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Nigeria elections 2023: Nigeria’s 3 main presidential candidates
The election feels like a showdown between an unstoppable force and an immovable object for Nigeria's future.

Young Nigerians have turned Saturday's presidential election into the most competitive since the end of military rule in 1999, with many backing a third-party candidate to take on the country's two main political machines and bring change to the country after years of stagnation, corruption and insecurity in Africa's most populous nation.

Spurred on by the 2020 EndSars anti-police brutality protests that morphed into calls for good governance, millions of young people have registered as first-time voters.

Though the protests were brutally halted by the army, the disbandment of the Sars police unit notorious for profiling young people was considered a success.

That seems to have galvanized frustrated young Nigerians and now they are targeting the highest office in the land.

The man many are backing, Peter Obi of the Labour Party, is not that young at 61. Nor is he really a new broom in Nigerian politics as he has previously been the vice-presidential candidate for the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

But he is considered an outlier because of his accessibility, simplicity and his record of prudence with public funds when he was Anambra state governor.

Many accuse President Muhammadu Buhari, who is stepping down after two terms, of mismanaging the economy and overseeing the most insecure period in the country since the 1967-1970 civil war.

Under his watch, young middle-class Nigerians have seen their finances battered by record levels of inflation.

One in three of them cannot find a job, students have experienced incessant strikes by lecturers and many of Nigeria's finest are desperate to leave the country.

On top of this, widespread insecurity has seen armed groups kill more than 10,000 people and abduct more than 5,000 last year alone, according to the International Crisis Group.

Offering hope of a new era, Mr Obi is going up against the twin behemoths of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the PDP who have alternated in power since the end of military rule in 1999. Their candidates are both in their 70s in a country where a third of Nigeria's 210 million people are aged below 35.

Ethnic and religious factors also influence the choice of many voters. Mr Obi has been openly supported by Nigeria's huge evangelical Christian movement in the south, and can also rely on the votes of Christians who feel persecuted in the mainly Muslim north.

Mr Obi is an Igbo from the east, the only major ethnic group yet to supply a Nigerian president. While some back the idea it is their turn to be in power, the APC and PDP candidates will enjoy the backing of many in their home areas - the south-west and north respectively.

Victory for Mr Obi is far from guaranteed.

The APC and PDP have the advantage of countrywide name recognition, which the Labour Party seems to struggle with, especially in vote-rich rural areas in the north.

Despite having vast oil and gas riches, Nigeria has been held back by widespread corruption since independence in 1960.

But in an election where the frontrunners come from the three major regions in the country, a winner will need votes beyond his base to be guaranteed victory and this is more of a challenge for Mr Obi than the other two.

Many consider the election to be a referendum on the ruling party, whose candidate Bola Tinubu is widely credited for reshaping the commercial hub Lagos as governor between 1999-2007.

Mr Tinubu, 70, was instrumental in the emergence of President Buhari in 2015 but has controversially said that he cannot be judged on the records of the present government.

For many though, it is hard to look beyond the hardships of the last eight years, exacerbated by the chaos the introduction of new banknotes has caused in recent weeks.

Many have slept outside cash machines and banks waiting to get the new naira notes which are in short supply in a country where many rely on cash.

The PDP was in power for 16 years, most of which saw government revenues boosted by oil sales. But it was a time plagued by accusations of widespread corruption, some of it involving Mr Abubakar, which he has denied.

Mr Abubakar has changed parties several times - this is his sixth attempt at the presidency since 1993 - leading many young people to question the freshness of his ideas for the top job.

However, his supporters consider him the most experienced man on the ballot. As the only major candidate from the north, he will enjoy the backing of many in that region. He has promised critical reforms that will restructure the country.

Simon Ekpa: Nigeria's Ipob faction leader arrested in Finland

A controversial leader of a Nigerian secessionist movement has been arrested at his home in Finland.

Simon Ekpa allegedly used social media to incite violence and called for a boycott of Saturday's Nigerian poll.

He leads a faction within the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), which is fighting for a breakaway state in south-eastern Nigeria.

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