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Counting votes for a new president in Nigeria

Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country, started counting votes for a new president on Sunday, a day after an election that was historically close between three frontrunners.

The election on Saturday, which almost 90 million people were able to participate in, was held mostly without incident, but some people had to wait until after dark because of delays, technological difficulties, and other factors.

Following two terms, many Nigerians are hopeful that a new leader would be able to better address the rampant insecurity, joblessness, and rising poverty that have plagued the country under Buhari’s tenure.

Former Lagos governor and All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate Bola Tinubu, 70, faces up against Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president and current candidate for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and Nigeria’s sixth candidate for president.

Yet Labour’s Peter Obi, a third-party candidate, has challenged the APC and PDP supremacy with a promise of change for the first election since the end of military rule in 1999.

The initial results were counted by hand and read out by election officials before being sent to a central database late Saturday in Lagos and other locations.

In her role as an IT manager, Chizoba Onuoha was there at the voting booth in Lagos to see the count.

A three-horse race

Given the close nature of the three-way race, some observers believe that if no candidate receives the necessary votes to win the election, there will be a historic runoff between the two frontrunners.

Voters in several voting centres in Lagos and other cities experienced significant delays due to late starts by election authorities and technical issues with voter ID equipment, which continued well into the night.

One polling district in north-west Kano city received voting materials five hours after the polls officially opened, an AFP journalist said.

“Voting is still in progress much past the authorised hours,” claimed 37-year-old voter Kabiru Sani. While we may have gotten our start later than others, we refuse to be disenfranchised because of it.

Election day on Saturday was relatively uneventful in a nation where polls are sometimes marred by assaults, violent fights between opposing supporters, and ethnic tensions.

According to INEC, some polling stations in Lagos were broken into, voter identification devices were stolen in other states, and voting in 141 polling units in southern Bayelsa State was postponed till Sunday due to disruptions.

The 14-year Islamist insurgency in the north-east, which has displaced two million people, bandit militias in the north-west, and separatist gunmen in the south-east all played significant roles in the election.

Issues of great complexity

Democracy in West Africa has taken a hit due to recent coups in Mali and Burkina Faso as well as rising Islamic terrorism, therefore the outcome of the next election in Nigeria will be widely followed.

Former military leader Buhari has decided to leave office after serving two terms.

Many people in Nigeria feel unsafe because of his administration.

Candidate for the All Progressives Congress (APC) and a long-time political kingmaker in the south, Tinubu is now 70 years old and claims, “It’s my turn” to be president. APC is a solid organisation, and he has a strong political network to back him up.

His opponent is PDP candidate Abubakar, 76, who is making his sixth run for the presidency and is campaigning on the basis of his business acumen.
Nonetheless, they are both stalwarts of the establishment who have overcome corruption allegations in the past.

Obi, 61, of the Labour Party, has left the contest wide open by entering as a third contender and appealing to youthful people.

Also on the ballot are candidates for the National Assembly and the Senate, the two chambers of government in Nigeria.

Any candidate who receives more than 50 percent of the popular vote in at least 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states would be declared the winner of the president.

The top two vote-getters will face off in a runoff election after 21 days if no candidate receives an outright majority.

The laws reflect a nation that is roughly divided down the middle between Muslim northerners and Christian southerners, with Yoruba in the south-west, Hausa/Fulani in the north, and Igbo in the south-east as the three primary ethnic groupings throughout the regions.

Voting in Nigeria often follows strict racial and religious lines. Tinubu, a Muslim Yoruba from the south, Abubakar, a Muslim Fulani from the north, and Obi, a Christian Igbo from the east, make up the current trio.

Many Nigerians had a harder time than normal before the election because of fuel and currency shortages brought on by a bank note swap. Inflation in Nigeria is now at over 20%.

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