Watching Nigeria’s Elections from NYC

Emmanuel Osime (Photo by Emma Vickers via NYC Lens)

[Update: Hours before the polls were due to open on Feb. 16, Nigeria’s electoral commission postponed the election by a week, citing logistical concerns. The key opposition candidate said it was a government attempt to disenfranchise voters, while the chairman of the election commission said the new date of Feb. 23 was “sancrosanct.”]

Nigerians in New York City are watching with interest to see whether Nigeria’s incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari, will prevail in Saturday’s elections, reports Emma Vickers in NY City Lens, or whether his main challenger, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, will manage to unseat him. Writes Vickers:

There is much at stake. Nigeria has suffered a recession under Buhari’s tenure, widely blamed on the global drop in oil prices. Among young people in Africa’s most populous country, 36 per cent have no work. Boko Haram and separatist conflicts continue to fuel insecurity in the country. And both candidates have been smeared with allegations of corruption—Buhari for removing the Chief Justice just days before the upcoming election, and Atiku for revelations during a U.S. Senate investigation into his previous vice presidency, a decade ago.

Mojubaolu Okome, a professor of political science at Brooklyn College and a New York resident of 38 years, told Vickers that “given what Atiku is charged with, I do not think anybody should have taken him seriously.” But she noted that the current president had failed to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and that ordinary citizens “are feeling the pain.”

As of now, the 30,000 or so Nigerians in the New York area can’t cast a vote, and architect Emmanuel Osime, for one, wishes he could:

“We care about our country so we want to contribute,” said Osime, the architect. But he also expressed concerns over the fidelity of a long-distance process. “They’ve told us several times—‘it’s not possible for now’­—and I believe in that, because the elections are rigged. And so a box of voters cards? Don’t you think they’ll fill it with one party’s vote?”

Go to NY City Lens to read about one candidate who hails from the Nigerian diaspora here, and to read more comments about the presidential race.

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