Nigeria dispatch: presidential contest among diverse civilian candidates may head to run-off Dispatches
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Nigeria dispatch: presidential contest among diverse civilian candidates may head to run-off

Lois Wosu is a JURIST Staff Correspondent in Nigeria, and a final year law student at Rivers State University. She reports from Port Harcount, in southern Nigeria.

Over 87 million out of the 93 million registered voters will cast their ballots on Saturday (today) to decide who takes over from Nigerian President Major General Muhammadu Buhari on May 29, 2023. According to the Independent National Electoral Commission, a total of 87,209,007 PVCs were collected, with 6,259,229 uncollected as of February 5.

The four major presidential candidates are Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, and Rabi’u Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party.  For the first time since the restoration of democracy in 1999, no candidate has a military background. One contender is a Christian.

Before a person can vote, he must be a Nigerian of 18 years of age or older, registered and in possession of a permanent voter card, and must appear in person at the polling unit. The voter will vote in the polling unit where his or her name is listed.

The election will run from 8.30am to 2.30pm.

Ballots will be counted at polling places at the close of voting and transmitted electronically in real-time to INEC’s Result Viewing portal (IReV), a first of its kind in Nigeria.

To win, a candidate must garner a sufficient number of ballots to meet the 25% vote spread in 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states. In the absence of this, a second round run-off between the top two candidates will be held within 21 days.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation, and this vote takes place against a backdrop of widespread insecurity, persecution, and corruption.

With no clear frontrunner going into Saturday, Nigeria may face another presidential first —a runoff election . In a nod to the nation’s ethnic diversity, a first-round winner must claim 50 percent of the overall tally as well as at least 25 percent of votes in 24 of 36 regional states.

Each leading candidate represents one of the three largest groups in Nigeria. Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is a Fulani Muslim from Nigeria’s north. So is outgoing president Muhammadu Buhari, who at age 80 is completing his second of two constitutionally limited four-year terms.

Bola Tinubu is a Yoruba Muslim from the southwest, represents Buhari’s All Progressive Congress (APC). The incumbent party won elections for the first time in 2015 when Tinubu, the former Lagos governor, offered his considerable political heft. He now openly proclaims it’s “his turn” for the presidency.

The third candidate is Peter Obi, an Igbo Christian from the southeast. A political free agent formerly with the PDP, the Catholic politician joined the then-minor Labour party last May just prior to the primaries. Now he is riding a wave of youth-led popularity, with many seeing in him an alternative to an aging political class.

Beyond the ethnic, regional, and political aspects to the race, there are also the religious ones. Nigeria is roughly divided 50–50 between Christians and Muslims. All these factors contribute to making this year’s contest/presidential election far different than the norm or usual.