Nigerians begin voting in crucial polls


For the first time in Nigeria’s modern history, three candidates have emerged in the race for the top office usually dominated by two parties…reports Asian Lite News

Nigeria’s presidential and parliamentary elections kicked off as voters went to the polls nationwide to elect a new president and members of the national assembly.

Polling stations will stay open until the last accredited voter in the queue casts his or her vote, an official of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the country’s electoral body, said at a polling station in Abuja, the capital of Nigeria, on Saturday.

Musa Galadima, a voter, said Nigerians were determined to freely exercise their civic responsibilities in a credible, free, and fair election process.

A total of 87.2 million citizens who have received voters card are expected to vote in the elections across the country, Mahmood Yakubu, chairman of the INEC, told a press conference on Friday.

Eighteen presidential candidates will take part in the presidential election.

For the first time in Nigeria’s modern history, 3 candidates have emerged in the race for the top office usually dominated by 2 parties.

With Buhari stepping down after two terms in office, the APC’s Bola Tinubu, 70, a former Lagos governor and political kingmaker, says “It’s my turn” for the presidency.

He faces a familiar rival — PDP candidate and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, 76, who is on his sixth bid for the top job.

But the emergence of a surprise third candidate appealing to young voters, Labour Party’s Peter Obi, 61, has thrown the race open for the first time since the end of military rule in 1999.

“This coming government should try and correct all the wrongs that this administration and other administrations have made,” said Lagos vendor Blessing Asabe, 37.

To win the presidency, a candidate must get the most votes, but also win 25 percent in two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states.

The rules reflect a country where a mostly Muslim  Nigerians live in the north and Christians in the south.  The nation’s three main ethnic groups across regions: Yoruba in southwest, Hausa/Fulani in the north and Igbo in the southeast. Some experts have said voting also often falls along ethnic and religious lines.

This time, Tinubu is a southern Yoruba Muslim, Atiku is an ethnic Fulani Muslim from the northeast and Peter Obi is a Christian Igbo from the southeast.

The presidential elections have in the past often been marked by violence, ethnic tensions, vote-buying and clashes between supporters of rival parties.

In 2019, hours before polls opened, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) postponed the election by a week because of problems delivering election materials.

Today, most experts see INEC as being more prepared. It has introduced biometric voter IDs to help prevent fraud and results will be transmitted electronically.

If no candidate wins, a runoff will take place between the two frontrunners, an unprecedented outcome that some analysts say is a possibility this time around. If a runoff is declared, the vote has to take place within 21 days.

Violence reported

Nigerian police have said that several polling stations had been attacked by gunmen in Lagos, the nation’s economic hub, during the presidential and national assembly polls.

Idowu Owohunwa, the police chief in Lagos, told reporters at a press conference in Lagos, that 25 staff of the Independent National Electoral Commission deployed to the affected polling stations in the Oshodi area of Lagos have been evacuated with electoral materials to the state police headquarters.

No one has died in the attacks so far, and security has been beefed up in the areas concerned, Owohunwa said, adding the election exercise has been peaceful in most parts of the state.

According to the official News Agency of Nigeria, yet-to-be-identified “thugs” attacked on Saturday some polling stations in the southern state of Delta and the northern state of Katsina, carting away some electronic devices designed to read voter cards and authenticate voters.

Grave security problems

When casting their ballot for the general elections, Nigerians considered key issues such as: the high cost of living, corruption and insecurity.

Internally displaced people voting at the Malkohi camp in Yola, north-eastern Nigeria, looked forward to a positive transformation of the country.

Grave security problems plague the nation (violent jihadist insurgency in the north-east, separatist tensions in the south, rising crime in the north-west and center).

“The one thing we want the new leader to do for us the IDPs is for him to bring us back home so that we can live like normal human beings in our own home. That is all we want,» Idris Abdullahi, farmer a who was displaced from Gwoza said.

A fellow countryman Umaru Abubakar doubled down. “When the new Government takes office, we hope that they will help us, the IDPS, since we also came out to vote. We hope that we will be treated equally because we too are like citizens of this land now.”

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