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Jonathan spurned by voters in Boko Haram heartland

2015-03-30 23:18
Nigerian President and presidential candidate of the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) Goodluck Jonathan (C) sits among party leaders during a rally in Maiduguri on January 24, 2015. Boko Haram fighters have killed 15 villagers near Maiduguri, t ~ TUNJI OMIRIN

Maiduguri - Nigeria's election is in some ways a referendum on President Goodluck Jonathan's record on the economy, power shortages and corruption, but for residents of northeasterly Borno state the key issue was his fight against Boko Haram.

And judging by his thrashing in Borno with the majority of votes counted, residents of the state worst affected by the Islamist insurgency that has killed thousands of people over six years were deeply unhappy with his efforts.

Also read: LIVE: Jonathan leads with votes

While solidly Muslim northern states rarely deliver many votes for Christian candidates from the south, Jonathan's camp had hoped for some support due to recent military wins over the insurgents

Jonathan has garnered 14,090 votes against 233,386 for the main challenger Muhammadu Buhari in 21 local government areas, with just six left to count.

The election is a two-horse race between Jonathan and Buhari, a Muslim northerner who has campaigned on his reputation as a military strongman who could crush Boko Haram.

The president's perceived slow reaction to the kidnapping of more than 200 schoolgirls from the village of Chibok in April caused widespread anger.

Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced by the insurgency in Borno and other states, and many voted from special units set up in camps over the weekend. But the war has turned in Jonathan's favour in the past six weeks.

The Islamist militants controlled an area the size of Belgium at the start of the year, but a string of military victories by troops from Nigeria, Chad, Cameroon and Niger has reclaimed much of the territory.

On Friday, the Nigerian military announced that it had delivered the coup de grace, smashing Boko Haram's headquarters in the mountain town of Gwoza, the first territory in which it had last year declared an Islamic state.

The heavy military presence in Borno had raised fears among the opposition and civil rights groups that they could be used to rig the election there. Those fears now look unfounded.

Boko Haram, which sees democracy as un-Islamic, had threatened to disrupt the election by killing voters en masse. Thanks partly to government efforts to beat them back, they killed only a handful. Borno voters nonetheless did not reward Jonathan.

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Read more on: boko haram  |  goodluck jonathan  |  maiduguri  |  politics

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