In a closely contested race that was dominated by three political veterans, Nigerians will choose Major General Muhammadu Buhari (ret.) as their country’s next leader on Saturday.
The election is taking place while Africa’s most populous democracy struggles with a security problem, a slow economy, and growing poverty, and about 90 million people are eligible to vote.
For the first time in modern Nigerian history, a third contender has surfaced to take on the All Progressives Congress (APC) in power and the Peoples Democratic Party in the main opposition (PDP).
With Buhari leaving office after serving two terms, the APC’s Bola Tinubu, 70, a former governor of Lagos and political power broker, declares that “it’s my turn” to run for president.
Atiku Abubakar, a 76-year-old PDP contender and former vice president, is his longtime competitor and is making his sixth run for the presidency.
But the unexpected entry of Labour Party contender Peter Obi, 61, who is appealing to young people, has made the contest more competitive than it has been since the end of military rule in 1999.
This year, about 10 million new voters registered, the majority of them under the age of 34, constituting a sizable voting bloc if they turn out.
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Kabiru Sufi, a public affairs instructor at Kano State College, remarked, “It is not as easy to forecast as before.”
It’s challenging for us to anticipate with certainty what will most likely happen.
In addition to making many Nigerians furious and struggling more than normal in a nation already hard-hit by more than 20% inflation, cash and gasoline shortages in the days leading up to the election
Blessing Asabe, a 37-year-old seller in Lagos, said, “This future government should try and repair all the wrongs that this administration and prior governments have made.”
“That is why this election is incredibly critical for anyone we decide to choose.”
The National Assembly and Senate, Nigeria’s two legislative chambers, will also be up for election.
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A contender must receive the most votes and garner 25% of the vote in at least two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states in order to win the presidency.
An unprecedented result that some analysts believe is possible this time around would be a runoff between the two frontrunners if there was a tie.
The laws represent a nation that is virtually evenly divided between a mostly Muslim north and a predominantly Christian south, with three major ethnic groups spread over the country: Yoruba in the southwest, Hausa/Fulani in the north, and Igbo in the southeast.
Violence, racial tensions, vote-buying, and conflicts between supporters of opposing parties have all frequently characterized presidential elections in the past.
Moreover, voting frequently follows racial and religious divides.
This time, Tinubu is an ethnic Fulani Muslim from the south, Atiku is an ethnic Igbo Christian from the northeast, and Peter Obi is a southern Yoruba Muslim.
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Due to issues with the delivery of election materials in 2019, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) decided to postpone the election by one week before polls opened.
Today, the majority of experts think INEC is better equipped. In order to reduce fraud, biometric voter IDs have been implemented, and results will be sent online.
The vote will be protected by over 400,000 police and military personnel stationed across the nation.
Yet there are many security challenges.
The majority of jihadist activity is concentrated in the northeast, while bandit militias rule rural areas in the northwest and separatist gunmen have attacked INEC offices and police in the southeast.
Voting places are open from 07:30 until 13:30 GMT.
Votes should be counted within a few days, while INEC has not provided an estimated time frame for results. A 2022 law stipulates that the official results must be verified within 14 days after the election.
A runoff election must be held within 21 days if one is declared.
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