Nigerians are voting: what are their choices?

Spread the love

Nigerians vote&nbsp ;: what are their choices?

Overview of electoral issues, candidates and forces present in the most populous country in Africa.

Supporters of People's Democratic Party (PDP) candidate Atiku Abubakar take part in a rally in Abeokuta, in southwestern Nigeria on January 18, 2023.

Nigerians are due to elect a new president on February 25. But the ballot is far from their concerns, notes Gbemisola Animasawun, a professor at the Center for Peace and Strategic Studies at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria.

“The priority right now is survival.

— Gbemisola Animasawun, Professor, University of Ilorin, Nigeria

The latest crisis is caused by a shortage of cash, which follows the authorities' decision to replace old banknotes with new denominations. Nigerians had to redeem their notes by the January 31 deadline, after which they would no longer be legal tender.

So they took their old banknotes to the bank hoping to collect the new denominations at the ATM. But these were printed in insufficient numbers. People therefore cannot withdraw the new banknotes they need to pay for their daily purchases, in a country where cash payment is still the norm.

However, sellers no longer accept old tickets. As a result, long queues form in front of the banks. Even though the deadline has been pushed back, the situation is still chaotic.

People line up in front of an ATM to get new banknotes, in Lagos, on February 1, 2023.

This issue has become the main concern of Nigerians, says Mr. Animasawun.

It has taken over to such an extent that we see a reduction in the queues to obtain the permanent voter cards, observes t -he. Queues have now moved to gas stations and banks.

It is that in addition to the cash flow problem, Nigerians are facing a shortage of fuel. In front of gas stations, the queues are long.

“If you don' gasoline and you have no money, voting becomes secondary.

— Gbemisola Animasawun, Professor at the Center for Peace and Strategic Studies, University of Ilorin

If the economic issue is currently the priority, security is also a major issue for Nigerians. Across this great country of more than 200 million people, violent incidents are a daily occurrence.

Start of widget . Skip widget?End of the widget. Back to top of widget?

In the north, Islamists from Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa (ISWA) armed group continue to wreak havoc; further south, the Indigenous Peoples Movement of Biafra (Ipob), an armed separatist group, is accused of attacks on law enforcement and lately on the offices of the electoral commission, while in the Niger Delta, violence resurfaces from time to time.

In the center of the country, clashes between farmers and nomadic herders claim dozens of victims. In all regions, criminal groups kill, rob and practice kidnapping for ransom.

The security forces themselves are responsible for multiple abuses, which usually go unpunished.

Bandits attacked and looted the village of Kukawa in central Nigeria on April 12, 2022.

There is a real climate of violence, notes Vincent Hiribarren, lecturer at King's College London, who was, until last year, director of the Institute French Research in Africa (IFRA) in Ibadan, Nigeria.

“Everyday life, in all parts of the country, is difficult once the sun goes down. There is no sense of security. We are afraid of kidnappings, afraid of burglaries, afraid of the police…

—Vincent Hiribarren, lecturer at King's College London

Kidnappings for ransom are commonplace.

While in the north, Boko Haram and the ISWA practice organized kidnappings which they claim, in the south it is more opportunistic kidnappings, says Mr. Animasawun, carried out by occasional criminals, who see it as a way to make some money.

Gunmen attacked a train between the capital, Abuja, and Kaduna, in the north, in March 2022. They killed eight passengers and kidnapped dozens. Some were only released six months later.

Posters of ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate Kashim Shettima, in Lagos, on January 13, 2023.

The challenges facing the next president are monumental, says Leena Koni Hoffmann-Atar, Africa Program Fellow at Chatham House Institute, in London.

In addition to the security issue, the future leader will have to tackle several urgent economic projects, including the elimination of fuel subsidies (a corrupt, unproductive and ridiculously expensive system that costs the state more than 10 billion dollars annually). dollars), the unification of monetary policy, the fight against inflation and unemployment… The list is long.

It's not an enviable job, but it has to be done, believes Ms. Hoffmann-Atar. Several band-aids will have to be pulled off.

Eighteen candidates are in the running to replace Muhammadu Buhari, who, after two terms, cannot run again. The top three are:

  • Bola Tinubu, 70, represents the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
  • Atiku Abubakar, 76, is running on behalf of the main opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP). This is his sixth attempt to be elected president.
  • Peter Obi, 61, hopes to break the two-party system that has dominated Nigeria since the end of military rule in 1999. Atiku Abubakar's running mate in the last presidential election, he is now a candidate for the Labor Party.

Do the applicants have credible proposals to deal with the multiple challenges?

Not really, observes Mr. Animasawun. When you look carefully at the programs of the political parties, especially on the issue of security, they do not explain how they plan to go about it. None of them offer a convincing roadmap, he opines.

Political parties care little about presenting a detailed program because they hold taken for granted that voters will not consult them. People will vote for whoever offers them the most money for their vote, or whoever is of the same ethnicity as them, he says.

Labour Party candidate Peter Obi and his running mate Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed ( left), address the crowd at a rally in Ibadan, November 23, 2022.

However, the presence of a new candidate could change the situation. Peter Obi hopes to achieve a breakthrough, even if he does not have the support of any of the mainstream parties.

He has benefited from disillusionment and the dissatisfaction with the two main parties, notes Leena Koni Hoffmann-Atar. While the other two candidates are representatives of traditional politics and clientelism, Peter Obi wants to embody change.

With his speech that emphasizes transparency and accountability, he succeeded in channeling the dissatisfaction of young people.

“Les young people are thirsty for a new type of leadership, a new type of politics.

—Leena Koni Hoffmann-Atar, Africa Program Fellow at Chatham House Institute

Peter Obi can create a surprise in terms of the number of votes, underlines Vincent Hiribarren. He may not necessarily be elected President of Nigeria, but he can deprive his two main opponents of a sizable windfall of votes and he will surely be able to influence the second round of the election [scheduled for March 11 if no candidate won at least 25% of the vote in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states].

Protests against the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS) rocked Nigeria in the fall of 2020.

Young supporters of Peter Obi, who call themselves Obidients, could be a game-changer if they do exercise their right to vote. According to data from the Independent National Electoral Commission of Nigeria (INEC), 18-34 year olds make up 40% of voters.

“To what extent are young people going to show up on election day? If we have a high turnout, it will be a different election.

— Leena Koni Hoffmann-Atar, Africa Program Researcher at Chatham House Institute

Regardless of the outcome, the risk of violence is very high, believes, for his part, Mr. Animasawun.

I fear there will be post-election violence, he explains. The tension is very high. Both parties say the polls show them as winners, so what if the one who doesn't win says they were robbed of the election?

Despite everything Nigeria's problems, democratic alternation has been the norm there for nearly a quarter of a century.

That the election there takes place in a peaceful manner is essential for the stability of the country and to set an example in the region, writes in his last International Crisis Group report, which fears an increase in violence as February 25 approaches.

Previous Article
Next Article