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Court Ruling Could Affect Nigerian Elections

In Nigeria, Vice-President Atiku Abubakar may now have a brighter chance of contesting next year's presidential elections. He recently won a court victory nullifying his indictment on charges of corruption. But analysts are divided on whether the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party will allow Abubakar to pick the party's ticket over the strong opposition of senior party officials, including President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Lai Mohammed is the media and publicity chair of the Action Congress, a rival political party that’s reportedly wooing Abubakar. VOA English to Africa Service reporter Chinedu Offor asked Mohammed if the court victory means the vice president’s problems are over. Mohammed says it may be too early to tell. “What is important is the ruling makes it possible for him to contest under any political party and removes the suggestions that he corruptly enriched himself with public funds as charged by President Obasanjo,” he says.

Mohammad says the significance of the court ruling is that for the first time in a long time, the judiciary has asserted its independence in the face of pressure and intimidation by the government. He says, “The ruling is a slap on the government. It says the government cannot arrest and prosecute cases and that the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission has exceeded its mandate by not only arresting people but keeping them beyond the required 24 hours by the constitution.”

Mohammed says his party will keep its doors open for Abubakar if and when he decides to dump the PDP. “For now he still remains a member of the PDP. He is in court to challenge his expulsion from the party. When the court rules and he is satisfied with the ruling, we can then decide whether to admit him if he so requests and his chances of being admitted is good.”