Two of the three candidates considered front runners in Nigeria's Feb. 25 presidential rallies held their first major rallies this week., with security a key topic on the campaign trail.
Former vice president Atiku Abubakar and former Anambra state governor Peter Obi held rallies. Among the 18 candidates running for president, former Lagos state governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu joins Abubakar and Obi as a front runner.
In the capital of Abuja, thousands of supporters, mostly youths, charnted praise for Obi. He is riding a wave of momentum after two public opinion polls published by Nigerian newspapers this week showed him leading the candidates from Nigeria’s two biggest political parties — the All Progressives Congress (APC), and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Obi rose to prominence last May after resigning from the PDP to join the Labour Party as its presidential flag-bearer.
He told his supporters he will tackle Nigeria's insecurity, build up the economy and improve local manufacturing to limit Nigeria's dependence on foreign products.
"The country in the past 20 years, all it has produced is insecurity, poverty, out-of-school children, students strike. Everything that is wrong is what they've been producing,” he said. “We're offering you security of life and property, the criminals are not more formidable, except that there's no leadership. You'll be proud of your country because your country will move from consumption to production."
Obi, Abubakar and Tinubu are traveling the country in a push for votes ahead of election day.
In the campaign speeches, insecurity is a major topic. The country is battling jihadist fighters in the northeast, armed gangs in the northwest and central regions as well as separatists in the south.
During a campaign rally Thursday in northern Kano state, PDP candidate Abubakar spoke to supporters.
“Do you want return of peace in Kano?” he said. “Do you want the borders open? It is only PDP administration that can implement these policies. I want to appeal to you to vote PDP from top to bottom, we have done that before, we shall do it again."
Atiku 76, lost a presidential bid to current President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
Kelechi Onyenze, who attended the Kano state rallies for the PDP, praised Atiku's experienced.
"Who else has the experience this man has gotten even in the business sector, private sector?” Onyenze said. “He's an entrepreneur, he's an employer of labor. Atiku has created wealth, he has discovered talent."
This week, President Buhari led campaign events to rally support for APC candidate Tinubu.
Tinubu has pledged to continue Buhari’s policies on tackling insecurity, fighting corruption, creating jobs and upgrading the standard of education — though critics from the other parties say Buhari failed on all those fronts.
The recent violence has included attacks on officials from Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission, raising concerns about safety on election day.
Authorities say they're taking steps to make sure voters and election workers are safe and that the voting will proceed without disruption.