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Nigerian Leader Edges Closer to a Third Term


Nigeria could have a new constitution in place in the next few months allowing President Olusegun Obasanjo to run for a third term. Despite deep-seated resentment, those in favor of the amendment may have their way, increasing fears of more violence in Africa's most populous nation.

The Joint Committee of the National Assembly, which is handling the constitutional review, says key constitutional changes will be made in the next few months.

Committee Chairman Ibrahim Mantu, told VOA he was convinced that the proposed changes, which includes a third term for the president, were very popular and had been widely accepted by Nigerians.

"Now that we have established the fact that it is a very popular demand, we want to keep the momentum warm enough," he said. "We want to really make sure we move with accelerated speed to conclude the exercise which Nigerians are yearning for and I think in the next two, three months, this should be history."

However, several groups have either criticized the exercise or expressed deep concern about the grave implication of granting Mr. Obasanjo a third term.

Analysts say the third term issue could be the underling factor behind recent attacks against the oil industry in the Southern Niger Delta and religious-inspired violence.

More than 14,000 people have died in political, ethnic, religious and communal violence since 1999, when the Obasanjo administration was inaugurated.

Mantu, a known close ally of President Obasanjo, blames those he described as anti-democratic forces for the raging violence.

"What is happening now, is just the hand work of enemies of democracy...They feel they have been left out and so what they are now trying to do, is to create confusion, cause confusion so there could be a possible military intervention and then the whole thing will collapse and will start all over again," he said. "Hoping that when it starts all over again, they will be players. It's just anti-democratic forces that are at work."

President Obasanjo, is a Christian and an ethnic Yoruba from the southwest. Ethnic or religious groups from other geopolitical zones are vying for a chance to produce the next president from their area.

Analysts say the next few months could be decisive for Nigeria as it grapples with an uncertain political future.