Nigeria: President gets party accord to run in 2011 elections

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Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has been given the green light by the Chairman of Nigeria’s ruling party- the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)- to run for president in next year’s elections. The backing comes despite a power-sharing agreement that requires a candidate from the Muslim North to be president, and Mr. Jonathan is from the Christian South.

According to reports, the PDP chairmanship of Okwesilieze Nwodo endorsed the southern Christian President Goodluck Jonathan’s candidacy for national elections scheduled for January next year despite the internal protest this support may cause from members of the northern caucus.

President Jonathan became president after the May 5 death of elected leader Umaru Yar’Adua, a Muslim northerner. The PDP anticipated Yar’Adua holding office for two four-year terms, like his Christian predecessor.

Yar’Adua did not complete his term and the Muslim northern caucus expects a Muslim northerner to complete the tenure. The unwritten agreement calls for the presidency to alternate between the north and south — a measure aimed at placating the two dominant religions in the country of 170 million people.

“We did not envisage that our dear president would die in office,” Nwodo said before the meeting. The party believes that Dr. Goodluck Jonathan — as part and parcel of the joint ticket — has the right to contest the presidential primaries for the 2011 elections, but this would not preclude anyone in the party from contesting,” Nwodo was quoted by journalists.

Nwodo became Chairman of the PDP after the party’s former leader, who publicly declared a northerner had to be the party’s candidate, resigned following federal authorities accusations of corruption.

The PDP has dominated Nigeria’s politics since democracy came to the nation, and observers believe the party has the political muscle required to manipulate the country’s unruly and corrupt electoral system.

President Jonathan is yet to say whether he’d run for the nation’s highest office in the coming election. In a June he had told local reporters that a premature announcement of his decision could put the country into political chaos as the government tries to reform its election laws.

Most analysts however believe the president will run.

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