The Nigerian Saturday, Feb. 25th presidential election was finally called Tuesday night in the U.S., or Wednesday morning in Nigeria, which is six hours ahead.
Former governor of Lagos and All Progressives Congress candidate Bola Tinubu, 70, was declared the winner, reportedly garnering most of the popular vote, although he lost his own Lagos State.
Out of 18 candidates, there were three main challenges to replace current president Muhammadu Buhari. Tinubu was one of the leading candidates. People’s Democratic Party’s Atiku Abubakar, 76, was on his sixth run for presidency. Labor Party candidate Peter Obi, 61, with massive youthful support, had a surprisingly successful campaign. Has put up an impressive race, and had major support outside the country, too.
Millions of Nigerians at home and in the diaspora had been on tenterhooks awaiting the result and the aftermath.
Charges of misplaced votes, reported irregularities, prohibitive technical issues, polling units and voters being attacked, violence, fraud, threatening behavior, and charges of corruption were levied against the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as state results trickled in and people reacted to disputed results. Some calls, including from former president Olusegun Obasanjo, were made for the election to be canceled.
Until the official election result announcement, Obi’s supporters were celebrating in the streets and online as each winning result came in states such as his own Anambra, Edo, Delta, Cross River, and Imo.
But even as the definitive, immediate Nigerian opposition to the already-disputed result kicks off, INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu announced that Tinubu, “having satisfied the requirements of the law, is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected.”
The commission declared the race for Tinubu, who garnered 8.8 million votes. Atiku Abubakar earned 6.9 million votes, and Peter Obi won 6.1 million. The uproar was immediate, however.
Any casual analysis of the political plan in the last few weeks will reveal this very scenario being a topic of discussion, as fears of a compromised election arose.
Meanwhile, even though there have been deaths at polling sites, Nigerian civilians and public officials are calling for calm and a peaceful transition of power so that the nation’s 220 million people can regroup and rebuild.
The election and the anticipation of a fair and accurate result has been the talk of Nigeria, the African continent, and Naija people throughout the diaspora. It has been a tense few days. Results from different states like Lagos, Edo, Kano, and Delta have trickled in, giving hope to election watchers from across the 36 states. So contested have been the results with INEC refusing or unable to upload the votes as they initially came in on Saturday and Sunday that talk of canceling the election and hosting a rerun of the proceedings was trending as late as Tuesday.
Peter Obi’s youthful, self-proclaimed Obidients have been predicting a projected win for weeks. Confident after Saturday, they have been declaring a win despite the other projections suggesting a win for Bola Tinubu.
The stage was set for unrest—if not physical, at least vocal and continuous. Already Al Jazeera reports that at a joint presser from opposition parties People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP), and African Democratic Congress (CDC) are charging that the election result was actually “vote allocation and not collation.”
“I appeal to my fellow contestants to let us team together,” said ‘Jagaban’ Tinubu during his acceptance speech on Wednesday. “It is the only nation we have. It is one country that we must build together.”
As Obi and Atiku supporters slam the result as a sham, Tinubu, who had long determined he was running for president because “Emi lokan” (“It’s my turn” in Yoruba), expressed to Nigerians that he is ready to accept this “serious mandate…to serve you…to work with you and make Nigeria great.”
INEC stated out of Nigeria’s 36 states, Tinubu won 12, including Rivers, Jigawa, Kogi, Kwara, Ekiti, Ondo, Oyo, Ogun, and Zamfara; while Atiku won Adamawa, Kaduna, Bayelsa, Taraba, Akwa Ibom, Gombe, Katsina, Sokoto, Yobe, Kebbi, and Bauchi; and Obi won in Edo, Cross River, Delta, Lagos, FCT, Imo, Ebonyi, Plateau, Anambra, Abia, Enugu and Nasarawa.
New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) candidate Rabbiu Musa Kwankwaso and his Kwankwasiya (Red Cap Revolution) won Kano State.
Dismissing demands for him to resign, INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu announced instead that on March 1, the Certificate of Return for the President and Vice President would be presented to Tinubu and his vice president, Kashim Shettima, at the National Collation Centre in Abuja, the capital. The INEC determined, “There are laid down procedures for aggrieved parties or candidates to follow when they are dissatisfied about the outcome of an election.”
Self-declared “One hundred Peter Obi supporter” Richard Iyasere told the Amsterdam News that any announcement which did not determine Obi to be the actual winner would be an issue for millions of voters and his supporters.
Decrying fraudulent shenanigans at the polls, and INEC’s refusal to ensure the uploading of the election results onto the server as promised, the Bronx-based activist said, “There is enough evidence that this election was not conducted in a free and fair way. The legal machine is already in place to go to court and not to accept the result.”
Iyasere slammed the failure of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), which was supposed to securely upload the nation’s votes.
The community organizer added, “Nigeria is a complicated country. After the election we had some challenges with the electronic system. We thought we would rescue the result, yet INEC has failed to deliver a free and fair election.
“I will mobilize my own team and the protests will start by Thursday.”
He added cautiously, “This shouldn’t be a second End Sars situation. We are talking to the youth. We want them to protest peacefully.
“What was a good thing though was our youth standing up for their vote. They demanded a credible actual result at the polling units to be announced with no manipulation.”
“There is sadness and frustration in the country,” said former Amsterdam News reporter Ikenna Ellis Ezenekwe, an Abuja-based activist and publisher of 247ureports.com.
“Nigeria conducted its largest election in history, and it was criminally hijacked by a political gang that controls the levels of power. The people of Nigeria were robbed on February 25, 2023 of their mandate forcefully in the most brutal and bloody form ever witnessed in the 24 years of Nigerian democracy [after military rule]. The Independent National Electoral Commission in cahoots with the ruling political party rigged the presidential election in a manner never witnessed in the history of Africa. It was not done in hiding. It was broad daylight.
It was brutal and bloody.
“The few patriotic staff of the electoral empire who refused to go along with the rigging were attacked. They totally falsified the election results. Many of the voters were chased away using thugs and Nigerian security officers. It was a charade.”
Ezenekwe is outraged. “This action by the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress, may result in the return of the military. The youths are angry, and are readying to hit the streets massively across the regions of the country in protest against the nature of the election.”
Lookman Mashood is the owner of Buka, a Nigerian restaurant with locations in Brooklyn and Manhattan, and told the Amsterdam News, “We know many people wanted Obi to win. But Tinubu won. Obi supporters are going to wait another four years. The Obi outing has been amazing. Congratulations Nigeria, in this great man we have an opportunity for a better tomorrow. May God give him great health. Congratulations to Peter Obi. He put up a great fight, and of course Alhaji Atiku. May peace reign in our wonderful country.”