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Too close to call, though turnout may tip the Nigeria election towards Buhari

By Eromo Egbejule, in Lagos
Posted on Monday, 25 February 2019 16:31, updated on Friday, 8 March 2019 12:01

A newspaper vendor uses rocks to stop the day's front pages from blowing in the wind, at a newspaper stand in Kano, in northern Nigeria Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. Ben Curtis/AP/SIPA

Low turnout may well hamper the challenger party in Nigeria's upcoming election

Low turnout may well hamper the challenger party in this election.

The Nigerian presidential elections pitting incumbent Muhammadu Buhari against former vice-president Atiku Abubakar remains close.

What we know so far:

  • Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) has taken 3 states (Ekiti, Osun and Kwara)
  • Atiku’s People Democratic Party (PDP) has taken the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja

At the same time were elections for seats in both houses of the federal parliament.

  • The two most high-profile casualties have been Senate President Bukola Saraki and its Minority Whip, Godswill Akpabio who within the last year, defected from the APC to PDP and PDP to APC respectively, and have now lost their seats. Both men are erstwhile godfathers in their states – Kwara and Akwa Ibom.

The turnout may well be decisive. Sources within the PDP say absolute numbers of votes will be lower this year (especially in south-east and south-south) where card reader failures and violence deterred voters.

  • We estimate that turnout may be around 40% (give or take 5-10 percentage points on either side). This looks like it will be down a little on the roughly 44% turnout of 2015. But the growing population means total votes should top the 29m of 2015” – tweets Charlie Robertson of Renaissance Capital
  • But internal PDP estimates suggest total votes may well be down compared to 2015.

Spin war: The fight over who has won started immediately

  • Results have been coming since, they are so overwhelming“, Bashir Ahmad, one of the president’s personal assistants tweeted. “PMB has been voted by majority“.
  • We look forward to sharing some exciting news in other parts of the country very soon, which will confound all the armchair pundits,” countered Phrank Shuaibu, Atiku’s spokesman.

Offline the exchanges were more brutal. The poll was disrupted by violence in several areas.

  • Voters in Boro State defied Islamists, despite attacks in Maidugari by Islamic State West Africa Province.
  • Voter intimidation was more successful in opposition strongholds in Lagos State and Rivers State as thugs loyal to the APC disrupted the process, wounding many.
  • There were seven deaths as soldiers and a gang of hoodlums engaged in an intense gunfight for hours at the Abonnema area of Rivers state, home to Rotimi Amaechi, minister of transport and APC campaign chief.
  • In Abuja, Buba Galadima, a longstanding Buhari ally who defected to become a top PDP chieftain last year, was also arrested by unknown gunmen in masks on Sunday; his whereabouts remain unidentified.
  • In Osun, the electoral office was set on fire by another set of hoodlums just as the tally began.
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