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Big lead for Obasanjo in Nigeria

Obasanjo: "This had been a rough campaign," he said Sunday.

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CNN's Jeff Koinange has more on the violence surrounding the upcoming elections in Nigeria. (Caution: video contains graphic images) (April 18)
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LAGOS, Nigeria (CNN) -- Preliminary results showed Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo holding a substantial lead over his main challenger, with 73 percent of the vote counted so far, election monitors said Sunday.

The results show Obasanjo leading his main rival, Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim from the north who heads the All Nigeria Peoples' Party. Buhari had just 21 percent of the vote as of Sunday night.

Final results are expected sometime Monday.

More than 12 million votes had been counted. Some 60 million people are registered to vote in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, but it's not clear how many cast ballots.

The winner needs a simple majority and 25 percent support in 24 of the country's 36 states to avoid a runoff.

In northern, predominantly Muslim states, where the opposition has a stronghold, preliminary results show a 50-50 split. Sunday night, the opposition was already crying foul.

"The masses are ready," an opposition leader said in a reference to a quote by a challenger who said last week that if the vote appeared unjust, he would mobilize "mass action."

Some 250,000 police and military officials have been deployed across Nigeria as the counting continued. Government officials such a move was a standard procedure to ensure Nigerians can go about their daily lives without interruption and to prevent any kind of "mischief-making."

There were isolated cases of fraud and scattered violence in the oil-rich south, where six people were killed, election monitors said.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in ethnic clashes in the country since 1999. Officials said they hope the minimal violence in this election underscores Nigeria's coming of age as a democratic nation after more than a decade of military rule ended in 1999.

Meanwhile, Obasanjo was sitting in his retreat in Ota, just outside Lagos, looking jovial. When asked how he was feeling, he said he had a sore throat.

"This has been a rough campaign," Obasanjo said.

Obasanjo, a Christian from the south who is seeking a second, four-year term in office, voted in his hometown of Abeokuta. His election four years ago ended 15 years of military rule.

Votes were also cast Saturday for state governors.

Last weekend's parliamentary elections were generally free of problems. Obasanjo's ruling People's Democratic Party posted solid victories.

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