Dismay, anger among young Nigerians after election outcome

Thursday March 02 2023
Peter Obi supporters campaigning

Supporters of Nigeria’s Labour Party holds posters during a march for their presidential candidate Peter Obi in Abuja on February 18, 2023. The win by APC presidential candidate Bola Tinubu has disappointed many young Nigerians. PHOTO | KOLA SULAIMON | AFP


Sam Nwajaku could not hide his anger hours after Nigeria's president-elect Bola Tinubu raised his hand in victory.

“They cheated,” the 38-year-old painter, seated at a kiosk in Onitsha, in Southeast Nigeria; a stronghold of opposition candidate Peter Obi. 

"We see the same old politicians who have no interest in us."

Nicknamed the "Godfather of Lagos" for his influence, 70-year-old Tinubu was on Wednesday declared Nigeria’s president-elect after an election that had sparked hopes for change among the youthful Nigerians but ended in acrimony.

The result has exasperated some young Nigerians, tired of the old political elite governing them. Nearly 40 percent of Nigerian voters is aged under 35.

Obi supporters


Many young voters were drawn to Peter Obi, the surprise third party challenger who eventually came third.

A former governor of his own home state of Anambra, Obi drew support from southern states of Nigeria, where many are Christians or from the Igbo ethnic group. 

He campaigned saying he was a candidate for all Nigerians, but especially many of the younger voters dissatisfied with politics as usual.

"We are upset, I really thought Peter Obi would be elected," said Nikodemos Daniel, a 27-year-old motorcycle driver, also in Onitsha, Anambra State.

Tinubu's rise has been punctuated by numerous accusations of corruption, without him ever being convicted and which he has always denied.

Many young Nigerians on February 25 2023 turned into ardent defenders of democracy remaining for hours at the polling stations, sometimes in the rain, to ensure election transparency.

The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of Nigeria said the February 25 election would be more transparent than past elections tainted by accusations of rigging and ballot-buying.

But long delays in voting as well as slow delivery of the results upset many and stoked fraud suspicions.

INEC said technical difficulties caused problems but insisted the vote was free.

"This time, we thought it would be different," said Osaki Briggs, 25, a photographer from the southern state of Rivers.

He said the election was "depressing," just like previous ones marred by accusations of fraud.

'Sick man'

"Everyone expected an online transmission of results from polling units to the INEC portal. Nonetheless, after voting, we heard the portal crashed. Which cannot be true. There could only be a hidden agenda." said Orison Omega, 23, an Abuja student. 

Nigeria’s outgoing president, 80-year-old Muhammudu Buhari leaves power in May after serving maximum two terms, bequeathing Tinubu colossal challenges ranging from a security crisis and widening poverty to a stagnant economy.

"How can a sick man who can't stand on his own or make a speech be declared the winner?" asked Jennifer Dike, 28, in reference to concerns over Tinubu's health and age – worries his party dismisses as unfounded.

For Dike, Tinubu will not be the president who will "deliver" Nigeria from corruption, hunger or poverty. 

"I'm so sad. No wonder young people are leaving the country in large numbers these days."

For decades, Nigerians, rich and poor alike, have emigrated to other countries. But today, the desire to be elsewhere appears on the rise as Nigerians battle economic hardship, shortages of oil and even banknotes.

For the social media-connected youth of the south, Obi precisely embodied this desire for change and something better. 

But analysts doubted the ability of the candidate of the small Labour Party to amass votes beyond his stronghold and in particular in the Muslim majority north.

In Kano, Nigeria’s second city located in the north, some celebrated Tinubu's win.

Opposition parties may go to court to challenge the outcome. 

But for now, life goes back to normal in Onitsha in Obi's home state as elsewhere with Nigerians getting back to work. 

"If he is a candidate, Peter Obi will win the next one," said Chukwu Michael.