Former Ghanian President John Kufuor told Reuters Nigeria could sent an example for Africa with at least a dozen more African polls due this year.
African Union calls Nigeria's presidential election "refreshing" and says the results will have a "positive" impact on the continent.
"The people of Nigeria, all over, have of course shown determination to exercise franchise, and give themselves the leader they want, and it's refreshing," Kufuor said.
"Given Nigeria's position on the continent of Africa, I expect the development, we have yet to know the results, but given with what has transpired so far I expect the development here would have a very positive impact on the continent," he added.
President Goodluck Jonathan took an unassailable lead on Sunday as votes were tallied from around the country, despite a strong showing by rival Muhammady Buhari in his mainly-Muslim strongholds.
Buhari, a former military ruler from the arid, dustblown north, was hoping 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 that looked impossible with a Reuters tally of results from 30 of 36 states across Africa's most populous nation showing Jonathan on 20.3 million votes to 10.4 million for Buhari.
There were not enough registered voters in the remaining states for Buhari to make up the difference.
Kufuor said the conduct of the elections were fair and credible and any questions of fraud would be misplaced.
"The impression we got so far is that matters have been handled reasonably fairly and creditably. So, it would be very difficult for a loser to come up with accusations and allegations that would derail the system," Kufuor said.
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.
Turnout was high in the oil region, where people often did not bother to vote in the past because they knew results would be rigged and feared intimidation by heavily armed thugs.
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