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Election 2003 Countdown - 2002-04-26

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has ended months of speculation and announced he will seek re-election in next year's presidential poll. He made the announcement at a special event of leading party officials at the Abuja International Conference Center.

Mr. Obasanjo said his decision was based on pressure from Nigerians and came after lengthy consultations with his family and allies. He said "I’ve weighed every piece of advice, appeal and caution very cooly, calmly and carefully. I have reflected. I have medidated. And I have prayed to God. As a result of these, I have decided that it is best that I make myself available as a presidential candidate in the 2003."

Despite a festive scene at the Conference Center, analysts in Nigeria says Mr. Obasanjo may not have it easy at the polls. He is being challenged by fellow party member Alhaji Abubakar Rimi. In addition, former military head of state General Mohamed Buhari has also announced his candidacy. And Former Biafra Leader Odumegwu Ojukwu is also expected to declare his intention to run.

Mr. Obasanjo and his suppporters say that he has been chosen by God and Nigerians to go for a second term. His critics accuse him of employing the same strategy used by the late General Sani ABacha to keep himself in power.

Mr. Obasanjo welcomed the criticism, saying those opposed to his candidacy are exercising their democratic rights. He said this gives him strength to correct his mistakes.

Information Minister Jerry Gana says "that is one of the qualities that has endeared this president to Nigerians. Frankness, being transparent. There are achievements, but he’s also willing to accept areas of problems. Nigerians like that."

The ruling party is expected to formally endorse Mr. Obasanjo's candidacy at its convention in June.