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Photos: Nigerians worried about safety, vote-rigging in upcoming elections

After a six-week delay, Nigeria will be holding presidential elections on Saturday, and the international community is bracing for possible violence.

In 2011, riots erupted in parts of the country after Goodluck Jonathan of the governing People’s Democratic Party won his first presidential election over his challenger former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari of the All Progressive Congress party.

The upcoming elections are a rematch of sorts with Jonathan seeking a second four-year term and facing a more unified opposition with Buhari at the helm. After Jonathan handily defeated Buhari in 2011’s elections, Saturday’s elections are expected to be among the most competitive in Nigeria’s history, the BBC reported.

Both leading candidates have promised peaceful elections, but “many [Nigerians] believe this won’t hold water,” Lagos-based Reuters photographer Akintunde Akinleye told the PBS NewsHour.

“It could be taken as though it’s just something on the surface,” he said, “but people are praying, hoping that somehow, somehow, somehow Nigeria will pull itself together.”

The post-election violence in 2011 killed more than 800 people, Human Rights Watch said, and displaced tens of thousands of others, as Buhari supporters burned down churches, homes and mosques in protest. And the National Human Rights Commission has said the ramp-up to the elections has seen dozens of people die — considered a worrisome trend because “the pattern and intensity of pre-election violence is atypical of Nigeria’s recent electoral history.”

Earlier this week, President Barack Obama also called on all Nigerians to “peacefully express your views and to reject the voices of those who call for violence.”

A woman sits in a vehicle campaigning for candidates of opposition party All Progressives Congress (APC) during a campaign event in Agege, district of Lagos February 21, 2015.  Nigeria's electoral commission postponed the February 14 presidential election until March 28 due to security concerns. Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

A woman sits in a vehicle campaigning for candidates of opposition party All Progressives Congress (APC) during a campaign event in Agege, district of Lagos February 21, 2015. Nigeria’s electoral commission postponed the February 14 presidential election until March 28 due to security concerns. Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country with a half-Christian, half-Muslim population that has deep-seated distrust of the electoral process, even since civilian rule was restored in 1999. Military authorities annulled the 1993 presidential elections.

Akinleye, a Nigerian native, said the Nigerians he spoke to have expressed fear over continued bloodshed by the Islamist militant group known as Boko Haram, corruption that has come to define Nigerian politics and what Akinleye calls “basic human issues” such as addressing electricity shortages.

Brand Director of African Artists Foundation, Wunika Mukan, 31, sits for a portrait in her office in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos February 10, 2015. 'We are on the verge of something great however I feel that we have to get through the storm to get there. Our biggest challenge is corruption and lack of sophistication and leaders that don't necessarily see the whole picture. I find the postponement of the election to be a bad example for the rest of Nigerians, it  tells us that we don't have to be ready, that we can cheat,' Mukan said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Brand Director of African Artists Foundation, Wunika Mukan, 31, sits for a portrait in her office in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos February 10, 2015. ‘We are on the verge of something great however I feel that we have to get through the storm to get there. Our biggest challenge is corruption and lack of sophistication and leaders that don’t necessarily see the whole picture. I find the postponement of the election to be a bad example for the rest of Nigerians, it tells us that we don’t have to be ready, that we can cheat,’ Mukan said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Visual Artist Victor Ehikhamenor, 45, a Christian from Nigeria's delta region, poses for a portrait in his office at Iganmu district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos January 29, 2015.  Ehikhamenor is running a web campaign 'Vote with ink not blood' as the elections in Nigeria approach. "History has proven that ink is more affordable than blood, so Nigerian citizens' blood shouldn't be cheaper than a bottle of ink. We implore all to remember this simple fact and embrace peace in every corner of our country," Ehikhamenor said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Visual Artist Victor Ehikhamenor, 45, a Christian from Nigeria’s delta region, poses for a portrait in his office at Iganmu district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos January 29, 2015. Ehikhamenor is running a web campaign ‘Vote with ink not blood’ as the elections in Nigeria approach. “History has proven that ink is more affordable than blood, so Nigerian citizens’ blood shouldn’t be cheaper than a bottle of ink. We implore all to remember this simple fact and embrace peace in every corner of our country,” Ehikhamenor said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

As Nigerians question their government’s ability to address these issues, Akinleye said that the candidates should be waging a campaign of “how.”

