Who to replace President Muhammadu Buhari, 79 years old and who does not stand for re-election at the end of his two terms? The upcoming campaign will have to decide between two main candidates who are fighting for his succession: Atiku Abubakar, of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC).
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But five months before the election, no favorite has yet emerged and, a rarity for the West African giant which returned to democracy in 1999, the candidates of the two main parties do not seem sure of being able to win from the start. first round. “Unlike the last six polls, the 2023 vote will not be a race at two candidates,” said Professor Dapo Thomas of the University of Lagos.
In Nigeria, turnout is generally low (33% in the 2019 presidential election) and young people are not the most active voters. Politics is also largely conditioned by the support and the millions of dollars that candidates can invest in a campaign. A total of 18 candidates, including a woman, are running. The poll will take place on February 25, 2023. Nigerians will also elect their parliamentary representatives.
Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar, both 70-something, wealthy and controversial, will have to convince voters in a country where 60% of the population is under 25, and where exasperation is growing with the accused old political class of corruption and poor governance.
The campaign which officially opens on September 28 will last five long months, which, according to analysts, could accentuate the internal battles within the parties and aggravate the divisions in this country already extremely polarized between a Muslim north and a Christian south.
One of the central topics of the 2023 presidential election is a Nigerian specificity: “zoning”. According to this tacit agreement, the presidency must alternate every two terms between a candidate from the North, mainly Muslim, and from the South, mainly Christian. This principle aims to maintain balance in a country with more than 250 ethnic groups and where tensions between communities are frequent.
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By what President Buhari is from the North, the presidency should be run by a candidate from the South. But the PDP chose to ignore the “zoning” by designating Atiku Abubakar, from the Northeast. In addition, the ruling party, the APC, is presenting a “Muslim Muslim” ticket: Bola Tinubu, a Muslim from the South, has chosen a vice-presidential candidate of the same faith as him.
Catastrophic balance sheet
The task promises to be tough for this former governor of Lagos who certainly enjoys immense influence, but who must carry the catastrophic toll of Muhammadu Buhari’s eight years in power. Nigeria has been going through a serious economic crisis since the coronavirus pandemic, then the Russian offensive in Ukraine, which sent food and fuel prices skyrocketing. Oil production continues to decline in the country which has lost its place as the leading producer of black gold on the African continent.
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By the end of the year, the number of people living in extreme poverty is expected to exceed 95 million, or nearly one in two Nigerians, according to World Bank projections. Shortages of gasoline and electricity poison the daily lives of its inhabitants. In addition to this economic slump, Nigeria faces almost generalized insecurity. Every day, the country experiences violence perpetrated by criminal and/or jihadist groups, and the authorities, regularly accused of corruption, are unable to them stem.