Nigerians will vote on Saturday in what could be their most credible and close electoral contest since military rule ended nearly a quarter of a century ago – and the first in which a presidential candidate who isn’t from one of the two main parties stands a chance.
Former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) faces Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Peter Obi, a wild- card candidate who defected from the PDP to the smaller Labour Party and now leads in at least five opinion polls.
Obi, 61, has used a slick social media campaign to galvanise the vote of restless and increasingly disaffected youth, fed up with traditional politics and the old men who tend to dominate them – Tinubu and Abubakar are both in their 70s.
But analysts question whether the polls putting him ahead are reliable and note he does not have the resources or extensive political base – built up over decades – that the other two have.
Whoever Nigerians choose to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari – only the second incumbent in Nigerian history to bow out willingly after serving two democratic terms – will have to resolve a litany of crises that have worsened under the retired army general’s administration.
These include banditry and militant violence now affecting most parts of the country, systemic corruption that deters investment and enriches a well-connected elite, high inflation and widespread cash shortages after a botched introduction of new bills late last year.
All three candidates have made roughly similar promises to tackle these issues.
Voters will also choose new parliament members.
“This is one of the closest elections that has ever been held in the history of this country,” Abiodun Adeniyi, professor of mass communication at Abuja’s Baze University, said.
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