“How are you gonna stop corruption? How are you going to improve on education? How are you going to improve the health care system? These are the issues … that people actually want the candidates to address,” he said.

Independent television producer Dan Ikpoyi, 32, a Christian from Nigeria's delta region, sits for a portrait in a production room at a television station in Lagos January 29, 2015. Ikpoyi feels that both campaigns are creating tension within the population and says he fears for his safety while covering the vote. "The fact that the election was postponed casts a big question mark on the credibility of the election itself. The party in government is indicted in this and it means anything can happen afterwards," Ikpoyi said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Independent television producer Dan Ikpoyi, 32, a Christian from Nigeria’s delta region, sits for a portrait in a production room at a television station in Lagos January 29, 2015. Ikpoyi feels that both campaigns are creating tension within the population and says he fears for his safety while covering the vote. “The fact that the election was postponed casts a big question mark on the credibility of the election itself. The party in government is indicted in this and it means anything can happen afterwards,” Ikpoyi said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Omolade Ogunlusi, 20, a student at the University of Lagos and an ethnic Yoruba Christian, sits in a seminar room at the university campus in Akoka district in Lagos January 28, 2015. "I do not like the election postponement. I am just afraid of everything,'' Ogunlusi said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Omolade Ogunlusi, 20, a student at the University of Lagos and an ethnic Yoruba Christian, sits in a seminar room at the university campus in Akoka district in Lagos January 28, 2015. “I do not like the election postponement. I am just afraid of everything,” Ogunlusi said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Despite distrust among some Nigerians, 82 percent of voters have picked up their ID cards, Reuters reported. And, according to the Pew Research Center, 70 percent of Nigerians have voted in an election and a latest poll from the International Foundation for Electoral Systems found that 79 percent of Nigerians are very or somewhat likely to vote in the presidential election this Saturday.

Akinleye said that even compared to the last election, people believe more than ever that they can actually change the government with their votes.

“There’s this new level of political awareness to the extent that people now realize that, ‘hey, this is democracy,'” he said.

Fashion designer Omobola Omowunmi, 43, an ethnic Yoruba Christian woman, poses for a portrait in the living room of her home in Oregun district in Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos February 1, 2015. Omowunmi is optimistic that the elections will lift Nigeria from its current economic troubles if they are conducted smoothly. Speaking about the postponement she said: 'The people at the helm are playing with our lives. We know that these people are trying to rig the election because opinion seems to be tilting towards favouring the opposition party but I pray for a good outcome at the end of the day'. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Fashion designer Omobola Omowunmi, 43, an ethnic Yoruba Christian woman, poses for a portrait in the living room of her home in Oregun district in Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos February 1, 2015. Omowunmi is optimistic that the elections will lift Nigeria from its current economic troubles if they are conducted smoothly. Speaking about the postponement she said: ‘The people at the helm are playing with our lives. We know that these people are trying to rig the election because opinion seems to be tilting towards favouring the opposition party but I pray for a good outcome at the end of the day’. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Abubakar Kadakinguda, 30, an ethnic Hausa Muslim man from the north, holds a poster campaigning for Nigeria's former military ruler and presidential candidate for All Progressives Congress (APC) Muhammadu Buhari in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria January 29, 2015.  Kadakinguda believes the political challenges in Nigeria, including security issues will be fixed if Buhari becomes the next head of government in the forthcoming elections. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Abubakar Kadakinguda, 30, an ethnic Hausa Muslim man from the north, holds a poster campaigning for Nigeria’s former military ruler and presidential candidate for All Progressives Congress (APC) Muhammadu Buhari in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria January 29, 2015. Kadakinguda believes the political challenges in Nigeria, including security issues will be fixed if Buhari becomes the next head of government in the forthcoming elections. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Entrepreneur Bankole Cardoso, 26, an ethnic Yoruba Christian man, sits for a portrait in his office in the Ebute Meta district of Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos January 21, 2015. Cardoso, who runs a Lagos taxi business, said that fears of kidnappings increase during elections. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Entrepreneur Bankole Cardoso, 26, an ethnic Yoruba Christian man, sits for a portrait in his office in the Ebute Meta district of Nigeria’s commercial capital Lagos January 21, 2015. Cardoso, who runs a Lagos taxi business, said that fears of kidnappings increase during elections. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Associate Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, a Christian from Nigeria's delta region, sits for a portrait in her office at the University of Lagos January 26, 2015. "The Boko Haram insurgency did not start today. We have already given out a timetable to the whole world [for] the election. Why postpone it now? The problem is that the postponement may have implications for the tribunal meetings if there are litigations ? However, the fact that they acted within the ambit of the law makes it a legal thing to do. If these six weeks will give them the opportunity to quell the insurgency in Nigeria, it is worth the sacrifice. But if you look at it closely it has heated the polity," Ogwezzy-Ndisika said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Associate Professor Abigail Ogwezzy-Ndisika, a Christian from Nigeria’s delta region, sits for a portrait in her office at the University of Lagos January 26, 2015. “The Boko Haram insurgency did not start today. We have already given out a timetable to the whole world [for] the election. Why postpone it now? The problem is that the postponement may have implications for the tribunal meetings if there are litigations ? However, the fact that they acted within the ambit of the law makes it a legal thing to do. If these six weeks will give them the opportunity to quell the insurgency in Nigeria, it is worth the sacrifice. But if you look at it closely it has heated the polity,” Ogwezzy-Ndisika said. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Shoe mender Mutiu Sabitiu, 40, an ethnic Yoruba Muslim, poses for a photograph at his roadside workshop in Beere district in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria January 29, 2015. Sabitiu is indifferent to the elections but hopes the best candidate emerges as president. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye

