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Nigeria's Ruling Party to Select Presidential Candidate


Nigeria's ruling party is to select a presidential candidate to run in April elections, as President Olusegun Obasanjo's term comes to an end. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports for VOA.

A total of 30 party members declared their desire to seek the People's Democratic Party's nomination. But several have since withdrawn their names, and some say they were pressured to do so in favor of Umar usa Yar'Adua, a reclusive governor from the remote northern state of Katsina. He is seen as the preferred candidate of President Olusegun Obasanjo, who has considerable control in the party.

At the Eagles Square in central Abuja, where about 5,000 delegates gathered Saturday for the selection process, Salihu Gusau was distributing posters for Yar'Adua.

He told VOA why he believes Yar'Adua is the most suitable candidate.

"The first priority of this government [is], they don't want anybody to come and scrape the foreign reserves," he said. "Yar'Adua, even among all the Niger Delta governors that are receiving huge amounts of money, with little resources he received, and with the developments he put in place, he saved about 6.5 billion Nigerian naira [$53 million], as reserve. So, this is the type of man we are looking for, who will not tamper with the foreign reserves Obasanjo put in place."

Critics say Mr. Obasanjo, a former military ruler, has imposed candidates at the local and state levels, causing disaffection within the party.

Buba Marwa, a retired army general, who is competing to be the party's candidate, says he still believes his chances are good, despite the obvious preference of the party hierarchy for another candidate.

"I am confident about my credentials, and we could be five, 50 or 500 [candidates]," he said. "I'm quite comfortable. And, ultimately, the almighty God will decide on who will be the president."

The People's Democratic Party appears to have been weakened by infighting and the domineering role of the president in its affairs. But the party's spokesman, John Odey, says it is still the party to beat in polls next year, which should mark the first handover from one elected president to another.

"For now, there is no party that is having any organized political process in this country, with a reform program and the vision that can surpass that of the PDP. For now, the PDP is the party to beat come the next elections," he said.

Some 10,000 security personnel have been deployed in the capital city to ensure maximum security.

Nigeria, Africa's most populous country of 130 million has a history of political violence and election fraud.

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