Thousands celebrate as Nigeria opposition wins presidential election

Supporters of the presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressive Congress (APC) party celebrate in Kano on Tuesday. Three after Buhari became the first Nigerian to oust a president through the ballot box, putting him in charge of Afr
Supporters of the presidential candidate Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressive Congress (APC) party celebrate in Kano on Tuesday. Three after Buhari became the first Nigerian to oust a president through the ballot box, putting him in charge of Africa's biggest economy and one of its most turbulent democracies. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KANO, Nigeria (AFP) - Thousands of people spilled onto the streets of 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, where the retired general won a landslide victory.

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

Kano is among the Nigerian states hit hardest by Boko Haram Islamists, where many have criticised President Goodluck Jonathan's handling of the insurgency.

"This is one of the happiest moments of my life," Khalid Isa Musa, 25, a university student said. "I look forward to a new dawn in Nigeria. I hope this is the end of Boko Haram and all forms of insecurity in Nigeria."

Many brandished brooms, the 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.

"I haven't been this excited since the night of Barack Obama's election," said Anas Galadima in the crowd building outside APC headquarters in the capital Abuja. "It's not about Muslim or Christian or any party. It's about politicians knowing that if you don't do the job we can kick you out."

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

In Kano - where Buhari won 89 per cent of the vote - some young men donned black fedoras, which Jonathan is rarely seen without, to mock the outgoing leader, putting suitcases on their heads as people chanted "Out of Aso Rock", the name of the presidential villa.

Buhari's win is 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 Buhari, 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 Boko Haram and a stronger opposition.

"I'm confident Buhari will tackle the two major problems bedevilling Nigeria which are insecurity and corruption," said Maikudi Adamu, 35, a charcoal trader.

"My vote has truly counted. This is the beginning of consolidation of democracy." 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.