Muhammadu Buhari won the presidency in a historic election in Nigeria four years ago by promising to crush two scourges that had plagued the nation for years: endemic corruption and a war with Islamist extremists. Back then, Mr. Buhari, a former military general, rode a wave of voter desire to impose greater accountability on the government, end a brutal war with the extremist group Boko Haram and bring back the hundreds of female students taken as captives. Now, as Mr. Buhari is in the final throes of a bruising re-election campaign, he stands accused of falling short on all fronts. Critics say Mr. Buhari has used his antigraft mantra to crush adversaries. Boko Haram is gaining ground, launching sophisticated attacks on weary, underequipped soldiers. And many of the captive students are still missing.
Out of 60 contenders, Mr. Buhari’s leading opponent is Atiku Abubakar, a candidate with little military experience and a past so checkered with corruption allegations that the United States refused for years to grant him a visa.
As voters prepare to go to the polls this weekend for what appears to be a tight election in Africa’s most populous country, the electorate has increasingly lost hope that the government will ever be free of graft. Instead, voters are fixated on mounting violence in pockets of the nation and everyday issues like having reliable electricity.
“Corruption was there before and it continues. But what of security? What of employment? And food?” said Debbie Okochi, who on a recent afternoon was selling electronics at a market in Lagos, where the streets were lined with cardboard cutouts of candidates. “Everything has become worse.”