Nigerians defy election delays with hope for change

Craving change, Nigerians streamed out to vote Saturday in what many hope would be fairer election for a new leader who would deliver the country from widespread insecurity and economic malaise. . "I hope this election will bring the change we want."

Craving change, Nigerians streamed out to vote Saturday in what many hope would be fairer election for a new leader who would deliver the country from widespread insecurity and economic malaise. 

From poor neighbourhoods of the economic capital Lagos to the dusty streets of second city Kano in the northwest, Nigerian voters cast their ballots in a tightly contested race among three presidential frontrunners.

Long delays in voting or technical problems with biometric identification machines frustrated some in Lagos, Kano and southern oil hub Port Harcourt, but even so people said the election was too important to miss.

Streets were mostly empty of vehicles in Lagos and other cities, with people strolling, sitting and chatting or playing football on empty roads. Soldiers and police kept watch from posts stationed around cities.

"I am happy to exercise my franchise to elect our leaders. We have suffered enough in this country," said Josephine Patrick 31-year-old fashion designer, voting in Lagos.

"I hope this election will bring the change we want."

The Independent National Electoral Commission or INEC says it does not know when the results will be ready, but they have promised to make the process speedy.

Supporters of ruling All Progressives Congress or APC party candidate, Bola Tinubu, 70, see the former governor of Lagos and long-time political kingmaker, as the best hope for change.

"He has the experience," said Tairu Aramide, 57, a street cook who voted for Tinubu and said she slept overnight in front of her INEC station because she lived far away.

- Long waits -

"He has done a lot for Lagos as a governor he's going create jobs and develop the infrastructure the country desperately needs." 

Backers of Atiku Abubakar, 76, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party or PDP, say he brings experience from his time as vice president.

But neither septuagenarian leader appeals to some voters who have been drawn to Peter Obi, the surprise third candidate from the Labour Party, whom they see as the only one to offer genuine change.

"Obi is the choice for Nigeria. We expected so much from previous leaders," said Stephen Franklin, 36, voting in Port Harcourt. "We see Obi as capable of taking the country to the next level, we want to give him our trust."

But for some voting was not easy.

Director General of the World Trade Organisation, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, who is Nigerian from southeast Abia State, tweeted that her polling station was not open three hours into the official voting time.

"The INEC officers finally arrived. My husband and I have just voted," she wrote.

"The turnout is unbelievable, the largest I have ever seen in all the years I have voted in the village."

- 'A new Nigeria' -

In Kano, the economic hub of the mostly Muslim north, huge crowds formed outside a polling station in Nasarawa district, waiting all morning for election officials to arrive.

In Port Harcourt, the oil-hub city in southern Rivers state, election workers and voting material turned up late at many polling stations.

Once set-up, some biometric voter identification machines, used to prevent fraud would not work, meaning that voting could not start.

Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike arrived at his polling unit with his wife to vote but left soon after as the machine was faulty.

"I'm highly disappointed. I waited for 25 minutes," he said, adding he would come back.

"Let us vote manually! We are being disenfranchised," said Michael Wakina, 45, a public servant. "We are not happy."

But like many others he vowed to wait. "We have to wait. We have to vote for change, this election is very important."

Norbert Okeke, 42, a motor parts salesman said he would stay as long as necessary.

"I am staying here until I vote with my conscience. Even until 3:00 am I will be here," he said. "The current government has disappointed everyone. We want a new Nigeria."


© Agence France-Presse

Your content is great. However, if any of the content contained herein violates any rights of yours, including those of copyright, please contact us immediately by e-mail at media[@]