Saturday marks Nigeria’s presidential election, leaving experts skeptical about whether or not the country is prepared for the highly anticipated post-election violence.
Rifle-toting police and armored vehicles surround electoral commission offices in a suburb of Lagos. Police checkpoints have increased along the city’s main street, Ikorodu Road.
In the meantime, Nigerian officials confirm that Boko Haram extremists have kidnapped hundreds of civilians in the country’s northeast.
Fears of election-related violence continues to run high as the government does what it describes as taking extensive precautions to ensure security across the country. On election day, however, it’s not expected that polling will happen in much of the northeast where Boko Haram continues to have a stronghold due to an absence of a functioning government.
Many are worried that government security forces will not be able to keep control of the violence despite weeks of preparation.
“This is always extremely dangerous in a country divided along religious and ethnic lines,” says John Campbell, the former United States ambassador to Nigeria. He says that the military is simply too weak to prevent potential protests from spiraling out of control.
Nigerian political analyst, Chris Ngwodo, says that a lack of manpower and resources is to blame for the spiraling fears, adding he’s “not sure that we have done all we can do or that we are prepared as we can be.”
On voting day, police forces have already announced a nationwide traffic ban from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. – with the exception of emergency vehicles. According to a statement, they have also said they will enforce “water-tight security around key and vulnerable points,” including refugee camps, newsrooms, government offices and hospitals.
For many, the heated 2011 elections are still fresh in their minds as President Jonathan’s defeat of Mr. Buhari led to three days of violent protests that left 800 people dead.
This year, efforts are being made to ensure a peaceful voting experience. A nongovernmental organization, Policy and Legal Advocate Center, are planning to monitor polling stations throughout the country as well as push the two main party candidates to conduct a peaceful process.
“We are encouraging people to resist the temptation to resort to violence,” says the advocate center’s executive director Clement Nwankwo. “We are doing our best to encourage nonviolence as much as possible.”