1677312988 Elections in Nigeria young people the deciding factor

Elections in Nigeria: young people the deciding factor

Observers see the elections as an important “turning point”. “The elections will determine what policies and decisions the country takes to extricate itself from the economic and security hole it currently finds itself in,” Nigeria expert Leena Koni Hoffmann of the Chatham House think tank told ORF.at. “Everything is at stake.”

The large country with more than 200 million inhabitants is considered a pioneer of democracy across Africa, but it also faces political, social and economic crises. 17 candidates and one female candidate are now running for president. After two terms, the 80-year-old incumbent, Muhammadu Buhari, is no longer eligible to run.

Woman before the election poster

Portal/Esa Alexander 18 candidates are running in Nigeria’s presidential election, with gubernatorial elections due in March

Two of three candidates at the top of the field over 70

Three candidates in particular can wait for his successor. However, the representatives of the two biggest parties are not much younger than Buhari. Bola Ahmed Tinubu, candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC) party and a close confidant of Buhari, is 70 years old. Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the main opposition party, is 76 years old.

Tinubu, in particular, can rely on an extensive party network. APC currently controls 21 of the 36 states. According to analysis by the think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), their support is likely to be particularly strong in the south and northwest. His opponents accuse him of enriching himself during his tenure as governor of Lagos state. He has always denied these accusations.

More than 250 ethnicities

The largest ethnic groups in Nigeria include:

  • Hausa: Muslim, especially in the north
  • Yoruba: no dominant religion, majority in southwest
  • Igbo: Christian, dominant in the south

Sixth try for Abubakar

Former Vice President Abubakar is running for president for the sixth time. His supporters see him as an opportunity to unite the ethnically and religiously divided country because of his open attitude towards hiring workers and marrying women across ethnic boundaries.

For some, however, the fact that with Abubakar after Buhari another northern Hausa Muslim would take office speaks against it. Following tradition, the President alternates between North and South. There are almost no major ideological differences between the candidates of the two main parties.

Outsiders in the fast lane

The outcome of the election is difficult to predict. In several current polls, however, it is not the two candidates backed by the main parties that currently lead, but one who started the race as an outsider. As a former governor, Peter Obi, an Igbo from the south of the country, already had experience in politics. However, the 61-year-old has made a career out of business and more recently switched from the PDP to the smaller Labor Party. If he manages to reach the presidency, it will be a novelty: for several decades no Igbo has reached that position.

presidential candidate Peter Obi

AP/Sunday Alamba Peter Obi was seen as an outsider in the presidential election and now leads many polls

The decisive factor in Obi’s victory is the high attendance. In 2019, voter turnout among those under 35 was just 46%. In his program, however, he differs little from his two challengers: revive the economy, create security, invest in education. Obi gained the image of the reformer.

election campaign on social networks

His supporters mainly include young Nigerians who hope he will bring change and a fight against rampant corruption. Many of those who took to the streets against police violence in the fall of 2020 are now among Obi’s supporters. The boys’ votes can be the deciding factor in the voting decision. Obi mainly relies on social networks such as Twitter and Instagram.

Graph showing the age distribution of registered voters

Graph: ORF; Source INEC Nigeria

However, social networks have gained importance across the country. An estimated 80 million Nigerians have access to the Internet. Nigerian political parties secretly paid influencers to spread misinformation about their political opponents ahead of the election, according to BBC research. Two prominent influencers confirmed to the BBC that a veritable “industry” had developed – fake political cash contributions, lavish gifts and also political appointments.

“A Counterbalance to Venality and Greed”

In any case, in its analysis, the ICG sees Obi as a “counterweight” to “what many see as the venality and greed of the political establishment”. He is mainly supported by young voters and Igbo’s middle and lower classes. Non-Igbos hope through Obi to bring greater equality between ethnic groups.

Voters in Nigeria as they wait

APA/AFP/Benson Ibeabuchi In a complex process, more than 90 million voters registered

As the former governor of Anambra state, Obi was considered particularly thrifty with public funds, the ICG reported. But he lacks party networks like the APC and PDP candidates, and therefore publicly accessible funds. Even in the predominantly Muslim north and Tinubu-controlled Yoruba stronghold with the metropolis of Lagos, Obi may have trouble getting enough votes.

Presidential election in Nigeria

Elections will be held on Saturday in the great, poor African country of Nigeria. For the first time, there are three promising candidates, the election result is more open than ever and the security situation is extremely tense.

fight against electoral fraud

The challenges that Buhari’s successor will have to overcome are great. The country is struggling with massive security issues caused by gang crime and ethnic tensions, economic problems and corruption. Young, well-educated Nigerians, in particular, suffer from high unemployment.

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African giant with shaky legs

Civilian governments have been in power in Nigeria for nearly a quarter of a century. In the past, there have always been logistical delays, violence and allegations of electoral fraud and vote buying in elections. The Nigerian electoral commission INEC wanted to encourage voter fraud with biometric processes – i.e. fingerprints and facial recognition to identify voters.

In addition, ballot papers will be sent electronically from polling stations to the capital, Abuja. However, there are reports that politicians are using other strategies to buy the votes of poorer citizens, says the ICG report. According to a survey carried out at the end of last year, more than a quarter of registered voters, around 24 million, would be willing to sell their votes.

Big security concerns

400,000 police are expected to provide security around the elections. 240 new polling stations are not used due to insecurity. Since the start of the election campaign in the autumn, there have been several attacks on electoral authority offices. For security reasons, freedom of movement is restricted on election day itself.

police on the street

AP/Domingo Alamba About 400,000 police will ensure security around the elections

Bulama Bukarti of the Tony Blair Institute for Global Change in London sees the security problems as a “critical and serious threat to Nigeria’s democracy”: “Non-State armed groups will do everything in their power to disrupt elections in Nigeria. Only a few days before the election, an opposition Labor candidate for the Senate was shot dead on his way back from a campaign rally in a suspected political attack.

Universities closed for several weeks

Universities were forced to close for three weeks. Educational institutions have repeatedly been targets of attacks and hijackings in the past. This measure also ensures that young voters can vote, as this is only possible in their own constituency.

An unsuccessful exchange of notes made things even more difficult, which caused a huge shortage of money because there were few notes available or they were only available at high prices on the black market. The Electoral Commission warned that the shortage of fuel and money could affect the payment of logistics personnel and the transport of materials needed for the vote, reported the Foreign Policy.

And the government’s hope that the exchange of currencies and the consequent reduction in the amount of money will end vote buying is quite unlikely. After all, votes can also be bought with dollars.