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Professor Predicts a Tense Political Season for Nigeria's Ruling Party

Kabiru Mato of the University of Abuja says the announcements by president Jonathan and Babangida set the stage for a charged political season

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James Butty

A Nigerian political science professor said given the current political climate, particularly within the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the country could be headed for a serious political disaster come 2011 unless a concerted effort is made to avert that.

This comes as Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan on Wednesday used his Face book site to publicly announce his candidacy in the upcoming presidential election.

A few hours later, former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida officially declared his own candidacy at a rally in Abuja. Both are seeking the nomination of the ruling PDP.

Professor Kabiru Mato, chair of the political science department at University of Abuja said the announcements set the stage for a charged political atmosphere in Nigeria.

“The two events, in my view, make the political atmosphere very charged. It’s now very glaring that perhaps Nigerians in the next few months will be treated to a very high political game of intrigue of the various contending forces, especially given the background the People’s Democratic Party is the ruling party,” he said.

Former military ruler Babangida and former vice president Atiku Abukakar are both Muslims who will challenge President Jonathan, a Christian from the south for the PDP’s nomination.

Professor Mato said he was skeptical and fearful for the future of Nigeria because of the current nature of politics within the ruling PDP.

“The political concomitance, as it appears, to me looks very dangerous in the immediate future and unless a very concerted effort is put in place, Nigeria will be heading for a very serious disaster come 2011,” Mato said.

He said one of the main sources of tension within the ruling PDP is the view from party’s northern members that President Jonathan’s decision to run violates an informal power-sharing agreement within the ruling party to rotate the presidency between the north and the south.

“(President) Goodluck Jonathan is insisting that zoning arrangement that the PDP has had is still in force. And therefore as a result of the death of former President Umaru Yar’Adua it is constitutionally okay for Goodluck Jonathan to handle the mandate based on the provision of the Nigerian constitution, and even go further by exercising his fundamental human rights by contesting for the presidency in 2011,” Mato said.

He said the south has had two terms, a total of eight years, and the north feels it deserves to have two terms.

Mr. Jonathan took office in May after the death of President Umaru Yar'Adua, a Muslim. Mr. Yar'Adua died about three years into what was expected to be an eight-year presidency.

In his Internet posting Wednesday, Mr. Jonathan pledged to Nigerians that, if elected, he would always tell the truth and listen to the people.

President Jonathan also said that he was responding to pressure from various quarters to continue with the work of his administration.

Professor Mato described the president’s comments as the usual political rhetoric by African leaders to remain in power.

“I would dispute that claim by President Jonathan on the grounds that technically speaking one cannot lay hands or identify any particular serious economic, social political program that the government is engaged in at the moment to the extent that Nigerians will be putting tremendous pressure as he claims for the president to contest election,” Mato said.

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