A long-delayed election will be taking place in Nigeria this weekend, as the original date was put off due to security concerns relating to the continued fight against the Boko Haram terrorist group. Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressives Congress opposition party, who briefly ruled the country in the 1980s after a military coup, will attempt to defeat incumbent Goodluck Jonathan, of the People’s Democratic Party.
In recent months, Boko Haram has stepped up its campaign in Nigeria’s northeast, and violence has spread to neighboring countries. Nigeria has the largest economy in Africa and is a major oil producer, so in its most important election since democratic rule was restored in 1999, the world will anxiously await the results.
With so much on the line, here’s what Nigerians had to say about the state of their country when we surveyed them in spring 2014:
1Nigerians detest Boko Haram. Overall, 82% of Nigerians have an unfavorable view of Boko Haram, with 79% holding a very unfavorable view. This distaste is shared by Christians and Muslims alike (Nigeria is about half Christian and half Muslim, according to the Pew-Templeton Global Religious Futures project).
2About seven-in-ten Nigerians (72%) are worried about Islamic extremism in their country. And when asked to name the world’s greatest danger, a 38% plurality say that religious and ethnic hatred is the top threat.
4Nigerians have less regard for their national government compared with other institutions tested. No wonder an Afrobarometer survey from December 2014 found that 74% of Nigerians say the country is headed in the wrong direction.
5A majority of Nigerians (66%) say most government officials do not care about what ordinary people think, and Afrobarometer found that 50% are very or somewhat concerned about political intimidation or violence at the polls, up from 34% in 2012.
6Despite concerns about their government and institutions, Nigerians remain politically engaged. Seven-in-ten Nigerian adults have voted in an election, and many see voting and attending campaign events as effective ways to influence government. To that end, a recent International Foundation for Electoral Systems poll found that 79% of Nigerians were either very (61%) or somewhat (18%) likely to vote in the presidential election.
The outcome of the presidential election is considered too close to call, and the potential looms for a violent lead-up to Election Day (and the outside possibility of a runoff). Whoever triumphs, public opinion shows that Nigerians recognize the wide array of problems facing their country and the difficulty the next leader will have in addressing them all.
This is an update of a blog post originally published Feb. 9, 2015.