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Nigerians are keen to make their mark and welcome a new president

23 February 2023
Reading time: 9 minutes

This Saturday, February 25, more than 93.4 million people in Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria, will be heading to polling stations across the country to cast their ballots in the general elections – but it’s not an easy time for Nigerians and it might not be an easy vote for many.

The country is beset with problems: There is insurgency in the northeast; bandits and kidnappers in the northwest; secessionist groups in the southeast; farmer-herder conflicts and armed groups causing mayhem in the north-central; and violent protests and civil unrest mostly in the southwest and south-south caused by the scarcity of the new naira banknotes and difficulties with the cash-swap policy put in place to exchange old naira notes for the new ₦1,000, ₦500 and ₦200 currency.


On Saturday, Nigerians will cast their votes to elect a new president and vice-president, as well as members of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

On Saturday, March 11, elections will be held for 28 governorship seats and 993 state houses of assembly posts.

Citizens will be exercising their democratic and constitutional right to vote, despite the numerous challenges confronting them, such as the huge hike in the price of fuel, lingering insecurity and the scarcity of the new naira banknotes, which has been exacerbated by the poorly executed cash-swap policy that has resulted in violent protests, including attacks on financial institutions and, in some cases, even the destruction of automated teller machines (ATMs) and punch-ups as large crowds spend hours in queues trying, often in vain, to get into banks to exchange notes or to draw or deposit money.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has said there is a total of 93,469,008 registered voters. This figure was disclosed by INEC after the final clean-up of the voters’ register, which included the removal of double registrations and underage voters. And, despite the problems in the country, the electoral umpire has been at pains to reiterate its commitment to the public that the 2023 general elections will go ahead as planned without a postponement.


INEC’s voter distribution shows that 44,414,846 registered voters are female and 49,054,162 male.

Of the total registered voters, the number of young people between the ages of 18 and 34 is 37,060,399, representing 39.65% of the total registered voters; the number of elderly people – between the ages of 50 and 69 – is 17,700,270, representing 18.94% of the total registered voters.

Lagos has the highest number of registered voters with 7,060,195, followed by Kano with 5,921,370 and Kaduna with 4,335,208.

There are 2,120,808 registered voters in Abia; 2,196,566 in Adamawa; 2,357,418 in Akwa-Ibom; 2,656,437 in Anambra; 2,749,268 in Bauchi; 1,056,862 in Bayelsa; 2,777,727 in Benue; 2,513,281 in Borno; 1,766,466 in Cross River; 3,221,697 in Delta; 1,597,646 in Ebonyi; 2,501,081 in Edo; 987,647 in Ekiti; 2,112,793 in Enugu; 1,570,307 in FCT; 1,575,794 in Gombe; 2,419,922 in Imo; 2,351,298 in Jigawa; 3,516,719 in Katsina; 2,032,041 in Kebbi; 1,932,654 in Kogi; 1,695,927 in Kwara; 1,899,244 in Nasarawa; 2,698,344 in Niger; 2,688,305 in Ogun; 1,991,344 in Ondo; 1,954,800 in Osun; 3,276,675 in Oyo; 2,789,528 in Plateau; 3,537,190 in Rivers; 2,172,056 in Sokoto; 2,022,374 in Taraba; 1,485,146 in Yobe; and 1,926,870 in Zamfara.

According to these figures, the northwest geopolitical zone has the highest number of registered voters with 22,255,562. The southwest has 17,958,966 registered voters; the north-central has 15,363,731; the south-south has 14,440,714; the northeast has 12,542,429 and the southeast has 10,907,606.

INEC has confirmed that the northwest and southwest geopolitical zones comprise the lion’s share of the 93.4 million eligible voters.


The major contestants include Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC). He is a Yoruba and a Muslim from Lagos State, in the southwest of Nigeria. Tinubu’s running mate is Kashim Shettima, a Kanuri and a Muslim from Borno State in the northeast.

The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has Atiku Abubakar vying to be president. He is a Fulani and a Muslim from Adamawa State in the northeast. His running mate is Ifeanyichukwu Arthur Okowa, an Igbo/Ika and a Christian from Delta State in the south-south.

The presidential candidate for the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) is Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, a Hausa and a Muslim from Kano State in the northwest. His running mate is Isaac Idahosa, an Edo and a Christian from Edo State in the south-south.

