Lagos, Nigeria (CNN) — Bola Ahmed Tinubu was declared the winner of Nigeria’s controversial presidential election on Wednesday as opposition leaders denounced the polls as rigged and called for a new vote.
Tinubu, 70, represents the ruling All Progressives Congress party, which received about 8.8 million votes, about 36.6% of the total, according to the chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Mahmood Yakubu.
He defeated Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and popular third force candidate Peter Obi, who has gained popularity among young people in particular.
In an acceptance speech, Tinubu thanked voters and said he was “deeply honored.”
“This is a brilliant moment in any man’s life and an affirmation of our democratic existence,” he said. “I represent a promise and with your support, I know that promise will be fulfilled.”
He also made a call to his “fellow contestants”, asking them to “come together” to strengthen the country.
This election is one of the closest since the country returned to democracy in 1999, with more than 93 million people registered to vote, according to INEC.
But Yakubu said Wednesday that 24 million valid votes were counted, representing a turnout of just 26%.
Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos state, represents the same party as outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari, whom Tinubu said he helped propel to the top job in 2015.
After decades behind the scenes, Tinubu launched his campaign for the presidency with the slogan: “It’s my turn.”
He will become Nigeria’s fifth elected president since 1999, winning the race for the country’s top job on his first try.
Buhari congratulated his future successor in a statement on Wednesday, calling him “the best person for the job.”
The vote count since Saturday’s election has been vehemently questioned by many who allege the process has been marred by corruption and technical glitches. On Tuesday, the country’s main opposition parties described the election results as “highly manipulated and manipulated” at a joint press conference.
They said they had lost confidence in Yakubu, the election board chairman, and that the results “do not reflect the wishes of Nigerians expressed at the polls on February 25, 2023.”
INEC rejected calls for a new vote, with a spokesman insisting that the electoral process had been “free, fair and credible.”
In his speech, Tinubu also praised INEC for “running a credible election no matter what they say.”
But several observers, including the European Union, have also criticized the election for a lack of transparency.
“The election fell far short of the reasonable expectations of Nigerian citizens,” said a joint observation mission from the International Republican Institute (IRI) and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).
Delays and violence at voting centers
Samson Itodo, head of Nigeria’s largest independent election monitoring body, said Tuesday there was “serious cause for concern.” He cited multiple critical issues that had hampered public confidence in the electoral process, including violence and technical impediments.
Some logistical problems reported across the country include voters being unable to locate their polling stations after last-minute changes, he said.
His civic nonprofit, Yiaga Africa, deployed more than 3,800 observers to Nigeria for the election, and one observer was thrown out of a polling station after “thugs invaded it,” Itodo said.
Many voters in Lagos complained of intimidation and attempts to suppress their votes. In February, CNN visited a polling station in Lekki, Lagos, which came under attack and the army was forced to intervene.
In other cases, voting was delayed or people couldn’t vote because election officials didn’t show up.
On Tuesday, the United Nations urged “all parties concerned to remain calm until the conclusion of the electoral process” and to avoid misinformation or incitement to violence.