After The Election, "I Feel Awesomely Proud To Be Nigerian"

Nigeria's hotly contested election actually went pretty smoothly, despite what you may have heard. Jina Moore is in Abuja, Nigeria, for BuzzFeed News.

Nigerians went to the polls in droves on Saturday to vote for a president. Many were nervous in the days leading up to the election: The last time there was a presidential vote, 800 people died. But by many accounts, the fear didn't last long.

"There was palpable fear... but all that has become a mirage. There is absolute peace in my community" #Nigeria2015

"That fear that was there, it disappeared," Emmanuel Olisaeloka Osemeka, the national coordinator of the Social Welfare Network Initiative, told BuzzFeed News.

Osemeka personally visited 30 polling stations yesterday, and members of his network visited two dozen more.

"The enthusiasm, the level of participation, and the excitement — for me, it was good."

Millions of voters turned out, waiting patiently under the sun for hours to have their identities verified. Then they waited several more hours to vote.

Our first female accredited voter at PU 023 #FCT #NigeriaDecides

They are sorting themselves, the queues are orderly...and there is a general sense of excitement. #NigeriaDecides

Voters wait to cast their ballots outside Kano, Nigeria, during the presidential election. #Photo by Ton Saater

But many Nigerians (and some non-Nigerians) felt the idea that there might be large-scale violence seemed to dominate some coverage of the election.

Hmmm, it seems some foreign media houses are just waiting for violence to erupt in Nigeria. #Pray4Nigeria #NigeriaDecides

Shame to see @cnni only looking to publicize the most minute negative bits of #NigeriaDecides. There are many positives too. Be objective.

They had a point.

At least 11 people killed as violence mars #Nigeria elections, causes delays:

Foreign media on #NigeriaDecides: 'violence mars elections' (@cnni), 'no chaos (yet)' (@nrc). The agenda seems to be set for failure.

Headline writers also really seemed to like to declare Nigeria's election "marred," though it was difficult to hear a Nigerian (speaking apolitically) use the word.

What actually happened is far less dramatic. "I thought Nigerians were exceptional," Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, chair of the National Human Rights Commission of Nigeria, told BuzzFeed News on Sunday.

UN chief says Nigeria vote largely peaceful

No matter what else there was to say, the violence seemed to lead the story.

It definitely wasn't perfect.

"There were some pockets of violence," Yemisi Ransome-Kuti, a member of the Women's Situation Room, which monitors election and post-election incidents affecting women, told BuzzFeed News.

A coalition of 60 civil society organizations had recorded only 99 confirmed incidents of violence by Sunday mid-day. More updated numbers weren't available Sunday evening.

But the story of the day was much more mundane.

Things that happened during elections: meeting old friends ('Bros!'-'How now?'-'Long time!' -'4 years ago, abi?') #NigeriaDecides

As elections are still on-going 300 polling units across Nigeria, Nigerians speak PEACE and UNITY to their country. #NigeriaDecides

"Obviously things have happened," Odinkalu said, confirming attacks "by suspected Boko Haram elements" that killed more than 30 people in two states in the north. "It was within the boundaries of what we can address and contain. We'd like to keep it that way.

"But the bigger story is really what Nigerians did yesterday. The spirit they showed. The heroes and heroes of this are Nigerians — not politicians, ordinary Nigerians."

He also said Saturday's poll defied the kinds of divisions that usually creep into conversations about Nigeria. "People like to talk about the Muslim north and the Christian south," he said. "But yesterday, an old Christian woman was serving a pregnant Muslim girl in hijab. And an old Muslim woman was serving a young Christian girl food [as they waited to vote].

"People were bringing mats and chairs, sitting and chatting together. And they never met before. ... That's the Nigeria I grew up in."

There were some other problems.

Mostly with the card readers, a technology election officials used to verify people's voter registration documents.

Complaints about broken machines dominated conversations on Twitter and the news, and some polling stations faced delays so long that the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) had to extend voting into Sunday.

Nervousness as card reader fails President Jonathan and his wife. INEC now on 3rd or 4th card reader. Finally done,it seems #Nigeriadecides

Two Nigerians who work as journalists for Al Jazeera were restrained by Nigerian authorities in the north. The Nigerian military said they didn't have proper clearance or accreditation to report in restive areas in the northeast, where the militant group Boko Haram has been terrorizing villages. But local media reported that the two had accreditation from the INEC.

But even those problems weren't widespread.

INEC's top official told local Channels TV on Saturday night that only 450 of the country's 150,000 card readers had problems. INEC did not release a list of the places where the problem was serious enough to push voting into Sunday, but an independent poll monitor estimated that voting continued in only 4% of the country.

.@situationroomng wd still like 2 know exactly where voting continues. No official word. @tmgng: it's abt 4% of PUs.

As the vote wound down on Sunday, concern about the coming hours remained high. Human rights advocate Ayodele Ameen said the overall death toll had gone up to 50, and he was focusing narrowly on Rivers State, where he said there seemed to be a flare-up.

JUST IN- VIOLENCE in Rivers State, Emohua LGA as protesters burn INEC office. #Nigeriadecides #Nigeria2015

There was also concern about unconfirmed reports of violence circulating on social media.

If we let the falsehood on twitter take hold, Then we have a problem in our hands. #NigeriaDecides

Do not tweet incidents you cannot directly confirm, for all sorts of reasons. #NigeriaDecides

"Honestly, we're not home yet. Voting is important, but the most dangerous period is after the results [are announced]," Odinkalu said.

In the last presidential vote here, when Goodluck Jonathan first faced off against Muhammadu Buhari, voting was also reportedly peaceful — but after Jonathan was announced the winner, riots erupted, and more than 800 people died.

However, civil society election observers felt more optimistic about this year's vote.

"One of the the key things that will help curtail or even knock off any kind of violence is the level of transparency that took place," Osemeka, of the Social Welfare Network Initiative, said. "Once people see the process was transparent to a very large extent, that impression that, 'Oh, we've been cheated,' will be negated.

"The messaging around violence has changed. The analysis ... on violence has changed. Therefore, we've done better mapping the presdisposing conditions and weaknesses, and there's better [government] resource management and deployment for that purpose."

Tunji Lardner, executive director of the West African NGO Network, said these elections, the first truly competitive presidential race in Nigeria's history, give him hope.

"The incumbent's traditional advantage, given in all African politics, has not been as strong as expected," he said. "That means our democratic context is evolving."

Lardner isn't downplaying how high-stakes this moment is. "There's a cliché about Nigeria being at the cliff's edge, at a crossroads," he said. "This time it's a tipping point."

However, he pointed to the fact that Nigeria had already managed to get through so much throughout its recent past. "If this were any other place, it would have been already the end of a country as we know it," he said.

Above all, in Abuja at least, there seemed to be optimism. "When people seek to divide us, I like to remember those people who came together yesterday," Odinkalu said. "I feel awesomely proud to be Nigerian."

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