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Nigerian President Faces Re-election Challenges Within Own Party

  • Joe DeCapua

In Nigeria, several prominent northern politicians have made it clear they don’t want President Goodluck Jonathan to run in next year’s elections. The opposition within the ruling PDP Party follows President Jonathan’s refusal to rule himself out of the race and leave the door open for a northern Nigerian candidate.

Jonathan, who’s from the south, succeeded the late Umaru Yar’Adua, who was from the north.

VOA reporter Chinedu Offor, who’s on assignment in Abuja, Nigeria, says the opposition to Mr. Jonathan includes well known names in the ruling PDP.

“The prominent candidates include the former military head of state General Ibrahim Babangida, also former vice-president Atiku Abubakar and… a former head of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Audu Ogbe,” he says.

They are part of a nearly 50-member team put together at a weekend meeting of northern political leaders to block Mr. Jonathan’s possible political ambitions.

Taking turns

The northern opposition stems from an unofficial, unwritten agreement to alternate the presidency between the north and the south.

“They say Goodluck Jonathan has to abide by the zoning arrangement of the Peoples Democratic Party. They say although it’s not in the constitution,” he reports, “it’s a gentlemen’s agreement that Mr. Jonathan must abide by because it was through the same process that produced Mr. Olusegun Obasanjo as president for 8 years.”

Obasanjo is from southwestern Nigeria.

“They say the 8-year term for the north started with Yar’Adua. And though unfortunately Mr. Yar’Adua died, they say the north must take another four year slot before power can rotate to any other part of Nigeria,” says Offor.

The agreement, however, could cause problems for the young democracy.

“Major problems in the country,” says Offor, “That’s why a lot of people say the ruling People’s Democratic Party is not helping the birth of democracy in Nigeria. They say even internal workings of the…party are not democratic.”

Pro-democracy groups say the PDP is not transparent in choosing its leaders. The groups say place of birth should not be a determining factor.

Keeping quiet

President Jonathan is not saying whether he’ll be a candidate next year. At least not yet. And his decision to remain quiet about his political plans triggered the northern opposition.

President Jonathan has said announcing whether he’s a candidate too soon could affect support for his programs. He says, for instance, if he declares he won’t be a candidate, he could lose influence in the country.