Nigeria’s Jonathan Nears Requirement to Win Presidential Vote

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan
Goodluck Jonathan, president of Nigeria, casts his vote into a ballot box in Otuoke, his country home ward at Ogbia district in Bayelsa State. Photographer: Pius Utomi Ekpei/AFP/Getty Images

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is leading in the vote count in Nigeria’s presidential elections, is also close to meeting the constitutional requirement of winning a quarter of the votes in two-thirds of 36 states, which would give him victory in Africa’s top oil-producing nation.

With results for 30 states released, Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party has won 21, with 19.2 million votes, according to the Independent National Electoral Commission. His closest rival, Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change, has won in eight states, with 9.1 million votes, followed by Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria, who has won in one state, with a total of 1.9 million votes.

Africa’s most populous country of more than 140 million people is roughly split between a north of mostly Muslims and a largely Christian south. The main challengers to Jonathan, who is a 53-year-old Christian from the oil-rich southern Niger River delta region, are two northern Muslims: Buhari, a 68-year-old former military ruler, and Ribadu, 50, a former head of the anti-graft agency.

Though there may be irregularities in the vote, including the possibility of underage voting in the north and allegations of suspicious turnout figures in the south, “the anomalies are not sufficient to affect the results,” Clement Nwankwo, executive director of the Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre, which is monitoring the election, said by phone from Abuja yesterday.

To win the presidency, a candidate has to win a majority of the total vote, and take 25 percent of the vote in two-thirds of the states.

Reduced Majority

While Jonathan’s party saw its majority in the Senate and House of Representatives reduced in last week’s legislative elections, it still scored well. The PDP took 45 of the 72 Senate seats declared so far and 123 of 234 seats in the lower chamber, according to the website of the electoral commission.

Fifteen of the Senate’s 109 districts and 48 of the House’s 360 constituencies will hold the vote on April 26 because of problems with ballot papers, INEC said.

Jonathan has promised to target spending on infrastructure, including power and railways, in a bid to boost employment in a country where more than half of the people live on less than $1 a day, according to the United Nations Development Programme.

Buhari and Ribadu have said that Jonathan has failed to tackle poverty, corruption and violence.

The son of a canoe-maker, zoology graduate Jonathan was relatively unknown until 1999 when he became deputy governor of Bayelsa state. He became governor when his boss, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha, was impeached by the state assembly after being charged in the U.K. with money laundering. In 2007, Jonathan was picked as the running mate on the PDP ticket and in May assumed the presidency when Umaru Yar’Adua died.

Delta Amnesty

Yar’Adua started an amnesty program in the Niger River delta that calmed militant attacks after they cut 28 percent of Nigeria’s oil output between 2006 and 2009. The Hague-based Royal Dutch Shell Plc; Irving, Texas-based Exxon Mobil Corp.; Chevron Corp. of San Ramon, California; Total SA of France; and Italy’s Eni SpA run joint ventures with the state oil company that pump more than 90 percent of the West African nation’s oil.

Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, which accounts for 80 percent of government revenue, earned $59 billion last year, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.

The competition for the spoils of office spurred a violent electoral campaign with at least 25 people killed during the legislative vote, Independent National Electoral Commission Chairman Attahiru Jega said on April 13.

Night Curfew

Violence that erupted yesterday in the northern city of Gombe, where supporters for the Congress for Progressive Change protested against the outcome of the vote count in the area, led to the deaths of two people and the imposition of a night curfew, police spokesman Lawal Abdullahi said. One person died and eight others were injured in an explosion at a polling center on election day in the Kabala district of the northern city of Kaduna, police said.

Authorities in Nigeria’s north have blamed a group known as Boko Haram, which draws inspiration from Afghanistan’s Taliban movement, for a spate of bomb attacks and killings targeting government officials and the security forces since last year.