Muhammadu Buhari has won Nigeria’s presidential elections and should secure a dramatic return to the Nigerian presidency after thirty years. Incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan conceded to Buhari in a telephone call, according to the Buhari campaign.
He defeated Jonathan, leading him by 14,951,368 votes to 12,827,423 after 35 of Nigeria’s 36 states’ results had been announced and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). The only state yet to declare is Borno, the epicentre of the Boko Haram insurgency in the northeast, and is expected to vote heavily in favour of Buhari. As New African projected last night after 18 states and the FCT had declared, Buhari has won this election.
The retired major-general – last head of a military government from 1983 to 1985 – swept to victory winning in four of Nigeria’s six geopolitical zones.
His stronghold of the North West and North East turned out for him in overwhelming numbers. Of the 13 states that make up the two zones, Buhari won – or is projected to win – 12. Jonathan only reached 25% of the vote in 10 of these northern states that Buhari won.
The battleground regions of the South West and the North Central, both of which were won by Jonathan when the candidates last faced off in 2011, swung heavily to Buhari. He won them both on 22.5% and 20.5% swings respectively. To win the election, Buhari’s All Progressives Congress needed a national swing of 9% in its direction to secure victory, all things being equal.
From the beginning of the results process on Monday afternoon, it became clear that Jonathan’s strategy of relying on the core vote that helped him defeat Buhari comfortably in 2011 was not paying off. Jonathan had banked on stocking up a massive lead of around 9 million votes – approximately half the total thought needed to win the election overall in South South and South East states.
That failure of that plan was evident throughout Tuesday, as Jonathan’s supporters saw PDP majorities whittled down in state after state.
The PDP’s poor voter turnout was mirrored in the usually highly favourable South East and South South regions, which were the only two the president won. The South East’s disappointing, for Jonathan, 37% turnout – down from 67% in 2011 – undermined what should have been a crushing defeat. Likewise, turnout in the South South was just 56%, down from 67% in 2011. This fall in turnout in Jonathan’s heartlands is leading to calls of foul play by the ruling party. Another explanation could be the increased transparency of the polls brought about by more effective management by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and the introduction of biometric voting cards.
The day got off to an inauspicious start. Peter Godsday Orubebe, former minister for the Niger Delta region, took to the microphone and accused Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman, of having fixed results in favour of Buhari. In an angry exchange, Orubebe told Jega to “go to his office” and demanded that INEC chairman should “not to be tribalistic”, before storming out of the room. The incident appeared to sum up the frustration of the Jonathan camp following an evening in which it became clear that Buhari was gaining the upper hand.
The margin of the victory, despite the Jonathan camp disputing some results, should put momentum behind a democratic power of transfer – a first in Nigerian history.
However, by the late afternoon, it appeared that Jonathan himself had accepted the results. According to the Buhari campaign, Goodluck Jonathan conceded defeat in a phonecall to his rival. Buhari is due to make his acceptance speech in the comings hours.
– additional reporting by David Thomas