18 April 2011

Nigeria: Rioting in North, Buhari Rejects Results

Photo: PHOTOESSAY: Nigerians Vote for a President

Voters queue patiently to cast their ballots at Kubwa...

Kano — Incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan was declared the winner of Nigeria's election on Monday as tensions began rising across the vast northern half of the country, which had strongly backed opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari in Saturday's poll.

Professor Attahiru Jega, chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), announced that Jonathan had won the poll with 22.5 million votes compared to 12.2 million for Bhuari, his closest contender. Total votes cast were about 39.5 million.

Provisional results had indicated that Jonathan was likely to win. By mid-morning on Monday, young men and boys had taken to the streets of several cities, armed with wooden planks and lighter fuel, protesting the victory of the "accidental incumbent" Goodluck Jonathan, who won with what some said were unbelievable margins of more than 99 percent in his home state in the southern oil-rich Delta, while Buhari swept the northern vote. A map of these results is telling: Nigeria's electorate is deeply divided over their presidential preferences.

Some voters, who turned out peacefully and in force on Saturday, appeared unwilling to accept the results on Monday.

In the historic northern city of Kano the same "ready army" of unemployed youth who have participated in political elite-sponsored rigging of past votes set up checkpoints and demanded that passersby express their preference for Buhari. Later, the protests became riots and young men targeted known supporters of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) and burned cars outside the emir of Kano's house. By late afternoon, a doctor at the Murtalla Muhammad Hospital in Kano told AllAfrica.com that he had seen 10 dead bodies and more than 15 gunshot wound victims in the hospital's emergency ward.

Violence also struck the northern cities of Kaduna and Zaria, where witnesses said rioters lit bonfires and security forces shot in the air to disperse crowds.

At Murtalla Muhammad Hospital in Kano, a doctor expressed chagrin at the events, saying that the rioters were "out to steal and loot," and didn't have "any political ambition."

The young men may have been drawn to the streets, however, by public statements made by Buhari and his party's spokesmen, who filed a formal complaint on Monday afternoon to INEC, accusing the ruling party of widespread rigging in the south.

"The results announced so far cannot stand based on the irregularities we have seen," Buhari's spokesman Yinka Odumakin told Reuters news agency. "In (the northern states of) Kano and Katsina there were reductions in our vote ... We cannot accept these results as announced until cross-checks have been carried out by the electoral commission," he said.

Observers from the African Union and the Economic Community of West African states lauded Saturday's vote as fair and credible.

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