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Key findings
  • Most Nigerians (71%) support elections as the best way to choose their leaders.
  • A similarly clear majority (69%) say Nigeria needs many political parties to ensure that voters have a real choice, a 13-percentage-point rebound from 2020.
  • But large majorities say elections do not work well to enable voters to remove leaders who don’t do what the people want (77%) or to ensure that National Assembly members reflect voters’ views (70%).
  • Almost two-thirds (64%) of citizens say that in general, it is better if power sometimes changes hands in elections from one political party to another rather than having one party continuously govern the country.
  • A majority (56%) of respondents say the last national election, in 2019, was generally free and fair, but almost four in 10 (38%) believe otherwise.

On 25 February 2023, Nigeria will conduct its seventh general election since the nation returned to democracy in 1999. Ensuring a free, fair, and credible contest among 18 political parties competing in 774 local government areas, 18,818 electoral wards, and 176,846 polling units represents an enormous challenge, especially in a country riven by insecurity (Mefor, 2023; Asadu, 2023; Yusuf, 2023; Independent National Electoral Commission, 2023).

While Nigeria’s previous elections may have deepened democratic practices and maintained civilian rule, they have also frequently been characterised by problems such as low voter turnout due to insecurity, hate speech, and allegations of ballot-box snatching, vote buying, and other forms of cheating (Yakubu & Habib, 2023).

The 2023 election will be the first under the country’s 2022 Electoral Act, a new legislative framework that gives the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) the authority to determine how people go about voting and how election results are announced. The law also legalises technological innovations such as an electronic voter enrolment device, a voter accreditation system combining fingerprint and face biometrics to verify a voter’s identity on Election Day, and a results-viewing portal (Acheme, 2022).

All of these may influence the perceived credibility of the upcoming election, but perhaps the most important factor will be how freely and safely voters feel they can cast their votes for the candidates of their choice.

The most recent Afrobarometer survey findings show that while most Nigerians support elections as the best way to choose their leaders and want to see competition among multiple parties, sizable minorities have doubts about the quality of their elections, and few trust the institution responsible for ensuring a free and fair election.

Raphael Mbaegbu

Raphael is a project manager for NOI Polls

Maame Akua Amoah Twum

Maame is the communications coordinator for North and Anglophone West Africa at Afrobarometer