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Nigeria has a new president-elect, but his opponents reject the results

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Nigeria has a new president-elect. The ruling party's Bola Ahmed Tinubu was declared the winner early this morning. His opponents have rejected the results, calling for fresh elections, all while the president-elect has called for reconciliation and calm. He certainly faces a tough road ahead, with many challenges in Africa's most populous nation, as NPR's Emmanuel Akinwotu reports from the capital, Abuja.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Jagaban. Jagaban. Jagaban.

EMMANUEL AKINWOTU, BYLINE: Supporters of Bola Ahmed Tinubu in ecstasy on the streets of Lagos. They hail their former governor and chant his nickname - Jagaban - meaning leader of warriors.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Jagaban. Jagaban. Jagaban.

AKINWOTU: The celebrations erupted in the early hours of the morning for a victory he waited years for - a power broker, now finally in the ultimate seat of power. It's my turn, said the president-elect as he addressed the country, in a reference to his long-held ambition. But he was also conciliatory.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BOLA AHMED TINUBU: For you, the people, especially the youths, I will work day and night. I will work to the utmost best of my ability to make Nigeria better.

AKINWOTU: The 70-year-old made an appeal to young voters, possibly an acknowledgment by a powerful, but divisive figure of how many young people were galvanized by another candidate, Peter Obi, whose third-party campaign made the election one of Nigeria's most tightly fought.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: (Non-English language spoken).

AKINWOTU: In scattered celebrations in his home state of Lagos, a state he failed to win on Saturday, supporter Dixon Albert said he looked forward to a Tinubu presidency.

DIXON ALBERT: He's the only one to have the zeal and has all it takes to take Nigerians to the destiny that we have been aspiring for.

AKINWOTU: But meeting these expectations will be a huge task. The economy has been battered. Unemployment is high, and insecurity has spread around the country. The front-runner for the ruling party won the election, but the clamor for change from many in Nigeria was still felt in the vote.

KAYODE FAYEMI: You have an election that has altered the electoral map in Nigeria.

AKINWOTU: Former Governor Kayode Fayemi has known the president-elect for decades and conceded the results showed the country needed something different after eight difficult years under outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari.

FAYEMI: That is clearly evidence of the clamor for change. The issues that have been brought to fore by those younger elements in society are not going to go away. Clearly, president-elect would have to address them.

AKINWOTU: But convincing them that he is the person to do it will be tough. While Tinubu's supporters celebrate, the opposition has vowed to challenge the result. And many in the country feel aggrieved. Saturday's polls were riddled with delays, logistical failures, incidents of violence and allegations of fraud, especially in tightly contested areas. The turnout was a historic low, just 27%.

BASIL EZRIKI: The outcome of this election is not the people's wish.

AKINWOTU: Like many, Basil Ezriki (ph) said he feels let down by the polls. And for Tinubu, it's a reminder of the challenges he faces - endearing himself to large parts of this country, where young voters are a majority.

EZRIKI: So I know that he's not going to do anything that will benefit the masses because the wish of the masses did not prevail.

AKINWOTU: Emmanuel Akinwotu, NPR News, Abuja.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD AND GHOSTFACE KILLAH SONG, "SOUR SOUL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Emmanuel Akinwotu
Emmanuel Akinwotu is an international correspondent for NPR. He joined NPR in 2022 from The Guardian, where he was West Africa correspondent.