By Paul Ndiho

Nigeria has Africa’s biggest economy, and voters there head to the polls for general elections on February 16th. Political observers are predicting a tight race between President Muhammadu Buhari and his chief challenger, former vice-president Atiku Abubakar.  Nigeria-Buhari-Atiku-Abubakar-Elections-PDP-APC_0

Campaigning in the Nigerian presidential election enters its final days and the wealth and patronage networks of the two main parties are driving the countries politics. President Muhammadu Buhari and his All Progressives Congress party recently held a pivotal rally in the heart of Lagos. At the rally, Buhari told thousands of supporters he would continue to act on his election promises from his 2015 victory to rid Nigeria of endemic corruption, fix the economy and tackle security threats.

“I assure you that the promise we had made in 2015, based on which you elected us, we made tremendous progress as I mention by those who told you what the administration is doing on security, economy and fighting corruption.”

Haija Adekoya is an avid supporter of APC the ruling party. She says President Buhari has made good on his fight against corruption.

“Fighting corruption. I support Buhari is because of his fight on corruption. He is a man of the intelligence and a man of the people.”

Buhari is fighting a tough battle against his longtime rival, former vice president Atiku Abubakar, who heads up the People’s Democratic Party. Beyond general pledges to tackle corruption, Abubakar is primarily focusing his presidential campaign on how he will further stimulate the nation’s economy. According to the Bloomberg financial organization, Buhari says his economic plan will specifically focus on reforms to boost the oil and non-oil sectors, while Abubakar says he will pursue a more market-friendly policies.

Abubakar’s “Get Nigeria working again” slogan — not only plays on his image as a successful businessman, but highlights what he believes is incumbent Mohammadu Buhari’s alleged failings. Abubakar says security is also a top priority.

“I will restore peace in the North East, and we will restore total peace in Nigeria and anybody that knows me knows I don’t take things for granted and I am not scared.”

This year’s campaign is the fifth time Abubakar has run for Nigeria’s top job. Given his age, 72, and the country’s increasingly young population, it may well be his last.  Muhammadu Buhari, 75, who has dealt with some health issues and has sought treatment outside the country, could also be running in his last campaign.

Political analysts say voters in Africa’s most populous nation and leading oil producer are hoping to use the ballot to deepen the quality of democratic governance. Not long ago, demonstrators took to the streets in Abuja protesting the removal of Nigeria’s Chief Justice for allegedly breaching asset-declaration rules for state officials. A decision that drew worldwide criticism ahead of Saturday’s presidential election.

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