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Nigeria election 2023: Breaking it down

February 23, 2023

More than 93 million Nigerian voters are expected to vote on Saturday to pick their new president. Opinion polls suggest a tight race. DW looks at what's at stake.

Nigeria Wahlen 2023
Image: Abraham Achirga/REUTERS

Nigeria is going to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president, vice president, members of the House of Representatives, and senators. This year's election is the first in Nigeria's history which will not feature an incumbent or military ruler since 1999, when the country returned to democratic rule.

Who are the presidential candidates?

Eighteen candidates will contest the presidency in Nigeria's 2023 election. However, only three stand a chance of clinching it. They are:

  • Bola Ahmed Tinubu, 70, the candidate from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
  • Atiku Abubakar, 76, the main opposition leader and former vice president, is the candidate of the People's Democratic Party (PDP).
  •  Peter Obi, 61, of the little-known Labour Party (LP), hopes to break the two parties' decades-old stranglehold on Nigerian politics.
Bildkombo Nigeria Wahlen | Peter Obi, Bola Tinubu (M), Atiku Abubakar
Peter Obi (L) Bola Tinubu(M) Atiku Abubaka (R) are the three main presidential contendersImage: K. Gänsler/DW, Shengolpixs/IMAGO, EKPEI/AFP

Who is voting?

According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 93,469,008 voters have been registered. More than 52% are male voters, while 47.5% are female.

INEC says the voter turnout in the past two elections has hovered between 30%-35%. However, there is optimism that the turnout could increase in 2023 because more than 37 million voters are under 34.

What are the main issues?

As in previous elections, the economy and insecurity are high on the agenda. Putting food on the table for many Nigerians has become challenging due to rising food prices and inflation — despite the country's vast oil resources. Corruption is also a top issue for Nigerian voters.

Nigeria is Africa's biggest democracy and economy. As a result, the continent is closely watching Saturday's election.

President Muhammadu Buhari'sdecision to launch new naira banknotes ahead of the polls led to a cash crisis that many experts say could affect who gets elected.

How were the political campaigns?

Disinformation and the dissemination of fake news have dominated Nigeria's 2023 election campaigns. As a result, INEC, the Nigerian government, and other stakeholders have warned that fake news could affect the election's credibility.

Several attacks on polling stations and political candidates have also dented the campaigns. On Thursday, police said attackers had targeted three parties in the southeastern state of Enugu. One candidate for the senate was killed.

 Professor Mahmood Yakubu with the commission's staff assess damage at the INEC office set ablaze by assailants in Abeokuta, Nigeria.
Nigeria has a history of election-related violenceImage: INEC/AP/picture alliance

What role do religion and ethnicity play?

With a population of more than 200 million and boasting over 500 languages, Nigeria is Africa's most populous and multi-ethnic nation.

Christianity and Islam are the two main religions. The northern part is predominantly Muslim, whereas the south is considered mostly Christian.

Since the end of military rule in 1999, Nigeria has rotated the presidency between a Muslim and a Christian.

That unwritten rule could, however, change if one of the two leading contenders, Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu, wins. That is because both are Muslims, just like President Muhammadu Buhari.