Vote counting continued on Sunday as Nigerians awaited the outcome of a presidential poll seen as a tight race between the president and a former vice president.
Although voting was peaceful in most areas of Nigeria on Saturday, there were a few outbreaks of violence in the vast West African country and many reports of delays at polling stations.
Many polling stations remained open after dark to allow people waiting in line to vote. Turnout appeared light following the last-minute postponement of the election for a week. More than 72 million people were eligible to vote.
There were media reports on Sunday of voting still taking place in some remote areas that experienced problems on Saturday.
President Muhammadu Buhari, a former military ruler who won election in 2015, is seeking his second term against more than 70 candidates. His main rival is Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and billionaire businessman.
Many Nigerians, appalled that their country recently became the world leader in the number of people living in extreme poverty, said the election will be decided by economic issues. Nigeria suffered a rare, months-long recession under Buhari when global oil prices crashed, with unemployment growing significantly to 23 percent and inflation in the double digits.
Abubakar’s party is alleging “deliberate” voter suppression in areas where Buhari’s party is known to be unpopular.
In the northern city of Kano tempers flared at one collation centre where unaccredited Abubakar supporters alleged that ballots from a couple of polling units hadn’t been counted. Amid shouting, security personnel pushed them out of the courtyard’s metal door.
‘Free and fair’
A ruling party supervisor, Joy Bako, watched in exasperation before they engaged her in a heated argument.
“It was free and fair,” she said. “Nobody was arguing. I’m surprised at all this noise.”
Observers and workers at the collation centre, and others who had visited multiple centres, reported a peaceful process in an area where voters were expected to largely support Buhari.
Some called the vote more transparent than the one in 2015, considered one of the best-run in Nigeria’s history.
Even an opposition supporter, Abubakar Ali, paused from the ruckus to acknowledge that “everything was going clear.” But a lot of people did not come out to vote as compared to the last time, he said.
Godwin Ugbala, who spent the election as an agent for one of the country’s dozens of small political parties, reported a smooth voting day and added his voice to the frustration with Buhari.
“This one failed us in so many ways,” Ugbala said. “No business. Everything is tired.”
He voted for Buhari in 2015 but said the president had “betrayed” the people by not following up on his promises.
Nigeria’s presidential election was held a week late, after the electoral commission said it needed more time to organise the logistics of holding a credible election.
Observers said the delay of the election from last week, blamed on logistical challenges, could favour Buhari, with some Nigerians saying they didn’t have the resources to travel a second time to their place of registration.
It’s unclear when a winner will be announced, but some observers say it could be Tuesday or Wednesday.