Is Lagos candidate to ill to rule?

By Tom Ashby

Lagos - The presidential candidate of Nigeria's ruling party is in Germany for medical care after suffering from stress, but will return shortly to resume the campaign, his spokesperson said on Wednesday.

Umaru Yar'Adua left Nigeria unexpectedly on Tuesday, raising uncertainty about his candidacy to lead Africa's most populous nation and about next month's landmark elections themselves.

Campaign spokesperson Ndu Ughamadu said he spoke to the candidate on Wednesday afternoon and quoted Yar'Adua as saying:

"I want to assure (my supporters) that I am quite fine and will be back on the campaign trail shortly."

The Times of Nigeria website quoted Yar'Adua as saying he expected to be back by the weekend.

The 56-year-old state governor has suffered from a kidney complaint in the past and rumours of sickness have plagued his campaign. His speech is interrupted by a persistent cough.

Ughamadu said routine tests on Monday had revealed Yar'Adua was under stress and needed rest from a gruelling campaign schedule. He flew to Germany for specialist tests, but Yar'Adua said doctors found no serious illness.

"I am very much alive," Yar'Adua told President Olusegun Obasanjo in a recorded telephone conversation played at the campaign rally in the south-western city of Abeokuta.

Opposition newspaper Leadership reported on Wednesday that Yar'Adua had collapsed due to a suspected heart attack. It said that on regaining consciousness he said he wanted to pull out of the presidential campaign.

Ughamadu said the report was false and a smear campaign to divert attention from Yar'Adua's election platform.

A spokesperson for the ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) said Yar'Adua was still its candidate.

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