The Nigerian president's campaign says they have numbers to win


A spokesperson for Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's campaign on Tuesday claimed that unofficial figures have shown he has won a second term in Africa's largest democracy.

Babatunde Fashola, Campaign Director for Election Observation and Cabinet Minister for Power and Labor, told The Associated Press in an interview that they "are preparing for the President to give his acceptance speech" and celebrate on Tuesday night.

Atiku Abubakar, the opposition challenger, should dignify his loss and grant it, Fashola said. Abubakar should also provide evidence to support the claim that the ruling party has manipulated the results of Saturday's poll, which is being rejected by Buhari's party, Fashola said.

On Tuesday night, when official pro-government announcements of the election results had passed the halfway point, Buhari led with more than 1.6 million votes and won 13 of the 36 Nigerian states. His first term was hampered by a rare recession and widespread uncertainty.

"I congratulate you very much on your success," said the President, as he visited campaign workers on Monday night.

Also on Tuesday, the number of deaths at electoral violence rose to 53, as an extremist attack was worse than first reported.

Buhari won Lagos, the most populous state in Nigeria. Abubakar, a former vice-president of the billionaire, won ten states, most in the largely Christian south and in the territory of the capital.

The trial could continue until Wednesday in a race once described as too brief.

Election observers say the vote, a step back from the much lauded 2015, suffered from a surprising postponement of the week and significant delays in opening polling stations. While they generally described the process as peaceful, at least 53 people were killed, the SBM Intelligence unit said.

The toll increased because an attack by the extremist group of the West African West Africa province in the northeast was more deadly than initially thought, killing at least 17 people, said research leader Cheta Nwanze to the AP.

Nigerians are now wondering if Buhari and Abubakar will honor the pledges to accept a loss or question the results. A former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, said the difficult elections had given them cause to go to court. This way could take months.

In Kano, the second largest state in Nigeria and in the heart of the Muslim north of the country, local results were announced at 04:00, and Buhari won.

"Well, we thank God that we have at least ended this safely and without problems," said the State Election Commissioner, Riskuwa Shehu, to the AP.

Voter turnout seemed lower, Shehu said. He pointed to a number of factors, including the fear of possible violence after heated campaigns. The "disappointment" of a one-week shift probably played a role, he said.

The reaction of the Nigerians to the election result was uneven.

"Alhamdulillah," said 36-year-old Umar Ibrahim, who pleaded with customers about his policy in his tiny shop in Kano. "So far, they say Buhari is far, he's a good elder."

Grace Eje, a 25-year-old domestic worker, held hope for Abubakar and said Nigeria needed something new after Buhari. "No money, no work, no help from him," she said, grimacing.

The approximately 190 million people in Nigeria say they pray for peace. They were surprised in 2015 when President Goodluck conceded Jonathan before the official results were announced, and Buhari, a former military dictator, defeated the first defeat of an opposition official in the country's history.

Many fear that such a concession seems unlikely this time.

"Jonathan set the standard for how election results should be handled," said Chris Kwaja, a senior adviser to the United States Institute of Peace, to the AP. "Accept defeat in the spirit of sport, this is an important tool for democratic consolidation, and it is unclear what the candidates will do."

For the presidency, one candidate must win the majority of the total votes and at least 25 percent of the votes in two-thirds of the 36 Nigerian states. If this is not achieved, the choice leads to a stitch.

The YIAGA Africa project, involving more than 3,900 observers, predicted that no run-off election will be required and a "clear winner" will emerge.

It was not yet clear how many of the estimated 73 million were voters in Nigeria. YIAGA estimated voter turnout at 36-40 percent, up from 44 percent in 2015. This would continue the trend of the last election.