Nigeria heads for landmark presidential poll

Nigeria heads for landmark presidential poll

Despite surprising gains by some opposition parties in the parliamentary elections conducted a week earlier,incumbent Goodluck Jonathan of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is favoured to win as his rivals failed to unite against him.

He is contesting against ex-military ruler Gen Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), former anti-graft boss Nuhu Ribadu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and governor of Kano State Ibrahim Shekarau of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).

His main challenger Buhari said at a press briefing held in the country's capital Abuja early in the week that he was confident of winning. But the failure of a merger his party planned with ACN seems to have reduced his chances.

The presidential candidate of ACN, Ribadu could not step down over some internal disagreements even as his party blamed the former head of state for the collapse but he denied being responsible for the failure.

"The talks ran into difficulties when the ACN insisted the only condition for agreement was that they must produce the Vice President. By the electoral laws, this was virtually impossible before this election," Buhari said.

Meanwhile, the country has closed all land borders beginning from Thursday from 6 pm to 6 am until Monday and restricted the movement of vehicles from 8 am to 5 pm on the election day.

Post-election period and the parliamentary polls witnessed series of violence ranging from clashes among party thugs to bombing by persons suspected to be Islamic sect members.

An office of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in northern Niger State was hit by bomb blast that left more than six dead and several others wounded on the eve of the parliamentary elections.

This year's elections which involves parliamentary, presidential and governorship votes has been seen a litmus test to the country's polling system seen as flawed by observers but analysts believe there was significant progress last Saturday.

For the first time, the country has adopted a thumb printing process which would ensure there are no multiple voting and also sent some foreigners seen with voters' cards home.
Nigeria is divided between a largely Muslim North and mostly Christian South and this plays significant role on who gains more from voters.

Jonathan is a Christian from the south while Buhari, Ribadu and Shekarau are Muslims from the North and the odds favour the president since the others would have their votes fragmented.

The oil rich country returned to democratic system in 1999 after several years of military rule and has held elections every four years since then.