In Nigeria, an impatient waiting game for presidential election results

Particularly in the north, where Boko Haram is strong, many saw their effort to vote as a defiant step in favor of democracy.

Sunday Alamba/AP
People read newspapers with election headlines on the street in Abuja, Nigeria Monday, March 30, 2015. Nigerians are waiting in hope and fear for results of the tightest and most bitterly contested presidential election in the nation's turbulent history. Collation of results starts at noon (1100 GMT) and the winner could be named later Monday or Tuesday, electoral officials say. (AP Photo/S)

Like millions of their countrymen, Nigerians in the north are congregating in front of their televisions and radios as results from this weekend’s election begin to trickle in on national broadcasts.

Many turned out to cast their votes despite the prospect of violence and complications in the voting process. Indeed, Boko Haram attacks killed 41 people and prevented hundreds from voting. But images from the north showed thousands from internally displaced persons (IDP) camps standing in long lines to enter the polling centers, and the electoral commissioner in Borno state, Samuel Usman, estimated that more than 70,000 IDPs were able to vote.

“Our decision to turn out in large numbers is to resist the Boko Haram threats and intimidation … [and] to choose our leaders at the local and national level," says Aji Bukar, a refugee from Bama town who currently lives in an IDP camp in Maiduguri. Many used the suspension of curfews to reunite with family and friends at the polling stations.

The electoral commission headquarters in Abuja has started to announce state results, with full election results expected on Tuesday, election commission spokesman Kayode Idowu said Monday. Leading opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari, a native of Daura, is expected to carry most of the north, where he promised to bring more social services in his campaign against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

“Northerners are obviously committed to voting massively for Buhari,” says Bolarinwa Meekness, a telecommunications manager. “Many people who have not voted before also came out this time around due to the loud clamor for change."

Already, unconfirmed results indicate that the northern battleground state of Kano went to Mr. Buhari with 89 percent of the vote, Reuters reports. But analysts agree that the race is still too close to call a winner.

After millions of voters waited patiently for hours on Saturday to cast their vote, at least 350 of more than 120,000 polling stations were forced to reopen on Sunday after delays the day before, according to The Wall Street Journal. The biometric card readers, aimed at preventing fraud, performed imperfectly, with even President Jonathan having to try multiple times before he could vote in his southern hometown of Otuoke.

Election rigging has been a central concern. In joint statements, US Secretary of State John Kerry and British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond noted that “there are disturbing indications that the collation process – where the votes are finally counted – may be subject to deliberate political interference.”

Usen Udom, a public affairs analyst in Port Harcourt in Rivers State, also expressed concern about allegations of rigging, particularly in the southern part of the country. The opposition All Progressives Congress has already rejected the outcome in Rivers State and denounced the vote there as "a sham and a charade."

"The Independent Electoral Commission will have to improve on the hitches experienced in some states for the credibility of the election," Mr. Udom says.

For those in the north, like Ms. Aishatu who voted in an IDP camp, the hopes are that the election will bring positive change. “We need change in this country and some of us believe it is through democracy that genuine change will come," she says.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.