News / Africa

Nigeria Ruling Party Rejects Criticism of Campaign Launch

Nigeria's president Jonathan addresses delegates during the primaries of the ruling People's Democratic Party in Abuja, 13 Jan 2011
Nigeria's president Jonathan addresses delegates during the primaries of the ruling People's Democratic Party in Abuja, 13 Jan 2011
Peter Clottey

A leading member of the ruling Nigeria’s People’s Democratic Party (PDP) dismissed as unfounded media criticism of the party’s choice of Nasarawa State to begin its presidential campaign was aimed to “de-ethnicize” President Goodluck Jonathan’s presidential bid.

Party spokesman Rufai Ahmed Alkali also told VOA the choice had nothing to do with garnering disgruntled northern votes after a contentious primary challenge from former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who is a northerner.

“There is nothing unusual [about Nasarawa state]. The party can pick any state at any time and launch the campaign. In 2007, we picked Lagos state, even though, at that time, Lagos state was controlled by [the] PDP. So, this time PDP picked Nasarawa state because Nasarawa is [the] center of the north central zone,” said Alkali.

“For us, it is a way of encouraging those who have been faithful to the party to show them that, yes, we recognize what they are doing and we want that kind of success in that zone to wrap unto us so that we now start with a good footing,” he added.

Mr. Jonathan began his official campaign Monday in Nasarawa state ahead of Nigeria’s upcoming April presidential election.

Some northerners have criticized President Jonathan of breaking an unwritten traditional power sharing arrangement between the north and south.

Alkali said the ruling party is fully prepared to, in his words, thoroughly campaign to win the hearts and minds of Nigerians in the April vote.

“The reality is that we always want to come up with fresh ideas of how to do things. And we do it mainly thinking about the future of our party and how we can succeed. I don’t think PDP puts issues of ethnicity, religion and other considerations as part of its own strategic decision making. No!,” said Alkali.

“PDP is a national party, [it] is not a regional party; it’s not an ethnic or religious party, and is not controlled by any group or individuals. So, it’s a national party with its roots all over the country,” he added.

Mr. Jonathan inherited the presidency in May after the death of his predecessor, Umaru Yar'Adua, a Muslim, from the north. At the time of his death, Mr. Yar'Adua was just three years into what was expected to be an eight-year presidency.

Some members of Mr. Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP) wanted to nominate another northerner for the April race.

Analysts say, despite a possible stiff opposition coalition challenge, Mr. Jonathan will win the presidential vote.

The ruling party in the oil-rich country has won every presidential election since Nigeria was returned to civilian rule in 1999.

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