Nigeria election: Goodluck Jonathan appeals for calm

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Media captionGoodluck Jonathan: "We have, by this election, found our unity as one nation under God"

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has appealed for an end to "unnecessary and avoidable" post-election violence across the north of the country.

Incumbent Mr Jonathan has been declared winner in the presidential poll, with the electoral commission saying he received about 57% of the vote.

Rioting spread across the Muslim north - the opposition's powerbase - as the outcome became clear.

International observers have said the election was reasonably free and fair.

But supporters of Mr Jonathan's main rival, Muhammadu Buhari, allege ballot-rigging.

The Red Cross says it believes many people have been killed in clashes with the police in northern areas of the country.

Homes of supporters of Mr Jonathan, a Christian from the oil-producing Niger Delta and the candidate of the governing People's Democratic Party (PDP), were attacked in the cities of Kano and Kaduna.

The BBC's Caroline Duffield, in the Nigerian capital Abuja, says General Buhari himself has yet to comment - but political pressure is growing on him to call for calm as well.

In a statement, Mr Jonathan said: "I have received with great sadness the news of sporadic unrest in some parts of the country which are not unconnected with last Saturday's elections.

"I appeal to those involved to stop this unnecessary and avoidable conduct, more so at this point in time when a lot of sacrifice has been made by all the citizens of this great country in ensuring the conduct of free and fair elections.

"I call on all our political leaders, especially the contestants, to appeal to their supporters to stop further violence in the interest of stability, peace and well-being of this great country.

"No-one's political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian."

Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission released final results later on Monday, saying Mr Jonathan had won 22.5 million votes to General Buhari's 12.2 million votes.

Mr Jonathan was appointed to the presidency last year upon the death of incumbent Umaru Yar'Adua, whom he had served as vice-president. He staked his reputation on the election, repeatedly promising it would be free and fair.

VP's home 'set ablaze'

In Kano, the largest city in in the north, homes displaying posters of Mr Jonathan were set on fire, and gangs of young men roamed the streets shouting "Only Buhari!"

In Kaduna, where a 24-hour curfew has been declared, youths clashed with the police and military in areas to the north and south of the city, with the security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition.

Local TV stations reported that the Kaduna home of Mr Jonathan's running mate, Vice-President Namadi Sambo, was set on fire. They said the city's central prison was attacked and inmates released.

A lawyer travelling through Kaduna told the BBC's Focus on Africa he had escaped from a mob in the city. He said youths armed with clubs and machetes were targeting people who did not look like they were indigenous to the north.

"My car was damaged [and] the windscreen was broken," he said. "I told my driver... to start the car and take off and at that point they smashed the car. We managed to get away."

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Media captionGoodluck Jonathan's victory was announced on Nigerian TV by the country's electoral commission

In the central city of Jos, there is rioting in the Gangare area to the north of the city.

There are also reports of violent protests in the states of Gombe, Adamawa, Katsina and Sokoto.

And there are fears for the safety of the revered religious leader, the Sultan of Sokoto, who is now facing angry criticism over his support for President Jonathan.

While past Nigerian polls have been marred by widespread violence and vote-fixing, Saturday's seemed to go generally smoothly.

Voters in many areas queued patiently for hours despite intense heat to cast their votes.

Nigeria: A nation divided

To win at the first round, a candidate not only needs the majority of votes cast, but at least 25% of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states. Goodluck Jonathan, of the PDP, reached that threshold in 31 states; runner-up Muhammadu Buhari of the CPC only did so in 16 states.

Nigeria's 160 million people are divided between numerous ethno-linguistic groups and also along religious lines. Broadly, the Hausa-Fulani people based in the north are mostly Muslims. The Yorubas of the south-west are divided between Muslims and Christians, while the Igbos of the south-east and neighbouring groups are mostly Christian or animist. The Middle Belt is home to hundreds of groups with different beliefs, and around Jos there are frequent clashes between Hausa-speaking Muslims and Christian members of the Berom community.

Despite its vast resources, Nigeria ranks among the most unequal countries in the world, according to the UN. The poverty in the north is in stark contrast to the more developed southern states. While in the oil-rich south-east, the residents of Delta and Akwa Ibom complain that all the wealth they generate flows up the pipeline to Abuja and Lagos.

Southern residents tend to have better access to healthcare, as reflected by the greater uptake of vaccines for polio, tuberculosis, tetanus and diphtheria. Some northern groups have in the past boycotted immunisation programmes, saying they are a Western plot to make Muslim women infertile. This led to a recurrence of polio, but the vaccinations have now resumed.

Female literacy is seen as the key to raising living standards for the next generation. For example, a newborn child is far likelier to survive if its mother is well-educated. In Nigeria we see a stark contrast between the mainly Muslim north and the Christian and animist south. In some northern states less than 5% of women can read and write, whereas in some Igbo areas more than 90% are literate.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest oil producer and among the biggest in the world but most of its people subsist on less than $2 a day. The oil is produced in the south-east and some militant groups there want to keep a greater share of the wealth which comes from under their feet. Attacks by militants on oil installations led to a sharp fall in Nigeria's output during the last decade. But in 2010, a government amnesty led thousands of fighters to lay down their weapons.

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