- By Nduka Orjinmo
- BBC News, Abuja
Preliminary results are coming in from Nigeria’s toughest election since the end of military rule in 1999.
Official results in South West Ekiti state show a clear victory for ruling party candidate Bola Tinubu in one of his strongholds.
More results are expected soon.
Following widespread delays and attacks on some polling stations on Saturday, voting in some parts of the country was postponed until Sunday, so final results will take some time.
Polling continued through the night in some areas.
Turnout appears particularly high among young people, who make up a third of the 87 million eligible voters.
This makes it Africa’s largest democratic exercise.
The election has seen an unprecedented challenge to the two-party system that has dominated Nigeria for 24 years.
Previously little-known Peter Obi of the Labor Party, Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are tipped as winners. There are 15 other presidential candidates.
There were long delays at polling stations for voting on Saturday, as well as scattered reports of ballot box looting and attacks by armed men, particularly in the southern regions where Mr Obi’s support base is located.
Dr. Nkem Okolie was about to vote in the Lekki district of Lagos, the largest city, when masked men stormed the polling station.
“There was chaos. Bottles were flying everywhere,” he told the BBC. “They were broken [the ballot box]. They stole the officers’ phones. Now we can’t vote.
In at least five states, polling did not begin until around 18:00 local time in some places – three and a half hours after polling closed.
First-time voter Susan Egbo told the BBC she spent 13 hours at her polling station in the capital, Abuja, and left at midnight.
Southern Bayelsa state is one of the areas where voting has been delayed until Sunday – it is not clear how many parts of the country have postponed voting.
Harrison Rosalin said he waited five hours to vote Saturday in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa, without seeing any election officials. But she returned with her two-week-old baby, happy to finally vote.
“I am motivated because I want a better Nigeria. I want this country to be good for everyone, including my child,” she told the BBC.
Tension prevailed in some parts of Rivers and Lagos states, where some political parties asked their members to go to polling centers to stop their manipulation.
There have also been complaints about the use of the recently introduced electronic voting system, with many voters accusing election officials of refusing to upload results at polling stations.
However, in areas where polling went smoothly, results are published outside individual polling stations.
Results are being tallied from tens of thousands of polling stations across the country. An official from the electoral commission in each of Nigeria’s 36 states will travel to the capital, Abuja, where the results will be announced state by state, with the first announcements expected after 17:00 GMT on Sunday.
Final results are not expected before Monday, and could be as late as Wednesday.
In a press conference on Saturday, Election Chairman Mahmoud Yakubu apologized for the delay in voting.
Mr Yakubu said militant Islamists opened fire on election officials from a hilltop in the Kwoza area of the northeastern state of Borno, injuring several officials.
No matter who wins, 10,000 people were killed last year.
Voters also voted for 109 federal senators and 360 members of the House of Representatives.
Who are the main candidates?
Mr Obi, 61, enjoys strong support among some sections of Nigeria’s youth, particularly in the predominantly Christian south.
Despite being in the PDP before that, he is seen as a relatively new face. The wealthy businessman served as the governor of the south-eastern state of Anambra from 2006 to 2014. His supporters, known as “OBIDients”, say he is the only honest candidate, but his critics argue he is a waste of a vote. Both traditional parties have a high chance of winning.
The PDP’s Mr Abubakar, 76, is the only major candidate from the country’s predominantly Muslim north. He has run for president five times before – losing all of them. He has been dogged by allegations of corruption and cronyism, which he denies.
Most of his career was spent in the corridors of power, serving as a top civil servant, vice president and a prominent businessman.
Most people view the election as a referendum on the APC, which has overseen a period of economic crisis and worsening insecurity.
Its candidate, Mr Tinubu, 70, is credited with building Lagos for two terms as governor until 2007.
He is known as a political godfather in the South West region, where he wields great influence, but like Mr Abubakar, he has been dogged by allegations of corruption and ill health over the years, both of which he denies.
In Nigeria’s 36 states, a two-thirds majority of votes and 25% of the votes are required for a candidate to be declared the winner.
Otherwise, there will be a run-off within 21 days – a first in Nigeria’s history.
Additional reporting from BBC teams across the country.