Nigeria Goes to the Polls in the Shadow of Insecurity
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – Nigerians will vote in what is expected to be one of the country's tightest presidential races ever on Saturday, with a festering insurgency and rampant corruption high on the agenda.
The election, delayed for six weeks while security forces attempted to subdue the armed group Boko Haram in the country's northeast, will be the fifth since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.
With dusk approaching on Friday in Kano, the biggest city in the country's north, which has been hit by Boko Haram attacks, people waited patiently at ATMs as they prepared for a lockdown during voting.
Analysts are calling the poll a pivotal event for the young democracy. President Goodluck Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP) has ruled virtually unopposed for 16 years.
On Saturday, he could lose to former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who has contested three previous elections but never come close to winning.
Buhari's opposition coalition, the All Progressives Congress (APC), has gained popularity by presenting itself as the face of change for voters who have grown frustrated by the government's weak record on corruption and security.
Most Nigerians expect a tight race. Insiders on both sides say that they are confident of victory, and a February poll by Afrobarometer put the parties neck and neck with 42 percent of the vote each.
"The opposition has perhaps slightly less momentum than it did six weeks ago, but the outcome is too close to call," said Thomas Hansen, West Africa analyst with the Control Risks group.
A democratic transition of power would be the first in half a century of post-colonial independence. Heavy manipulation or a contested result would undermine Africa's biggest democracy, and could lead to post-election violence, Al Jazeera reported.
Observers are watching for signs of foul play and, for the first time, permanent voter cards are being used with biometric readers, which should make vote rigging harder.