President Goodluck Jonathan formally declared himself a candidate for re-election in Nigeria's 2011 presidential race at a rally in Abuja on Saturday, three days after announcing he would run on his Facebook page.
AFP - Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan formally declared his bid for the 2011 presidential poll on Saturday, three days after launching it on his Facebook page, ending months of doubts over his ambition.
"I, Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan have decided to humbly offer myself as a candidate in the presidential primaries of our great party, ... in order to stand for the 2011 presidential elections," Jonathan said at a rally in Abuja.
Speaking before a mammoth crowd of supporters, he vowed to unite Nigerians and urged voters to cast their ballots for him.
"I have come to say to all of you that Goodluck Ebele Azikiwe Jonathan is the man you need to put Nigeria right," he said.
"I have come to launch a campaign of ideas, not one of calumny. I have come to preach love, not hate. I have come to break you away from divisive tendencies of the past which have slowed our drive to true nationhood," he said.
The president had used his Facebook page on Wednesday to declare his intention to run in January amidst a row in his ruling People's Democratic Party (PDP) on whether to support him or a northern candidate.
A host of state governors, ministers and lawmakers attended the carnival-like rally in the nation's capital as banner-carrying youth and cultural groups drummed and sang to eulogise the president.
The 52-year-old southern Christian from Bayelsa State in the oil-rich Niger Delta succeeded president Umaru Yar'Adua after his death in May. He had been deputy president since 2007.
Jonathan promised to ensure free and fair elections despite being a candidate in the vote.
"I pledge once again to all the people of this nation that they will have a free and fair election, even as I stand to be a candidate," the president assured.
He also vowed to fight endemic corruption that has stunted growth and development in the west African country.
"Let the ordinary Nigerian be assured that President Jonathan will have zero tolerance for corruption," he said.
The PDP, dominant in Nigerian politics since the country returned to civilian rule in 1999, is divided between backing Jonathan or a candidate from the country's mainly Muslim north.
An unwritten party policy has long dictated that it rotate its candidates between the Muslim north and predominantly Christian south every second term.
The rule serves as a way of smoothing over ethnic, religious and social divides in the vast west African country of 150 million people and over 250 tribal groups.
Since Yar'Adua, a Muslim, died before his first term was up, some argue another northern candidate should be chosen.
Several northern candidates, including former military ruler Ibrahim Babangida and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, have declared their ambition to seek the party's nomination.
First Republic information minister and prominent ethnic Ijaw leader Edwin Clark urged Nigerians to back the president's bid, telling the thousands of massed supporters at the rally "to unite and stand behind President Jonathan".
Other leaders, including former ministers, governors, community and traditional rulers also spoke in the same vein in favour of the president.
But a group of some influential politicians from the north have urged the PDP to bar Jonathan from seeking its ticket, saying the existing party policy on rotating power between the south and north should be respected.
"We demand that the party issues a declaration, restraining President Goodluck Jonathan from participating and presenting himself as an aspirant in the 2010 PDP presidential primary election," read a letter by the group, a copy of which was seen by AFP.
"If we follow our party’s practice and constitution, which we must, the party must nominate a northerner as our presidential candidate," it said.
The PDP has said that its flagbearer will be decided on October 23.
Shehu Sani of the northern-based Civil Rights Congress said it was "unethical and politically immoral" for Jonathan to run.
"The declaration is on breach of 'A Gentleman Agreement' between the political leaders of Nigeria and his party to rotate political power between the north and south of which he Jonathan was a signatory to," he said in a statement.
Sani said the declaration was "nothing but desperation to (hang) onto power, rabid ambition and political opportunism."
Date created : 2010-09-18