Barring any last-minute changes — like in 2019 — the 2023 general elections will go on as scheduled on February 25, 2023. The elections, especially for the top job of the president, are seen by many as crucial and likely to set the direction of Nigeria for years to come.
The elections are significant for several reasons. For one, there’s been an unprecedented surge in youth participation. There’s also the emergence of a credible third force. The Electoral Act 2022 will come into use at scale with new technologies like the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) and the INEC Result Viewing Portal (IReV).
Without wasting time, here are a few things to expect in the 2023 elections.
Higher voter turnout than in 2019
2019 recorded historic lows, with only 34.75% of registered voters showing up at the polls, less than the 50.96% historical average.
The three states with the lowest voter turnout were Lagos (18.95%), Abia (20.16%) and Rivers (21.09%). On the other hand, the three states with the highest voter turnout were Jigawa (55.67%), Katsina (50.74%) and Sokoto (50.13%).
Nigeria has an unwritten agreement of alternating the presidency between the North and the South. Two of the frontrunners in the 2023 presidential race are from the South. Therefore, expect a much-improved turnout from the southern states.
The looming possibility of a runoff
Nigerian elections typically get decided on the first ballot. This is due to the duopoly between the leading parties, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). However, the emergence of a third force in the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) means there’s a good chance the big two won’t dominate as they usually do.
The constitutional requirement for winning the presidency is not just a simple majority but winning with a spread of at least a quarter of votes in two-thirds of Nigerian states. Many people interpret this to mean 25% in 24 states. If nobody meets these requirements, then a runoff happens, which INEC will conduct within 21 days of the first round of balloting. We wrote everything you need to know about that here.
Heavy security presence
First-time voters may be surprised by the presence of heavy security officers during the polls. To ease your mind, they’re only there to ensure the smooth conduct of the election.
Neither the military nor the police will interfere with the democratic process — unless you go out of your way to be a nuisance. The Electoral Act empowers presiding officers to call on the police to arrest voters who may be impersonating. Underage voting is also not allowed.
Free flow of traffic
This is what Ikorodu road in Lagos looked like on election day in 2019.
[Empty Lagos roads on election day. AFP]
It’s best to sort out your needs before this Saturday’s polls. If you had Owambe planned, you should revisit your calendar to postpone because polls will severely restrict traffic during voting hours. Please don’t say we didn’t do anything for you.
There are over 176,000 polling units in Nigeria. On election day, each of them will be monitored by party agents. These are people accredited by political parties and INEC to watch proceedings during the voting process. You would see them wearing tags indicating the parties they represent.
Party agents can call the attention of election officials if they suspect someone isn’t who they claim to be, that is, an impersonator. Per the Electoral Act, they can also challenge a count at the end of polls if they believe the presiding officer made an error. The presiding officer must do a recount, but only once.
Party agents are pretty observant. During the counting process, if they notice that a voter’s choice isn’t clear on the ballot paper, maybe because of smudged ink that leads to a vote cast for two different parties, they’ll object loudly. So as not to have your ballot voided, shine your eyes when voting. We did a video explainer on that here.
What else should I know?
If you need help determining where your polling unit is, click the link here to confirm or follow the prompt in the screenshot below.
We also did an explainer here on how to survive election day. Our election tracker goes live on February 25. Get yourself up to date with verified results from across the country by visiting this link.