Nigeria's Jonathan well ahead in vote count

April 18, 2011 - 0:0

ABUJA (Reuters) – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan took a very strong lead on Sunday as votes were tallied from around the nation, although his main rival Muhammadu Buhari did well across the mainly-Muslim north.

Results from 18 states including the capital Abuja and commercial hub Lagos put pre-poll favorite Jonathan at over 14 million votes with Buhari on 6 million. Jonathan did particularly well in his largely-Christian south.
Results still had to come in from some of Buhari's strongholds, but his chances of closing the gap on Jonathan were diminishing in a poll described by observers as the fairest in decades in Africa's most populous nation.
Buhari, a former military ruler from the dustblown Muslim north, was hoping to at least force a second round against Jonathan, the first head of state from the oil-producing Niger Delta.
“I do not think there is going to be a second round,” said ruling People's Democratic Party representative Usman Jibrin after votes were tallied at an all-night session in Abuja.
To avoid a run-off, the winner must get a simple majority and at least a quarter of the vote in 24 of the 36 states.
Buhari took around 60 percent of the vote in Kano, the most populous state in the north. Jonathan won just 16 percent.
But in at least 15 of the states for which results were available, Jonathan had already secured at least the 25 percent necessary.
Observers generally gave a clean bill of health to the vote.
Heading an observer mission for the African Union, former Ghanaian President John Kufuor said Nigeria appeared to have ended its reputation for badly flawed elections.
“Even with what has transpired so far, I expect the developments here will have a very positive impact on the continent,” he told Reuters.
Fearing the ruling party would try to fiddle the results -- the norm in ballots since army rule ended in 1999 -- Buhari supporters took to the streets in some northern cities.
Trouble flared in isolated areas.
Police were investigating a possible bomb blast in a brothel near a polling station in the city of Kaduna late on Saturday. A PDP official's house was burned down in the town of Azere.
Shots were fired in Bauchi and a car thought to be carrying fraudulent ballots was set ablaze in what turned out to be a case of mistaken identity. Youths stalked the streets armed with bows and arrows.
Should Jonathan become the first sitting president to lose an election, there could be trouble in his volatile home region the Niger Delta, home to Africa's biggest oil and gas industry.
Turnout was high in the oil region, where people often did not bother to vote in the past because they knew results would be rigged and feared intimidation by heavily armed thugs.
“It is a path that would have been hard to imagine four or even two years ago,” said Chris Newsom, an adviser to civil society group Stakeholder Democracy Network in the Niger Delta.
Buhari's support was bolstered by a feeling among many in the north that Jonathan is usurping their right to another four years in power. Jonathan inherited office after his predecessor, northerner Umaru Yar'Adua, died last year in his first term, interrupting a rotation between north and south.
Photo: Nigeria's incumbent president Goodluck Jonathan casts his ballot in his home village of Otuoke, Bayelsa state, April 16, 2011. (Reuters photo)