Nigeria President wins party’s ticket to contest April elections

By Seun Akioye/Lagos Nigeria – It all ended in tears for Nigeria’s former vice President and Presidential aspirant Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the  ruling  Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) this morning elected incumbent President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan as it’s Presidential Flag Bearer in the April 2011 general elections.  Tout of the total votes of 3,542, the winner polled a total of 2,736 votes to beat rival Atiku Abubakar  who polled a total of 805 votes. The third contestant Mrs Sarah Jubril who rode through the campaigns to pick the party’s nominations as the representative of the women only managed to get one vote.  The presidential primaries of the ruling party which styled itself as the largest political party in Africa was the culmination of series of party primaries to pick representatives at all levels of government.  Whoever wins the Presidential primary election is expected to win the general elections and become Nigeria’s next President in May 2011.

Bitter Campaign

The Presidential primary election of the PDP was the most anticipated political event in Nigeria due to the acrimonious build up to the election. The two major contenders for the party ticket, President Goodluck Jonathan and former Vice President Atiku Abubakar had been engaged in one of the most bitter election campaigns in Nigeria’s history. There were disagreements on whether the President can contest the election because of an existing agreement within the ruling party zoning the Presidency to the North.

While Abubakar had harped on what he termed as the President’s inexperience in governance and his breach of the zoning agreement, the President’s campaign had consistently portrayed his rival as corrupt having been indicted in a number of high profile charges of corruption including one by the United States Senate bordering on money laundering charges. The situation also greatly polarised the country and created a scenario of instability, it also called to question, the President ‘s ability to enforce his authority in certain issues in the country.

Zoning Controversy

Since President Umaru Yar’Adua died in office on May 6, 2010 and the former Vice President Goodluck Jonathan sworn in, there has been a raging controversy over the zoning agreement.  At the return to democracy in 1999, the ruling party decided to rotate the presidency round the six geo political zones in the country. Starting from the South, former President Olusegun Obasanjo spent eight years and returned power to the North through the late Musa Yar’Adua in 2007. The North expected to hold on to power for a two term presidency till 2015 but fate played a cruel one on the party with the death of the President paving the way for the  Vice  President who is from the south to be sworn in as President.

But politicians from the North insisted that the region must produce the next president thereby making it impossible for President Jonathan to contest the elections at least on the platform of the ruling party. Soon the influential Northern Political Leaders Forum (NPLF) selected Atiku Abubakar as its consensus candidate to contest against the incumbent President. There have also been series of court actions filed either for or against the zoning arrangement until it were eventually resolved by the court and the party leadership that both President Jonathan and Abubakar should contest the primary.

Big Night

It was a night of big wins for the President as he was able to gather votes from all regions of the country. He made big showing in Northern states which Abubakar had hoped will tip the scale in his favour. One of the biggest losses for Abubakar was in his home state of Adamawa which went to Jonathan with 76 votes against Abubakar paltry 31.

Mr Jonathan also captured more than ninety percent of the votes in the South making him one of the few leaders to capture the imaginations of the whole country.

Mr Jonathan is also a popular figure amongst Nigerian youths and first time voters most of whom say they will vote for him ahead of any other Presidential candidate. His Face book page has attracted more than half a million fans and he recently published comments from his fans in a book called “My Friends and I”.

Abubakar’s Next Step

It is not clear what will be Mr. Abubakar’s next political step. While the elections have been adjudged a free and fair, it remains that he may seek the Presidency in another party. This option is not new to him as he had earlier left the PDP in 2007 to contest on the platform of a rival party. Many political analysts in Nigeria are leaving that option open. But more worrisome however is the fact that about four weeks earlier he had made a comment that if he fails to get the party’s nomination there might be a violent change “ Let me send a message today, that those who make peaceful change impossible, makes violent change inevitable,” Abubakar said in December.

However, President Jonathan has promised to provide strong leadership if voted in as President he has also called on both Mr. Abubakar and Mrs. Sarah Jubril to join him in moving the country forward