Counting Starts in Delayed Nigeria Vote02/23 10:15
DAURA, Nigeria (AP) -- Nigerian officials began counting votes in its
delayed election on Saturday, after gunfire and explosions started voting day,
as President Muhammadu Buhari seeks a second term in Africa's most populous
The vote, widely seen as too close to call, also was marred by hours-long
delays at polling stations across the vast West African country. Polls closed
in many areas, although voting continued in units that opened late. Preliminary
results are expected in about two to four days, according to observers.
Nigerian security authorities openly acknowledged an extremist attack in the
northeast city of Maiduguri shortly before voting began on Saturday. Boko Haram
extremists "attempted to infiltrate" the state capital by launching artillery
fire, likely to disrupt the elections, said a statement by Borno state police.
Nigerian security forces earlier Saturday said the blasts had been their own in
a show of force to deter extremists.
"Some missiles strayed into vulnerable locations" but there were no
casualties and the extremists retreated, said the new statement. However, a
security official said one soldier was killed and four wounded. The official
insisted on anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.
The army also confirmed a "futile" attack on a security outpost in Geidam in
Yobe state. Voting turnout appeared to be light as authorities tried to calm
panicked, skeptical residents.
Gunfire also was heard in Port Harcourt in Nigeria's restive south, where
the military presence was heavier than in past elections. One convoy in Delta
state contained more than 25 vehicles with battle-ready soldiers. Later in the
day, soldiers in Rivers state fired on suspected ballot snatchers, with four
The attacks did not stop voting across Nigeria.
The incumbent Buhari brushed aside reporters' questions about whether he
would accept a loss to top challenger Atiku Abubakar , a billionaire former
vice president. The president, first in line to vote in his northern hometown
of Daura, jokingly checked the name on his wife's ballot.
A smiling Abubakar, after voting in his hometown of Yola in the northeast,
told reporters that "I look forward to a successful transition." He previously
pledged to accept the results, provided they are credible.
Buhari called the voting process smooth, but a coalition of civic groups
said multiple polling units had not opened more than four hours after the
official start. Delays were reported in Delta, Anambra and Akwa Ibom states as
well as in Lagos, Nigeria's largest city.
Local broadcaster Channels TV showed a crowd still waiting after noon for
the start of voting in the north-central state of Nasarawa. Abubakar's party
called such delays "deliberate," claiming overwhelming support there.
In north-central Kaduna, lines were long but impatient while waiting for
materials to arrive nearly three hours late. Elsewhere, some officials worried
that heavy security could intimidate potential voters.
Traffic restrictions were in place across the country, which also closed its
borders. Raphael Dele, a popular singer in Yola, said he had walked over 10
kilometers (6 miles) to his polling station "because there is no room for
Many Nigerians said the election will be decided by economic issues after a
rough term for Buhari during which the country suffered a rare, months-long
recession and unemployment grew significantly to 23 percent.
The president "has failed," said David Ojo, a barber in Danbatta in northern
Kano state who joined excited voters in supporting Buhari in 2015. They assumed
the former military dictator would solve the insecurity crisis and that
prosperity would follow, Ojo said. Neither has occurred.
Buhari in a final address to the nation on Friday vowed that the more than
72 million Nigerians eligible to vote would be able to do so in peace.
But the Boko Haram extremist group, its Islamic State-affiliated offshoot in
the northeast and various agitators across the country, including bandits, oil
militants and youths hired by politicians to disrupt the vote, could have other
"People are very sensitive about this election" in the north because both
candidates hail from the region, said A. Rufai Mohammed, voting in the northern
city of Kano. Yet he was concerned about the lower turnout from four years ago
and blamed apathy. "What we are looking for is results, not excuses," he said
of the president.
Observers said the delay of the election from last week, blamed on
logistical challenges, could favor Buhari and the ruling party, with some
Nigerians saying they didn't have the resources to travel to their place of
registration a second time.
"After all, it is not my brother that is contesting," said Patience Okoro in
Agbor in the south. "So why will I kill myself or waste my time?"
The delay also could hurt the election's credibility, some said.
"The postponement casts a lingering doubt on the neutrality of (the
electoral commission) such that unless Atiku is declared the winner, many will
still believe that (the commission) colluded with the government to rig him
out," said Jideofor Adibe, associate professor of political science at Nasarawa
Some of those who turned out, however, dismissed concerns about having to
"It does not matter, it is for the will of God to take place," voter Oseni
Ukweni said in the capital, Abuja. "Everybody is excited to be here."