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Voting In Nigeria Affected By Isolated Violence And Irregularities


Nigeria is Africa's most populous country. Its economy has been a big success story on the continent. But of late, the world has mostly known Nigeria for its war against the Islamist group Boko Haram. It's a conflict that has displaced more than a million people. This weekend, democracy appeared to be on display. Nigeria, which has a history of contested elections, held a vote that was delayed for weeks in part because of violence. But now the United States and Britain are warning in a statement out this morning that there are disturbing signs of, quote, "political interference" in counting the presidential votes. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton has been following all of this from the capital, Abuja. She's on the line. Ofeibea, good morning.


GREENE: So tell us how this election played out.

QUIST-ARCTON: The positives were that there were huge lines - women with babies and children. And there was a very late start. But initially, people were really patient because they want their vote to count. And, David, let me just tell you who the front-runners are because of course President Goodluck Jonathan is seeking re-election, and he has campaigned on a platform of reliability. And an opposition coalition has got together to back Muhammadu Buhari, a former military leader. He says he is the one who's tough on security. He is the one who's tough on corruption, so Nigerians should vote for him. I have to say that the new biometric card readers, which are meant to do fingerprints, et cetera, were a bit dodgy, but generally there was a really good feel. But there was also violence. Fifty people killed in the northeast where Boko Haram has been wreaking havoc and terrorizing people for the past six years. And in the oil capital, Rivers State, the governor calling for the vote to be scrapped there because of the irregularities and violence against what he says are opposition campaign workers.

GREENE: It sounds like this weekend was sort of a microcosm for what has been the state of this country for months and months. I mean, trying to act like a peaceful country, a democracy, but with Boko Haram committing violence and - making that very hard.

QUIST-ARCTON: Boko Haram had threatened to disrupt this election, and it managed to do that. And again, suspected extremists attacked polling stations. They destroyed election material in two northeastern towns. And then they were in a huge convoy marching down on the city of Bauchi. The police there said that they managed to stop them. So we did have these two sides - the continuing violence and insurgency on one side and Nigerians determined to vote and show that they are Africa's largest democracy on the other side.

GREENE: Well, Ofeibea, when can we expect the results? And are you getting a sense from the electoral commission that, you know, despite this violence, despite some irregularities, the results will be credible?

QUIST-ARCTON: Attahiru Jega, who is the chairman of the electoral commission, held a news conference yesterday evening and said that they are looking into these allegations of irregularities and, of course, the violence. He says expect the results perhaps today but because of the delays, perhaps a little later. But it's after the elections, David, that it's key. The loser - will he accept? Will the supporters accept the results? Postelection violence has been huge in Nigeria in the past. So many Nigerians have been saying to me that they're praying for peace and they hope that Nigeria will be the winner of these elections with a peaceful result and everybody accepting the outcome.

GREENE: That's NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton who is monitoring the election results after a weekend vote in Nigeria. Ofeibea, thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Thank you, David. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is an award-winning broadcaster from Ghana and is NPR's Africa Correspondent. She describes herself as a "jobbing journalist"—who's often on the hoof, reporting from somewhere.