At least 72 million people in Nigeria, the most populous democracy in Africa, are expected to go to the polls during the delayed general elections on Saturday to choose a new president and members of the country’s National Assembly lawmaking body.
Over 70 candidates are vying for the presidency in Nigeria, but only two have a real a chance at winning: incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari from the All Progressives Congress (APC) and former vice-president Atiku Abubakar, a former vice president from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP).
Hours before the election was scheduled to start on February 16, Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) postponed the vote until Saturday, citing logistical issues.
Citing INEC data, Nigeria’s Leadership daily reported Friday that “a total of 72,775,502 million Nigerians have collected their PCVs [permanent voter’s cards] and now qualify to cast their votes in tomorrow’s polls to elect Nigeria’s president for the next four years.”
The figure marks a 10-million drop from the 84 million who had registered to vote as of the beginning of the year. No one is allowed to vote in Nigeria without a PCV.
Mahmood Yakubu, the INEC chairman, noted, “The last date for the collection of PVCs was Monday, February 11, 2019. Out of 84,004,084 registered voters, the total number of PVCs collected stands at 72,775,502 million, which represents 86.63% of the total PVCs collected.”
President Buhari ordered the Nigerian federal police and armed forces to be “ruthless” with any attempts to tamper with the vote following the last-minute decision to postpone the general election.
Violence at the hands of Boko Haram and its Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL) offshoot has disenfranchised voters, the Associated Press (AP) reported Friday, noting:
Over 84 million Nigerians are registered voters in this West African country of more than 190 million. But in some parts of the north, where an insurgency by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has killed more than 27,000 people and displaced millions, thousands likely won’t be able to participate in the election.
There are concerns about whether voting can take place at all in some areas facing arson attacks by alleged militants.
INEC chairman Yakubu, however, reportedly claimed that decision to postpone the vote “had nothing to do with security, nothing to do with political influence.”
The opposition has blasted President Buhari for his inability to decimate Boko Haram.
Both Buhari and Abubakar condemned the INEC move to delay the elections and accused each other of trying to manipulate the vote.