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Nigeria: Opposition supporters protest election outcome

March 6, 2023

Nigeria's opposition leader, Abubakar Atiku, led his supporters in protest of the result of the February 25 presidential election. Bola Tinubu was declared the winner and is set to take power in May.

Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)
Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) said he was consulting with his legal advisors about the possibility of going to court over the voteImage: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP

On Monday, members and supporters of the Peoples Democratic Party  took to the streets to protest the recently announced results of the presidential election.

Led by Abubakar Atiku, who finished second in the polls, the opposition demonstrators walked to the Independent National Electoral Commission's (INEC) offices in Abuja and submitted a petition proclaiming electoral fraud.

"The provisions of the current electoral law have been completely contravened," Atiku said.

"This protest is going to continue for a very long time," Atiku said, "either every day or every other day."

The demonstration, dubbed "black uniform," saw a majority of the participants wear black clothes, including Atiku as he called for a new election.

What happened in Nigeria's elections?

Nigeria is Africa's largest democracy, with 93.4 million registered voters, according to INEC data. The country voted in a hotly contested election on February 25, with voter turnout reportedly 27% lower than it was in 2019.

INEC declared Bola Tinubu, of the ruling All Progressives Congress, the winner, with 37% of the vote. Tinubu was followed by Abubakar Atiku with 29%. Peter Obi of the Labor Party came in third with 25% of the vote.

Tinubu is set to take over from President Muhammadu Buhari in May. Buhari has served the maximum two terms.

The election results also handed the majority seats in both the Senate and House of Representatives to the All Progressives Congress. This majority enables Tinubu to pass legislation and national budgets without the support of the opposition.

Bola Ahmed Tinubu wears a hat and, surrounded by supporters, gives a thumbs-up
Nigerian President-elect Bola TinubuImage: Ben Curtis/AP Photo/picture alliance

What might come next?

With the two main opposition parties rejecting the official presidential result, Atiku said he was still consulting his legal team to "decide the next course of action."

According to Peoples Democratic Party chairman Iyorchia Ayu, the INEC has "direct involvement in aiding and abetting the monumental rigging and manipulation of the election result in favor of the ruling party."

Peter Obi, who came in third, has also dismissed the outcome and said he was going to court to prove to Nigerians that he won the presidential race.

What are criticisms of Nigeria's electoral system?

To improve transparency, INEC introduced biometric voter identification this year for the first time at the national level and a central online data base for results uploading.

Some opposition parties and voters said failures in the system's uploading tallies allowed for manipulation and disparities between the manual and online results. Technical difficulties with the new system caused massive delays and queues, discouraging some from voting.

Election observer missions from the European Union, the Commonwealth and other international organizations highlighted a range of challenges, including failures in systems designed to prevent vote manipulation.

Observers faulted INEC for poor planning and voting delays, but they did not allege fraud.

INEC apologized for the technical difficulties during the counting process.

dmn/ar (AFP,AP,Reuters)