President Muhammadu Buhari took an early lead on Monday in initial official results from Nigeria’s presidential election, but the party of his main challenger quickly rejected the tallies as “incorrect and unacceptable”.
Saturday’s election, which U.S. observers said had lost some credibility after being abruptly delayed by a week by officials citing organizational glitches, was expected to be Nigeria’s tightest since the end of military rule two decades ago.
At stake is control of Africa’s top oil producer and biggest economy. Northeast Nigeria has also been wracked by a decade-long battle with Islamist militants that has spilled into neighboring countries and led to the deployment of a regional task force.
Buhari, 76, is a former military ruler seeking a second term on an anti-corruption platform, while Atiku Abubakar, 72, a businessman and former vice president, has pledged to expand the role of the private sector.
Initial results released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Monday put Buhari in the lead, having won in seven of Nigeria’s 36 states, the commission said.
Atiku prevailed in four states and the capital, Abuja, which is not a state but treated as a separate district in elections.
Buhari led Atiku by 51 percent to 46 percent, according to a Reuters tally based on the figures given by the commission.
In provisional results announced in state capitals but not yet confirmed by the commission, Buhari had won four states to Atiku’s one.
In the northern state of Kano, hundreds of people celebrated Buhari’s provisional lead in what was billed as one of the key battlegrounds in this year’s elections.
“Kano is for Buhari,” Wahab Abdulawal, a trader, said.
Asked about the early results, Buhari told reporters: “I don’t want to depend on rumors. … We will rather wait for INEC to announce the (full) results.”
But the chairman of Atiku’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Uche Secondus, said the election tallies announced so far were “incorrect and unacceptable”.
“The results are being manipulated and canceled for APC to retain power,” he told reporters, referring to Buhari’s party.
Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) said in a statement that the PDP had “embarked on a cynical plan to discredit INEC as a backup plan in the likely event of them losing the election”.