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Nigerians Vote After Delay

Feb 23, 2019
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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

To Nigeria now where presidential and parliamentary elections are finally underway after a weeklong delay. The electoral commission cited logistical issues last weekend before voting was due to start, and that infuriated many Nigerians who vowed not to vote. But many others have turned out at polling stations today. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is at a polling station in Abuja, the capital. Ofeibea, thanks for being with us, and tell us about the atmosphere.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: Greetings from Model Primary School on Lakeside Road (ph) here in Abuja, the capital. We've been here a few hours. And from long, long, long lines of young people, older people, elderly people, women, men, women with babies tied to their back, the lines are now thinning. And people's patience is thinning 'cause they've been here since very early. You know, last week when we spoke, Scott, the election had been postponed. Many Nigerians were furious, and they said they were not going to vote. But this morning, at least here in the capital Abuja, which is, of course, an urban center, they will stand out under the scorching sun. And they will vote.

SIMON: What do they see as the main issues? What's brought them to the polls?

QUIST-ARCTON: The economy, the economy, the economy, security, jobs. That's what most Nigerians - and half the population here is a very useful population. Half the voting population is also young. They say that they need an economy that works; Nigeria is an oil - petroleum-dependent economy, but things have been bad. So they say they want this economy to perform. They want whoever their new leaders are to really make sure that the potential wealth of Nigeria is shared - that this country is prosperous. They also want security because there are, of course, troubles with the Boko Haram Islamic State West Africa insurgency in the northeast that has killed thousands of people over almost a decade. But also in central Nigeria, there is the farmer-herder conflict over land and over grazing rights and in the oil-producing area, militants who are threatening to sabotage Nigeria's wealth. So these are the issues. They want to see stability. They want to see prosperity.

SIMON: You mentioned the youth of so many voters. The two main contenders for president are not young people, are they? Let me put it that way.

QUIST-ARCTON: Both of them in their 70s - President Muhammadu Buhari, who is seeking re-election, and of course the main opposition presidential challenger, Atiku Abubakar, who's a former vice president. President Buhari defends his record, which many Nigerians say is not as good as they expected. He said he's going to take this country to a higher level. Atiku Abubakar says he's going to defeat the president. He says the economy is key, and he is going to make Nigeria prosperous.

SIMON: NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Abuja. Thanks very much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

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