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Nigerians Await Results Of Closely-Contested Election


The votes are coming in for one of the most closely contested presidential elections in Nigeria's history.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: Ninety-six, ninety-seven, ninety-eight.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Eighty-three, one-hundred-and-ninety-eight.

CORNISH: International observers have said the voting process this weekend was transparent and fair, despite technical glitches with new voter fingerprint scanners and scattered attacks by Boko Haram militants. U.S. State Department officials are also watching the election closely. Linda Thomas-Greenfield is the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department and is in the Nigerian capital, Abuja. We asked her if she had observed any election fraud or corruption in the process so far.

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, we have received a number of reports from people in the field expressing concerns about what they are witnessing at some of the collation centers in the regional areas. But all in all this has been a good process. I was an observer of the election on Saturday and witnessed extraordinary commitment by the people of Nigeria who stood in line for hours and waited to vote patiently and with tremendous resolve. And I think it is a great, great statement of Nigerians' commitment to democracy. And we're all waiting to see the results.

CORNISH: Now, most observers are saying the process has been generally peaceful, but it's been postelection violence that has really been damaging to Nigeria in the past. For instance, back in 2011, hundreds of people killed in postelection violence. What are your concerns this time around?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, let me first say that the violence has been much less than expected in this pre-election and election period. We are watching the situation closely now. We have been assured by both candidates of their commitment to discourage their supporters from violence.

CORNISH: During the issue of the kidnapping of the schoolgirls there was criticism that the U.S. couldn't quite work with the Nigerian government on this, that there was concerns about corruption in the military and that the U.S. security advisers couldn't get as much done as they would like. What does the U.S. need next from Nigeria in terms of actual cooperation?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: We actually work very, very closely with the Nigerians on the search for the girls. We shared information. We did have an incident in which we decided that some training that we were providing to the Nigerians had to be discontinued. But our commitment is that we will continue to work with Nigeria. We will figure out where there are areas of disagreement and work out those disagreements, because terrorism anywhere affects all of us. And we have to work together to address what is happening here in Nigeria, as well as Chad, Cameroon and Niger, and we can't do it alone. The Nigerians can't do it alone, and the neighbors can't do it alone.

CORNISH: Finally, Nigeria is very important to Africa economically, politically, just sheer terms of size and population. What are your concerns about Nigeria's election and kind of how they can affect the wider region if things do not go well?

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Well, I can tell you the entire world is watching this election, and all of Africa is watching this election. We have observers who have come from around the continent, and they are former heads of state and former government officials from across the continent, because Nigeria, as the most populous country on this continent and the largest democracy on this continent, has to succeed. But Nigeria has an important role to play in this region. The Nigerians know it. Neighbors know it. And we look forward to this process coming to closure in a way that will make all Nigerians proud but the entire continent proud.

CORNISH: Linda Thomas-Greenfield, she's the assistant secretary for the Bureau of African Affairs at the State Department. Thank you for your time.

THOMAS-GREENFIELD: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.