After false start, Nigerians focus on economy in tight presidential vote

By James Macharia ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's hold on power faces a strong challenge on Saturday in a delayed election that hinges on the fate of the economy, Africa's biggest. The presidential vote in the continent's top oil producer and most populous nation is too close to call between Buhari and the main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, a businessman and former vice president who leads a field of more than 70 challengers

Reuters February 23, 2019 07:05:30 IST
After false start, Nigerians focus on economy in tight presidential vote

After false start Nigerians focus on economy in tight presidential vote

By James Macharia

ABUJA (Reuters) - Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari's hold on power faces a strong challenge on Saturday in a delayed election that hinges on the fate of the economy, Africa's biggest.

The presidential vote in the continent's top oil producer and most populous nation is too close to call between Buhari and the main opposition candidate Atiku Abubakar, a businessman and former vice president who leads a field of more than 70 challengers.

The election, due to be held a week ago, was postponed around five hours before polling stations were set to open and there are concerns that the delay may hurt turnout.

The electoral commission blamed logistical factors for the delay and denied political pressure was behind the decision.

Presidential elections in 2011 and 2015 were also delayed over logistics and security concerns but Buhari on Friday urged Nigerians "to go out and vote", promising that there would be adequate security for the ballot.

The Boko Haram militant group and its offshoot, Islamic State in West Africa Province, have carried out deadly sporadic raids in the northeastern Borno state. Boko Haram has warned people not to vote.

But the showdown between Buhari and Atiku hinges on revamping an economy struggling to recover from its first recession in 25 years, which it slipped into in 2016 as crude prices crashed and militants attacked energy facilities in the Niger Delta. Crude sales make up 90 percent of foreign exchange earnings.

"Instability is a rising concern but a weak economy is being felt in all sectors and country-wide so we believe it will be the preeminent voter concern," said Benedict Craven, analyst at The Economist Intelligence Unit.

Buhari's critics say his much-touted focus on rooting out corruption may be offset by his handling of the economy. Despite the president's campaign against graft, there have not been any significant convictions in his first term.

Nearly a quarter of the workforce is unemployed, much higher than when Buhari, a former military ruler who was later elected president, took over in 2015.

The cost of living has also risen rapidly, with inflation of 11.37 percent in January - just short of a seven-month high reached the previous month.

Buhari, 76, has said the economy has put the recession behind it and is back on a path of steady growth.

FLAGGING ECONOMY

To his supporters, Atiku, 72, is an accomplished businessman with the credentials needed to boost growth, create jobs and attract foreign investors back to Nigeria.

Atiku has promised to expand the role of the private sector in a nation of nearly 200 million people, saying that if elected he would aim to double the size of the economy to $900 billion by 2025.

He has for years been dogged by corruption accusations, which he denies. Critics say Atiku would use his policies to enrich himself and those around him without addressing the poverty that afflicts most Nigerians.

Buhari is the flagbearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) while Atiku spearheads the main opposition People's Democratic Party (PDP).

(For a graphic on Nigeria presidential election, click here https://tmsnrt.rs/2E6qkDO)

The pair are both Muslims from the north of the country.

The south has favoured the PDP in the past, while the north is Buhari's stronghold.

The number of eligible voters stands at 72.8 million people. To be declared winner, the candidate with the most votes must have at least one quarter of the vote in two thirds of Nigeria's 36 states and the capital. Otherwise there is a runoff.

(Writing by James Macharia; Editing by Alexis Akwagyiram and Toby Chopra)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.