Nigeria's President Promises Safe Voting

Atiku Abubakar vs Muhammadu Buhari.

Nigeria's president says polling stations will be safe Saturday when the country holds national elections after a one-week delay.

In a nationally televised address Friday, President Muhammadu Buhari said security has been mobilized across the country for the polls, and pledged that people will be able to vote without intimidation or fear.

Political tensions are running high as Nigerians prepare to elect a new president and parliament. During the campaign, Buhari's All Progressives Congress and main opposition Peoples Democratic Party accused each other of attempting to fix the outcome.

Earlier this week, Buhari urged the military to be "ruthless" with anyone who tries to interfere in the voting process.

The remark drew sharp criticism from his main challenger, Atiku Abubakar, who said the military has "no role to play" in the elections.

Nigeria's elections were initially planned for last Saturday but the electoral commission, citing logistical issues, abruptly postponed them just five hours before polling stations were set to open.

The commission said Friday it is ready to deliver free and fair elections. Rotimi Oyekanmi, chief press secretary to commission chairman Mahmood Yakubu, said officials have resolved most of the problems that led to postponement of the February 16 vote.

Some 84 million Nigerians are registered to vote in the polls. The presidential contest is widely seen as a tight race between President Buhari and Abubakar, a former vice president.

After ruling briefly as a military dictator in the 1980s, Buhari won the 2015 election, becoming the first opposition candidate to defeat a sitting president.

VOA's Peter Clottey contributed to this story from Abuja and VOA's James Butty contributed from Washington.

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