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Nigeria wraps up presidential election campaign


General_Buhari_holding_a_broom_at_a_campign_rallyCampaigning wound to a close in Nigeria’s presidential elections on Thursday, with the two leading candidates delivering their final messages to supporters before the crunch vote.hey p challenge from former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari.

Land and sea borders were shut at midnight on Wednesday (2300 GMT) as part of stringent security measures that also include an eight-hour restriction on movement when polling stations are open.

Nigeria has a history of election-related unrest and both candidates appeared keen to prevent a repeat of 2011, when 1,000 people were killed in clashes after the results were announced.

This time round, fears of Boko Haram suicide attacks and bombings at vulnerable targets, including polling stations, have seen unprecedented calls for vigilance from the security services.

– ‘Peace deal’ –

Jonathan and Buhari signed a pledge of non-violence in January and on Thursday repeated their commitment to peaceful elections, with the campaign due to formally end at midnight.

“Now that the campaigns have come to an end, we meet to renew our pledge for peaceful elections,” read a document signed by the two men at a hotel in Abuja and made available to reporters.

“We therefore call on all fellow citizens of our dear country and our party supporters to refrain from violence or any acts that may in any way jeopardise our collective vision of a free, fair and credible election.”

The country is almost evenly split between a Muslim-majority north and largely Christian south, with Buhari and Jonathan traditionally pulling support from their respective regions.

Acceptance of the result is seen as key to preventing violence and the Independent National Electoral Commission said it had been working with the parties to tone down often violent rhetoric.

“All this will add up when the elections are through and the results are announced and we see that they conduct themselves in accordance with the pledges and promises that have been made,” INEC spokesman Kayode Idowu told AFP.

– Final messages –

Jonathan published a “thank you” message to Nigerians on the front page of many national newspapers, with a 40-page colour pull-out detailing his claimed achievements.

But the president recognised the challenge from Buhari and his All Progressives Congress (APC) which could see his ruling party defeated for the first time since the end of military rule in 1999.

“Right now there are only a few more hours to the election. I cannot recall an election more important than this in the history of our nation and I need your support,” the 57-year-old wrote.

“I need you to vote for me in this election, not just because of me, but so that we consolidate on the progress we have made.”

Jonathan is campaigning for continuity and has vowed to complete the work he has started in his first four years in office.

Buhari, 72, who headed a military government in the 1980s and describes himself as a “converted democrat”, has for his part pushed an agenda of “change”.

He criticised “insecurity, broken infrastructure and growing inequality”, vowing action against Boko Haram and corruption, which he said had made Nigeria “a laughing stock of the world”.

“Rebuilding the army and other security agencies will… be a top priority of my government. I will ensure that never again will terrorists find a safe haven in Nigeria,” he added.

He said he would also reunite the more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the group in April last year with their families.

– INEC on track –

The electoral commission charged with organising the election in Africa’s most populous nation meanwhile said it was on track for a smooth operation.

Some 68.8 million voters out of a total population of some 173 million are registered to vote in Nigeria, which is also Africa’s leading economy and top oil producer.

Ballot papers and election materials, including for the first time handheld readers to scan biometric voter identity cards, had been sent to the country’s 36 states and capital territory.

“Everything is in place,” said INEC’s Idowu.

INEC has come under scrutiny for its preparedness, even after the initial February 14 vote was postponed because of military operations against Boko Haram in the northeast.

Jonathan’s PDP voiced concern about the distribution of voter cards and the card-reading technology.

But Idowu said the election “will be as flawless as humanly possible” and that results would be announced within 48 hours of polls closing on Saturday.

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  • Joseph

    May the best candidate win.

  • Hema

    God bless Nigeria

  • machoword

    I cant trust my votes and support with mr Jonathan for another four years so pls dnt disturb me again try harder next time u may come back 2019 to recontest u have the right u are a Nigerian

  • Ify Onabu

    As our people go to the polls tomorrow, they must remember that no nation rewards perpetrators of violence and supporters of terrorism with political power. They must remember that one man threatened to make Nigerian go through hell because he lost an election; and he carried out the threat to the letter. Our people must remember that you do not reward with political power dictators and coupists. Their claim of democratic conversion must be disregarded, for leopards do not change their spots overnight. Those who scuttled our past democratic experiments and overthrew democratic institutions must be sent to permanent retirement on 28th March 2015. They must not reward those who think that they are the sole custodians of political power in Nigeria or that power belongs to a section of the country. Nigeria belongs to all of us and power belongs to God! They must not reward with political power the man that publicly executed three young men in 1984 under a retroactive legislation. That man has had several opportunities to tender an apology, but he has only scoffed his nose at us. They must not reward with political power the one who imprisoned journalists for publishing the truth. He has had several opportunities to say ‘sorry’ but he arrogantly refused to do so. Those who have applied double standards while in government must not be rewarded with political power. Those who swear falsely to an affidavit, claiming to be what they are not, must not be rewarded with political power. If a man cannot abide by simple electoral rules, how can he be trusted to obey court orders that are contrary to his desire? Our people must be wary of him and not reward him with power. I have enjoyed making my contributions in the run-up to these elections. It is a measure of the deepening of our democracy that we are able to tolerate opposing views. It is indeed better to jaw-jaw than to war-war. The media has created platforms for our people to ventilate their opinions on issues. Kudos to all the media outlets – The Guardian, The Vanguard and ThisDay- for providing us such wonderful opportunities. Contrary to what some folks think, a number of people who have contributed to the debates have done so out of patriotic zeal. I have not collected a farthing from anybody and I do not carry any party card. May the Lord bless Nigeria!

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