Shoe mender Mutiu Sabitiu, 40, an ethnic Yoruba Muslim, poses for a photograph at his roadside workshop in Beere district in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria January 29, 2015. Sabitiu is indifferent to the elections but hopes the best candidate emerges as president. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye

Latefat Alao, 56, a ethnic Yoruba Muslim woman, waits for customers in front of her in Beere market in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria, January 29, 2015. Much of the grain and wheat traders like Alao sell comes from the north and Boko Haram's campaign has negatively affected farmers and food markets. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Latefat Alao, 56, a ethnic Yoruba Muslim woman, waits for customers in front of her in Beere market in Ibadan, southwest Nigeria, January 29, 2015. Much of the grain and wheat traders like Alao sell comes from the north and Boko Haram’s campaign has negatively affected farmers and food markets. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Michael Chijoke Ano, 21, who is a student and an ethnic Igbo man from Nigeria's eastern region, waits for customers during a campaign for the governorship candidate Akinwunmi Ambode, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Oworonshoki district in Lagos January 19, 2015. Ano sells party souvenirs to support his education and he hopes that the election is devoid of violence so that his education plans are not affected. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Michael Chijoke Ano, 21, who is a student and an ethnic Igbo man from Nigeria’s eastern region, waits for customers during a campaign for the governorship candidate Akinwunmi Ambode, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in Oworonshoki district in Lagos January 19, 2015. Ano sells party souvenirs to support his education and he hopes that the election is devoid of violence so that his education plans are not affected. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Afrobeat musician Seun Anikulapo-Kuti, 32, an ethnic Yoruba, poses with his dog on an open terrace at the Fela museum in Lagos February 1, 2015. Anikulapo-Kuti is the son of Nigeria's music legend Fela Kuti. He believes Boko Haram is not a new kind of revolutionary group but an entity created for some kind of political disturbances in Nigeria. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

Afrobeat musician Seun Anikulapo-Kuti, 32, an ethnic Yoruba, poses with his dog on an open terrace at the Fela museum in Lagos February 1, 2015. Anikulapo-Kuti is the son of Nigeria’s music legend Fela Kuti. He believes Boko Haram is not a new kind of revolutionary group but an entity created for some kind of political disturbances in Nigeria. Photo by Akintunde Akinleye/Reuters

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