* Jonathan takes strong lead, Buhari does well in north
* Observers see better vote than in the past
* Opposition voices concern, unrest in north
(Adds result declarations adjourned until Monday, barricades)
By Matthew Tostevin and Nick Tattersall
ABUJA, April 17 President Goodluck Jonathan
secured election victory on Sunday as votes were tallied from
around Nigeria, fuelling anger in the mainly-Muslim strongholds
of rival Muhammadu Buhari.
Buhari, a former military ruler from the arid, dustblown
north, had hoped to at least force a second round against
Jonathan, the first head of state from the swamps and creeks of
the oil-producing Niger Delta.
But a Reuters tally of results from 35 of 36 states across
Africa's most populous nation showed Jonathan on 22 million
votes to 12 million for Buhari. Nowhere near enough voters were
registered in the remaining state for him to catch up.
Observers called the election the fairest for decades.
But Buhari's camp said some results looked suspicious,
especially where turnout had been exceptionally high. In a sign
of the growing tension in the north, youths set up burning
barricades in several cities.
Jonathan's officials said there would be no victory claim
until results were announced by the Independent National
Electoral Commission. They were clearly upbeat.
"This is no time for triumphalism. It is a time for deep
reflection, for strengthening the bond of our union and for all
of us to work together," Oronto Douglas, a senior advisor to
Jonathan, told Reuters.
With formal announcements of results still awaited from
eight states, the electoral body adjourned until Monday, the
earliest the winner is likely to be declared.
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The president did particularly well in his predominantly
Christian south, while Buhari swept many northern states in the
country of 150 million people.
An outright win for Jonathan could ease worries over
potential disruptions to crude exports from Africa's biggest oil
producer and lift local financial markets awaiting the end of a
series of elections.
But the voting made clear the challenge of ethnic and
religious polarisation facing the election winner alongside the
need for reforms to Africa's third-biggest economy, held back by
poor infrastructure, mismanagement and corruption.
"While a near term relief rally is easily plausible in
Nigerian financial markets, the political impetus behind real
reform, and the extent to which theses challenges are met
head-on, will be the determinant of longer term outcomes," Razia
Khan, Standard Chartered's Africa economist, told Reuters.
Heading African Union observers, former Ghanaian President
John Kufuor said Nigeria appeared to have ended its reputation
for badly flawed elections and could set an example for Africa
with at least a dozen more African polls due this year.
"I expect the developments here will have a very positive
impact on the continent," he told Reuters.
The prospect of victory for the candidate of the ruling
People's Democratic Party (PDP) grated in the north, which had
been buoyed by early results showing Buhari doing very well and
had feared rigging.
There was unrest in parts of Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Kaduna
and Maiduguri. Youths took to the streets and set up burning
barricades. A Reuters correspondent in Kaduna saw several plumes
of smoke over the city.
"There are protests all over. People are waiting to see how
Buhari will react," said one security source.
Buhari's supporters questioned results including those
showing turnout as high as 86 percent of registered voters in
Niger Delta states and the southeast.
"In most of the southeast and south-south, no real elections
took place," said former government minister Nasir el-Rufai, a
Buhari supporter. "In the southwest and the north, the results
have no relation to what happened at the polling units and we
will prove it in due course," he told Reuters.
Buhari's spokesman Yinka Odumakin said irregularities had
been seen, but any challenge would come after the vote count.
Buhari's support was bolstered by a feeling among many in
the north that Jonathan is usurping their right to another four
years in power. Jonathan inherited office after his predecessor,
northerner Umaru Yar'Adua, died last year in his first term,
interrupting a rotation between north and south.
Some northern voters were resigned and said that at least
their votes had been counted this time.
"If it is the people's will, God's will then people must
welcome Jonathan without a heavy heart because it was a fair
fight," said Mohammed Ibrahim, 33, the driver of a three-wheeler
rickshaw taxi in the ancient Islamic city of Kano.
(Additional reporting by Joe Brock in Kano, Joe Penney and
Segun Owen in Yenagoa; Editing by Nick Tattersall)
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