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Abubakar Emerges as Challenger to Nigerian President Jonathan

  • Peter Clottey

Nigeria's former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (File Photo)

Nigeria's former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (File Photo)

A member of Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) has expressed confidence that former Vice President Atiku Abubakar will be the presidential candidate of the governing party in next year’s election.

Shehu Garba, spokesman for Abubakar, said the former vice president has “excellent chances” of representing the dominant PDP in next year’s general election.

“Whoever picks the PDP ticket is almost a president in waiting. Now, how are we going to win the PDP ticket? It’s simply on the basis that there is the understanding among major political stakeholders in the country that political power should be rotated between the south and the north of the country,” said Garba.

“The president of the country in the next election should come from the northern part of the country. It’s not a written law. It’s not as if there are policemen or soldiers there to enforce this. It’s an agreement that has a moral force. And so, (an) Atiku presidency will be driven by a moral and political imperative.”

A group of northern Nigerian politicians Monday agreed on a candidate to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan in the ruling party's primaries. The influential Northern Political Leaders Forum said that it will back Abubakar.

Members of the group have been meeting for weeks to try to choose a consensus candidate. Abubakar beat out three other contenders, including Nigeria's former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida.

Garba predicted that Abubakar will become Nigeria’s next president based on what he described as his broad national appeal.

“I think this is a matter that should worry the president because the president himself is aware that this party, which sponsored him to the office that he now occupies, has this zoning and rotation principle enshrined in the constitution of the party. Somehow, the constitution of the country does recognize this form of zoning and power rotation,” Garba said.

The ruling People's Democratic Party is divided over whether its presidential nominee should be a northern Muslim like Abubakar or a southern Christian like Mr. Jonathan. The party has a custom of rotating presidential power between the largely Muslim north and largely Christian south every two terms.