NIGERIA: Muslims Unhappy With Election Results Resort to Violent Islamic Rioting

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan won the oil-rich country's election yesterday as riots swept across the Muslim north, leaving buildings ablaze and people hiding in their homes, highlighting the religious and ethnic tensions dividing Africa's most populous nation.

The violence cut across 13 states. Heavy gunfire echoed through cities, as crowds burned tyres and threw stones at security forces. Many were feared dead, although federal officials declined to offer any figures for fear of further stoking tensions.

In a televised address yesterday, Mr Jonathan called on Nigerians to "quickly move away from partisan battlegrounds and find a national common ground".

"Nobody's political ambition is worth the blood of any Nigerian," he said, hours after police said an angry mob in Katsina state engineered a prison break.

Christians and Muslims have shared the same soil for centuries, but the election result showing the Christian President's more than 10 million vote lead over Muslim candidate Muhammadu Buhari spread accusations of rigging.

Mr Jonathan took office last year after the elected Muslim president died from a lengthy illness. Many in the north still believe the ruling party should have put up a Muslim candidate in this year's election.

"The damage is immense. A lot of buildings have been torched -- houses, businesses and religious centres," said Umar Mairiga of the Nigerian Red Cross.

More than 270 people had been injured and 15,000 displaced by the violence, he said.

Nigeria has a long history of violent and rigged polls since it abandoned a revolving door of military rulers and embraced democracy 12 years ago.

However, most observers said Saturday's presidential election appeared fair.

Election chairman Attahiru Jega announced results yesterday showing Mr Jonathan won 22.4 million votes, compared with 12.2 million for his nearest rival, Mr Buhari.

Mr Jonathan received enough votes across Nigeria's 36 states and the capital to avoid a runoff.

The West African nation of 150 million people is divided between the Christian-dominated south and the Muslim north.

Mr Buhari carried northern states where poverty remains endemic and opportunities few.

Many there supported Mr Buhari, a disciplinarian who took power after a 1983 New Year's Eve coup, as his campaign promised change in a nation ruled by the same political party since it became a democracy.

Mr Buhari's party brought a complaint against the nation's electoral commission even before the vote count ended, alleging massive rigging in Mr Jonathan's Niger Delta homeland.

The letter also alleged that the computer software used to tally results had been tampered with.

Violence began on Sunday in the north, but took full hold yesterday. Witnesses said youths in the northern city of Kano set fires to homes that bore Jonathan party banners.

SOURCE: The Australian

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