Buhari on course for victory in Nigeria’s historic election

News & Analysis

Buhari on course for victory in Nigeria’s historic election

Results from 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory, coupled with New African projections for the remaining 18, suggest that Muhammadu Buhari has taken a near unassailable lead over incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan in the electoral battle for the Nigerian presidency.

The former military ruler leads by 8,520,436 votes to incumbent Goodluck Jonathan’s 6,488,210. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) due to announce the remaining state results starting at 10am local time (9am GMT) today.

In a chastening day for Jonathan and his People’s Democratic Party (PDP), it became apparent that turnout had been substantially lower than the party had anticipated in five South South and South Eastern states where INEC announced results. Jonathan’s electoral strategy had been to stock up a massive lead of around 10 million votes – approximately half the total needed to win the election overall – in these areas.

This strategy appears to be failing. Turnout in strongly PDP Imo, in the South East, halved from 84% in 2011 to 42% this year, while turnout in Abia, also in the South East, was a mere 30% – 48 points shy of 2011’s total. Even if Jonathan manages to replicate the vast scale, in absolute terms, of his 2011 victory in five of the six South-South states yet to declare results, he is unlikely to overcome Buhari’s lead in other parts of the country, according to New African projections.

That stands in stark contrast to the enthusiasm of Buhari’s backers in the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) stronghold of the North West region. The four declared states saw an average swing to the APC of over 13%, with Jonathan failing to achieve 25% of the vote in 3 of those. Those advances suggested an impressive get-out-the-vote operation. The APC needs a national swing of 9% to beat the PDP, all else being equal.

The North Central zone, a key battleground region comfortably won by Jonathan in 2011, saw remarkable swings to Buhari: 37% in Kogi state, 38% in Kwara, and 17.5% in Plateau.
The win with 60% of the vote in Kogi state was particularly impressive given that the state was solidly behind Jonathan in 2011. Buhari also secured a substantial victory in Ogun, in the battleground South West region, with an increased turnout delivering victory for the APC leader.

Jonathan has won eight states, four winning over 90% – but it became apparent from early on that his voter base lagged far behind that of 2011. Bright points for his campaign included victory in Ekiti with a 10% swing to the incumbent and a 2% swing in an ultimately losing cause in Osun – the only state in the South West not to back Jonathan in 2011. Official turnout in Ekiti increased from 34% in 2011 to 43% this time.

But with all indications suggesting strong APC advances, it is Buhari who is likely to be eagerly anticipating the resumption of results at 10am.

With 18 states still up for grabs across the country, New African analysis suggests that Jonathan would have to execute a dramatic turn around in the North East, an opposition stronghold, and achieve similar results to 2011 in the remaining five South-South states, for Buhari to be deprived of his win.

Nigeria’s electoral rules stipulate that the winning candidate is simply the one with the most votes, as long as they have also achieved more than 25% of the vote in 24 states. Buhari is set to achieve this second criteria in at least 25 states.

If Buhari does not emerge the winner, it would depend on either an extremely unlikely set of election results later today, or more malign influences. INEC has run elections which, according to initial analysis from election observers, have been harder to rig than prior contests in Nigeria. It would be an enormous drop in performance if INEC were unable to see these generally well run and highly praised elections through to the end.

Still, APC campaign sources who spoke to New African were not allowing themselves to get carried away. They were upbeat but determined to wait for the only declaration that counts – that of Attahiru Jega, chairman of INEC.

– additional reporting by David Thomas

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