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Nigeria wages offensive against Boko Haram ahead of election

Nigeria’s upcoming election between current President Goodluck Jonathan and former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari could be the nation’s closest contest since the end of military rule in 1999. But hanging over the election is the threat of Boko Haram, the militant group that controls northern parts of the country and has killed 1,000 civilians this year alone. Jeffrey Brown reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    Tomorrow, millions in Africa's most populous country will turn out to vote in a very tight presidential race, with fears of terrorism looming.

    Jeffrey Brown reports on the Nigerian election.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    The two front-runners are coming down to the wire in what could be closest election since the end of military rule in 1999.

    President Goodluck Jonathan is facing off against former military dictator Muhammadu Buhari to lead Africa's largest economy, its biggest oil producer and home to 173 million people. One man must win more than 50 percent of tomorrow's vote to avoid a runoff.

  • PRESIDENT GOODLUCK JONATHAN, Nigeria:

    Let us all, political party leaders, contestants, party members, party agents, supporters, and ordinary voters alike, be very cautious of the fact that the eyes of the entire world are on us.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Jonathan, a Christian from the south, has been in power since 2011. Buhari, a Muslim from the north, is a retired general who ruled Nigeria in the 1980s following a military coup. He is running on an anti-corruption platform.

  • MUHAMMADU BUHARI, Nigerian Presidential Candidate:

    I am not contesting this election because I want power and money. I am doing so because Nigerians believe I am what it takes to achieve a much needed change.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But hanging over the election, and sidelining normal election-year issues, is the rise of Boko Haram. The Islamic militant group has killed more than 1,000 civilians this year alone, and controls parts of Northern Nigeria. It recently pledged allegiance to the so-called Islamic State.

    President Jonathan cited the Boko Haram threat when, in early February, he delayed this election six weeks. Now Jonathan says the army has beat back the group, even though many areas in the north will still have no polling stations.

    Just today, the military said it recaptured a northeastern town and destroyed the militants' headquarters in the process.

  • GEN. CHRISTOPHER OLUKOLADE, Defense Spokesman, Nigeria:

    A lot of arms and ammunition have been recovered, and the administrative headquarters of the terrorists have been completely destroyed.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    But whether it is actually the Nigerian military making those gains is an open question. The Nigerian government reportedly has used mercenaries from South Africa and the former Soviet Union to press the offensive.

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