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Nigeria's Tinubu rallies in Lagos powerbase before election

Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Bola Tinubu (C) addresses the crowd at the Teslim Balogun Stadium during their final campaign rally in Lagos on F   -  
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SAMUEL ALABI/AFP or licensors


Thousands of people gathered inside the Lagos Teslim Balogun sports complex in the city centre, providing a raucous climax to Tinubu's nationwide road tour four days before election day.

Supporters of Nigeria’s ruling All Progressive Party (APC) believe their candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is fit to fix their country’s problems. Double digit inflation, weak economic growth and mounting insecurity are major issues for voters on February 25 when they choose a successor to incumbent President Muhammadu Buhari, due to step down after two terms allowed by law.

Tinubu, 70, a former Lagos governor and candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress or APC, is one of three frontrunners in an unprecedented competitive race on Saturday to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari who steps down after his allowed two terms.

Arriving in a bus with a slogan "The nation builder", Tinubu appeared on stage with Buhari and appealed to voters to make him their next leader with a vow of "renewed hope".

"All the agenda set in our programme, the renewed hope manifesto, will be pursued diligently, vigorously," he told supporters.

More than 93 million Nigerians are registered to vote in the February 25 election, with their country struggling with growing insecurity and a stumbling economy.

Dubbed the "Godfather of Lagos" for the political influence he wields, Tinubu says his two terms from 1999 to 2007 as Lagos governor give him the experience Nigeria needs.

"I will vote for my father. He is really a father for all of us," said Motunrato Amuda, 29, a caterer wearing a garment in APC's green, blue and red.

A crowd of party supporters ferried in buses arrived at the venue in the morning, singing, dancing and waving the party flags as Afrobeats musicians performed.

- Lagos legacy -

Tinubu's Lagos tenure was credited by many for rapid growth in infrastructure projects, urbanisation and high internally-generated revenues.

But his influence looms large in Lagos state, where he had a hand in choosing his successors and other key appointees since he left office.

"He’s the man for the job," said Shittu Surajudeen, a 60-year-old businessman at Tuesday's rally.

"He really improved medical, education, infrastructure, security," he said.

Saturday's election has emerged into an unprecedented three-way race.

Tinubu's rivals are 76-year-old ex-vice president Atiku Abubakar of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and the Labour Party's Peter Obi, a 61-year-old former governor of southeast Anambra state.

Between them, the PDP and APC have governed the country and dominated the political scene since the end of military rule in 1999.

But Obi, also a wealthy businessman, has emerged as a serious challenger, enjoying huge youth appeal with a message of change from his oldguard rivals.

During campaigning, Tinubu also faced questions over his health as well as over corruption scandals from the past, which he denies.

PDP critics attacked him over a 1993 US court document showing a "drug-related seizure of property" from a US account under his name.

As a political kingmaker, Tinubu was instrumental in getting Buhari elected in 2015, and he now says "It's my turn" to be president.

But critics in the PDP say Tinubu is equally responsible for the failures of the Buhari government.

A recent cash shortage has heightened tensions after the central bank replaced old naira currency notes with new redesigned ones, causing a shortfall in bills.

After several protests broke out at banks in several cities, APC governors appealed to Buhari over the policy. Tinubu even suggested his enemies in the presidency were trying to scuttle his election bid.

Buhari came to power in 2015, vowing to roll back jihadists who had unleashed an insurgency in the country's northeast.

But Nigerians say insecurity remains a top concern.

The armed forces are still battling the jihadists, as well as criminal gangs in the northwest and separatists in the southeast.

Inflation is over 20 percent as the country also recovers from the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout of the Russia war in Ukraine.

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