Nigerian voters on Monday complained about slow vote counts, voting machine malfunctions, and violence at some polling places as the outcome of Saturday’s presidential election remained in doubt.
As of Monday afternoon, results were still pending from about two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states. An early call was made in Lagos, ostensibly a stronghold for ruling-party candidate Bola Tinubu – but victory was called for third-party candidate Peter Obi, delivering what political analyst Remi Adekoya described as “the biggest shock of Tinubu’s political career.”
Adekoya said the Lagos win was a sign that Obi’s campaign is “reshaping Nigeria’s political landscape,” but other observers said few other districts have enough upwardly-mobile young voters to deliver similar shock upsets for Obi.
Reuters reported on Monday morning that provisional counts from 15 Nigerian states put Tinubu far in the lead with 4.26 million votes, followed by 3.26 million for his major-party rival Atiku Abubakar and only 1.77 million for Obi.
This would track with final predictions from veteran political observers that despite all the excitement around Obi’s campaign, and his popularity with young voters, Tinubu would probably coast to victory in the usual low-turnout, fraud-prone Nigerian election.
“The election has been fraught with logistical and technological difficulties that resulted in the failure, in many places, to upload results directly from each polling unit to its website, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had promised to do to guarantee transparency,” Reuters observed.
Both the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) of Atiku and Obi’s Labor party disavowed the election results. PDP said the vote was “rigged,” while Obi’s campaign director Akin Osuntokun said Labor has “lost confidence in the results being collated and announced.”
Osuntokun called on Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to “follow its own guidelines” for securing ballots, or “completely cancel the entire election.”
The INEC on Monday refused these demands and said vote counting would continue. Tinubu, who accepted his loss in Lagos without challenge, said those who doubted the election results should prepare to challenge them in court.
Voters in Lagos and elsewhere reported intimidation and outright violence at the polls, most outrageously in the Alimosho district of Lagos, where a group of 15 men pushed their way into a voting center by pretending to be election officials, then began attacking members of Obi’s Labor Party with sticks and knives. Nearby soldiers were forced to intervene against the thugs.
Another attack was reported in the northern state of Kano, where an INEC office was set on fire by “unidentified armed men.” The office was still in the process of counting ballots for the state when the assault took place.
A new biometric system installed to cut down on vote fraud malfunctioned in several areas, including northeastern Nigeria, where thousands of people have been displaced by attacks from Islamist insurgents. Election observers also said the vehicles assigned to transport ballots from remote polling stations to central counting areas were running far behind schedule.
“I arrived at around 10 a.m. Polling materials were late and we set up to start voting. Some thugs arrived and started hitting people with chairs. I was hit several times with a chair. There was a doctor who helped us. A lot of women were attacked, including a pregnant woman. She was knocked to the ground and they smashed her phone,” a doctor in Lagos told CNN of his voting experience.
Voters were seen in several districts attempting to cast ballots long after the polls officially closed, and thousands of polling units were late uploading their results to the INEC’s central system – a disappointing result for an election where new technology was supposed to make the results known in record time.