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Nigeria leader says many feared ’the worst’ after vote delay

KANO, Nigeria — Nigeria’s president in a final appeal to the nation before Saturday’s election says many “thought the worst might happen” after a surprise week-long delay but he pledges that people can go to the polls free from fear.

President Muhammadu Buhari spoke Friday morning, nearly 24 hours before polls open across Africa’s most populous country. Many Nigerians had been outraged when the vote was postponed just hours before the election last weekend. The electoral commission now swears it is ready.

Buhari is in a tight race with a former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. Both have signed pledges to contribute to a peaceful election but their supporters have kept up a wave of heated rhetoric.

The president says “no worldly hand” can keep Nigeria on its democratic path and calls for tolerance.