- Title: NIGERIA: The leading presidential candidates cast their vote
- Date: 21st April 2007
- Summary: (W3) KATSINA, NORTHERN NIGERIA (APRIL 21, 2007) (REUTERS) MEDIA STRUGGLING WITH EACH OTHER AS THEY SURROUND PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE UMARU MUSA YAR'ADUA AFTER HIS VOTE (SOUNDBITE) (English) PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE OF RULING PDP (PEOPLES' DEMOCRATIC PARTY), UMARU MUSA YAR'ADUA, SPEAKING AT POLLING STATION AFTER HE HAS CAST HIS VOTE: "I am not important. Other presidential candidates as individuals are not important. What is important is the nation" YAR'ADUA WAVING TO HIS SUPPORTERS CROWDS OF PEOPLE SCUFFLING WITH SECURITY AS THEY SURROUND YAR'ADUA'S CAR YAR'ADUA DEPARTING
- Embargoed: 6th May 2007 13:00
- Location: Nigeria
- Country: Nigeria
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA8UVDEETWAX30VYONWWCMD1WTS
- Story Text: Nigerians went to the polls on Saturday (April 21) in the country's presidential election but violence and delayed polling stoked fears that it would dash hopes for a democratic leap forward in Africa.
Current Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo cast his vote shortly after midday at the polling station set up in the African Church Grammar school, a short walk from his home in the town of Abeokuta in Ogun state.
After voting, Obasanjo expressed his regret over the violence that has plagued the country in the run-up to the election. He called on all Nigerians to make the election a success to pave the way for democracy.
"What ever may be the difficulties, what ever may be the misgivings of some people we have no substitute for the election of today to be successful and to lead us to the next stage in our democratic advancement. It is a pity and I regret, and console the families of those who have lost their lives directly or indirectly in the process of this election whether they are members of law enforcement agents, or members of the operatives of INEC, or just ordinary party members, or party supporters ordinary citizens of Nigeria. It does not reflect well on us as a notion as it has happened," said Obasanjo.
After voting in his home town of Katsina in Northern Nigeria, The ruling PDP party's (Peoples' Democratic Party), presidential candidate Umaru Musa Yar'adua spoke to the crowds of supporters who surrounded him.
"I am not important. Other presidential candidates as individuals are not important. What is important is the nation," Yar'Adua said.
Opposition parties say Yar'Adua is nothing more than a puppet intended to perpetuate Obasanjo's power.
The vote is intended to seal the first handover from one civilian president to another in the continent's most populous nation, scarred by three decades of corrupt military rule.
But hours before polling stations opened, unknown attackers tried to blow up the national electoral headquarters in the capital Abuja with a fully laden petrol tanker. It hit a telephone pole outside the building and did not explode.
Later, thugs in police and army uniforms and armed with guns and cutlasses abducted an electoral officer in the southwestern state of Ondo and took away voting materials, the state news agency said.
Late on Friday (April 20), militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta had stormed the office of the ruling party's vice-presidential candidate in what police said was an assassination attempt. He escaped but two civilians were killed. Electoral commissioner Maurice Iwu blamed "desperate Nigerians" out to sabotage democracy.
Witnesses said voting began in the northern city of Katsina on time at 10 a.m (0900 GMT), but started late in the largest city Lagos and elsewhere because of transport delays.
Even before the violence, there was pessimism that the vote would be free and fair after wholesale rigging in many places during regional polls a week ago.
Some 50 people died in the aftermath of that vote and opposition parties alleged on Friday the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) had started rigging a day before the presidential poll.
The opposition said it no longer had confidence in the electoral authority after last week's vote, which handed the PDP a landslide.
The leading opposition challenger, former army strongman Muhammadu Buhari of the All Nigeria People's Party, said the regional poll was the worst election in Nigerian history.
Obasanjo, who failed to change the constitution to allow himself a third term in office, tried every possible tactic to prevent his arch-rival, Vice President Atiku Abubakar, from standing.
The ballots had to be altered at the last minute after the Supreme Court on Monday ruled that the electoral commission had acted illegally by disqualifying Abubakar.
World oil prices rose on Friday because of concern that turmoil could further cut supplies from the world's eighth-largest exporter, where output has been reduced by a fifth for the last year because of militant attacks in the delta.
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