Nigerian President Buhari Has Unassailable Lead in Vote Count

Muhammadu Buhari, Nigeria's president, speaks during a trip to the US. Photographer: Pool/Bloomberg

Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari won a second and final four-year term in a general election marred by delays, technical glitches and at least 39 deaths.

After results from all but one of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory were announced, Buhari led his main challenger Atiku Abubakar by a 56 percent to 40 percent margin, according to Bloomberg calculations from data from the Independent National Electoral Commission. The opposition People’s Democratic Party called the count “manipulated” and said it will challenge it.

“What we should be focused on at this point is how to heal the country, how to merge the widening divide that this election has actually brought,” said Idayat Hassan, director at the Centre for Democratic and Development in Abuja.

The presidential and parliamentary elections in Africa’s most populous nation were the continent’s biggest-ever democratic exercise. Almost 73 million people were eligible to vote Saturday in what analysts thought would be a tight race mainly between Buhari, a 76-year-old ex-general who campaigned on an anti-graft platform, and Abubakar, a 72-year-old businessman and former vice president.

Read QuickTake on why so much is at stake in the election

At least 39 people were killed in election-related violence, according to the Situation Room, a group of civic organizations monitoring the vote. The inspector general of police, who didn’t give a death toll, said 128 people were arrested for offenses such as homicide and snatching of ballot boxes.

“Serious operational shortcomings placed undue burden on voters,” the European Union observer mission said.

During the presentation of results, the number of ballots and accredited voters — recorded simultaneously — didn’t tally in thousands of cases, the Situation Room, which includes more than 70 civic groups monitoring the electoral process, said in a statement Tuesday. It also called for an investigation of why more than 1 million votes were canceled across 18 states.

Opposition Demands

Abubakar’s PDP demanded that results in Borno, Nasarawa, Yobe and Zamfara states be canceled and fresh elections take place.

The election pitted two men of contrasting economic views, with Buhari, who favors a strong government role, against Abubakar, a pro-market multimillionaire who has said he would float the national currency and sell stakes in the state oil company.

Wall Street banks such as Citigroup Inc. had said Nigerian equities and bonds would probably rally if Abubakar wins. The stock market fell 0.7 percent Tuesday, the most in a week, as investors took in a Buhari victory.

“Investors’ preference would have been for an Atiku win considering that he is perceived to be more market friendly and also seen as having the potential to deliver a stronger economy,” said Olabisi Ayodeji, an analyst at Exotix Capital in Lagos, the commercial capital. “The results announced so far are pretty much what will be in the end.”

A Buhari win will probably mean more political interference in Nigeria’s economy and slower growth, according to research by Bloomberg Economics.

The incoming administration will have to deal with widespread violence in the northeast where insurgents, some now affiliated to Islamic State, have been fighting to impose their version of shariah law. The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives and forced more than 2.5 million people in the Lake Chad region to flee their homes.

Separate clashes between farmers and herders over grazing land led to around 2,000 deaths last year, according to Amnesty International.

Deepening Poverty

Nigeria now has more extremely poor people, 87 million, than any other nation, according to the Brookings Institution, a Washington-based think tank. The United Nations expects its population to double to 410 million by 2050, overtaking everywhere bar India and China.

Buhari and his All Progressives Congress faced sharp criticism for their handling of the economy. The president imposed capital controls as the naira currency came under pressure amid plunging revenue from oil, the country’s main export, and foreign investors fled. After a contraction in 2016, the economy expanded 1.9 percent last year, the fastest since Buhari’s election.

Abubakar portrayed himself as someone who knows how to get things done and his pro-market policies have won some favor among investors. While he’s faced allegations of corruption, he denies any wrongdoing and has never been indicted at home or abroad.

“For Buhari there have been missing gaps in terms of reviving the economy, but agriculture and mining are picking up,” said Habu Mohammed, the head of the political science department at Bayero Univerity in Kano. “The belief that Buhari has a leadership agenda to block the grab of illegitimate money by politicians helped him get the votes he’s receiving.” DM


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