Twenty-four hours after Nigerians voted in what has been billed as pivotal elections, the people are waiting to see if some surprise results already announced at polling stations around the country could translate into an earthquake capable of altering the face of politics in Africa’s most populous nation.
With technology becoming a key tool for promoting voting integrity, some political leaders fearing the loss of their fiefdom’s resorted to violence better their electoral chances but in the main the people stood up against the ploys and ensured their votes count this time.
Although final results are not expected before Monday, news that voting in polling stations in and around the presidential villa in Abuja had gone the way of the Labour candidate set the tone for a long night of expectation.
In Rivers state early results showed the people voted their mind instead of following the suggestions of governor Nyesom Wike who now seemed to be heading into a reign of irrelevance.
Lagos, the commercial capital with one of the largest voting populations easily became the theatre of both violence and show of resilience of a people who seemed determined to overthrow the status quo.
In largely elite dwellings in Ikoyi, Victoria Island, Lekki, Ikate, Ajah and even in Surulere and locations like Festac and Amuwo Odofin, voters who lined up even before the voting materials arrived, delivered surprise victory to the Labour candidate Peter Obi, sending shock waves across the political landscape.
While it is still early in the day, prominent APC chieftains are feeling the tremor. Reports say House speaker Femi Gbajabiamila’s chances of returning to the National Assembly hangs in the balance with Labour in strong showing across large parts of the city.
Turnout appeared to be high, with many young, first-time voters arriving before dawn to cast their ballots in Saturday’s voting wwhich as marred by long delays at polling stations, as well as scattered reports of ballot box snatching and attacks by armed men.
Read also: How old is too old in Nigerian politics?
And some parties including Labour have raised alarm over allegations of irregularities, which could lead to a disputed outcome.
According to the BBC, Saturday’s elections are the biggest democratic exercise in Africa, with 87 million people eligible to vote.
Politics has been dominated by two parties – the ruling APC and the PDP – since the restoration of multi-party democracy 24 years ago. But this time, there is also a strong challenge from a third-party candidate in the race to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari – from the Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who is backed by many young people.
At a press briefing late on Saturday, the electoral chief, Mahmood Yakubu, apologised for the delays in voting, but he said that everyone who was in a queue by 14:30 local time (13:30 GMT) would be allowed to cast their ballots, even though polling stations were officially supposed to close by then.