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February 23, 2019

Nigerians elect next president


Sat, Feb 23, 2019

Nigerians went to the polls on Saturday to elect their new president, in a tight and tense race between the outgoing head of state and a former vice president, despite organizational chaos and threats to security in several areas. from the country.

Outgoing President Muhammadu Buhari was one of the first voters, voting in his hometown of Daura (Katsina State, North): "So far so good (...) Soon I will congratulate myself on my victory. the winner, "said the head of state, 76, accompanied by his wife.

His main opponent, the 72-year-old opponent Atiku Abubakar, arrived shortly afterwards at a polling station in Yola, Adamawa State (northeast), who also came with his wife.

In traditional green and white dress in the colors of the Nigerian flag and cap screwed on the head, the former vice president (1999-2007), was applauded by dozens of supporters. Taking the same formula as his opponent, he also assured that "so far so good".

A journalist who asked him if he would accept the results of the vote in case of failure, Abubakar replied: "I am a democrat".

Other voting issues: Voters will have to renew the 360 ​​seats in the House of Representatives and 109 in the Senate.

Rocket fire and dynamite 

The approximately 120,000 polling stations were due to open at 08:00 (0700 GMT) but in many places, including Lagos or Abuja, the election materials were not ready and the queues were getting longer.

In Port Harcourt, voters queued as they heard explosions of dynamite in various parts of the city, where criminal groups are often paid by local politicians to disrupt the elections.

"In Rivers State, we are used to this sort of thing," said Godspower Ekeate, an elector. "We just hope that it will not degenerate into violence during the vote or the counting of ballots," he told AFP, with an ounce of resignation.

In Maiduguri, capital of Borno State, and stronghold for incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, a dozen rockets were fired at the city, leaving one dead and 20 wounded among soldiers stationed to fight the Boko Haram insurgency .

On Friday, Chad announced to AFP that it has sent 500 soldiers to Nigeria to assist in the fight against the jihadists.

After this exhausting week following the postponement of the vote, initially scheduled for 16 February, but postponed a few hours before the start of the vote by the Electoral Commission, tension has mounted a notch in the most populous country in Africa. which is also its first economy and one of the largest oil producers in the world.

Extreme poverty 

87 million Nigerians live in extreme poverty and the numbers are getting worse by the day in this country of 190 million people.

The winner of this election will have to revitalize the economy at half-mast since the recession of 2016-2017, fight against endemic corruption and secure many parts of the country, prey to armed groups or criminal gangs.

Former General Buhari, 76, candidate of the Congress of Progressists (APC), had already led the country in 1983 during military dictatorships. It has a very strong, fanatical support in the north of the country and could benefit from the population explosion in this region and its promises to fight corruption.

Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, 72, also from the north (Adamawa State), has had a career in Christian South, particularly in Lagos, and remains the candidate of the middle and upper classes who traditionally vote little.

He is also a millionaire businessman, which gives him heavy suspicions about the origin of his fortune and accusations of corruption, but greater confidence in economic matters.

He accused the head of state this week of "never having been a democrat" and "never having believed in democracy", after his comment urging the army to be "merciless" to the fraudsters .

Both sides accused themselves of sabotaging the vote and preparing for fraud. Election violence has already killed 233 people since October, according to the surveillance firm SBM Intelligence. And the Nigerian Crisis Communication Center (made up of representatives of security agencies) has listed 12 of the 36 states as hotbeds of potential violence.

To be elected in the first round, the winner must obtain, in addition to the majority of votes cast, at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of the 36 states of the federation plus the territory of the federal capital, Abuja. Otherwise a second round will take place in a week.

No date has been given for the results, but they are usually announced within 48 hours of the vote.