(AA) – Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan and Muhammadu Buhari, his main challenger in upcoming March 28 polls, committed themselves to peaceful conduct on Thursday, urging their respective supporters to shun violence.
“Now that the [electoral] campaigns have come to an end, we meet today to renew our pledge for peaceful elections,” the two men said in a joint statement after meeting in capital Abuja.
“We therefore call on all fellow citizens of our dear country and our party supporters to refrain from violence or any acts that may in any way jeopardize our collective vision of a free, fair and credible election,” they added.
Nigerians will go to the polls on Saturday to elect a new president and parliament.
Although 14 candidates will vie for presidency, the poll is largely seen as a race between Jonathan and Buhari.
Buhari is a former military ruler running on the ticket of the opposition All Progressives Congress (APC) party.
The APC represents an amalgam of political interests that have come together in a bid to wrest power from Jonathan’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP), which has ruled the country since its return to democracy in 1999.
The Abuja meeting – which was facilitated by Abubakar Abdussalami, a former military ruler – builds on an agreement recently signed by the 14 presidential candidates and their respective campaign managers.
“Today we renew our commitment to a united, democratic and prosperous Nigeria,” said the two presidential frontrunners.
“We want all Nigerians to stand together at this critical phase of our nation’s history,” they added.
They urged the country’s official election commission and security agencies “to ensure strict adherence to their constitutional roles.”
Army troops and security forces have been deployed nationwide in the run-up to the poll.
As of Thursday morning, soldiers could be seen in strategic parts of the country, while the electoral commission distributed polling equipment and material.
“We also pledge to respect the outcome of free, fair and credible elections,” said the two presidential hopefuls.
The ruling PDP and the APC have traded barbs and accusations in the weeks leading up to Saturday’s poll.
Observers expect today’s joint appeal to help rein in the two men’s respective supporters who might otherwise have resorted to violence.