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Nigeria's President Goodluck Jonathan Concedes Election Defeat to Muhammadu Buhari

President Goodluck becomes the first incumbent to lose an election in Nigerian history. "The people of Nigeria have taken over," said a spokesman for Buhari's party.

by Katarina Hoije
Mar 31 2015, 11:25am

Photo by Ben Curtis/AP

Former military general Muhammadu Buhari has won Nigeria's presidential election, defeating the incumbent Goodluck Jonathan by 2.1 million votes. Reuters' election tally shows Buhari got 15.4 million votes against Jonathan's 13.3 million and Jonathan has now reportedly conceded defeat.

Lai Mohammed, a spokesman for Buhari's All Progressives Congress party (APC) said: "I think he conceded defeat. There had always been this fear that he might not want to concede but he will remain a hero for this move. The tension will go down dramatically. Anyone who tries to foment trouble on the account that they have lost the election will be doing so purely on his own."

Earlier, the APC party declared victory for its candidate, a former general who seized power in a military coup three decades ago.

"This is the first time in Nigeria that a sitting government will be voted out of power using purely democratic means," APC spokesman Lai Mohammed told Reuters. "The people of Nigeria have taken over."

According to the BBC, this victory would make President Jonathan the first incumbent to lose an election in Nigeria. Today, Buhari claimed victory in Lagos, the country's financial capital of 18 million people, and won Niger State with a greater margin than in 2011.

"The issue for Jonathan, and why Buhari is in the lead, is that the president is not getting enough votes in southeast, where PDP is traditionally strong, while Buhari got landslide wins in populous states like Kano and Kaduna in the north," political reporter Alkasim Abdulkadir told VICE News.

Turnout has been low in the south and the southeast where Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP) were expecting to gather a lot of votes. Buhari won Kogi State, a region solidly won by Jonathan in 2011. Jonathan's voter base is lagging far behind that of the last election.

"So far Jonathan's got 20 percent less votes compared to 2011," Abdulkadir added earlier on Tuesday.

Related: 'If Buhari returns we will all end up in jail': History hangs over Nigeria's election candidates. Read more here.

Nigeria's electoral rules stipulate that the winning candidate must take at least 50 percent of the total vote while winning a quarter of the ballots in a minimum of 24 of the 36 states. If none of the 14 candidates secure a victory, a runoff would be held within seven days after the results are announced.

"At this point Jonathan will not get over 25 percent in enough states for elections to go into a second round," political analyst Buhari Jega told VICE News.

Controversy has surrounded the election in Lagos, where observers reported that vote collation was "quite disorganized" and "not dealt with in the best way."

Observers agreed the vote in general was free and fair, yet on Monday UK and US diplomats warned of political meddling during the counting process. The exception was Rivers State were elections didn't meet the minimal standard for a recognized vote, Muhamed Bello, a local election observer told VICE News.

"Armed security took the role of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). They smashed ballot boxes and threatened voters. The problem with the card readers made it worse because people were allowed to vote without voters cards," Bello added.

Violence erupted in Nigeria's far south as preliminary results in the closely fought election were announced on Monday. In Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State, hundreds of protesters took to the streets calling for new elections following alleged voting irregularities.

On Sunday, the APC filed an official compliant to INEC asking the commission to look into irregularities during voting in Rivers State.

"Our observers documented several issues, including missing ballot papers, attempts to snatch ballot boxes, and voting outside polling stations. There were also direct threats on voters and observers," Rivers State governor Rotimi Amaechi told VICE News. "In fact there was no vote in Rivers State."

In Akwa Ibom State, election observers were reportedly chased away. Yet across most of the country the vote took place without major issues.

"Overall, elections have been peaceful with only minor delays and technical issues," said May Okofor from the Justice, Democracy and Peace Commission, which monitored voting at one Lagos polling station.

On Monday, both parties were adamant their candidate had won. In Kaduna, at a site where ballots were counted on Saturday, APC member Ben Kure proudly announced Buhari had taken home the state.

"APC won a landslide win in [neighboring] Kano. In Kaduna we won the presidency in two out of three zones, enough to secure the state," Kure told VICE News.

In the south, PDP gubernatorial candidate Nyesom-Wike said his party had secured enough votes to win Rivers State. "Elections went smoothly. People voted, there's no need to cancel elections," he said.

Around 56 million of the 68.8 million registered voters were issued cards that enabled them to cast ballots. On Sunday, voters showed resilience as they lined up in front of polling stations for a second day of voting.

Related: Second day of voting in Nigeria ends with sporadic violence but no major incidents. Read more here.

Yet fears of post-election violence remain. On Monday, the chairman of Nigeria's national election commission, Attahiru Jega, called for peace after the official results were announced. In 2011, over 800 people were reportedly killed as fighting broke out after results were announced. Before this year's elections, the country's Human Rights Commission highlighted Rivers, Kaduna and Kano States as possible hotspots. 

There is concern in many states in northern Nigeria, especially among minority Christians, that violence may erupt if the results are declared in favor of Jonathan. In 2011, Kaduna was one of the cities hit by post-election violence. The APC's Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who is running for governor of the northern state, was confident of a victory as he urged supporters to remain calm.

"For many people in the far north, Buhari is already the next president. Anything else will be unacceptable," he told VICE News.

In other states, like Plateau, which is majority Christian and lies in the center of the country, the Christians voted overwhelmingly for Jonathan while the Muslims voted for Buhari.

"Even though many say religion is not or should not be an issue in an election, for many people living in the Middle Belt, religion and ethnicity are all that matter," political analyst Jide Ojo told VICE News.