Ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu was declared the winner of Nigeria’s presidential election on Wednesday, in a poll already disputed by the opposition, which had raised huge hopes for change in the most populated by Africa.
According to the Electoral Commission (Inec), Bola Tinubu of the Progressives Congress (APC) garnered more than 8.8 million votes, winning one of the most contested elections in Nigeria’s democratic history, beating his two main competitors.
Atiku Abubakar, the candidate of the main opposition party (the PDP which ruled the country from 1999 to 2015), won 6.9 million votes.
Labor Party (LP) outsider Peter Obi, whose popularity with young people has given new impetus to this campaign, won 6.1 million votes.
To win in the first round, he needed not only a majority of the vote, but also 25% of the votes in at least two thirds of the 36 states of the federation as well as the capital territory Abuja.
His supporters greeted him with shouts of “Jagaban” (“leader”) at his campaign headquarters shortly after his victory.
“I call on my competitors to team up together. It’s the only nation we have,” Mr. Tinubu told the opposition, who had accused him of “massive” fraud even before the results were announced.
“It’s a country that we have to build together, to pick up the broken pieces. We must work in unity,” he said.
At 70, the former governor of Lagos (south-west), nicknamed “the godfather” because of his immense political influence, reaches the highest rung of power, the ambition of a lifetime: “it’s my turn”, he kept repeating during the campaign.
He is to succeed outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, 80, who is stepping down after two terms as required by the Constitution. Numerous accusations of corruption punctuate his career, but he has never been convicted and has always denied them.
Nigeria – 216 million inhabitants – should become the third most populous country in the world by 2050, in a West Africa threatened by a strong democratic decline and the spread of jihadist violence.
The continent’s leading economy has become a global cultural power, thanks in particular to Afrobeats, a musical genre that is setting the planet on fire with stars like Burna Boy and Wizkid.
But Mr. Tinubu will mostly inherit a myriad of problems. For four years, he will have the heavy task of redressing the English-speaking giant, weighed down by a flagging economy, recurrent violence by armed groups and bandits, as well as a general impoverishment of the population.
Long given as the big favorite in this election, in particular thanks to the national base of the ruling party and its fortune, this Yorouba of Muslim faith has nevertheless seen his lead shrink as the campaign progresses.
Firstly because the person of Peter Obi, a 61-year-old former governor praised for his integrity, has largely won over a youth eager for change, tired of the aging and reputedly corrupt elite that governs it.
Then because very serious shortages of banknotes and gasoline, several weeks before the election, aggravated the already great anger of Nigerians against the government, with its disastrous balance sheet, between explosion of insecurity and the cost of living .
More than 87 million voters were called to the polls on Saturday and the vote, whose turnout is not yet known, was generally calm.
But following delays in counting and major failures in the electronic transfer of results, the parties of Mr. Abubakar and Mr. Obi denounced “a sham” election, demanding its “immediate cancellation” and the holding a “new ballot”.
Their parties also questioned the independence of Inec, which in turn castigated “unfounded” accusations. She added that candidates were “free to go to court” if they felt aggrieved.
Since the return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria has held seven national elections, almost all of which have been contested.
Many foreign observers harshly criticized the lack of transparency in the poll.
The disappointment promises to be great for the supporters of the opposition and in particular of Peter Obi, who believed until the end in the possible victory of their candidate, embodying in their eyes the rupture and the advent of a fairer society. .
Several analysts, however, doubted the ability of Mr. Obi, an Igbo from the south-east, to meet the constitutional requirements to win, namely to obtain a quarter of the votes in two-thirds of the states.
The community vote remains important in Nigeria, which has more than 250 ethnic groups, polarized between a predominantly Christian south and a more densely populated predominantly Muslim north.