The Labour Party (LP) has Peter Gregory Obi as its presidential candidate. He is an Igbo and a Christian from Anambra State in the southeast. His running mate is Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed, a Hausa/Fulani and a Muslim from Kaduna State in north-central.


There have been incessant attacks on INEC’s facilities by unknown gunmen ahead of the elections, particularly in the southern part of the country. Violent protests by some of the youth, triggered by hardships caused by the high cost of living and exacerbated by the scarcity of newly redesigned banknotes and the inadequacy of the cash-swap policy, have resulted in banks and ATMs being vandalised, destroyed and/or burnt down.

Security experts – and the international community – who have been observing trends in the run-up to the elections, have warned that the violent protests, the already existing insecurity, and civil unrest in parts of Nigeria could be of concern and they have emphasised the need for stringent security measures throughout the country, with law enforcement officers, army personnel and other security agents being present and visible. They have called on citizens to report any suspicious items or movements. Polling stations will be checked for explosive devices before voting can take place.

The United States embassy in Nigeria has alerted its citizens in the country of possible protests and advised restricted movements on February 25 and March 11.

In a notice on its website, the embassy advised its nationals to avoid rallies as “they can turn violent with little or no notice”.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has deployed an observer mission to Nigeria for the general elections.

INEC has said there are 204 polling units in 28 states across the country where voting will not take place, including in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, because of insecurity even though the Nigerian armed forces and other security agencies have pledged adequate security measures before, during and after the elections.


With just two days to go, religious leaders, traditional rulers, business tycoons, political party stakeholders, youth leaders, women’s rights activists, civil society organisations and groups, as well as media personalities, have been urging Nigerians to shun any act of political violence and embrace peace and unity during and after the elections.


Although attacks by the Jamā’at Ahl as-Sunnah lid-Da’wah wa’l-Jihād (JAS), better known as Boko Haram, and members of the Islamic State West Africa Province (ISWAP) have lessened, raids by insurgents are still frequent in some parts of the northeast, where Operation Hadin Kai soldiers and other security agencies are conducting fierce counterinsurgency operations.

Fanna Alhaji, who lives in Dikwa town, told RNI that she was more than ready for Saturday’s elections.

“I will vote for the candidate of my choice. I hope everyone will participate in the elections peacefully without any threats or fear here in Dikwa town since security operatives are working tirelessly to protect the lives and property of the people.”

Akura Abatcha, also from Dikwa town, said: “Yes, I’m ready for this election and I will vote for the candidate I most prefer. I urge whichever political party’s candidate who wins at the polls to fulfil their promises to eradicate poverty, address the plight of internally displaced persons [IDPs], rebuild destroyed houses, fight insecurity and develop all sectors in the country.”

Abubakar Sadiq said he had his permanent voters card (PVC) with him and he was ready to cast his ballot for his favoured candidate.

“I’m optimistic that the elections will be conducted peacefully without violence or any threats despite the insecurity that confronts us, not only in Dikwa town but also in other parts of Borno State.”

Ya Gana Ibrahim said: “I am fully prepared to participate in the elections and I will vote for any candidate of my choice. May Allah give victory to contestants who have a vision and mission to bring about the desired transformation and national development, which encompasses diversification of agricultural activities, food security, adequate water supply, good road networks, as well as power supply, among others.”

Damboa town resident Mala Ali Mohammed told RNI that he had his PVC and was “very eager” to cast his vote come Saturday.

“Right now, I have already identified where I need to go to vote. There are more than 189 polling booths across the Damboa Local Government Area. And I now know exactly where I need to go to cast my ballot.

“So, I’m ready to vote for the candidate of my choice because even President [Muhammadu] Buhari said that it was up to each and every voter to decide which candidate and which political party to vote for. Any candidate who is rightfully elected by the people will be victorious. We don’t expect there to be any rigging of votes because we heard that INEC has come up with new strategies of conducting elections which will make it impossible for rogues to snatch ballot boxes, or for one person to vote more than once, and if anyone tries to buy a vote he or she will be discovered and punished.”

Fatima Bukar, also a Damboa town resident, said: “The 2023 general elections are already here and I’m fully prepared to participate. I will place my vote for the candidate of my choice. I’m grateful that there will be enough security operatives to protect us on election day, so I don’t have any fears that anyone will threaten me with a knife or some other weapon to try to get me to change my vote. I feel confident and comfortable about going to vote. I have no fear. In fact, I am looking forward to casting my vote.”


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