Thousands celebrate as Nigeria opposition claims election win

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All Progressives Congress (APC) supporters celebrate outside the party secretariat in Abuja on March 31, 2015. AFP PHOTO

KANO: Thousands of people spilled into the streets in northern Nigeria in celebration on Tuesday after opposition candidate Muhammadu Buhari claimed victory in the presidential election.

A cavalcade of motorbikes and cars with their headlights on and horns blaring paraded through the streets of Kano, northern Nigeria’s biggest city and an ancient seat of learning.

Drivers performed stunts, filling the air with thick smoke, as veiled women and the crowds shouted “Sai Buhari” (Only Buhari) in celebration.

Many brandished the wicker broom, symbol of Buhari’s All Progressives Congress (APC) which claims it will sweep Africa’s most populous country clean years of government mismanagement and corruption.

In a neighbourhood of Kaduna, another northern city, the crowds chanted “change, change” as hundreds of people climbed onto rooftops to watch the celebrations.

Buhari won a landslide victory in Kano, Nigeria’s second most-populous state, securing more than 1.9 million votes and 89 percent of the total ballots against incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

Some young men donned black fedoras — which Jonathan is rarely seen without — and put suitcases on their heads as people chanted “Out of Aso Rock”, referring to the presidential villa.

If Buhari’s win is confirmed, it would be the first democratic change of power in the history of Africa’s most populous country and cap a remarkable return for the 72-year-old who headed a military regime in the 1980s.

“We must see this as a triumphant show of democracy, a change for the better,” Buhari’s wife Aisha Buhari said in one of a series of jubilant Twitter messages.

The opposition leader, making his fourth run at the presidency, has been buoyed by frustration over endemic corruption, criticism over Jonathan’s handling of the deadly Boko Haram uprising and a stronger opposition.

International observers gave broadly positive reactions to the conduct of the vote, despite late delivery of election materials and technical glitches with new voter authentication devices.

Nigeria’s Transition Monitoring Group, which had observers across the country, said: “These issues did not systematically disadvantage any candidate or party.”

The vote has been the closest election contest ever in Africa’s biggest economy which has a population of 173 million.

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