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Nigerian Voters Debate: Jonathan or Babangida?

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With presidential campaigning under way in Nigeria voters are debating the merits of the two frontrunners.

A president with four-months experience in office or a former coup leader who ran the country for eight years atop a military dictatorship?  Those are the two leading choices for Nigerian voters: President Goodluck Jonathan or retired General Ibrahim Babangida.

Publisher Adeyemi Adebanwo says President Jonathan has shown he is qualified to lead the country since coming to power in May, following the death of President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua.  But Adebanwo prefers Mr. Babangida's leadership.

"I like Goodluck Jonathan.  He is a fair man.  He is a honest man.  He is a humble man.  He is an easy going man.  The only reservation I have against him is he is a slow person. But Babangida is a man of action to an extent.  I think IBB is more of an action man," Adebanwo said.

Adebanwo says there is no denying the corruption of  Babangida's rule from 1985 to 1993.  But he believes the former general, known popularly by his initials IBB, accomplished many great things, including moving Nigeria's capital from Lagos to Abuja.

"It has always been the consensus that people are saying that it was during the time of IBB that corruption was much in the country.  But I believe he is man who has really built a lot of structures," Adebanwo states. "If you look at Abuja generally, most of the major structures - roads, bridges - most infrastructure you see in Abuja, he was the one who did it.  So I think he could be a better person."

Babangida supporter Folashode Onabanjo returned from Europe to help the former general's campaign.

"Everything to do with better Nigeria, IBB is there.  He stands for the betterment of Nigeria, to be good, to be a good country, to be a developed country that could talk to any other in the world and compete with any other in the whole world," Onabanjo said.

Attorney Anna Irabor says she finds it hard to believe that anyone who lived under Babangida's rule would vote to put him back in power.

"If you ask me, I can only remember the times that we suffered," Irabor says, "Because of that, I do not really think he should come back.  I do not think he should come back.  Let him step aside.  I know he has some good parts in his regime, and those good parts, let him use it to advise those who are already showing their interest to come for the presidency."

Irabor says her choice is President Jonathan. "I am just looking at Jonathan as a person and as a Nigerian and as somebody who I really have great regard and respect for because of the short time he has been with us, the way he has ruled us and the way he has handled situations, that is the reason why I am saying that I prefer him," she said.

President Jonathan's bid upsets an informal power sharing agreement in the ruling party that rotates power between north and south every eight years.  Under that plan, the next Nigerian president should be from the north to finish out President Yar'Adua's term, instead of continuing with President Jonathan, who is from the south.

Ovie Joseph is a ruling party official from the southern Delta State.  He supports the president politically, but wonders how northerners will respond to his breaking the power-sharing deal. "The only thing that is bad in it if for himself indicating interest, forgetting the mutual understanding is not a good one," he says, "the gentlemen's understanding has to hold.  And that one makes you a good man."

Joseph says it is time of politically uncertainty between the mainly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south. "As it is going now, the Christians are not sleeping.  And I know that the Muslims are not sleeping.  They are praying for the welfare of the country.  And I know by the special grace of God we will survive it," he said.

Ruling party primaries begin October 18.  Nigeria's electoral commission says it needs more time to register voters for the election itself and is looking to postpone presidential polls currently scheduled for January.

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