Supporters ride in a campaign bus of leading opposition All Progressive Congress (APC) presidential candidate Mohammadu Buhari and his running mate Yemi Osinbajo as they drive past a campaign poster of Nigerian President and candidate to his re-elect ~ PIUS UTOMI EKPEI
Abuja - US President Barack Obama on Monday called on Nigerians to reject violence in this weekend's general election, describing the vote as a "historic opportunity" for progress in Africa's most populous country.
"I call on all Nigerians to peacefully express your views and to reject the voices of those who call for violence," Obama said in a video message addressed "to the Nigerian people."
Fears of unrest have risen in the run-up to the March 28 polls with leaders of both the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and opposition All Progressives Congress using inflammatory rhetoric.
Isolated clashes between rival camps have been recorded nationwide during the campaign and there is concern that a close or contested result could spark further unrest.
"I call on all leaders and candidates to make it clear to their supporters that violence has no place in democratic elections, and that they will not incite, support or engage in any kind of violence, before, during, or after the votes are counted," the president added in the message posted on the White House website.
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Nigeria, Africa's top economy and biggest oil producer, is facing a series of crises ahead of the country's fifth election since the end of military rule in 1999.
Boko Haram extremists have killed more than 13,000 people and kidnapped hundreds since launching an insurgency in 2009.
The country's oil-reliant economy has been hammered by the collapse in crude prices, while corruption and unemployment remain rampant.
"You have a historic opportunity to help write the next chapter of Nigeria's progress, by voting in the upcoming elections," Obama said.
Relations between Washington and President Goodluck Jonathan's administration have been strained at times, especially following the abduction by Boko Haram of more than 200 schoolgirls from the northeast in April.
When the hostage crisis became a global media firestorm, Abuja expressed frustration with the criticism emerging from Western capitals.
Washington also voiced disappointment in Nigeria's decision to delay this year's polls from February 14 to Saturday, a move Abuja said was necessary to aid the fight against Boko Haram.
But Obama vowed continued US for support for Nigeria.
"In this task of advancing the security, prosperity, and human rights of all Nigerians, you will continue to have a friend and partner in the United States of America," he said.