Candidate wants to squash health rumors

ABUJA Fri Jan 5, 2007 9:49am EST

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ABUJA (Reuters) - The presidential candidate from Nigeria's ruling party has challenged his critics to a game of squash to prove he is healthy enough to rule Africa's most populous nation.

Umaru Yar'Adua, a reclusive 55-year-old state governor who suffers from a kidney condition, made his first public comments about his health since the People's Democratic Party (PDP) chose him as its flagbearer for next April's elections.

"I am fit and healthy. I will invite them to a game of squash," Yar'Adua was quoted as saying to his critics by Nigeria's main newspapers Friday.

"If they can play 12 straight sets with me, they are welcome."

Yar'Adua, a little-known figure in Nigerian politics, won the PDP ticket last month almost entirely thanks to President Olusegun Obasanjo's support.

Yar'Adua's physical condition has become a national issue, with numerous critics predicting that ill health would make him a weak president, allowing Obasanjo to continue to pull the strings.

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