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September 14, 2010

Nigerian President Declares Candidacy

by Scott Stearns

President Jonathan intends to launch his campaign on Saturday.

But he announced the decision early on the social networking site Facebook in an apparent attempt to upstage Wednesday's campaign launch by former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida.

President Jonathan's post said that in presenting himself as a candidate, he makes no pretense that he is the most intelligent Nigerian or has a magic wand to solve all of the country's problems. What he does promise, he says, is to always do right by the Nigerian people, to tell the truth, and to listen.

The announcement ends months of speculation about President Jonathan's intensions after taking power in May following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

President Jonathan is from southern Nigeria. His candidacy violates an informal power-sharing agreement within the ruling party that says the next president should be from northern Nigeria.

Mr. Jonathan has not only the advantage of incumbency. He has also chosen a new cabinet, a new electoral commissioner, a new ruling-party chairman, and new heads of state security.

But he still faces several strong challengers for the ruling-party nomination, among them former general Babangida who led Nigeria from 1985 to 1993 atop a military dictatorship.

Announcing his candidacy in the capital, the former coup leader was all about democracy.

"The rationale for my involvement in politics is to lead a team of dedicated Nigerians who together can provide the courage, the focus, as well as the wisdom and sacrifice to engage necessary changes that will inspire and deliver economic prosperity in this country," said Ibrahim Babangida.

When it comes to leading Nigeria, Mr. Babangida says experience counts.

"Given my experience in the past and record of accomplishment in national life, my participation in 2011 presidential elections has become imperative," he said.

Since annulling the results of a 1993 election that is generally seen as Nigeria's fairest ever, Mr.Babangida says his time out of office makes him better prepared to return to power.

"After almost 18 years of deep and serious reflection on the path Nigeria has taken and the review of our past and present to which we have been exposed, I am today better prepared and more determined to fully engage the challenges and opportunities which lie ahead of our country," said Babangida.

Nigerians cast their ballots for president January 22.