Nigeria's Presidential Election Hinges On Young People's Votes

Almost 40 percent of registered voters in Nigeria are under the age of 35. If they turn out for Saturday's presidential election, they may well determine the outcome.

Millions of young Nigerians are looking for change as President Muhammadu Buhari steps down after serving the two terms allowed by the constitution.

Young people are coming of age in a country rife with insecurity, economic instability and high unemployment.

Over 42 percent of young people of working age are unemployed, according to Nigeria's National Bureau of Statistics.

"There are so many graduates, and less and less opportunity to work. We study to learn, but we do not count on our diplomas to get a job," Rahila Mallo, a medical student at the University of Jos, in the centre of the country, told RFI.

Students represent 27 percent of registered voters, and if they turn out, they would have a significant impact on the result.

Mallo is planning to vote for the Labour Party candidate Peter Obi, who represents the first ever credible challenge to the country's two main parties.

The 61 year old is hoping to draw in young people who are disillusioned by the two main parties. Bola Tinubu, 70, is the ruling All Progressives Congress party's candidate, while the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party candidate is 76-year-old Atiku Abubakar.

Both are perceived as being corrupt, though they have never been convicted of any charges and both deny any wrongdoing.

Youth mobilisation

Obi has drawn support from students, as well as young professionals who have a newfound belief that their voice matters, after youth-led protests broke out in late 2020 for the first time since Nigeria returned to democracy in 1999.

Protesters demonstrating peacefully against police brutality and demanding better governance were violently repressed.

"We really pray for a better leader. Someone who is responsible, and aware of our problems," math student Nawas Adam Abubakar told RFI. He says he will vote, though he is keeping his choice a secret.

While Obi is leading in some polls, Tinubu and Abubakar have access to more resources, and they control governors and other leaders who hold considerable sway in their constituencies.

Some fear voting for a third-party candidate would split the vote.

And religious and ethnic considerations also come into play. Voters in the majority-Muslim north, which traditionally has the highest turnout, may be reluctant to vote for Obi, a Christian from the south.

(with newswires, reporting from Jos by Amélie Tulet)

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