Nigeria election: Buhari's CPC fails to nullify result

Muhammadu Buhari (r) cast his vote on 16 April 2011
Image caption Muhammadu Buhari says he was robbed of victory

A tribunal in Nigeria has rejected an attempt by the opposition to declare President Goodluck Jonathan's victory in April's election fraudulent.

The result triggered violence in northern strongholds of defeated opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari after he rejected the result.

But the judge said Mr Jonathan won the election lawfully.

Mr Jonathan, a southerner, obtained 59% of the vote, while Mr Buhari got 32%.

In May, Mr Buhari's Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) party filed a petition with the presidential election tribunal to nullify the result.

"The petition fails in its entirety and is hereby dismissed," tribunal head Justice Kumai Akaahs said.

"The third respondent [Jonathan] scored the majority lawful votes cast at the election."

'Most credible poll'

The CPC said it would appeal against the ruling.

CPC supporters unleashed violence after the election, claiming the result had been rigged.

Image caption Northern Nigeria was affected by the violence

An estimated 500 people were killed, thousands of people forced from their homes and some mosques and churches set on fire.

Mr Buhari distanced himself from the violence.

Most observers had hailed the election as the most credible since military rule ended in Nigeria in 1999.

Mr Buhari, a former military ruler, has said he was cheated of victory in two previous elections.

Mr Jonathan was appointed to the presidency last year upon the death of incumbent Umaru Yar'Adua, a northerner whom he had served as vice-president.

Many in the north felt the next president should have been from their region, as Mr Yar'Adua died before he could finish his term.

Mr Buhari won most of the mainly Muslim northern states but nationwide only gained half as many votes as President Jonathan.

Analysts say the violence has more to do with poverty and economic marginalisation in the north than religion.

The north and south also have cultural, ethnic and linguistic differences.

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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