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Nigeria: Jonathan coasts to victory 0

Goodluck Ebele Jonathan is set to be Nigeria’s president for the next four years, after taking an unassailable lead and defeating 19 rivals in a decisive election victory. Results so far obtained in 32 out of the 36 states show Mr. Jonathan leading his closest rival, Muhammadu Buhari, by over 10 million votes, and already surpassing the requisite 25 per cent of votes cast in 24 states as mandated by law.

Although results of some states were not available at press time, exit polls show that the president is now far ahead of Mr Buhari, flagbearer of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The results indicate that the presidential candidate of the PDP has 20.8million, practically double the figure of his CPC counterpart who had 10.4 million.

Mr. Jonathan won in the conservative South West, the political citadel of Nuhu Ribadu’s Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), while Mr. Buhari’s CPC made a dent in many parts of the northern states, normally controlled by the PDP.

Results still being awaited include those of Taraba, Yobe and Zamfara, seen as strong CPC states. However a simple calculation shows that it will not be enough to dislodge the President’s lead. Taraba has 1.3m registered voters; Yobe has 1.4m; Zamfara has 1.8m.

Even if Mr. Buhari manages to win all the votes in these states, his tally will still be less than that of Mr. Jonathan who already has the popular majority.

Mr. Buhari has also failed to get the requisite spread of 25 percent of votes cast in two-third of 36 states, winning in Bauchi, Borno, Kaduna, Kano and Katsina.

Collation

Under overcast weather tempered by early rains in the federal capital territory, the Independent National Electoral Commission conducted the final collation of votes arriving from the states under extreme security at its Electoral Institute within the Central Business District.

Hundreds of police special teams and State Security Service personnel mounted guard as Attahiru Jega, the INEC chairman received counted votes from the states through the collation officers, who were almost entirely made of Vice Chancellors or their deputies from Universities in those states.

Drafting the VCs for the job, as with other decisions of Mr. Jega, was aimed at shoring up the transparency and the integrity of the polls. Each Returning Officer read the figures for the 20 political parties after scanned results of the election had earlier been Emailed to Mr. Jega.

The unofficial result has all but put to rest fears that the presidential election will not produce a winner in the first ballot. Mr Jonathan has similarly spoken of his fear of such an eventuality and expressed his hope that a winner will emerge on the first ballot.

Speaking after casting his vote Saturday, Mr Jonathan said: “I pray that we do not go into by election because of the cost implication. Nigeria is a very big country and to conduct one round of election, if you calculate the amount to pay article staff and security agencies, it is a colossal sum of money.’’

The victory of the president on the first ballot will surprise many who had seen the election as one of the most closely run races in recent Nigerian history.

Although the failure of the planned alliance between Mr Buhari’s CPC and Mr Ribadu’s ACN must have come as a great relief to the PDP, the fear of a run off remained a distinct possibility.

He also ran

Perhaps no one was more damaged by the failed alliance than Mr. Ribadu, whose announcement that he was willing to step down for Mr. Buhari may have caused him a great deal of votes. He admitted this when he told NEXT, “I know the damage they have done to me personally but I leave that to God.’’

The extent of the damage was soon obvious when Mr. Ribadu lost election in the southwest, coming third in some instances.

Worst still, the ACN candidate lost the election in Adamawa State eventually coming third. At the Aliyu Musdafa primary school polling unit, a few metres away from his family house, Ribadu polled 85 votes to trail Mr Buhari who got 260 votes. The man who was billed as a game changer ended up losing his unit, his ward, his local government and the state winning only in Osun State.

Mr Ribadu who has consistently said the election was not a do or die affair has said he would abide by the results of the presidential election.

Violence rears head

Not everyone seemed to be that sanguine. Already, there are reports of violence in Gombe, Bauchi and Adamawa states. In Gombe State where the election has been quite peaceful, angry youth took to the street when it was announced that President Jonathan won 32 per cent of the votes in the state. Two people were killed in the ensuing fracas and the house of the state PDP chairman and other neighbouring houses were burnt down.

Yet, presidential election has been largely peaceful and the Nigeria Labour Congress has declared it an unqualified success.

“Nigerians sent a clear message that they cannot be intimidated or deterred. We salute the process of elections and orderly conduct of voters,’’ said a statement signed by its secretary general, Owei Lakemfa yesterday.

By Olu Jacob and Ini EkottNext

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