NIGERIA: On Saturday, tens of millions of Nigerians go to the polls to cast their votes in a close and uncertain race for the presidency and parliament of Africa’s most populous country and its largest economy.
The main candidates in the most competitive race since 1999, when Nigeria transitioned from army rule to democracy, include two political veterans from each of the two major parties and a candidate from a minor party who opinion polls indicate has a chance because of support from young voters.
Buhari, a former army general, is stepping down after working for the maximum eight years permitted by the constitution. However, he has not succeeded in restoring security and order to Nigeria, the continent’s top oil producer.
More than 93 million people have registered to vote for the National Assembly and the next president, and there will be about 176,600 polling places available from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. (0730 GMT to 1330 GMT).
As soon as the polls close, votes will be counted, and the results will be displayed outside of polling places. Within five days of the election, the 36 state totals and the federal capital Abuja are anticipated.
The run-up to the election has been tarnished by violence, a trend seen in previous elections in Nigeria, with the assassination of a senatorial candidate on Wednesday being the most recent in a series of serious incidents.
The election takes place as Nigerians struggle to deal with a cash shortage brought on by a botched plan to exchange old bank notes for new ones. This has disrupted people’s daily lives and resulted in violent scenes at banks and ATMs.
The incoming president will also have to tackle problems like high inflation, extreme poverty, and energy shortages, as well as an Islamist insurgency in the northeast, large-scale oil theft in the south, and widespread criminal activity.
Main contenders for Nigeria elections
Two parties, the governing APC and the PDP, have held sway over Africa’s most populous nation since 1999. The Labour Party’s Peter Obi, who is supported by many young people, is a formidable challenger this time around as a third-party candidate.
The main contenders in the contest to replace Buhari are former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 76, of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party; former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu, 70, of the ruling All Progressives Congress; and former Anambra State governor Peter Obi, 61, of the smaller Labour Party.
Both Tinubu and Atiku, as he is known in Nigeria, are political heavyweights with extensive networks and deep campaign funds. Atiku is a Fulani from the northeast, while Tinubu is an ethnic Yoruba from the southwest. Both are Muslims.
Although Obi, an Igbo Christian, lacks a strong political machine, he has used a clever social media campaign to stoke tremendous enthusiasm among youth voters, some of whom have even taken the name “Obidients.”
Although electoral violence and fraud have a long history in Nigeria, recent elections have seen a gradual improvement. On Wednesday, the parties and contenders for president vowed to support an orderly and open election.
In order to ensure this election is free and fair, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) contends it has implemented new technology and procedures. One such system is the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS), which uses biometric data to identify voters.
Analysts have cautioned that there are still risks associated with the lack of funds, which could leave struggling citizens susceptible to vote-buying by candidates, and the lack of fuel, which could make it difficult for INEC to send personnel and equipment to all areas.
On Thursday, US Vice President Joe Biden urged candidates and parties to accept the election’s results as reported by INEC. He also urged all Nigerians, particularly young voters, to cast their votes.
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