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January 12, 2011

Nigeria's Ruling Party Meets to Choose Presidential Nominee

Leaders of Nigeria's ruling party meet Thursday to choose their presidential candidate, amid tight security following a series of bombings.  Security officials say thousands of police, soldiers and civil defense forces are on patrol in the capital, Abuja, to guard against any disruption of the ruling People's Democratic Party primary.

Abuja police spokesman Jimoh Moshood says anti-terrorism personnel and bomb disposal units are also on duty.  Vehicles have been cleared from the vicinity of Eagle Square where Thursday's primary is being held.

An Independence Day bombing near the square in October killed 12 people.  A New Year's Eve blast near a military barracks in the capital killed four people and wounded more than 20 others.  President Goodluck Jonathan says he believes that attack was the work of a radical Muslim group that claimed responsibility for a Christmas Eve bomb in the northern city, Jos, that killed 80 people.

President Jonathan is one of three candidates seeking the ruling-party's nomination. His challengers are former vice president Atiku Abubakar and veteran politician Sarah Jibril.

Nigeria's ruling party has won the last three presidential elections. So its nominee will clearly be the front-runner in April's vote.

But thousands of party delegates in Abuja are also deciding the future of an informal power-sharing deal that rotates the presidency between Nigeria's mainly Muslim north and its predominantly Christian south.

If delegates choose Mr. Abubakar they will be sticking to an agreement that gives northern Nigerians another four years in office following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.

If delegates choose President Jonathan they will be breaking with that plan in favor of a southern leader who took office amidst the political uncertainty surrounding Mr. Yar'Adua's death last year.

It is expected to be a close contest between Mr. Jonathan and Mr. Abubakar, with rounds of voting that could extend into early Friday morning.