- by Josephine Kamara in Kano
(HN, April 19, 2011) - An uneasy calm has returned to some northern Nigerian states after security quelled demonstrations by irate youths, protesting the outcome of last weekend’s presidential election.
The incumbent, President Goodluck Jonathan, a politician from the mainly Christian south, received more than 25 per cent of the votes in at least two-thirds of the states - a requirement to avoid a run-off between him and his main challenger, ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.
According to the Nigerian Red Cross, about 17,000 people have been forced to flee their homes in eight northern states. About 360 are being treated for injuries.
“I appeal to those involved in the riots to stop this unnecessary and avoidable conduct”, Jonathan said, “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.”
President Jonathan has also called on "all our political leaders, especially the contestants, to appeal to their supporters to stop further violence in the interest of stability, peace and the well-being of this great country".
Young supporters of Muhammadu Buhari, who is popular in the north, have been clashing with the police and military. They feel that the elections have been rigged in some areas of the south.
In Kano, the largest city in the north, homes displaying posters of Mr. Jonathan were set ablaze, and enraged young men roamed the streets shouting "Only Buhari!"
In Kaduna, where a 24-hour curfew has been declared, election monitors say shops were closed and people were fleeing to their homes through streets barricaded with burning tires. Youths clashed with police and the military in areas to the north and south of the city, with the security forces firing tear gas and live ammunition.
Some eyewitnesses spoke about deaths, maiming and burning of homes, churches and mosques in Kano.
President Jonathan’s party, the PDP has won presidential elections since 1999 – that’s when Nigeria returned to civilian rule. Pre-election polls expected the PDP to win, as the opposition appeared to command support in less than 15 states.
Jonathan, 53, is the first president from the main oil-producing Niger Delta region. He occupied the post after the death of the country's elected Muslim leader, President Musa Yar’Adua.
According to the Independent National Election Commission (INEC), the final vote count for the two front-runners is 12,214,853 for Buhari and 22,495,187 for Jonathan.
The elections for Parliament, the Presidency and some state governors have been staggered over three weeks, with the latter scheduled for April 26.
With about 150-million people, the oil-producing nation of Nigeria is the most populous country in Africa.
HUM correspondent Josephine Kamara is based in Abuja