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Nigerians vote today to elect President, Senators, Reps

By The Citizen
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Nigerians will go out en-masse today to elect the next Nigerian president, Senators and members of the House of Representatives for the next four years.

Eligible voters are expected to be at their polling units for accreditation through the card reader to clear voters for the voting proper.

Fourteen political parties and presidential candidates of these parties are gunning for Nigeria's coveted number one seat and leading the pack are incumbent President Jonathan of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP and General Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress, APC.

Ab initio, the presidential and national assembly elections were meant to hold on February 14, 2015 but just a week before they were originally due, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced a six-week postponement.

The security question triggered of by the activities of Boko Haram Islamists in the north-east put security at the centre of the election campaigns and both parties clashed over how to handle the insurgency in Nigeria. INEC was also appeared not ready as many Nigerians were yet to collect their permanent voters cards.

In the past, elections have been marred by violence and allegations of vote-rigging and since parties began campaigning in mid-November, both the ruling and opposition camps have reported violent attacks against their supporters. Severally, there were reported clashes between rival supporters of both parties leaving blood and tears in the trail.

In today's election, security forces are also coming out en-masse to closely observe the voting process to avoid violence and blood-letting.

Indeed, anxiety is high today. The country has a fragmented political class.

The economic situation is uncertain, oil prices are falling and the naira has been devalued. Stomach infrastructure is a new vocabulary in the political dictionary.

With these prevailing circumstances, many are expressing nostalgia for the 2015 elections.

However, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has promised a clean ballot. All 14 candidates have signed an agreement binding them to credible and non-violent elections. Official campaigning ended two days before polling day.

THE CANDIDATES
The ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP's candidates areĀ  President Goodluck Jonathan and his vice, Namadi Sambo, while the main opposition All Progressives Congress, APC, hasĀ  Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo as presidential and vice presidential candidates.

Others are Oluremi Sonaiya and Saidu Bobboi for Kowa Party; Ambrose Albert and Haruna Shaba for Hope Democratic Party; Ganiyu Galadima and Balarabe Ahmed of Allied Congress Party of Nigeria, ACPN; Rafiu Salau and Clinton Cliff Akuchie for Alliance for Democracy, AD and Godson Okoye and Haruna Adamu, for United Democratic Party, UDP.

Others are Nani Ibrahim Ahmad and Obianuju Murphy-Uzohue of African Democratic Congress, Martin Onovo and Ibrahim Mohammed of National Conscience Party, NCP, Tunde Anifowoshe-Kelani and Paul Ishaka Ofomile of Action Alliance and Chekwas Okorie and Bello Umar of United Progressive Party.

The Labour Party, LP, and the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, have already adopted the PDP candidate, Goodluck Jonathan as their candidate as well.

HOW WINNERS CAN EMERGE
Of all the candidates, only Messrs. Jonathan and Buhari were candidates in the last election in 2011.

To win in the first round, a candidate needs more than 50% of the national vote and at least 25% of the votes in two-thirds of Nigeria's 36 states.

PERMANENT VOTERS CARD
For the first time, Permanent Voters' Cards are being used in Nigeria.

The INEC said more than 80% of eligible voters have obtained their biometric PVCs. The minimum voting age is 18.

POLLING STATIONS
For more credibility, an extra 30,027 polling stations have been set up, bringing the total to 150,000 nationwide.

Polls, according to INEC, are expected to commence at 0800 local time (0700GMT). All voters must be present at their designated polling station by 1300 local time (1200GMT) at the latest to be allowed to cast their ballot. Polls will close when the last person in the queue has voted.

The Nigeria Police said over 360,000 police officers and sniffer dogs will be deployed at strategic areas.

The presence of international and local observers has also been approved by INEC to monitor the elections, although the European Union says its observers will not be deployed in the north-east due to security concerns.

The national Assembly amended the electoral law on January 15 to allow an estimated one million displaced people by the insurgency to cast their votes.

Over the years, governance under civilian rule had been dominated by the predominately Muslim north until 1999 when President Olusegun Obasanjo, a Southern Christian broke the jinx at the onset of the fourth republic. Ever since, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), has remained in power with Jonathan breaking the power sharing principle after Yar'Adua's demise.

In 2011, Goodluck Jonathan and General Muhammadu Buhari were the main candidates for the election. Buhari won all of the predominately Muslim states while Jonathan won the rest (with one exception). For years, Nigeria's voting process has been dominated by allegations and counter allegations of rigging. But voting has gotten better with more polling stations open on time and supplied with ballots than ever before. - Vanguard.