This Muslim Voter Doesn’t Believe Religion Should Be an Electoral Criteria

November 8, 2022

The Nigerian Voter is a series that seeks to understand the motivations that drive the voting decisions of Nigerians — why they vote, how they pick their candidates, why some have never voted, and their wildest stories around elections.

The subject of today’s The Nigerian Voter is Safiya, a Muslim lady from Kaduna State in her twenties. She moved to Lagos in 2018 in search of greener pastures. She told us about her past experience voting in the North, and her views on religion and tribalism when it comes to the voting process. 

What made you come from Kaduna to Lagos?

I moved here in 2018. The economy is very poor there in Kaduna and farmers are not making ends meet. Here in Lagos, I am making more money than my secondary school teacher and I can employ him, even with my mama put business.

So that being said, I came to Lagos to get what I want, which is a better life for myself. Kaduna was just too poor and it is not safe with Boko Haram attacks here and there. Most people living in the North are just branching out to different parts of the country. 

Have you ever voted before?

Yes, I have. 

In 2019, I went to Niger State to vote (since that was where I registered), but it was a terrible experience because the INEC chairmen there did not allow one to vote. 

It’s only the people that settled them with money (bribes) that they allowed to vote. If you don’t settle them well, the vote will not count.

Have you ever faced any form of harassment during voting?

Yes oh, very well. 

I can remember an INEC guy slapping me across the face because I was arguing with someone that jumped the queue. Unknown to me, the person had already bribed this guy with N20,000, which back then, was a lot of money in the North. 

Even a pregnant woman nearly lost her baby in my presence because she was pushed down with violent force. It was a really tough time.

Who did you vote for then and why?

That time, I voted for Buhari, because I was scared that nobody else would win if I voted for them. I know that with these elections, if someone is running for office a second time, it’s that person that will win. 

So since 2019 was for Buhari’s second tenure, I just voted for him anyway.

Do you regret voting for Buhari now?

Ah, well, sometimes I wish I had the courage to vote for someone else. 

Atiku may not be the best person for Nigeria, but he is better than this Buhari. Anyways, I’m just hoping that 2023 will be different with the right person, insha’allah.

Who would you vote for in 2023 and why?

Peter Obi, because we need an educated person that can develop the country financially. People know that supporting businesses will reduce the financial pressure on them as a government, instead of simply encouraging the usual employment by people. 

Peter Obi has these ideas. And you know Igbos, they’re quite skilled with this business thing. So I know he would create financial freedom for businesses. We would also have our own Nigerian-made stuff instead of importing. I don’t trust men like Tinubu to deliver, and Atiku should go and rest. The man has been running for president ever since I was in primary school. 

Igbo men are always very successful in business, so I know that if I vote for Obi, he will create ways for businesses to grow. Maybe I can get a restaurant instead of this mama put.

But would you say religion should be a big part of your criteria for a candidate?

Look ehn, Nigeria is the way that it is now because we are all voting based on tribe or religion. In 2015, my people voted for Buhari because he is from the North, but look at how that turned out. If I was ever told that my own Northern Muslim brethren could treat us this way, making us become refugees in other parts of the country, I would never have believed it. 

Election is not about religion or tribalism. We need to vote for the right person. It is religion and tribalism that made us vote for Buhari the first time, and look at where that turned out. I can’t vote for Tinubu because he extorts people, and he doesn’t care. 

Look at this flooding crisis for instance that happened in Kogi State. Did Tinubu ever go to visit any of those victims? How many days passed before Atiku visited? It was only Obi that had enough sense to go to those places and sympathize with them, and help them. Why would I not vote for that kind of leader? 

Tinubu said emi l’okan and they’re playing with the presidential seat as some sort of royal seat that is turn by turn. Is it a royal family thing, that you’re saying emi l’okan? Rubbish. This time, we need to all vote and our vote has to count!

Who are the people you know voting for? 

It’s still Peter Obi oh, even in the North. 

I can’t say I know a single person that wants to vote for Atiku or Tinubu. It’s because my own people are all into a business and they’ve seen that Peter Obi is their man. They will go to the polls en-masse in 2023 and cast their vote!

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