President Jonathan favoured to win polls
LAGOS — Nigeria made final preparations Friday on the eve of a landmark presidential
election, with incumbent Goodluck Jonathan favoured to win after opposition parties failed to
unite against him.
Africa's most populous nation will be attempting to hold its cleanest election for head of state
in nearly two decades on Saturday, with parliamentary polls the week before seen as a major
Jonathan's main challenger is ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari, who benefits from
significant support in the country's mainly Muslim north. Jonathan, a southern Christian, is
the first president from the oil-producing Niger Delta region.
Despite the progress, violence also cast a shadow over last week's efforts in Africa's largest
oil producer, with bomb blasts and other attacks leaving more than 30 dead.
Security has once again been tightened ahead of Saturday's vote, with land borders shut and
vehicle restrictions due to take effect Friday evening.
About 17,000 security personnel, including soldiers and policemen, have been deployed
across Abuja, the nation's capital, a senior police spokesman said.
With the results of parliamentary elections so far showing the ruling party losing ground,
the country's two main opposition parties had restarted negotiations this week on forming an
alliance against Jonathan.
The candidate for the Action Congress of Nigeria, Nuhu Ribadu, had offered to step down in
favour of Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change.
The offer, however, was based on Buhari accepting Ribadu's vice presidential candidate on
his ticket, which he refused, according to the ACN.
Fola Adeola, a respected businessman and Ribadu's vice presidential candidate, told AFP
recently in an interview that he would have favoured an alliance since that offered the best
hope for unseating Jonathan.
He also harshly criticised Jonathan, who took office in May 2010 following the death of his
predecessor Umaru Yar'Adua.
The opposition will face a tough road in seeking to beat him with their votes divided —
despite the fact that an enormous effort underway to hold credible polls is seen as giving the
opposition a greater opening.
Two opinion polls have given Jonathan a wide lead over Buhari, and Ribadu has scored
less than 10 percent in both. Jonathan's party has won every presidential vote since Nigeria
returned to civilian rule in 1999.
"The opposition is in disarray," said Chidi Odinkalu of the Open Society Justice Initiative
NGO. "It had the possibility of defeating the incumbent."
Jonathan has repeatedly pledged a free and fair election, and Nigeria has been under major
pressure from international bodies and Western nations to improve the conduct of its polls
after years of rigging and fraud.
"The president is not seeing this as a do or die affair, which is good for our democracy," said
Ken Nnamani, a high-ranking member of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party.