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Nigerian Parliament to Open Debate on Third Term for Obasanjo


Nigeria's two-chamber legislature opens a debate this week on a proposal to change the constitution to allow President Olusegun Obasanjo run for a third term. The bid to extend the president's hold on power has polarized Nigerians.

The amendment to Nigeria's constitution to allow President Obasanjo to run for a third term must have two-thirds support in both houses of parliament to be adopted.

Opponents and supporters are claiming victory ahead of the vote, and both sides accuse each other of offering bribes to lawmakers.

Those pushing for the constitutional amendment say the president deserves more time to implement his reform program.

Ibrahim Mantu is one of them. He is the deputy senate president and head of the parliamentary group which recommended the amendment to allow Mr. Obasanjo run again.

"I have no doubt in my mind that in the next two, three years, this country will be a different country altogether," he said, "because all the reforms that have been put in place by President Obasanjo will begin to yield fruits and people will begin to feel it in their system, people will see a difference in the way they live and I have no doubt in my mind that every Nigerian in due course will see Obasanjo as the father of modern Nigeria."

The campaign to extend Mr. Obasanjo's rule has infuriated many Nigerians who consider it an attempt to undermine the country's fragile democracy. Opposition leaders have been harassed and arrested ahead of the parliamentary vote.

Wunmi Bewaji, a member of the Nigeria's House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, says Mr. Obasanjo is manipulating the process to his advantage.

"We have the most vicious president, the most vicious leader, the most vindictive leader Nigeria has ever had in history in President Obasanjo and that is exactly what is happening. The national assembly is not independent," he said.

Nigeria's ruling Peoples Democratic Party has formally endorsed the bid to extend the presidents term. The party is hoping to exploit its overwhelming majority in assembly to pass the amendment.

Opposition to a third term is strong in the predominantly Muslim north, which had expected to take over from Mr. Obasanjo, who is a Christian from the southwest.

Some ethnic groups in the south, including the Ijaws, who are the dominant group in the Niger Delta, are also incensed because they have not produced a president in Nigeria's 46 years of independence despite being home to all the oil wealth.