For the first time since its return to democracy in 1999, Nigeria could have two rounds of presidential elections. Elections like this have never looked so open and unpredictable in the country. Incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, 80, is completing his second term and will not seek re-election under the constitution.
Under his administration, the West African giant plunged into severe economic crisis. The past few years have been marked by several controversial measures: unilateral closure of its borders between August 2019 and December 2020, restriction of imports of several basic food items. By the end of October 2022, the central bank decided to replace all the country’s currency notes with new denominations without consultation. A decision that resulted in cash shortages.
The record on the safety front is not great. In northeastern Nigeria, the Islamic State in West Africa (EIAO) has taken over the historic branch of Boko Haram, some of which are still active. In the southeast, armed separatists destroyed dozens of public buildings, polling stations or police stations, killing several members of the security forces. Additionally, armed groups are nicknamed “Robbers” They are spreading terror in the northwest, which has been hit by an explosion of kidnapping for ransom in the past two years.
Youth turnout was studied
On Saturday, February 25, 94 million voters have been invited to cast their ballots in nearly 180,000 polling stations to elect Muhammadu Buhari’s successor. Youth votes are particularly scrutinized, with 65% of the population under 25 and 39% of those registered under 35.
Four candidates stand out among the eighteen in the race, dominating a chessboard “Sponsorship”In a country where 112 million people – more than half of the population – live on less than 1.90 dollars a day, the money is used specifically to help politicians pick inferior successors, and buy the votes of the most vulnerable voters (1.80 euros).
It is common for the two main candidates to be rich septuagenarians. The party of the outgoing majority, the Congress of Progressives (APC) is represented by Bola Tinubu, the 70-year-old former governor of Lagos and considered the “kingmaker” of Nigerian politics. A Yoruba, Muslim, originally from the south of the country, he relies on the vast network he has woven in his years as head of the metropolis of more than 20 million people.
Opposing him, Atiku Abubakar, a 76-year-old Hausa Muslim from northern Nigeria, is contesting the presidential election for a sixth term under the colors of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Besides, by winning his party’s primaries despite the norm of choosing a candidate from the south of the country, he made two notable departures: on the one hand, Rabiu Kwankwaso, the former governor of the Muslim state of Kano – Nigeria’s second most populous state – joined the new Nigeria People’s Party. (NNPP) broke ranks to join. On the other hand, Peter Obi, a former governor of Anambra state in South-Eastern Nigeria, has reserved himself to run for the Labor Party (LP).
Since then, these two “The Outsiders” The campaign headlines give reporters a hard time. Especially Peter Obi, who has positioned himself as the third man and hero of the youth in this presidential election. “The fact that we are still talking about him on the eve of the election is quite exceptional.”, confirms Afolabi Adekayayoja, researcher at the Center for Democracy and Development (CDD) in Abuja. The LP candidate was able to tap into the thirst for change of the increasingly politicized urban youth. The #endsars movement against police violence that mobilized Nigerians in October 2020 “Evidence of Growing Civic Engagement in the Country” According to Afolabi Adekaiyaoja.
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Fragmentation of the electorate along social and religious lines may work in favor of Peter Obi. As the only Christian candidate, he can count on the votes of moderate Ibos – his ethnic group – who need representation in Nigeria’s southeast. Many Nigerians feel that in order to live in this country, people of the same ethnic and religious group as them must be in power.”, Woe to the CDD analyst who believes that “This potential has been accentuated under the Buhari administration”.
However, Peter Obi’s chances of victory could be undermined by the polls, which are still high in Nigeria. This broke records in the 2019 elections where only one-third of the electorate participated. Insecurity but also the acute cash crunch currently plaguing the country may prevent more than one person from going to the polls. However, to win the first round of this election, a candidate must collect a majority of votes and get 25% of the votes in two-thirds of the country’s 36 states, while ensuring victory in the capital, Abuja.
Results are expected early next week and the uncertain outcome of the election in particular raises fears of post-election violence. “The process is designed to be safe, fair and reliable for Nigeria”, the United States, Australia, Norway, Japan, Canada and the United Kingdom said in a joint statement. On Twitter, President Muhammadu Buhari meanwhile urged Nigerians to own the country “Safe, united and peaceful”.
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