President Muhammadu Buhari has congratulated the candidate of his party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, for emerging winner of the presidential election held across the country on Saturday.

Buhari’s message came a few hours after the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) declared that Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) won the election after receiving the majority of the votes cast.

The APC candidate scored 8,794,726 votes to beat Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) who got 6,984,520, and Peter Obi of the Labour Party who secured 6,101,533 votes, according to INEC.

Buhari, while noting that the elections were not without faults, however, stated that the issues raised by aggrieved parties were not strong enough to stop the declaration of a winner.

He advised candidates who feel cheated in the election to approach the courts and prove their case or accept defeat.

“I congratulate His Excellency Bola Ahmed Tinubu on his victory. Elected by the people, he is the best person for the job. I shall now work with him and his team to ensure an orderly handover of power.

“The election was Africa’s largest democratic exercise. In a region that has undergone backsliding and military coups in recent years, this election demonstrates democracy’s continued relevance and capability to deliver for the people it serves.

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“Within Nigeria, the results reveal democracy’s ripening in our country. Never has the electoral map shifted so drastically in one cycle. In the presidential elections, states in all regions across the nation changed colour. Some amongst you may have noticed my home state amongst them. The winning candidate did not carry his own home state either. That happens during a competitive election. Votes and those that cast them cannot be taken for granted. Each must be earned. Competition is good for our democracy. There is no doubt the people’s decision has been rendered in the results we look at today.

“That is not to say the exercise was without fault. For instance, there were technical problems with electronic transmission of the results. Of course, there will be areas that need work to bring further transparency and credibility to the voting procedure. However, none of the issues registered represent a challenge to the freeness and fairness of the elections.

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“I know some politicians and candidates may not agree with this view. That too is fine. If any candidate believes they can prove the fraud they claim is committed against them, then bring forward the evidence. If they cannot, then we must conclude that the election was indeed the people’s will – no matter how hard that may be for the losers to accept. If they feel the need to challenge, please take it to the courts, not to the streets.

“However, to do the latter means they are not doing it in the interest of the people, but rather to inflame, to put people in harm’s way and all for personal, selfish gains.

“After a degree of polarization that necessarily accompanies any election, it is now time to come together and act responsibly. I call on all candidates to remember the peace pledge they signed just days before the election. Do not undermine the credibility of INEC. Let us now move forward as one. The people have spoken,” Buhari was quoted as saying by his senior media assistant, Garba Shehu.

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