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Nigeria ruling party launches presidential campaign ahead of crucial elections

Nigeria ruling party launches presidential campaign ahead of crucial elections

The ruling party launched its presidential campaign Saturday with thousands of drumming and dancing supporters cheering on their candidate's promises to transform troubled, impoverished Nigeria into one of the world's richest nations.
Ahead of crucial elections meant to cement civilian rule in Africa's most-populous nation, People's Democratic Party nominee Umaru Yar'Adua said he hoped Nigeria could finally exchange its dark, coup-ridden past for a peaceful future.
"The road map to greatness has been worked out ... the seed has been planted and the tree is growing and flowering," said Yar'Adua, governor of northern Katsina state. "No one must cut this tree. It must be allowed to fruit."
Yar'Adua, who launched his campaign after earlier winning the party nomination, praised President Olusegun Obasanjo, who won disputed elections twice after the 1999 end of military rule. Yar'Adua vowed to uphold Obasanjo's fight to end the corruption that has left most of Nigeria's 140 million people in deep poverty despite the West African nation's great oil riches.
More than 10,000 party faithful applauded and banged traditional African drums and blew deep, resonant blasts from long, curved horns. A brass band bleated and dancers in grass skirts swayed their hips.
A cloud of normally nocturnal bats roused by the noise and activity flew out into the noontime heat from their perches in the eaves of the old parade ground in Lagos, Nigeria's biggest city.
Standing in front of party elite who wore lampshade-like headgear with green, red and white fringes, Yar'Adua promised that Nigeria would become one of the world's 20 biggest economies by 2020 _ if his party stays in power.
Yar'Adua gave few specifics on how that would be done, saying it was contained in a party platform he didn't elucidate. Obasanjo, in a later speech, said the key was security in a nation that has seen thousands die in ethnic and religious strife.
The country's oil-producing south is wracked by armed groups who siphon off crude oil, blow up pumping installations and kidnap foreign workers for ransom. More than 30 foreign workers are currently in captivity amid months of stepped-up violence that has cut nearly a quarter of Nigeria's usual output.
Obasanjo, speaking in a city of 13 million people where raw sewage rots in open sewers, said the ruling party would turn Nigeria into "a land flowing of milk and honey."
Nigeria has never seen one civilian president successfully hand power to another in its 46-year history since independence from Britain. Yar'Adua is a Muslim from the north, while Obasanjo is a southern Christian. Yar'Adua's running mate, Bayelsa state Goodluck Jonathan, is a Christian.
The two other main candidates _ Obasanjo's vice president and one-time supporter Atiku Abubakar and a former military dictator, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari _ both are northern Muslims.
Nigeria has a history of rotating leadership between the main regional blocs seeking national stability after a disastrous civil war decades ago. Balloting is scheduled for April 21.
Official graft has been one of the main threads linking successive administrations, with the military ousting governments it deemed too corrupt, only to later pillage the treasuries themselves.
Average Nigerians, however, remain among the world's poorest people, without regular access to clean water, health care, electricity or good schools.
Despite the sentiment among many in Nigeria's political opposition that the ruling party is as corrupt as the former military juntas it replaced, Yar'Adua said Nigeria was now on the right path _ and that voters should send him to the presidency. Obasanjo, standing nearby, nodded.
"Nigeria will be great. In the comity of nations, Nigeria will be great," Yar'Adua told the crowd in his hushed, clipped tone. "What has been started must be completed."


Updated : 2021-04-16 10:55 GMT+08:00