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Nigeria's Ruling Party Picks Governor as Candidate

Nigeria's ruling Peoples Democratic Party has picked its candidate for the 2007 presidential election. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports that the emergence of a reclusive governor as the party's candidate has been greeted with skepticism in Nigeria.

Governor Umaru Yar'Adua of the northern Katsina state is an obscure figure.

The 55-year-old former teacher and farmer beat 11 other contestants for the Peoples Democratic Party's nomination for the April election.

A political analyst in Abuja, Maxi Okwu, described Yar'Adua's selection as a tragedy for Nigeria.

"If we have free and fair elections, a man like Yar'Adua cannot win," noted Okwu. "One, he is an anonymous politician. His position on any major issue is not known. He is media shy. They say he has some health problems. I worry, a man who is foggy, or not known to have any view on issues is not the kind of president Nigeria needs at the moment."

Yar'Adua's elder brother, Shehu, a retired general, was one of Nigeria's best known politicians and strategists. Shehu was President Obasanjo's deputy when he was military ruler between 1976 and 1979.

Both men were later jailed by another military ruler, General Sani Abacha, for allegedly plotting his overthrow. Shehu died in jail.

Analysts say the younger Yar'Adua secured victory at the ruling party's primary with the tacit support of Mr. Obasanjo.

Maxi Okwu says Mr. Obasanjo's endorsement is to reward the loyalty of the late Shehu Yar'Adua.

"I believe that the Yar'Adua presidency, if it comes true, is the kind of made presidency for puppetry. Obasanjo is out, but he is in," he commented. "Examples show that the script to install a minion has always failed. Secondly, is that you know the late Yar'Adua, brother to this Yar'Adua, was Mr. Obasanjo's deputy. So, maybe he is trying to pay him back by installing his brother as president."

The PDP has ruled Nigeria since 1999, but with infighting and widespread disaffection within its ranks, observers say, the party could face stiff competition from a coalition of two main opposition parties, All Nigeria Peoples Party and Action Congress.