Nigerian Obi says he, not Tinubu, won presidential election

  • A presidential election marred by technical problems
  • Winner Tinubu says vote was credible
  • Challenger Obi vows to overturn result in court
  • After a dynamic campaign, turnout was record

ABUJA, March 2 (Reuters) – Nigerian presidential candidate Peter Obi said on Thursday he had won Saturday’s election, called Bola Tinubu’s victory fraudulent and vowed to claim the top job by legal means.

Tinubu, the ruling party’s candidate, was declared the elected president of Africa’s most populous nation on Wednesday, after winning 37% of the vote. He said the election was credible and the reported issues had no impact on the overall outcome.

Main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, who came second with 29% of the vote, also said later in the day that he would challenge the result in court as fraudulent.

Obi, an underdog popular with young and educated urban voters, got 25%, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

“Let me assure all Nigerians that we will explore all legal and peaceful options to regain our mandate,” Obi, 61, told a news conference in the capital Abuja, making his first public remarks. since he voted on Saturday.

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“We won the election and we will prove it to Nigerians,” he said.

Opposition parties said the vote was rigged after new technology that INEC promised would make the process more transparent malfunctioned, eroding trust.

“The good and hardworking people of Nigeria have again been robbed by our supposed rulers,” Obi said. He did not give further details of his charges, saying evidence would be presented in court.

There have been numerous legal challenges to the outcome of the last Nigerian presidential elections, but none have been successful.

The row over the election comes as Nigeria grapples with Islamist insurgencies, an epidemic of kidnapping for ransom, farmer-herder conflicts, high inflation, widespread food insecurity and a cash shortage that has wreaked havoc on people’s daily lives.

“The weekend elections were neither free nor fair,” Atiku told reporters, adding that he would challenge the results in court.

“The processes and results (were) grossly flawed and need to be challenged by all of us.”


Labor Party (LP) presidential candidate Peter Obi waits at a voting unit to cast his ballot during the Nigerian presidential election in his hometown of Agulu, Anambra State, Nigeria February 25, 2023. REUTERS/Temilade Adelaja

Both candidates questioned figures showing low turnout at a time when there were record numbers of registered voters.

INEC said the total number of votes cast was just under 25 million, out of 87 million people with voter ID cards and eligible to vote, giving a turnout of 29 %.

Tinubu was declared the winner with 8.79 million votes. Nigeria has over 200 million people.

European Union and Commonwealth election observers reported a range of problems with the election, including widespread technical failures in systems designed to prevent manipulation and improve transparency. They criticized INEC for poor planning but did not allege fraud.

Nigeria has a long history of political violence, although the atmosphere was generally calm following the disputed vote.

“I call on all Nigerians to remain peaceful, law abiding and conduct themselves responsibly,” Obi said.

Tinubu has already received congratulations from several foreign leaders, including British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Nigeria’s former colonial ruler and one of its closest diplomatic allies.

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly also praised Tinubu, while calling on the Nigerian authorities to carefully consider all concerns and take action to resolve outstanding issues.

INEC issued a statement on Thursday dismissing media reports that problems with one of its new tools – a secure portal for transmitting and viewing results – were part of a plan for voter fraud.

“It is … inconceivable that the commission would turn around and undermine its own innovations. The public is advised to ignore the reports,” he said.

Obi’s shrewd campaigning on social media and his position as a challenger for the two parties that have alternated in power since the end of military rule in 1999 have won him a devoted following among young voters calling themselves the Obidients.

Septuagenarians Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos, and Abubakar, a former vice president, were both seen as candidates for the establishment. Although neither generated the visible enthusiasm directed at Obi, both had powerful political machines and decades of networking behind them.

Obi’s challenge had appeared to open the contest wide, raising hopes for change among some voters after years of worsening hardship and violence under incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, 80, a former army general.

Additional reporting by MacDonald Dzirutwe and Tim Cocks in Lagos; Written by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Deepa Babington

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