A last-minute bid by Nigeria's main opposition parties to form an alliance against President Goodluck Jonathan in this weekend's election has failed to reach a deal, a party official said Wednesday.
At the same time, one of the opposition parties said Jonathan has contacted some of its high-ranking members ahead of Saturday's vote, but details of those discussions were not made clear.
The country's two main opposition parties had renewed talks this week, with many suggesting their combined strength could force the ruling party into a runoff for the first time since Nigeria returned to civilian rule in 1999.
"We regret to announce that such talks have not led to any such alliance," said Bisi Akande, chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria party, which is strong in Nigeria's southwest, where the economic capital Lagos is located.
"In the overall interest of the parties involved, our democracy as well as our country, it is better for each of the parties to go into the presidential election on its own platform."
Akande said the situation could change if Saturday's election results in a runoff.
His party had held talks with ex-military ruler Muhammadu Buhari's Congress for Progressive Change, which has made inroads in the north.
Buhari is seen as the main challenger to Jonathan. The ACN's presidential candidate is Nuhu Ribadu, the former head of Nigeria's anti-corruption agency.
The details that led to the collapse of the talks were not clear after earlier suggestions that Ribadu could quit the race in favour of Buhari.
The two parties had held a series of unsuccessful negotiations in the past in search of an alliance.
Opposition figures have attributed the earlier failures to personality conflicts and interference by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, which was accused of seeking to scuttle the talks.
Renewed negotiations followed last weekend's parliamentary election, with results so far showing the opposition weakening the ruling party's firm grip on the legislature.
Apart from those discussions, Akande said the president has also contacted high-ranking ACN members in recent days, but he declined to discuss details.
"Jonathan may be a good man, but he belongs to a very bad party and we cannot solicit our supporters to vote for him," Akande told AFP.
A spokesman for the ruling PDP, Rufai Alkali, said contact had been made with opposition parties, but he declined to provide further details.
An effort by Africa's most-populous nation to break with a series of deeply flawed polls and hold a credible vote is seen as providing the opposition with a greater opening than in previous years.
But without an alliance for the presidential election, the opposition may face a difficult road. All three of the main opposition candidates are from the country's north, which could result in their votes being split.