Rioting broke out in the northern Nigerian towns of Kano and Kaduna as President Goodluck Jonathan looked set to clinch victory in presidential elections held in Nigeria on Saturday.
The voting itself had been largely peaceful and orderly and was applauded by election observers. A team from the African Union called the vote the best Nigeria has had in decades while observers from the National Democratic Institute echoed others when they said Saturday’s presidential poll, “represents a step forward from seriously flawed elections in the past.”
What the results have also revealed is a widening North/South split in the country, a split that is also religious with most Muslims living in the north and most Christians in the south.
Jonathan is a southern Christian from the oil-producing Niger Delta, his main opponent an austere ex-military ruler and Muslim from the north, Muhammadu Buhari.
A victory for Jonathan was widely predicted thanks to the benefits of incumbency and the unmatched wealth and power of the ruling party, the People’s Democratic Party, which he represented. But in the northern cities of Kano and Kaduna there was anger and allegations of cheating.
In Kano bands of young men marched through the streets setting fire to tire barricades, Christian churches and the homes of people believed to support Jonathan, according to western journalists in Kano. As the riots continued Buhari’s party lodged formal complaints alleging rigging by the PDP.
If the rioting continues and turns deadly Nigeria’s nascent democracy will have been dealt yet another blow, once again stealing defeat from the jaws of victory.