ABUJA, Nigeria (AP) — Ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu was declared winner of Nigeria’s presidential election early Wednesday and soon after thanked his supporters and appealed to his rivals who are already demanding a revote in Africa’s most populous nation.
The announcement by election officials overnight was likely to lead to a court challenge by the second- and third-highest finishers in the weekend vote, Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi. Abubakar also finished second in the last vote in 2019, then appealed those results before his lawsuit ultimately was dismissed.
Tinubu’s ruling All Progressives Congress party urged the opposition to accept defeat Tuesday and not cause trouble after they had demanded a revote saying that delays in uploading election results had made room for irregularities.
Tinubu received 37% of the vote, or nearly 8.8 million, while main opposition candidate Abubakar won 29% with almost 7 million. Third-place finisher Obi took 25% with about 6.1 million, according to the results announced on live television by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The president-elect thanked his supporters in the capital, Abuja, after his victory was announced and struck a reconciliatory tone in a message directed at his political adversaries.
“I take this opportunity to appeal to my fellow contestants to let us team up together,” Tinubu said. “It is the only nation we have. It is one country and we must build together.”
The announcement of his victory came after 4 a.m., but celebrations already had started late Tuesday at the ruling party’s national secretariat where Tinubu’s supporters had gathered in anticipation of his victory.
“None of the others matches his record!” said Babafemi Akin as he chatted excitedly about the prospects of a Tinubu administration. “I am sure he will do well.”
Tinubu, 70, is the former governor of Lagos state, home to Nigeria’s megacity of the same name. However, he lost the state in Saturday’s election to Obi, who drew a strong following among younger voters eager for change.
The parties now have three weeks to appeal results, but an election can be invalidated only if it’s proven the national electoral body largely didn’t follow the law and acted in ways that could have changed the result.
The Supreme Court of Nigeria has never overturned a presidential election, though court challenges are common, including by outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari, who doggedly fought his past election losses for months in vain.
Nigeria’s presidential election has been closely watched as the country is not only the continent’s largest economy but it is also one of the continent’s top oil producers.
Observers have said Saturday’s election was mostly peaceful, though delays caused some voters to wait until the following day to cast their ballots. Many Nigerians had difficulties getting to their polling stations because of a currency redesign that resulted in a shortage of bank notes.