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Some in Nigerian Opposition to Boycott Presidential Poll


Even as the main opposition presidential candidates in Nigeria say they will take part in Saturday's elections, other opposition leaders and their supporters remain unconvinced about the usefulness of participating. They say they are outraged over reports of massive fraud that took place during last week's state elections and the security crackdown that ensued. VOA's Nico Colombant reports from Zaria, in northern Nigeria.

Runner-up Kaduna State gubernatorial candidate Sani Muhammad Shaaban is holding court with journalists and supporters at his plush residence in Zaria.

Shaaban denounces massive fraud in last week's election, including reports that tens of thousands of votes were cast for the ruling party candidate in areas where voting barely even started. He says he was detained several times by uniformed men because, he says, authorities were afraid he would cause unrest.

He also laments the extra army roadblocks, patrols and curfews in many northern areas. "Who are the military supposed to deal with, innocent civilians? The arms-less Nigerians? We are not at war. Has it passed the strength of Nigerian police that we need the military?," he said.

At Shaaban's headquarters in nearby Kaduna, his supporters defy a ban on political rallies, chanting their candidate's slogans.

Speaking through a translator, a market woman says because of what is happening, she is in no mood to vote anymore.

"She says that people are not happy with the situation. The results of the last gubernatorial election have made people stay far away from the coming election. Nobody is excited any longer. Nobody is even going out to vote for the presidency because everyone is discouraged in the way and manner the poll was conducted."

But at a stand for motorcycle taxis nearby, all the drivers say they are ruling party supporters and they are not complaining. Gombo Kiforo, a father of seven, says it is important for people to vote, and after that for the new government to govern. "We want to practice democracy. If they cancel today, they are going backwards," he said.

He says he also supports the security clampdown. "It is OK, because the opposition, they cause chaos. They will cause problems. That is why they banned the whole rallies, because of the opposition they are fearing," he said.

Former military ruler General Muhammadu Buhari, who is running as the main opposition candidate, is popular in the north. The ruling party candidate is another northerner, Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

Voters will also pick a new parliament. The outgoing parliament squashed efforts by supporters of President Olusegun Obasanjo to change the constitution so he could seek a third elected term.

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