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Buhari re-elected president of Nigeria amid opposition cry of foul play

ABUJA, Nigeria–President Muhammadu Buhari was re-elected to a second term as head of state of Nigeria amid allegations of electoral fraud and suspicion by members of the opposition, especially his main challenger Atiku Abubakar.

Although a week delay in the date and time set for poll and several signs of unpreparedness by the electoral body in conducting the poll gave some credibility to the opposition’s claims, many Nigerians had viewed the incumbent President Buhari and his main rival Atiku Abubakar as two “political evils” amongst whom they needed to pick the lesser evil.  Buhari’s win, commentators say suggests Nigerians prefer him to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar despite the president’s inability to address pressing problems in the country.

Immediately after his re-election, President Buhari on Wednesday said he would focus on consolidating his achievements to take the country to the “next level” during his second term of office.

Early Wednesday, the country’s electoral body, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), declared Buhari the winner of the presidential election.

In his acceptance speech, Buhari said many focal areas, as stated in his campaign manual, will be included in what he had in plan for the country.

“I can assure that you will see a country moving to the next level, as we consolidate on our fundamental areas of securing the country, reviving the economy, and fighting corruption,” the 76-year-old president said.

President Buhari who was the candidate of the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) party, led last Saturday’s presidential poll with more than 15 million votes, or 55.6 percent of the total ballots, according to INEC Chairman Mahmood Yakubu.

The runner-up was Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP), who garnered over 11 million votes or 41.2 percent.

Atiku Abubakar

According to Nigeria’s electoral laws, the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner so long they have at least 25 percent of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria’s states.

The electoral body said Buhari won in 19 states, mostly in the northern part of the country — his stronghold since 2003.  The BBC profile President Buhari as stated below:

  • 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 rumors that he had been replaced in public by a lookalike

Mr. Buhari’s personal reputation for incorruptibility has survived his time in office – a rare feat among Nigerian leaders. However, he has been accused of using corruption investigations as a blunt instrument to neutralize his political opponents.

In January 2019, Mr. Buhari suspended Nigeria’s chief justice, Walter Onnoghen, over his alleged failure to declare his personal assets before taking office in 2017. The timing of the move, weeks before the general election, provoked alarm.

As the country’s top law official, Judge Onnoghen would have played a vital role in overseeing potential electoral disputes. However, Mr. Buhari dismissed concerns – voiced by foreign observers and opposition politicians – that the suspension had anything to do with the elections.

Dissatisfaction with Mr. Buhari’s leadership has also rippled through the ranks of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). In 2018, the APC was weakened by a series of high-profile defections, with dozens of legislators crossing the floor to join the PDP.

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Dave Okonjie

Dave Okonjie is a public affairs analyst, researcher and senior issues correspondent.

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