Nigeria’s ruling party on Sunday won the crucial state of Kano in key governorship elections, as the opposition denounced the result, following violence and intimidation that hit the re-run vote.
The sitting governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, had been some 27,000 votes behind when elections at more than 200 polling stations in the northern state were cancelled two weeks ago because of violence.
But after a re-run in the affected areas on Saturday, the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate won some 36,000 more votes than his nearest rival.
His overall tally jumped to 1,033,695 — 8,982 more than Abba Kabir Yusuf, of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) — which was enough to secure the win.
The PDP is likely to challenge the result in court, after men wielding machetes, daggers and cudgels invaded several polling stations, according to an AFP reporter at the scene.
Most of the unrest was concentrated in the Gama ward, where more than 40,000 votes were up for grabs.
Armed youths also scared away voters and thumb-printed ballot papers in favour of the APC, voters and party agents said.
The declaration of the result at the local office of the Independent National Electoral Commission was delayed by up to 10 hours, while there was a heavy military presence.
PDP spokesman Sanusi Bature Dawakin-Tofa called the result “a gang-up against democracy” by the APC, INEC and security agencies.
“Any desperate attempt… to declare Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje as the winner of this re-run will plunge Kano into an unprecedented political crisis,” he added.
The Situation Room, an umbrella group of more than 70 civil society groups monitoring the vote, said the results from Gama could not stand because the abuses recorded there were of “monumental proportions”.
Kano is Nigeria’s second-most populous state after Lagos in the southwest and is seen as a key electoral prize at the national and state level.
Ganduje’s comeback follows a corruption scandal just weeks before the election when he was seen on undercover video footage accepting bundles of cash in alleged kick-backs.
The videos earned him the nickname “Gandollar” and raised questions whether President Muhammadu Buhari would sanction him as part of his high-profile anti-corruption campaign.
Buhari was re-elected president at polls held on February 23 — a week later than initially planned because of logistical problems.
INEC ordered the re-run of governorship elections in six states, because of violence and irregularities on March 9.
The APC governor of central Plateau state, Simon Lalong, won re-election, as did the PDP governor of the northwestern state of Sokoto, Aminu Tambuwal.
But Tambuwal’s margin of victory was just 342 votes.
In central Benue state, Samuel Ortom won re-election for the PDP after switching sides from the APC in protest at Buhari’s handling of violence between farmers and herders.
‘Democracy in trouble’
Results are awaited in the northeastern states of Adamawa and Bauchi, while the collation in the oil-rich southern state of Rivers will resume early next month.
Rivers was also hit by violence, as men in uniform stormed the INEC offices.
International observers have said the presidential elections were broadly free and fair, despite logistical and security problems.
But Buhari’s beaten rival Atiku Abubakar, of the PDP, called the vote a “sham” and is challenging the result at an election tribunal.
The Centre for Democracy and Development said Saturday’s violence and intimidation would raise more questions.
“Democracy is in trouble in Nigeria,” said CDD director Idayat Hassan.
The Situation Room said INEC should end election re-runs because “it appears the process is now a manipulation tool to circumvent the elections”.
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