High hopes as 84 million Nigerians head to the polls

A record number of 73 candidates are on the ballot
People gather near information posters to find their polling stations at the office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) at the Aba South Local Government building in Aba on February 15, 2019, ahead of Nigeria’s presidential and legislative elections on February 16. – Nigerians are scheduled to cast their ballots on February 16, in presidential and legislative elections. (Photo by CRISTINA ALDEHUELA / AFP)

Nigeria made final preparations on the eve of a presidential election, with continuity pitted against reform in a battle between incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and his main rival Atiku Abubakar.

Buhari, the 76-year-old leader of Africa’s most populous nation, was elected in 2015 on a wave of hope he could defeat Boko Haram Islamists, tackle rampant corruption and boost the economy.

But he faces a stiff challenge from former vice-president Abubakar, 72, amid fears about widening insecurity, claims of creeping authoritarianism and economic incompetence.

Analysts were split over who would win Saturday’s ballot, which is the sixth in the 20 years since Nigeria returned to democracy after decades of miliary rule.

“It’s likely to be very, very tight,” said Nnamdi Obasi, senior Nigeria researcher at the International Crisis Group think-tank.

“Initially the president and the ruling party were way ahead in the race but in recent times the opposition has been seen to make a more vigorous and more robust campaign.

“We can’t say exactly how it will go,” he told BBC World Service radio.

A record number of 73 candidates are on the ballot but Buhari, from the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are considered the main contenders.

Your Friends Also Read:  EU to Sanction Mali Junta

Over 84 million people are registered to vote — up 18 percent on 2015 and another record, which has been taken as a sign of Nigeria’s developing democracy.

Also up for grabs are 360 seats in the lower House of Representatives and 109 in the Senate.

Nearly 120,000 polling units are set to open at 0700 GMT and close at 1600 GMT. 

No date has been given for the results, but an announcement is expected from early next week.

Electors face a choice between two elderly candidates who have both been part of the political elite for decades and do not mirror the country’s increasingly young demographic.

Just over half the registered voters are aged 18-35.

Chief among the criticisms against Buhari is security, with signs of a resurgence of Boko Haram in Nigeria’s remote northeast and new conflicts elsewhere.

His anti-corruption campaign has been described as one-sided, unduly targeting political opponents. 

Economic growth picked up last year after a recession in 2016 but remains sluggish. The cost of living is high in a country where most of the 190 million people live in poverty despite billions earned from oil.

Abubakar, 72, bills himself as a dynamic, modern, pro-business leader. But the former vice-president faces allegations about links to corruption.

Your Friends Also Read:  Morocco Arrests Terror Suspect in Joint Probe Operation with U.S

Buhari said in a televised address Thursday that reelection would give him the chance to fulfil his initial promises and complete vital infrastructure projects.

“There is no best candidate among them,” said Aliyu Jibrilla, a 70-year-old retired teacher in the Adamawa state capital, Yola, adding: “Intellectually… they’re not up to it”.

“It’s about time these old people go,” added Modibbo Sadiq, a 23-year-old university graduate.

In Buhari’s home town of Daura, in Katsina state, Abdulaziz Abdullahi agreed. “Ideally, the young generation should be in charge of country,” said the 25-year-old, who sells glasses.

“But they are not ready for the job.”

Security is a constant threat in Nigeria, after previous outbreaks of deadly election-linked violence. 

As a precaution, all vehicles have been ordered off the roads from 6am to 6pm Saturday.

Nigeria’s police chief Mohammed Adamu said the restrictions were designed to prevent “hoodlums and criminally-minded elements from hijacking and disrupting the electoral process”.

With a reinforced police and military presence on the streets Friday, the interior ministry announced that land borders will shut for 48 hours from midday.

Candidates have pledged to conduct peaceful elections and to accept the results, but there have been clashes in the southern state of Rivers.

Your Friends Also Read:  Rwanda Sends New Envoys to France, Qatar

APC candidates have been prevented from running in the parliamentary and governorship elections in Rivers because of a dispute over their selection.

Vote-rigging has marred previous Nigerian elections, and this year concerns have been raised both the APC and PDP may have sought to buy votes.

Red flags also went up after voter cards were distributed late, or not at all, and three fires in 12 days Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) offices.

Ahmad Ado Hasan, 21, a tailor and first-time voter in the northern city of Kano, said: “As a citizen, you should vote your choice, not sell your vote. 

“God has already destined the winner, we are only to confirm through our votes. So, vote buying is not the answer.”

All rights reserved. This material, and other digital content on this website, may not be reproduced, published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed in whole or in part without prior express written permission from News Central TV.

Contact: digital@newscentral.ng


Leave a Reply

Previous Article

Touchdown Nigeria: The ICC World Cup visits Lagos

Next Article

President of the DR Congo calls for 'better armed' UN peacekeepers

Related Posts
Powered by Live Score & Live Score App