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President Jonathan makes candidacy public via Facebook

Text by Sébastian SEIBT

Latest update : 2010-09-16

Incumbent Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan has put months of speculation to rest, using Facebook to confirm his intention to seek re-election.

President Goodluck Jonathan took Nigerians by surprise on Wednesday when he updated his Facebook profile. The incumbent made public his intention to seek re-election in 2011 - the first time any president has formalised his candidacy on the popular social networking website.

The Facebook announcement ended months of speculation about Jonathan’s intentions to run for the presidency. "I want to offer my services to the Nigerian people as a candidate for the presidential elections of 2011," he wrote on his Facebook page, which counted 213,884 fans on Wednesday.

In the hours following the announcement, the Facebook post received over 4,000 comments. The vast majority of Web users were quick to express their support for Jonathan. Comments ranged from "My whole family will vote for you", to "with you and God, Nigeria will shine".

The United States welcomed the unusual cyber-strategy. "It's a unique way to announce his candidacy," said William Fitzgerald, deputy assistant secretary for African affairs. Fitzgerald added that the US hoped that Jonathan’s words would herald "a free and transparent electoral process."

Facebook: Danger to party playbook

African countries have struggled to keep up with Internet technology and its rapid development - social networking and other interactive 2.0 Web applications included. However, Facebook is making slow but steady gains.
 
Nigeria is the sub-Saharan country where Facebook is growing fastest, adding around six percent of users each year. There are 1,066,260 Facebookers in a country of around 158,259,000 people, according to March 2010 figures by the independent website InsideFacebook.
 
But President Jonathan's Facebook display has not been welcomed by everyone. "This unconventional decision will strengthen tensions within the People’s Democratic Party [PDP, the ruling party]," said Rolake Akinola, an analyst for the research firm Eurasia Group.

Jonathan’s party, which has dominated Nigeria’s political landscape since 1989, has in fact not yet chosen its candidate, and has been hesitant in supporting him. PDP protocol calls for rotation of the president’s geographic and religious background. The incumbent is a Christian from the South. Tradition calls for the next president to be a Muslim from the Nigeria’s north.

The PDP is poised to launch its primaries on Oct 18, with a decision scheduled for Oct 23. Goodluck Jonathan has not said what he plans to do if the PDP picsk someone else as their candidate.

 

Date created : 2010-09-16

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