Nigerian opposition leaders are already challenging Saturday’s presidential election by claiming over a million foreigners and “ghost voters” are registered to vote and the electoral commission has done little to clean up the roles.
People’s Democratic Party (PDP) chairman Uche Secondus held a news conference on Thursday at which he accused the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party of carrying out a “coordinated approach to register foreigners” for the presidential election, in which PDP candidate Atiku Abubakar is seen as a strong challenger to incumbent Muhammadu Buhari.
“A sick narrative has emerged, one of systemic and systematic rigging, manipulation of the true record of the voters’ register,” Secondus said.
He said the rolls include a large number of active entries for voters who are now deceased, which could be used to “induce voter suppression” in PDP strongholds by canceling out their votes with false ballots and “disenfranchising” them.
The Associated Press summed up the contest as a choice between “Abubakar, who pledges to wrest certain powers away from the federal government but is dogged by corruption allegations, and Buhari, who talks up agriculture and infrastructure but faces criticism for his performance on security and the economy.”
The AP found Buhari supporters relatively calm in the final days of campaigning, convinced the upcoming election will be as peaceful as the 2015 race, while Abubakar’s crowds seemed more agitated and less convinced the votes will be counted fairly.
“Nothing will happen in the north. We are people of faith,” one Buhari supporter said, alluding to the fact that both Buhari and Abubakar are Muslims from the northern region of Nigeria.
The New York Times, on the other hand, found a substantial degree of frustration among the entire Nigerian electorate, which expected much more economic growth when Buhari took office four years ago.
“He had four years and couldn’t do anything. Another four years won’t make a difference,” an Abubakar supporter said of Buhari.
Rural Nigerians complain the government boasts of spending vast sums to improve the economy, but none of the money seems to reach them. These voters are further irked by the enormous amounts of money Buhari, Abubakar, and their supporters have spent on the presidential campaign, which could be one of the most expensive ever held. Some of the largest campaign expenditures seem clearly beyond the limits imposed by Nigerian law.
Corruption is a major concern for voters, who wonder how their country can be Africa’s largest oil producer but still remain mired in poverty and skirting the edge of a recession.
Unemployment went from about eight percent when Buhari took office to over 23 percent today, giving businessman Abubakar an opening to run as the candidate who will “get Nigeria working again.”
“We the masses are suffering in this country. What we are seeing is negative change,” an Abubakar supporter who has been unable to find work since graduating college in 2015 told CBC News.
“Nigeria has a lot of potential, but how to harness it is a big problem in this country. We need a good leader who can diversify the economy, not depending on oil, oil, oil,” he added.