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Nigeria To Vote After Weeklong Delay

Feb 22, 2019
Originally published on February 22, 2019 5:02 am
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Eighty-four million Nigerians are registered to cast their ballots in tomorrow's rescheduled elections, but many feel disenfranchised. They traveled hundreds of miles to their hometowns and villages to vote last week. And then the election was postponed. Now they say they don't have the time or the money to go back. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton reports on what it takes to be counted now.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: A Nigerian activist allied to the main opposition party says he's offering free bus rides across the country to any prospective voters, regardless of who they support as long, as they produce a valid voting card. Some have accused him of a political gimmick. But buses were leaving Thursday from here in Abuja for Kano in the north and a seven- to eight-hour road trip to the far away southeast. That's where Peter Akpan was heading back to to vote this time, he hopes, after last week's postponement.

PETER AKPAN: I am here to take this opportunity to get back to my destination to vote. It's a kind of palliative measure for some of us that traveled last week and came back disappointed. And some of us are not financially buoyant enough to pay our way back. So when we had this opportunity, we had to jump at it.

QUIST-ARCTON: But there was just a trickle of passengers for the free bus rides. Young voter Laureen Daubrumu, who saw the offer on Twitter, was poised to travel to Nigeria's south to try to vote. The problem for her, too, has been how to afford to make the trip back home.

LAUREEN DAUBRUMU: I don't have the transportation fare that will take me from Abuja to my state. It's a free and nice opportunity. I really want to go and vote this time around.

QUIST-ARCTON: This time last week, millions of Nigerians were traveling in droves to their homes across the country before the electoral commission announced the delay, citing logistical reasons. President Muhammadu Buhari is seeking re-election. His main opposition challenger, Atiku Abubakar, is confident he'll defeat the incumbent. So who benefits from the weeklong postponement? - director of the Centre for Democracy and Development, Idayat Hassan.

IDAYAT HASSAN: Already, there is a looming voter apathy. You can feel it all over the country. People are still not willing to participate in these elections as a result of the lack of trust in the whole system itself.

QUIST-ARCTON: But Hassan says the president may have the edge.

HASSAN: The northwest, which is the stronghold of President Muhammadu Buhari, have consistently turned a huge number of voters out in previous elections, so it may actually be positive to his re-election bid.

QUIST-ARCTON: Anxiously facing another long road journey, voter Peter Akpan had this message for the electoral commission.

AKPAN: Make it possible for Nigerians to vote wherever we are. We are in the 21st century. Technology should make that possible. The same way we use our ATM card anywhere to withdraw money, we should be able to use our voter's card anywhere to vote.

QUIST-ARCTON: A view shared by many Nigerians nationwide. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, NPR News, Abuja. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.