President Muhammadu Buhari has been re-elected after an acrimonious campaign in Nigeria, securing a second term as head of Africa’s most populous nation and its largest economy even though his main opponent’s party said it would not accept the results.
According to the electoral commission, which declared Mr Buhari the winner, he beat former vice-president Atiku Abubakar by nearly 4m votes, 56 per cent to 41 per cent, in what many thought had been a close race.
Turnout was low at the polls after a campaign that had been marred by long delays and sporadic violence.
Mr Abubakar’s backers alleged massive vote rigging and demanded that polls in some states be rerun because of alleged manipulation.
Mr Abubakar’s party called the results “incorrect and unacceptable” but Mr Buhari’s party accused it of trying to discredit the results of Saturday’s election. Amaka Anku, Africa head for the Eurasia Group, said in a note that a legal challenge by Mr Abubakar was unlikely to succeed.
“He would need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that electoral malpractice occurred,” she wrote.
“That is a tough standard to meet and makes an overturn of the election result unlikely.” An international observer in Nigeria said that, while there were irregularities perpetrated by both big parties, it was “not enough” to have affected the outcome of the election.
Mr Buhari secured the most votes, and more than a quarter of votes, in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the federal capital territory, thereby avoiding the possibility of a runoff.
He had previously ruled briefly as a military dictator in the 1980s, when he was known as a disciplinarian and anti-corruption crusader.
He campaigned on that reputation in presidential runs in 2003, 2007 and 2011, in elections that many Nigerians, and analysts, believe were blatantly rigged against him.
In 2015, he won amid outrage over multibillion-dollar government graft scandals and a promise to defeat the Boko Haram insurgency, which was terrorising large parts of northern Nigeria and had bombed the capital.
Mr Buhari is credited with beating back Boko Haram.
It is now largely isolated to a single state, although it still slaughters soldiers and civilians. Recommended Sudan Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir plays ‘last card’ to retain power However, a series of security crises in other parts of the country have also boiled over on his watch.
He is still viewed as a clean politician, although many of his associates have been accused of graft, and his anti-corruption drive has been criticised as partisan.
His economic record has been decidedly mixed.
Even critics agree that he was dealt a bad hand, taking office just as an economy dependent on oil was hit by a crash in prices.
But many economists argue that his policies exacerbated both the recession that followed and the sluggishness of the recovery.
Mr Buhari is likely to preside over a government full of men vying to be his successor, including his vice-president, Yemi Osinbajo, a Christian pastor and lawyer.
Mr Osinbajo has repeatedly served as acting president during Mr Buhari’s first term, when an undisclosed illness brought the president to London for months at a time.
In his new term, Mr Buhari is expected to continue his focus on state-led growth and infrastructure spending, on expanding the agricultural sector and on empowering small businesses.
Lagos-based executives have become weary of Mr Buhari’s statist approach, however, and many had hoped for a victory by Mr Abubakar.
A wealthy businessman, he had pitched himself as being in favour of the private sector.
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