First, the Nigerian national political imaginations and cleavages – religion, region, and ethnicity are not as salient as it was in 2015. This is understandable given that in the last election, it was a context between the sitting President, a southern Christian, and a northern Muslim. This year, the two major candidates are both Fulani Muslim from the north. The current President (Muhammed Buhari) is from the northwest while AtikuAbubakar is from the northeast.
Second, there is a lot of lethargy. People do not think their vote will count. Unlike four years ago whereby there were a robust civic engagement and the confidence that every vote counts. This time, there is a general belief that this election will be rigged, which is not new in Nigeria. However, there is a regression in political freedom as oppositions claim of suppression. Some activists I spoke with confirmed that they have been threatened when their report is not favorable to the government.
Third, in addition to the suppression of opposition voices, political violence has escalated in the country as never before. Some people said that they are not voting for fear of their lives. Just a few days ago, President Buhari ordered the police and the military to be ruthless with vote-riggers. The problem is that this is emboldening the police and the military that are already known for their recklessness and operating outside the law. Many have condemned the President's order and rhetoric. The opposition calls it jungle justice and licenses to kill. They accused the President of politicizing and using the military to further his political interest. The two major parties will commit election fraud. It is a matter of who will be more ruthless?
Fourth, there is a problem with voters card as many, especially in the south, complained of inability to collect their voter's card. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) confirmed the voters' ID problem and also noted that election would not be held in some areas due to PVC problem and ballot allocation. Despite postponing the election for one week, these problems have not been solved. The INEC insisted that the election will be held on Saturday 23rd February. It is very likely it would hold, but the legitimacy of the election will be in question.
Generally, the improvement that was made four years ago in the Nigerian democratic process has been erased. Nigerian elections have always been a zero-sum game, and the winner takes it all. In the absence of a better word, I say, this election is an absolute-zero-sum game. This is why many have resigned to whatever outcome would be. It is now 'a wait and see situation'.