Nigeria election 2019: Muhammadu Buhari takes early lead.

President Muhammadu Buhari has taken an early lead as votes are being counted in Nigeria’s general election, amid allegations of manipulation.

Mr Buhari has won seven of Nigeria’s 36 states, while his rival Atiku Abubakar took two states and the capital Abuja.

As results came in, Mr Abubakar’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) alleged that there had been irregularities in the vote.

Party chair Uche Secondus called the count “incorrect and unacceptable”.

He said there had been an “attempt by the government and other agencies to manipulate the result”, but did not give any evidence.

The EU, US and African Union have all expressed concern about delays and logistical problems with voting on Saturday, but no independent observers have suggested fraud.

Mr Buhari, a member of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) party, is seeking re-election but faces a strong challenge from Mr Abubakar.

Each party says the other is working with the Independent National Electoral Commission (Inec) to influence the vote, which was initially scheduled for 16 February but delayed at the last minute.

Mr Buhari has promised to build on his accomplishments in office so far, while Mr Abubakar, a business tycoon, has accused the president of wasting his term.

Whoever wins in Africa’s most populous nation and largest economy faces a range of problems including power shortages, corruption, security threats, and an economic slowdown.

What are the allegations?

Final results are not expected until later in the week. But Mr Secondus has criticised the initial tallies, saying the government was using “impeachments, manipulation, incarceration” to influence the outcome.

Two men listen to the radio as Nigerians await the results of the Presidential election, in Kano, Nigeria February 24, 2019.
Nigerians are anxious to find out the winner of the election

In turn, the federal government accused the PDP of trying to “scuttle the polls” and prompt a constitutional crisis.

The initial vote was postponed early on Saturday 16 February, five hours before polls were due to open. Voters were also choosing members of the House of Representatives and Senate.

Most of the country was calm but there were reports of attacks by the Boko Haram Islamist militant group in the north, and voter intimidation and attempts to steal ballot boxes, especially in the southern states of Rivers, Lagos, and Anambra.

A coalition of civil society groups reported that a total of 16 people were killed around the country – fewer than in previous elections.

Destroyed ballot boxes in the Isolo district of the commercial capital, Lagos.
Ballot boxes were destroyed in the Isolo district of Lagos

Two people were arrested in Lagos after a group of armed young men attacked voters, eyewitness Ralph Onodike told the BBC.

“What they were saying was that if you were not [voting for the ruling party] APC, you’ll be attacked,” he said.

How does the election work?

The candidate with the most votes is declared the winner in the first round, provided that person gains at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of Nigeria’s states. There are 73 registered candidates, but Mr Buhari and Mr Abubakar have dominated the presidential election.

Both are from the mainly Muslim north of the country and both are in their 70s, while more than half of Nigeria’s 84 million registered voters are under 35.

MUHAMMADU BUHARI (APC) Embattled and determined leader

Born in 1942 to a Muslim family in northern Katsina state
Former soldier, led military regime in 1980s, remembered for strictness
Tardy civil servants had to perform frog jumps in public
Won 2015 presidential election, the first opposition candidate to defeat an incumbent, with promise to beat corruption and Boko Haram insurgents
Told wife she belonged in kitchen after she complained in a BBC interview about his government
After long absence from illness, had to deny rumours that he had been replaced in public by a lookalike

ATIKU ABUBAKAR (PDP) Tycoon and veteran power-broker

Born in 1946 in northern state of Adamawa
Co-owner of multinational oil services company that started life in a Lagos shipping container
Oversaw privatisations during two terms as vice-president.
Fought against corruption charges, describing them as politically motivated
Founded American University which gave scholarships to some of the “Chibok girls” that survived Boko Haram kidnapping
His father, a devout Muslim, was briefly jailed for trying to stop him from attending a Western-style school

What are the main issues?

Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer but corruption and a failure to invest the proceeds from the industry have hampered development.

A slow recovery from a recession in 2016 means there are not enough jobs for the large number of young people joining the employment market. About a quarter of the working age population is unemployed.

Presentational grey line

Election in numbers

  • 73 million have voters’ cards
  • 51% of the electorate under the age of 35
  • 73 registered presidential candidates
  • 120,000 polling stations
Presentational grey line

Mr Buhari has quelled a militant Islamist rebellion in Nigeria’s north-east, but Boko Haram remains active. There has also been an upsurge in violence in the country’s Middle Belt as traditional herders and more settled farmers have clashed.

Until 1999 Nigeria was governed by either short-lived civilian administrations or military rulers. But this year marks 20 years since the return of democracy.

Mr Buhari was elected in 2015 – the first time an opposition candidate had defeated an incumbent to become president.

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