Abuja. - The Presidential Elections in Nigeria on March 28th are the most contested in the country’s history. The spotlight will be on how the two main candidates in Africa’s largest democracy lead the country through high risks of political violence, questions around electoral credibility, and threats to the country´s unity. The two main Candidates are: President Goodluck Jonathan, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), who has been in power for five years and has significant support in the Southern regions. And General Buhari, former military ruler, and now leader of the All Progressive Congress (APC). His support base is mainly from the north of the country. The election will be a rematch of the 2011 elections, which resulted in riots and violence.

In 2011, riots erupted in parts of the country after Goodluck Jonathan won his first presidential election over his challenger former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari. Saturday’s" elections are expected to be among the most competitive in Nigeria’s history", PBS reported on Wednesday.

But on Thursday the BBC stated that the two candidates have signed an agreement to prevent violence in the aftermath of the election. They promised to respect the outcome of a credible poll and urged their supporters to refrain from violence.

The American TV station PBS states that states that "the post-election violence in 2011 killed more than 800 people, Human Rights Watch said, and displaced tens of thousands of others, as Buhari supporters burned down churches, homes and mosques in protest. And the National Human Rights Commission has said the ramp-up to the elections has seen dozens of people die - considered a worrisome trend because “the pattern and intensity of pre-election violence is atypical of Nigeria’s recent electoral history."

Nigeria is the largest democracy in Africa, the most populous country, and the largest economy on the continent, surpassing South Africa last year. The country has been a global contributor to peacekeeping operations and has served as a stabilizing element in the politics of the West African region. According to the IMF , Nigeria is the largest economy in Africa with annual growth of 6.8% over the past decade. It accounts for 35% of the GDP in Sub Saharan Africa. Nigeria is a significant global oil producer but has experienced declines due to changes in the international markets and the uncertain security situation in the country.

Nigeria has ordered the closure of all its land and sea borders ahead of Saturday's tightly contested elections. Intelligence reports indicated that foreigners planned to cross into Nigeria to vote, Interior Minister Patrick Abba Moro told the BBC.

Thousands of Nigerians who fled the six-year insurgency, and are taking refuge in neighbouring states, would not be able to vote, reports the BBC's Habiba Adamu from the capital, Abuja.

These elections mark the first nationwide contest in decades between two relatively equal political parties. If Buhari wins, it will be the first peaceful, electoral transition of power in Nigeria’s history. But the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has warned that, without steps to prevent escalation, this year’s tight elections could confront a high risk of significant violence which could pose a clear and present danger to the stability of the country and its neighbours. The fact that Bahari has many northern states supporting him, the All Progressive Congress party and its supporters are expected to dispute the election results after polls have predicted the tightest presidential campaign in Nigerian history." 

The elections were delayed by six weeks, supposedly due to concerns of the Independent National Election Commission (INEC) of the lack of security in three states in North Eastern Nigeria affected by the Boko Haram insurgency, although most observers agree it was motivated by President Jonathan needing more time to rally support for his campaign.

Boko Haram’s leader has promised to ensure that these elections would not be held in peace in the North East and has since pledged allegiance to Islamic State. Boko haram has denounced the elections as "un-Islamic." Already more than 1.5 million Nigerians have fled their homes, and 168,000 people have fled to neighbouring countries as a result of Boko Haram attacks. The group has carried crossed into Cameroon, Niger and Chad as well. The UN has said that “Countering Boko Haram effectively and permanently should be based on a multi- dimensional approach that addresses human rights concerns and promotes good governance and economic and social development”.

Sources: theafricanews.net | pbs.org/newshour | ibtimes.com | bbc.com/news | crisisaction.org

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