Crunch time as Nigeria goes to the polls

LAGOS (AFP) – Nigeria made final preparations yesterday on the eve of presidential elections, with candidates pitting continuity against reform in a battle between incumbent Muhammadu Buhari and his main rival Atiku Abubakar.

Buhari, the 76-year-old leader of Africa’s most populous nation was elected in 2015 on a wave of hope he could defeat Boko Haram extremists, tackle rampant corruption and boost the economy.

But he faces a stiff challenge from former vice-president Abubakar, 72, amid fears about widening insecurity, claims of creeping authoritarianism, and economic incompetence.

A total of 73 candidates are on the ballot for today – the sixth election in 20 years since Nigeria returned to democracy after decades of military rule.

Buhari, from the All Progressives Congress (APC), and Abubakar, of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), are considered the main contenders.

Campaigning ended on Thursday with final rallies in Buhari’s home state of Katsina, in the northwest, and Abubakar’s native Adamawa, in the northeast.

A record 84,004,084 people are registered to vote. Also up for grabs are 360 seats in the Lower House of Representatives and 109 in the Senate. Nearly 120,000 polling units are set to open at 0700 GMT and close at 1600 GMT.

The face of incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari is seen on a campaign poster fixed to the pillars of a highway bridge near Nyanya, Nigeria. – AP