimidation were at play, and marched to protest the elections. The INEC vowed to look into the technical glitches that extended the election an extra day, as well as claims of underage voting and electoral officials being “substituted.”
Remembering the 800 people who died in the 2011 post-election violence, both parties were quick to call for a peaceful election and an end to violent protests. The APC even called for the elections in Rivers state to be cancelled, saying the situation was untenable for voting, but the PDP was adamant that election results were credible. “The result reflects the overwhelming wish of the people of Rivers state to support President Goodluck Jonathan,” the PDP said, according to CNN.
Diplomats in the U.S. and Britain issued warnings against political interference, and watchdog organizations are keeping a close eye on Nigeria post election. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.K. Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said, “So far, we have seen no evidence of systemic manipulation of the process. But there are disturbing indications that the collation process – where the votes are finally counted – may be subject to deliberate political interference. This would contravene the letter and spirit of the Abuja Accord, to which both major parties committed themselves.” Since the election has concluded, international observers have deemed it free, fair, and a major victory for democracy in Nigeria.
Source: Edition. CNN.com
Party representatives, national and international observers, and members of the media were all on hand during the vote count in Abuja, where states sent their preliminary results for a final tally. The U.S. and U.K. warned that political interference in the results could come into play in Abuja, and they pleaded for a free and fair election.
Voters in northern Muslim-majority regions – Buhari ‘s stronghold — turned out en masse to vote for the former military ruler. The majority cited the corruption and insecurity that plagued Jonathan’s administration for their decision to vote Buhari. But Buhari also swept competitive states in the southwest and several crucial swing states in the center, including Lagos – Nigeria’s commercial capital and biggest city. Meanwhile, Jonathan suffered from low turnouts in his own strongholds in the Christian South. In the end, Buhari won 21 states, while Jonathan won 15 and the Federal Capital Territory at Abuja.
After decades of military rule, Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999. The country has not seen a close election since then, with the PDP leading Nigeria for nearly two decades. This election was significant in that it represented more of a multiparty democracy. It also marked the first time that a sitting president did not win a second term and the first time handing over power to an elected successor.
Jonathan thanked Nigerians for the “great opportunity I was given to lead this country,” and reaffirmed that he had fulfilled his commitment to “free and fair elections.” He urged Nigerians to keep the peace following the election, saying, “Nobody’s ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian. The unity, stability and progress of our dear country is more important than anything else.”
Eleven died in the northeastern state of Gombe at a polling station during an attack by Boko Haram. Several others were injured. Twenty-three people died in a raid Saturday night in Buratai village in the Northeastern Borno State, according to reports from residents and a local politician in the village, Ibrahim Adamu. It’s not known if the attacks were election related. Gunmen also attacked Tafawa Balwea town in the Northeastern Bauchi state and were met by a local vigilante group. Three members of the vigilante group were killed in the fighting in Jitar village.
While Nigerian embassies did not reject press visa applications outright, foreign journalists’ visa applications sat for weeks with no response. A limited foreign media presence – mainly local representatives of BBC, Reuters, and the Associated Press – were on the ground in Nigeria, but other international outlets were unable to send their own staff to cover the election. Many say this was retribution for the harsh press coverage President Jonathan received following the kidnapping of the Chibok schoolgirls in May. During that time Nigeria saw perhaps its most intense media presence since the Biafran War.