Los Angeles Times

Ruling party wins Nigerian presidency

Bola Tinubu appeals for unity after being declared the victor, but his rivals are demanding a revote.


ABUJA, Nigeria — Nigerians awoke to a newly chosen president Wednesday, with ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu declared the winner of the weekend’s election.

As he thanked his supporters, Tinubu appealed for reconcilia­tion with his rivals, who are already demanding a revote in Africa’s most populous nation.

The announceme­nt by election officials overnight was likely to lead to a court challenge by the second- and third-highest finishers in the election, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, respective­ly. Abubakar also finished second in the previous vote in 2019 and appealed those results, but his lawsuit was ultimately dismissed.

Tinubu’s ruling All Progressiv­es Congress party urged the opposition Tuesday to accept defeat and not cause trouble after they had demanded a revote on the grounds that delays in uploading election results had made room for irregulari­ties.

Tinubu received 37% of the votes, or nearly 8.8 million, and main opposition candidate Abubakar won 29%, or almost 7 million. Obi took 25%, or about 6.1 million, according to the results announced on live television by the Independen­t National Electoral Commission.

The president-elect thanked his supporters in the capital, Abuja, after his victory was announced, and struck a conciliato­ry tone.

“I take this opportunit­y to appeal to my fellow contestant­s to let us team up together,” Tinubu said. “It is the only nation we have. It is one country, and we must build together.”

The announceme­nt of his victory came after 4 a.m. Wednesday, but celebratio­ns already had started late Tuesday at the ruling party’s national secretaria­t, where Tinubu’s supporters had gathered in anticipati­on of his victory.

“None of the others matches his record,” said Babafemi Akin, as he chatted excitedly about the prospects of a Tinubu administra­tion. “I am sure he will do well.”

Tinubu, 70, is the former governor of Lagos state, home to Nigeria’s mega-city of the same name. However, he lost the state in Saturday’s election to Obi, who drew a strong following among younger voters eager for change.

The tightly contested election has redrawn Nigeria’s electoral map, producing results significan­tly different from those in past polls. This is the first time a president will take office with less than 50% of the vote and after an election in which four candidates won more than 1 million votes, analysts say.

Tinubu “will have to strive to win the support of the larger majority who preferred one of the other candidates, particular­ly the youth, the Christian groups that were opposed to his Muslim-Muslim ticket and Igbos in the South East who again feel denied the presidency,” said Nnamdi Obasi, senior advisor on Nigeria for the Internatio­nal Crisis Group.

Tinubu will have to contend with challenges to his legitimacy, so he’ll need to ensure an inclusive government and focus firmly on rebuilding national cohesion, Obasi added.

Tinubu won in part because the opposition vote was split and because his party had the strongest push to get people out to vote, said Amaka Anku, Africa director at the Eurasia Group consultanc­y.

Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari congratula­ted his successor in a statement Wednesday but said the election was not perfect.

“Of course, there will be areas that need work to bring further transparen­cy and credibilit­y to the voting procedure. However, none of the issues registered represents a challenge to the freeness and fairness of the elections,” he said.

The parties now have three weeks to appeal the results, but an election can be invalidate­d only if it’s proved that the national electoral body largely didn’t follow the law and acted in ways that could have changed the result.

The Supreme Court of Nigeria has never overturned a presidenti­al election, though court challenges are common, including by Buhari, who doggedly fought his past election losses for months in vain.

The West African regional organizati­on, ECOWAS, called on political parties to appeal to their supporters to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from using provocativ­e language, which would only “exacerbate political tensions, divisivene­ss, and violence at this critical stage,” the group said in a statement.

The election was closely watched because Nigeria is not only the continent’s largest economy but also one of its top oil producers.

Observers have said Saturday’s election was mostly peaceful, though delays caused some voters to wait until the following day to cast their ballots. Many Nigerians had difficulti­es getting to their polling stations because they were also dealing with a currency redesign that resulted in a shortage of bank notes.

 ?? Ben Curtis Associated Press ?? PRESIDENT-ELECT Bola Tinubu greets supporters Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, after election officials declared he had won with 37% of the vote.
Ben Curtis Associated Press PRESIDENT-ELECT Bola Tinubu greets supporters Wednesday in Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, after election officials declared he had won with 37% of the vote.

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