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Nigeria's electoral commission distributes ballots across Lagos state

A member of the Nigerian police force walks past ballot papers in Lagos on February 22, 2023, ahead of the Nigerian presidential election scheduled for February 25, 2023.   -  
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JOHN WESSELS/AFP or licensors


Nigeria's Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has begun distributing ballots for Saturday's election from the commercial capital Lagos to polling stations across the state.

"This is one of the critical moments of the INEC:__to collect these sensitive materials, ballot papers, and result sheets from the Central Bank of Nigeria in Lagos here to move them to the twenty local governments areas of the state," said Olusegun Agbaje, the INEC's Resident Electoral Commissioner in Lagos.

Voters will choose among 18 candidates in a first-round vote to succeed incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, who is winding down his second and final term. A runoff will be held unless one candidate gets at least one-quarter of the votes in each of at least two-thirds of all the states.

Candidates for the federal parliament - both the House of Representatives and Senate are also on the ballots.

Nigeria has at least 93 million registered voters, almost 40 percent of whom are under 35. The country has one of the world’s largest youth populations, with about 64 million people aged 18-35 and a median age of 18.

Young people have made a third-party candidate with social media appeal into a serious contender in the polls. Their frustration with mainstream parties has made room for former governor Peter Obi, 61, to position himself as a change candidate.

That’s surprising in a country where elections have long been usually dominated by Nigeria’s two largest parties.

Initially seen as an underdog with little political experience, Obi has emerged as a leading candidate, coming ahead of or close behind Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar in most polls. He’s the candidate of the Labour Party, which won 5,074 votes in the 2019 presidential election, less than 0.1 percent of the vote.

He’s spoken to young people, promising jobs, and to Nigeria’s vast diaspora, promising changes that will give them a reason to return.

Meanwhile Atiku Abubakar, 76, of the Peoples Democratic Party has served as vice-president and is one of the country's richest businessmen and is running for the presidency for the sixth time. He's a Muslim from the Fulani ethnic group, as is current president Muhammadu Buhari. 

Bola Tinubu, 70, of the All Progressives Congress has served as governor of Lagos, was an important backer of the current president and is known as a key funder for the ruling APC. 

A key question now is how many people turn out to vote. Turnout in recent elections has been low. In 2019, only 34% of registered voters cast their ballot in the presidential vote. It reflects both cynicism about politics, and high barriers to participation. Voters can cast ballots only in person, and only at their place of registration.

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