01222018

Buhari campaign: Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan concedes defeat

Nigeria Election_Cham640360.jpg

March 30, 2015: A young Nigerian girl walks past election posters, some showing presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari, in Kaduna, Nigeria. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)

Former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari’s campaign said Tuesday that Buhari has won Nigeria’s presidential election and President Goodluck Jonathan has conceded defeat. 

A Nigerian Cabinet minister said Jonathan congratulated Buhari on the win. 

An aide in Jonathan’s offices said the president is preparing to make a speech.

Buhari’s campaign office sent text messages to journalists saying Jonathan had called Buhari to say he will concede.

It marks the first time in Nigeria’s history that an opposition party has democratically taken control of the country from the ruling party.

Results from 35 states and the small Federal Capital Territory amounting to some 28 million votes showed Buhari leading by 2 million votes. Buhari is expected to carry the sole remaining state, northeast Borno that is the birthplace of Boko Haram and has 1.4 million eligible voters.

Electoral officials broke off the count saying it would take up to two hours for Borno results to arrive.

Buhari crucially carried Lagos state, Nigeria’s commercial hub with the largest number of voters, according to results announced Tuesday though fewer than one third of voters participated.

“As for the election, we have won it!” Shehu said earlier Tuesday outside the party’s headquarters that has been decked out with celebratory bunting for days.

Streets in Abuja, the capital where the presidential villa is located, were deserted as people waited tensely for an announcement, fearful of violence.

By contrast in the north, where Buhari is almost revered, spontaneous celebrations sprang up in Kano, the nation’s second city, and Kaduna. Young men on motor scooters performed wheelies as hundreds of youths chanted: “Change! Change! Change!” and cars honked their horns in support. In Kano state, Buhari delivered a crushing defeat to Jonathan, winning 1.9 million votes for Jonathan’s 215,800.

Britain and the United States warned Monday of the possibility of political meddling in the final count. Jonathan’s campaign spokesman Femi Fani-Kayode said that was “absolute balderdash” and demanded evidence.

Critics and supporters agree that Buhari is the one leader who did not treat the country’s treasury as a personal piggy bank. During his brief 1984-1985 dictatorship he rule with an iron fist, jailing people even for littering, and ordering civil servants who arrived late to work to do squats. He gagged the press and jailed journalists to cover up a deepening economic crisis as prices tumbled for the oil on which Nigeria’s economy depends. He eventually was overthrown by his own soldiers.

Nigeria’s 170 million people are divided almost equally between Christians mainly in the south and Muslims like Buhari who dominate the north. Buhari for the first time won states in the southwest and even took one third of votes in a southeastern state — an unprecedented development that some say reflects more of an anti-Jonathan than a pro-Buhari sentiment.

The vote counting in Abuja was disrupted Tuesday by a representative of Jonathan’s party who protested that the proceedings were partial to Buhari. “We have lost confidence in you. You are tribalistic! You are partial!” shouted former Cabinet minister Peter Godsday Orubebe to the chairman of the electoral commission counting the vote. The opposition has also complained that electoral officials are partisan. The count is being carried out in the presence of party representatives, national and international observers and media.

There have been delays in about a dozen states sending results to the counting center because of logistical challenges that had election material being delivered by air, road, speedboat, mules and camels, spokesman Kayode Idowu of the Independent National Electoral Commission told AP.

Buhari’s showing in his fourth bid to become president was boosted by the formation of a coalition of major opposition parties two years ago. Its choice of Buhari as a single candidate presented the first real opportunity in the history of Nigeria to oust a sitting president.

Buhari also was able to count on considerable voter dissatisfaction with the performance of Jonathan, who has been president since 2010.

Because of decades of military dictatorship, this is only the eighth election since the country won independence from Britain in 1960, and the fifth since democracy was restored in 1999.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 

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