Goodluck Jonathan to run for Nigerian presidency

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The Independent Online

Nigeria's president, Goodluck Jonathan, ended months of speculation yesterday by confirming that he will contest elections in Africa's most populous nation in January. In a nod to his pretensions as a moderniser Mr Jonathan chose to break the news to his followers on the social networking site Facebook.

The announcement overshadowed the campaign launch of the former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida, who was holding an event in the capital Abuja when Mr Jonathan's confirmation was published.

Mr Jonathan, the former vice-president, who was dubbed the "accidental president" when he took office after the death of Umaru Yar'Adua, could face a rebellion within his own party as his candidacy breaks an unwritten rule that the top office should alternate between the Muslim-dominated north and the predominantly Christian south.

Mr Yar'Adua, who died mid-way through his first term was a northerner, as is Mr Babandiga, whereas Mr Jonathan is a southerner. It remains unclear whether the PDP party will fully endorse the current president or risk a serious rift by backing a northern candidate against him.

Africa's largest oil producer has been racked by sectarian violence along the so-called "middle belt" between the north and the south. Riots and massacres in the central city of Jos earlier this year claimed hundreds of lives.

In announcing his candidacy, Mr Jonathan alluded to these difficulties, saying: "I make no pretence that I have a magic wand that will solve all of Nigeria's problems or that I am the most intelligent Nigerian."

The president may have stolen Mr Babangida's thunder yesterday, but the two announcements set up an intriguing contest.

A crowd of supporters in Abuja's Eagle Square, the traditional venue for political announcements, chanted "IBB" (Mr Babandiga's nickname among most Nigerians) as the former leader promised he would deliver double-digit growth to sub-Saharan Africa and would seek only one term – a pledge that is seen as a sop to those in the ruling party who may object to Mr Jonathan's decision to run for a second term.

Mr Jonathan, who is the first person from the oil-rich Niger Delta to hold the presidency, has been pushed by his supporters in the south to ignore the informal arrangement and campaign for a full term.

Nigeria is one of the most corrupt countries in the world and has been hobbled by a series of military coups.