LAGOS. — Nigeria holds general elections this Saturday — the fifth since civilian rule was restored in 1999.
Nigeria’s 57-year-old leader is seeking a second term after a tumultuous five years plagued by the dramatic rise in strength of Boko Haram Islamists and a widely-criticised job performance.
Critics say he has failed to tackle corruption or improve infrastructure, especially electricity supply, but Jonathan still has supporters, particularly in the mainly Christian south of the religiously divided nation.
The former military ruler is taking his fourth shot at the presidency since democracy was restored in 1999, and has tried to position himself as Nigeria’s top anti-corruption crusader.
Buhari (72) insists he will win this time, refusing to even discuss the prospect of another defeat. If Jonathan is declared the winner, Buhari’s actions could prove crucial in avoiding widespread post-election unrest.
Boko Haram’s leader, a wanted criminal who is suspected of orchestrating crimes against humanity, has vowed to disrupt the polls, which the Islamist group views as “un-Islamic”.
That sinister pledge may turn out to be empty bluster but given Boko Haram’s proven ability to sow chaos across northern Nigeria, the possibility exists of widespread attacks, including bombings, on polling day.
The head of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has faced fierce criticism from both the opposition and the ruling party during the campaign.
But impartial observers broadly see him as tough-minded, independent administrator committed to overseeing a fair and credible vote. The career academic cut his political teeth opposing the brutal military dictatorship of Sani Abacha in the late 1990s.
The independence of Nigeria’s military and police around election day will likely be crucial in ensuring the vote is respected nationwide.
The defence ministry has issued clear statements declaring itself to be a completely non-partisan actor in the polls but troubling events in recent months have raised concern. — AFP.