ABUJA — After a tumultuous campaign marked with accusations of fraud and violence, people in Nigeria’s Edo State are dancing in the streets. Election officials say current governor Adams Oshiomhole won a landslide victory at the polls. Analysts say this opposition victory in the heart of the ruling party’s traditional support base does not bode well for President Goodluck Jonathan.
Military helicopters circled above polling stations on Saturday in anticipation of election violence. Thousands of soldiers patrolled election centers across the state. However, no major election-related violence was reported.
On Sunday morning, after the results of the gubernatorial elections were announced, people poured onto the streets, dancing in the rain.
Nigeria’s election commission says Governor Oshiomhole’s Action Congress of Nigeria won with 73.7 percent of the vote while the People’s Democratic Party, the nation’s ruling party, took only 22.3 percent of the ballots cast. The remaining 4 percent was split among five other parties.
Emmanuel Igbinedon is a farmer who grows yams and cassava in the countryside. At a community center in the village of Okada, he said that the election is a turning point for Edo State.
“It was the most peaceful election we have ever had," said Igbinedon. "And this election has taught us a lesson that you don’t buy your votes.”
In the run-up to the elections, both main parties accused the other of plotting fraud and violence, including political assassinations. Even as the ballots were being cast, the governor accused the electoral commission of intentionally delivering voting materials late and removing names from voter roles in collaboration with the ruling party.
The Policy and Legal Advocacy Center in Abuja says it coordinated with thousands of on-the-scene observers and judged the elections to have been successful and fair, despite some organizational problems.
But executive director Clement Nwankwo says the results are a blow to the ruling party on a national level because Edo State is in the “South-South” geopolitical zone, where the president is from and traditionally enjoys the most support.
“The victory of the ACN candidate was quite overwhelming and it certainly served to underscore the waning popularity of President Jonathan,” says Nwankwo.
Opposition party officials say the victory is partially due to coordination between previously competing parties, and they have promised to join forces to defeat the ruling party in the 2015 presidential election.
Nigeria has a history of election violence, with 800 people being killed in the north after the 2011 presidential election.
President Jonathan declared the Edo State elections “free and fair” and a victory for democracy in Nigeria. He praised the Edo State governor for “focused, purposeful and dynamic leadership.”
Hilary Uguru contributed to this report from Edo State.