A presidential election was held in Nigeria on 16 April 2011, postponed from 9 April, 2011. The election follows controversy as to whether a Muslim or Christian should be allowed to become president given the tradition of rotating the top office between the religions and following the death of Umaru Yar'Adua, who was a Muslim, and Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, assuming the interim presidency.
Following the election widespread violence took place in the northern parts of the country. Jonathan was declared the winner on 19 April.
A gentlemen's agreement, within the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), meant that power rotates between the predominantly Muslim north and Christian south every two terms, which means the flag bearer of the party for this election was scheduled to be represented by a Northerner. After the death of President Umar Yar'Adua, a Northern Muslim, his Vice President Goodluck Jonathan, a Southern Christian, took over as acting president. The suggestion that Jonathan was considering running for the presidency in his own right was controversial as Yar'Adua had only served one of the two possible terms as president after Southerner Olusegun Obasanjo.
Due to the zoning system, a Northern Muslim candidate, Ibrahim Babangida, a former general and military ruler, and Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president, as expected, ran for the presidency.
After initial doubts, the interim president Goodluck Jonathan declared his intention to run for the presidency on 18 September 2010. Muhammadu Buhari is seen by some as a principal opposition to Jonathan besides Nuhu Ribadu.
There are sixty-three registered political parties in Nigeria, of which twenty-one[who?] fielded candidates:
Following a bombing in Abuja during Nigeria's 50th anniversary celebrations and the consequent arrest and interrogation of the Director General of Babangida campaign, Raymond Dokpesi, there were calls for him to quit the race. In addition, there were others who linked his affiliated to the blasts. He responded in saying it would be "idiotic to link" him with attack. Even before the blasts, however, some of his former loyalists, popularly called "IBB Boys," apparently asked him to quit the presidential race so as not to avoid being rubbished by a non-General.
In September 2010, the election commission requested a postponement of the polls citing the need for more time to overhaul the national electoral register. Critics were upset over the proposal. The election was postponed from January to April due to the release of a new electronic voter registration software.
In December 2010, bombs went off in Yenegoa, Bayelsa State during a gubernatorial campaign rally. There were also bombings and shootings in the north blamed on Boko Haram. Politicians and police said that the campaign of violence aimed to disrupt the election.
Final result, showing the states won by Jonathan (in green), Buhari (red), and Ribadu (blue).
The elections was reported in the international media as having run smoothly with relatively little violence or voter fraud in contrast to previous elections, in particular the widely disputed 2007 election. Indeed, at least one observer pronounced them the most smoothly run elections held since the restoration of democracy 12 years earlier.