Ruling party candidate Tinubu wins Nigeria's presidency in disputed vote

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, centre front, reacts after he was declared winner in Nigeria's presidential election at the All Progressives Congress party’s campaign headquarters, in Abuja, Nigeria on March 1, 2023. Picture: Marvellous Durowaiye/ REUTERS

Bola Ahmed Tinubu, centre front, reacts after he was declared winner in Nigeria's presidential election at the All Progressives Congress party’s campaign headquarters, in Abuja, Nigeria on March 1, 2023. Picture: Marvellous Durowaiye/ REUTERS

Published Mar 1, 2023


ABUJA - Ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu was declared winner of Nigeria's disputed presidential elections on Wednesday, securing the former Lagos governor his life-long ambition of heading Africa's most populous democracy.

With President Muhammadu Buhari stepping down after two terms, many Nigerians hoped Saturday's vote would usher in a leader capable of tackling widening insecurity, righting the economy and easing poverty.

Tinubu defended the integrity of the national election and called on citizens to unite around him after a bitter dispute over results opposition parties have said are flawed.

A candidate can win a Nigerian election by obtaining more votes than their rivals, provided they get 25% of the vote in at least two-thirds of the 36 states and the federal capital Abuja, which Tinubu did.

Ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu, addresses supporters in Abuja on March 1, 2023, during celebrations at his campaign headquarters. Tinubu, of the All Progressives Congress, won Nigeria's election, electoral authorities said on Wednesday. Picture: Kola Sulaimon / AFP

"I am very happy I have been elected the president of the federal republic of Nigeria," Tinubu said to cheers in Abuja."This is a serious mandate. I hereby accept it."

The final results gave Tinubu, the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), 8.8 million votes against 6.9 million for opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar.

The Labour Party's Peter Obi notched up 6.1 million votes, confirming his success as a surprise third candidate.

The Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC, confirmed Tinubu as president-elect after he also secured the required number of votes across two-thirds of Nigeria's states – a rule meant to ensure broad representation.

But the February 25 election was marked by long delays in voting and the slow arrival of results that angered voters and prompted opposition parties to demand a new vote, alleging massive vote-rigging.

"I appeal to my fellow contestants to let us team together. It is the only nation we have. It is one country that we must build together," Tinubu said in an acceptance speech on Wednesday.

Supporters danced to Afrobeats at the APC party campaign office in Abuja and chanted "Jagaban", a local chieftain title for Tinubu.

In a congratulatory message on Twitter, Buhari described the president-elect as "the best person for the job" and urged opposition parties to seek peaceful means to address their grievances over the vote.

Tinubu, 70, is a long-time political kingmaker who is a Muslim from the southern Yoruba community.

He campaigned on his experience as Lagos governor from 1999 to 2007, charging ahead with the slogan "It's my turn" to govern Africa's largest economy.

But his promise of reviving hope was attacked by rivals, who questioned his health, past graft accusations and ties to Buhari and criticised for failing in his vow to make Nigeria safer.

Mixed reactions greeted his election victory on Wednesday.

In Lagos, Tinubu's home turf, the streets were calm, with the usual traffic flowing, while businesses were open after the long wait for the results.

"Tinubu might be old... he is the best to govern because he is very open-minded and will promote unity between north and south," said Abiola Adesina, a 47-year-old driver.

But other younger voters were angry, expressing concerns over how the INEC managed the tallies.

"The INEC chairman has failed to make the results transparent. Nobody is happy... we are definitely going to court. Tinubu can't be the president," said Orisa Omega, 23, an Abuja student.

Tight race

The election was a tight race for the first time since Nigeria ended military rule in 1999, after Obi, 61, drew younger voters with a message of change.

He scored a major victory in Lagos, the state with the largest number of registered voters and Tinubu's traditional bastion.

Abubakar, a 76-year-old businessman and former vice president, lost his sixth attempt at the presidency.

Saturday's voting was mostly peaceful but was troubled by long delays at many polling stations and some intimidation by thugs.

Technical hitches disrupted the uploading of results to INEC's central website, fuelling concerns over vote rigging.

"The election is irretrievably compromised," Labour Party chairman Julius Abure told reporters on Tuesday. "We demand that this sham of an election should be immediately cancelled."


Nigeria's election was meant to be its fairest and most open contest to date. But the electoral process encountered problems, owing to new technology that did not function well and seemed to overwhelm Nigeria's notoriously inadequate communications network.

The INEC had promised to upload results from each polling unit to its website in real time but most units were unable to do so immediately, undermining trust in the process.

Thousands of results have still to be uploaded.

Because of these failings, the main opposition parties of Atiku and Obi have rejected the results as fraudulent.

Opposition parties said failures in the system to upload tallies allowed for ballot manipulation and disparities in the results from the manual counts at local polling stations.

Nigerian elections have often been marred by vote-rigging, ballot buying, violence and clashes between rival parties.

The INEC dismissed opposition allegations.

"Contrary to the insinuation by both parties, results emanating from the States point to a free, fair and credible process," INEC said.

It said parties should allow the process to run its course and then take their claims to court.

But international observers, including from the European Union, noted major logistical problems, disenfranchised voters and a lack of transparency by the INEC.

All Progressives Congress (APC) party supporters celebrate in Lagos on March 1, 2023, after party candidate Bola Tinubu won Nigeria's weekend election. Picture: John Wessels / AFP


The expectations facing Nigeria's next leader are huge, and they start with the country's security crisis.

Tinubu now faces a long list of national problems, including Islamist insurgencies in the north-east, armed attacks, killings and kidnappings, conflict between livestock herders and farmers, cash, fuel and power shortages, and deeply entrenched corruption.

A grinding Islamist insurgency in the north-east has displaced more than two million, bandit militias carry out mass abductions in the north-west and separatists attack police in the south-east.

Nigeria is Africa's top oil producer but struggles with sporadic fuel shortages, huge energy import bills due to a lack of refineries and crude theft from its wells and pipelines.

As Lagos governor, Tinubu won praise for partially fixing some of the city’s problems, including reducing violent crime, waste collection and traffic.

The 70-year-old has, however, sometimes appeared frail in public, slurring his speech, answering questions with platitudes, and skipping several campaign events, leaving some to doubt about how effective or dynamic he will be as leader.

President Muhammadu Buhari, also from the All Progressives Congress (APC), congratulated his successor.

"Elected by the people, he is the best person for the job. I shall now work with him and his team to ensure an orderly handover of power," he said in a statement.