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Nigerian Ruling Party to Choose Presidential Candidate Thursday

  • Peter Clottey

President Goodluck Jonathan (left), and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (right)

President Goodluck Jonathan (left), and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar (right)

An official of Nigeria’s Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) told VOA the electoral body will monitor the presidential primary of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) scheduled for Thursday ahead of the April presidential vote.

Nick Dazan, deputy director for public affairs, said the commission is mandated to monitor the internal democracies of all political parties to ensure that their primaries conform to their respective constitutions.

“As you are aware, the Independent Electoral Commission is empowered by law and the constitution to monitor the activities of all the political parties,” said Dazan.

“Our monitors are going to make sure that the primaries take place in accordance with the constitution of the People’s Democratic Party.”

The candidates certified to participate in the primary include President Goodluck Jonathan, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and veteran politician Sarah Jibril.

Analysts say the primary will largely pit Mr. Jonathan, a Christian from the south against Mr. Abubakar, who is a northerner.

The PDP has an unwritten agreement of rotating presidential power between the mostly Muslim north and largely Christian south every two terms. Mr. Jonathan became president when Umaru Yar'adua, a northern Muslim, died in office.

Some Nigerians have opposed Mr. Jonathan's candidacy accusing him of breaching the unwritten tradition between the northern and southern powers of the party.

But, on Monday, a Nigerian court threw out a suit brought by three PDP members to try to stop Mr. Jonathan from running.

Dazan said officials of the electoral commission could punish the ruling party if its members undermine the PDP’s constitution.

“If there are aberrations, (or) if there are any activities contrary to the constitution of the People’s Democratic Party, we will now correct those aberrations immediately at the convention and, eventually, the monitors will write a report, which they will file to the commission,” said Dazan.

“If the primaries do not take place in accordance with the constitution, which the PDP as a party has offered for itself, then the commission will take measures to apply sanctions on it.”

Meanwhile, local media report a court has removed the national chairman of the ruling party from his post on the eve of the PDP’s primary.

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