Nigeria Elections: Voters Go To The Polls After 1-Week Delay Vote-counting has started in the much-anticipated election, a week after it was postponed by officials who blamed logistical challenges. Candidates include incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari.
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A Week Late, Nigeria's Election Unfolds

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A Week Late, Nigeria's Election Unfolds

A Week Late, Nigeria's Election Unfolds

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And now we turn to Nigeria, where millions voted today in an election marked by dramatic twists. At the last minute, the vote was delayed a week because of logistical challenges, infuriating many people. But across the country, voters formed long lines outside polling stations under the scorching sun for a generally peaceful election. However, violent incidents were reported in several cities with explosions in the northeastern part of the country where an insurgency continues. NPR's Ofeibea Quist-Arcton is in the capital Abuja, and she's with us now.

Ofeibea, thanks so much for joining us.


MARTIN: So at last, Nigerians have voted, albeit a week late. You watched the vote unfold. Tell us what the voters have been telling you.

QUIST-ARCTON: Voters were saying, oh, at last we're here. Listen, for example, to Ruka Ajana. She said that she was ready to vote a week ago, but she was determined to vote today because voting is so important. Listen to what she says are the priorities.


RUKA AJANA: This is a rich, beautiful country. And anybody from any part of Nigeria can rule us, but I need that person that will put sanity, that will clean up the mess we're in today because we deserve to be better than this. We're not where we're supposed to be.

MARTIN: Ofeibea, what about the presidential candidates? What did the frontrunners have to say after they voted?

QUIST-ARCTON: President Buhari was in a joking mood this morning. He was asked by journalists, what if you lose? Will you concede? He said, oh, no. I'm going to be congratulating myself because I'll win. Now, the main opposition challenger, Atiku Abubakar, former vice president and a businessman - he was asked the same question. And he said, oh, I'm waiting for a very peaceful and orderly transition. And when he was asked, well, if you lose, what will happen, he said, I'm a democrat.

So they are both being presidential about the way they're behaving. But we're told that in his own polling unit that Atiku Abubakar, the main opposition hopeful, lost the vote to the president. So I guess that is democracy.

MARTIN: You know, the hashtag #NigeriaDecides2019 was trending worldwide on Twitter. What do you think that says?

QUIST-ARCTON: They use this time, and they make up half the electorate. Eighty three million people were registered to vote, 73 million picked up their voting cards and the young people are determined. There is the Not Too Young To Run campaign, for example, trying to get more of Nigeria's youth into leadership positions - maybe not president this time but certainly into the National Assembly and state assemblies as well.

They're saying, this is our time. President Muhammadu Buhari is in his 70s, so is Atiku Abubakar. The youth say no, this has got to change. We are Nigeria's future and present, and we need to be represented. So it's really important to see what the youth vote and the youth turnout is going to be at this election.

MARTIN: And finally, Ofeibea, you know, voting is the first step, but then the results have to be announced. What do you anticipate? I recall that that's often the trickiest part of elections in Nigeria.

QUIST-ARCTON: Because there is always that specter of violence if people are not happy with the outcome. So there have been appeals for peaceful elections and especially a peaceful and calm post-election period. We'll have to see. But let me just tell you that the economy is the big thing that people are talking about - also, jobs for the unemployed youth and, of course, peace and security. So all Nigerians are aware of this despite the violent incidents today.

MARTIN: That is Ofeibea Quist-Arcton in Nigeria's capital, Abuja.

Ofeibea, thank you so much.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you.

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