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Former Nigerian Military Leader To Run For Presidency

Acting Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan is in Washington for the nuclear security summit and a meeting with U.S. president Barack Obama. But while he’s been away from home, someone else has expressed interest in being his party’s next presidential candidate.

Ibrahim Babangida, a powerful northern army general who ruled Nigeria for eight years, says in next year’s elections he will be the candidate for the ruling People’s Democratic Party – which is also Mr. Jonathan’s party.

Anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International gave low marks to General Babandida’s administration. But his supporters say the agency was influenced by opponents of the government.

The time when Babangida was in power, beginning in 1985, “was a very bad period for the country in terms of transparency and accountability, says Osita Nnanami Ogbu, secretary general of Transparency International’s Nigeria chapter.

“All sorts of crimes that were not known in the past emerged, so it was a bad period.”

Ogbu says the facts do not back up the defense by General Babangida’s supporters that the country witnessed tremendous growth under his watch.

“Prior to his administration, even though military regimes in Nigeria were dictatorial, it used to be a group leadership -- that is to say, you have the Supreme Military Council appointing somebody as the head of state and controlling that head of state. When Babangida came to power, he put himself over and above Supreme Military Council and it became an era of one-man rule.”

What General Babangida’s supporters referred to as his economic success did not change the lives of most Nigerians, said Ogbu, especially the poor.

Babangida introduced of the Structural Adjustment Program as his key economic policy and never took into consideration the position of the poor, says Ogbu. He says under that program the poor became poorer and the rich became richer.

But Nigerian government officials say the country made modest economic gains during the period.