• Nigeria faces various challenges ahead of its 2023 presidential election, including inflation and food insecurity, fuel scarcity, rising corruption, and heightened security threats. 
  • Vote buying is expected to be widespread due to the current economic situation. 
  • Some voters are concerned about violence, before, during, and after the election.
  • A third of the local contributors to Emani’s Local Pulse Monitor have switched their vote, mostly to the Labour Party. 
  • Despite the challenges, the country has 24 years of uninterrupted democracy and a surge in voter registration, particularly among youth aged 18-34, could lead to real change.

Elections until now

Nigeria returned to democratic rule in 1999 and has had 24 years of uninterrupted democracy after three prior failed attempts. Three major contenders – Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar from 2 prominent political parties and Peter Obi – vie for power on February 25, 2023. If there is no clear winner, a second round will be held within three weeks. Elections for the country’s powerful state governors will be held on 11 March. 

Different this time?

  • For the first time in 24 years, there is no retired general running for president. 
  • The rise of Peter Obi has enhanced the visibility of a third party which many are hoping will result in some real change. 
  • Through the efforts of the INEC, there has been a surge in the registration of new voters across Nigeria and 95 million Nigerians are currently registered to vote. 
  • And the vast majority of these new voters are youth aged between 18 and 34 years which could have a disruptive effect on the elections given Peter Obi’s popularity amongst this group of voters. 

Or same same?

While Nigeria appears to be on the threshold of some significant changes, some aspects of the country’s politics appear to remain unchanged:

  • Vote buying, heightened security fears, growing corruption, ritual killings are all heated topics of discussion among voters.
  • Deeper divisions than at any other time in the recent past.
  • An economy that is near collapse. 

For many Nigerians, the current situation is one of despair and those who can, have left the country.  I am not interested in the electoral process because my vote doesn’t count. I believe they put whoever they want there. People that we hope would emerge into office don’t win the election and it seems there are specific people reserved for specific positions. Female, 35, Ilorin South, Kwara

Emani’s Local Pulse Monitor

As we wait to see what the future holds for Nigeria, Emani has been speaking regularly with hundreds of local contributors to keep our fingers on the local pulse. They told us that:

Inflation and food insecurity is worsening  

Fuel scarcity affects locals’ ability to get to work, access basic services, and has knock-on effects on food availability because of an increase in transportation costs. With electricity unreliable, small businesses without power generators are limited in their ability to trade. Inflation in Nigeria hit an all time high in 2022 and while expected to decrease slightly in 2023 is expected to remain high.

Kerosene that I use for cooking cost 1,200 naira per litre from the black market, and that is because the gas stations don’t sell them freely. I can’t go to the bush to fetch firewood because of fear of being kidnapped and charcoal which is cheaper is not available. All these things coupled together make it difficult to feed well, I only eat once in a while.

And this is expected to fuel vote buying even given the CBN’s new Naira policy

Vote buying is part and parcel of Nigerian elections. And the 2023 elections are not expected to be an exception. In fact, the prevailing economic situation appears to be encouraging it. The new Naira policy is the redesign of certain denominations of Naira notes to render the old designs out of circulation. One of the stated reasons for the redesign was to make ineffective the large amounts of cash presumed to have been “hoarded” politicians to be used to buy votes. 

The money release is often referred to as mobilization money, and with the level of hunger and difficulty people are facing now, they may want to give out their votes for the money. Male, 35,  Jalingo, Taraba

Participation may be threatened by election related violence

As elections approach, more contributors are registering concern that political thugs are becoming violent and suggesting that violence is “inevitable” on or around election day. 

There is a lot of desperation on the part of the ruling party and I think violence might erupt in the South Western part of Nigeria if the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu does not emerge as the winner. If Peter Obi does not win, there might be violence in the South Eastern part of the country. The election might not be held in the South East because of IPOB and ESN attacks. Female, 35, Akure South, Ondo.

Fear of violence is seeing some people exit cities, others stockpile food

Many shared fears about insecurity and violence in the country after the elections, as well. It appears that the country is divided enough that any outcome can easily trigger violence in certain pockets of the country or nationwide.

Violence could erupt before, during, or after the elections, and there might be chaos and it is important that we keep safe and stock food in our houses, in case we’re unable to go out during the elections. In the South East, we could be ordered to stay in the house during the elections, so we need to be prepared for whatever may come. Male, 35, Awka South, Anambra.

Ritual killings increase in some parts

Increased ritual killings around the time of elections is a common occurrence in Nigeria, including in 2023, with some parties believing that it will increase their good fortune when voters go to the polls.

Ritual killing is known to be much during the election period as it is said to be used for fortification. A head of a lady was seen around the post office area of Maiduguri without the body, this is following a female lifeless body that was seen around Lagos Street area Maiduguri some months back with some of the part missing. This has made me and my family movement routine strictly office to the house and indoor time each day. Male, 31, Humanitarian, Maiduguri, Borno

A switch …in time?

A third of our contributors also reported having switched their votes, all but two of them to the Labour Party (Peter Obi’s party). While this can’t be generalised to the wider population, their spread across 13 states does seem to signal something is happening. 

In my state I was supporting PDP. Why? …. In the past 16 years, the south and central each gave a representative as Governor, while the current Governor is from the North. This means that now the power should rotate to the South. But the former party PDP failed to follow the zoning system, while the APC kept to the promise and choose a candidate from the south. That’s why I left the PDP [though] I am voting individual and not for any party for now. Female, 32, Services and/ or sales worker, Bakassi, Cross River

What’s happens next?

Emani has been in Nigeria since 2020. Its Local Pulse Monitor has been dialoguing with vetted local Nigerians in the lead up to the elections and will continue – beyond February 25 – to monitor the likelihood of a run-off as well as state level elections in March and the public sentiment around these events.  

As we get closer to election day in Nigeria, Emani is committed to collecting the most relevant data. To do this better, we are asking our clients and supporters to suggest 1-2 relevant questions that they are interested in seeing answered by Emani’s Nigeria contributors. Submit your confidential response here (< 2 minutes). 

Going forward, we will continue to seek and share insights from local Nigerians on issues related to politics, economy, security and climate change. Click here for a free one-month trial.

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