Nigerian’s vote for their president in a closely contested race
After serving two terms in office, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari will step down, and the country will elect a new president in a closely contested race on Saturday.
Three political veterans, including former Lagos governor and political kingmaker, Bola Tinubu, will vie for the presidency in the rulling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Meanwhile, the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) candidate and former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, is on his sixth attempt at the top job.
The emergence of a third candidate, Labour Party’s Peter Obi, has also thrown the race open to young voters, with nearly 10 million new voters registered this year, most of them under 34, representing a crucial bloc if they show up to vote.
The country is however facing a security crisis, a sluggish economy, and increasing poverty, posing significant challenges for the incoming leader.
“It is not easy to predict as before,” said Kano State College public affairs lecturer Kabiru Sufi.
“It’s difficult for us to make an easy prediction as to what is going to be the likely outcome.”
The shortage of cash and fuel in the days leading up to the election has intensified the struggle for many Nigerians, causing widespread anger in a country already grappling with more than 20% inflation.
“This coming government should try and correct all the wrongs that this administration and other administrations have made,” said Lagos vendor Blessing Asabe, 37.
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In addition to election the next president, Nigerians will also vote for the members of the National Assembly and Senate.
In order to become the President of Nigeria, a candidate must secure the majority of votes and also win at least 25% in two-thirds of the country’s 36 states.
If no candidate meets these requirements, a runoff election will be held between the two leading candidates. This scenario is considered a possibility by some analysts for the election.
These rules reflect Nigeria’s demographic makeup, which is almost equally divided between the mostly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south, and features three main ethnic groups across different regions: Yoruba in the southwest, Hausa/Fulani in the north, and Igbo in the southeast.
Historically, Nigeria’s presidential elections have been marred by violence, ethnic tensions, vote-buying, and clashes between supporters of rival political parties. Voting patterns have often followed ethnic and religious lines.
For the current election, the leading candidates represent different regions and religions: Tinubu, a southern Yoruba Muslim; Atiku, an ethnic Fulani Muslim from the northeast; and Peter Obi, a Christian Igbo from the southeast.
In the 2019 election, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the polls by a week due to issues with delivering election materials. Experts however today believe that INEC is better prepared, having introduced biometric voter IDs to prevent fraud and implementing electronic transmission of results.
Approximately 400,000 police and troops will be deployed across Nigeria to ensure the safety and security of voters, although security challenges remain significant.
Jihadist groups are mostly active in the northeast, while bandit militias control rural communities in the northwest. Separatist gunment have also targeted INEC offices and police in the southeast.
Polling stations will open at 0730 GMT and close at 1330 GMT. Although INEC has not provided a specific timeline for the release of results, it is anticipated that the votes will be tallied within a few days.
According to a 2022 law, the official results must be confirmed within 14 days of the election.