By Yinus Buhari
Lagos, Feb 24 (EFE).- Nigeria, Africa’s most populous country with 213 million inhabitants, goes to the polls this weekend to choose a presidential successor to Muhammadu Buhari, whose two-term limit has come to an end after 8 years in power.
Some 93.5 million people are registered to cast their vote in Saturday’s election, according to the electoral commission (INEC), in what promised to be the most tightly-run ballot since the return of democracy in the West African nation in 1999.
A total of 18 candidates are vying for office, although polling suggests there are three frontrunners – Bola Tinubu, candidate for the governing All Progressives Congress and current governor of Lagos; Atiku Abubakar for the Peoples Democratic Party and Peter Obi for the Labour Party.
Voters will also be electing 469 lawmakers of the National Assembly, of which 109 are senators and 360 are members of the House of Representatives, parliament’s lower house.
To clinch a victory, Nigeria’s next president will have to secure a majority as well as 25% of votes in at least 24 of 36 seats.
If no one secures a clear majority, the most voted-for candidates would face off in a second round no later than 21 days after the first ballot.
This year’s ballot is set to become Nigeria’s most technologically advanced election by using biometric identification systems and by transmitting the election results electronically in a bid to avoid allegations of fraud that have plagued previous elections.
Last week inspector general of police Usman Alkali Baba said he had deployed over 300,000 security personnel across the country to ensure voting could go ahead in areas where armed groups operate and to provide a safe voting environment.
The electoral process will also be overseen by international observers, including a European Union commission led by MEP Barry Andrews and a team from the African Union led by former president of Kenya Uhuru Kenyatta.
The EU’s foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell said that “these elections will be crucial for the consolidation of democracy in Nigeria, and for the stability of the region.”
Whoever emerges victorious will inherit a complex political and economic landscape amid Nigeria’s ongoing battle with insurgent groups that conduct recurrent attacks and kidnappings of civilians to secure large ransoms.
Africa’s top oil producer is also grappling with galloping inflation, soaring unemployment and the devaluation of its domestic currency.EFE