Fears Rise in Nigeria as Opposition Leader Moves to Challenge Election Results

Fears Rise in Nigeria as Opposition Leader Moves to Challenge Election Results
Torn posters of Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari in Abuja, Nigeria, Feb. 24, 2019 (AP photo by Jerome Delay).

LAGOS, Nigeria—The last time a leader of an opposition party in Nigeria rejected the results of the country’s presidential election, nearly eight years ago, hundreds of people were killed and tens of thousands displaced in the ensuing violence. Now there are fears of a similar scenario unfolding as Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president long tainted by corruption allegations, heads to court to challenge the outcome of the Feb. 23 election that President Muhammadu Buhari easily won.

Atiku, as Abubakar is widely known in Nigeria, lost by nearly 4 million votes, with 11,262,978 against Buhari’s 15,191,847. He and his supporters dispute the claim by Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission that voter turnout was higher in the northeastern states of Borno and Yobe, where Buhari won handsomely, than in any other part of the country, arguing that frequent deadly attacks by the militant group Boko Haram, including on Election Day, would have made it impossible for people to turn out en masse. They are also claiming that the vote totals from Kano, Kaduna, Kebbi and Katsina states, where the president won by more than 2 million votes, were hugely inflated.

“One obvious red flag is the statistical impossibility of states ravaged by the war on terror generating much higher voter turnouts than peaceful states,” Atiku said in a statement after the electoral commission released the official results. “The suppressed votes in my strongholds are so apparent and amateurish that I am ashamed as a Nigerian that such could be allowed to happen.”

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