Bola Ahmed Tinubu was declared the winner of Nigeria’s controversial presidential election on Wednesday after opposition leaders denounced the polls as rigged and called for a new vote.
Tinubu, 70, represents the ruling All Progressives Congress party, which received nearly 8.8 million votes — about 36.6% of the total, according to Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) chairman Mahmood Yakubu.
He defeated Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the popular Third Power candidate, Peter Obi, who has gained popularity especially among young people.
In an acceptance speech, Tinubu thanked voters and said he was “deeply humbled”.
“This is a wonderful moment in the life of every man and an affirmation of our democratic existence,” he said. “I represent a promise and with your support I know that promise will be fulfilled.”
He also appealed to his ‘competitors’, asking them to ‘work together’ to strengthen the country.
Videos from the capital, Abuja, showed Tinubu supporters cheering and celebrating the victory.
This election is one of the most hotly contested since the country returned to democratic rule in 1999, with more than 93 million people registered, according to the INEC.
But Yakubu said on Wednesday that 24 million valid votes had been counted, representing a turnout of just 26%.
Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos State, represents the same party as outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, who he said helped Tinubu win the top seat in 2015.
After decades spent behind the scenes, Tinubu launched his campaign for the presidency under the slogan, “It’s my turn.”
He becomes Nigeria’s fifth elected president since 1999, winning the race for the country’s top job on his first attempt.
Buhari congratulated his soon-to-be successor in a statement on Wednesday, calling him “the best person for the job.”
The vote count has been hotly contested since Saturday’s polls by many who claim the process has been marred by corruption and technical glitches. On Tuesday, the country’s main opposition parties described the results of the election as “heavily manipulated and manipulated” at a joint press conference.
They said they had lost confidence in Yakubu, the president of the electoral body, and that the results “do not reflect the wishes expressed by Nigerians in the February 25, 2023 polls”.
The INEC rejected calls for a new vote, with a spokesman insisting the election process had been “free, fair and credible”.
In his speech, Tinubu also praised the INEC for “holding credible elections no matter what anyone says”.
But several observers, including the European Union, have also criticized the election for its lack of transparency.
“The elections fell short of the reasonable expectations of Nigerian citizens,” said a joint observation mission from the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Samson Itodo, the head of Nigeria’s largest independent election observation body, said on Tuesday there was “serious cause for concern”. He cited multiple critical issues that had hampered public confidence in the election process, including violence and technical barriers.
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Some logistical issues reported across the country include voters unable to find their polling stations after last-minute changes, he said.
His non-profit civic organization, Yiaga Africa, deployed more than 3,800 observers across Nigeria to the election — with one observer evicted from a voting center after “rogues invaded it,” Itodo said.
Many voters in Lagos complained of intimidation and attempts to suppress their votes. In February, CNN visited a polling station in Lekki, Lagos, which was attacked and the military forced to intervene.
In other cases, voting was delayed or people couldn’t vote at all because election officials didn’t show up.
On Tuesday, the United Nations urged “all stakeholders to remain calm as the election process concludes,” and to avoid misinformation or incitement to violence.