Bola Tinubu is now Nigeria’s president-elect. What happens next?

Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, centre, leaves the ruling party's campaign headquarters in Abuja on March 1, 2023, after being declared the winner of the presidential election [Ben Curtis/AP]

The president-elect will need to bring together a divided country as he faces security and economic challenges.

Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Bola Tinubu has been declared the winner of the presidential election, triggering mixed reactions across the West African country.

On Wednesday, the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission, Mahmood Yakubu, announced that Tinubu had won 37 percent of the vote in Saturday’s election and, “having satisfied the requirements of the law, is hereby declared the winner and is returned elected”.

“This is a serious mandate – I hereby accept it. To serve you, … to work with you and make Nigeria great,” Tinubu said in an acceptance speech as supporters cheered “jagaban”, his local chieftain title.

What have the reactions been so far?

In Abuja, a small band of protesters held placards and played socially conscious Nigerian songs at Millennium Park, opposite the upscale hotel where many election observers have been staying.

At least two observer missions, including the European Union team, have flagged major logistical problems, disenfranchised voters and a lack of transparency by the electoral commission.

The hotel was also the venue on Tuesday of back-to-back press conferences from leaders of the opposition Labour Party, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the African Democratic Congress as well as two vice presidential candidates, Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed and Ifeanyi Okowa.

“It is, to say the least, a rape on democracy,” Julius Abure, the Labour Party chairman, said as he alleged widespread manipulation.

Dino Melaye, a PDP stalwart, called the vote collation a “vote allocation”.

The electoral commission introduced biometric voter identification technology for the first time at the national level and a portal for uploading election results to improve transparency.

But the opposition and its supporters said the system’s failures to upload tallies allowed for ballot manipulation and disparities in the results from the manual counts at polling stations.

“In the eyes of God, the man [Tinubu] is not the winner,” trader Mercy Efong said in Awka, the capital of Anambra, Labour Party candidate Peter Obi’s home state.

Still, there were celebrations on Wednesday at the APC’s campaign headquarters and in parts of Lagos as the political kingmaker finally became king, the first Nigerian “political godfather” to ever achieve his ambition of becoming president.

What happens next?

Tinubu’s inauguration as president of Africa’s most populous democracy does not happen until May 29. In February, outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari formed a committee to smooth the transition.

But the opposition is set to mount a spirited legal challenge before that.

“We will go to court within the limit of the time,” Baba-Ahmed of the Labour Party said of himself and Obi. “The legal people are putting the papers together.”

Petitions against the results can be filed in the courts days after the announcement of the results. The election petition tribunal is expected to wrap up any challenges within 180 days. The Supreme Court has the final say on the petitions.

What work awaits the president-elect?

If sworn in as expected, Tinubu will inherit a factious country from Buhari. Its divisions are highlighted in the election results. Tinubu won 12 of the country’s 36 states and lost the capital, Abuja, and his home base of Lagos. He and Vice President-elect Kashim Shettima are both Muslims in a country divided fairly evenly between Christians and Muslims.

Nigeria’s economy is also struggling. It has had two recessions in five years, partly due to policy missteps and the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cash and fuel shortages have also caused nationwide anger in the weeks leading up to the election.

Beyond that, the new administration will have to deal with rampant insecurity across almost all six of its geopolitical zones.

Boko Haram has been conducting a 13-year armed campaign in the northeast, and multiple armed groups operate elsewhere in the country, including secessionists in the southeast and gangs of bandits in northwest and central Nigeria.

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