A demonstrator holds two Nigerian flags as he and others accusing the election commission of irregularities and disenfranchising voters make a protest in downtown Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, Feb. 28, 2023. Tensions rose in Nigeria Tuesday as the main opposition parties demanded a revote for the country's presidential election, where the latest results show an early lead for the ruling party. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)BY CHINEDU ASADU
ABUJA, NIGERIA (AP) — Nigeria’s electoral commission released results late into the night Tuesday, while the country’s main opposition candidates already had demanded a re-vote amid an early lead for the ruling party.
Earlier in the day, the three main opposition parties told a news conference that the election was an insult to democracy and called for Nigeria’s election chief to resign.
“The conduct of the 2023 election has been marred by widespread violence, rigging, intimidation of voters, doctoring of results and violation of the laid-down electoral process, which was communicated by the national electoral body,” said Julius Abure, chairman of the Labour Party.
Meanwhile, dozens of protesters took to the streets in the capital, Abuja, and in the southern Delta state, accusing the election commission of disenfranchising voters.
Results from Saturday’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Africa’s most populous nation have been trickling in, but not all figures from Nigeria’s 36 states had been presented as of 11 p.m. local.
The ruling party candidate, Bola Tinubu, from All Progressives Congress, took an early lead in partial results. Atiku Abubakar from the main opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party was in second. Peter Obi of the Labour Party, a surprise leading candidate in what’s usually a two-horse race, was in third.
In order to win, the candidate who leads the popular vote must also win at least a quarter of the votes in two-thirds of the states and Abuja.
Parties have three weeks to appeal results. But an election can’t be invalidated unless it proves that the national electoral body largely didn’t follow the law and conducted actions that could change the final result.
The ruling party has asked the opposition to accept defeat and not cause trouble.
“We call on Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi to emulate former President Goodluck Jonathan by conceding defeat. This election has already been won by our candidate, according to the results declared at the collation centers in the state,” said Dele Alake, a spokesman.
While Saturday’s election was largely peaceful, observers said there were at least 135 critical incidents, including widespread delays and eight reports of ballot-snatching that undermined the legitimacy of the country’s polls.
The opposition said the delay in uploading results from each of Nigeria’s 176,000 voting units to the electoral body’s portal made room for irregularities.
Nigeria’s electoral body dismissed the call for a new election and said that the results so far point to a free, fair and credible process. “Aggrieved parties are free to approach the courts to ventilate their concerns and wait for the matter to be resolved. Making inciting comments capable of causing violence or unrest is unacceptable,” said Rotimi Oyekanmi, a spokesman for the election chief in a statement.
The opposition’s call has raised concern about growing tensions ahead of May, when the new government is meant to be sworn in.
“If elections are cancelled and we have to start over again, May 29 may no longer be sacrosanct which might lead to the declaration of a state of emergency and an interim national government,” said Hassan Idayat, head of the Center for Democracy and Development, Nigeria’s largest democracy-focused group.
Associated Press writers Taiwo Ajayi in Abuja, Nigeria, and Sam Mednick in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, contributed to this report.