By Dulue Mbachu
(Bloomberg) -- Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said it’s too soon to announce whether he will run in next year’s presidential election because it would damage his government’s effectiveness.
“I’m not in a position to tell Nigerians whether I will contest now or not because we have a political environment that gets too heated up when people are preparing for elections,” Jonathan said yesterday in an interview with the state-owned Nigerian Television Authority. “So we feel that the best thing to do is to keep our mouths sealed until the appropriate time.”
Jonathan said he would announce his decision after electoral reforms are completed and before the primaries of his ruling People’s Democratic Party.
A bid by Jonathan to run in the election would violate the PDP’s unwritten policy to alternate the presidency for two four- year terms between the mainly Muslim north and the predominantly Christian south. Jonathan, a Christian from the oil-rich Niger River delta in the south, succeeded former President Umaru Yar’Adua, a northern Muslim who died on May 5, three years into his first four-year term.
Africa’s most populous country of more than 140 million and largest oil producer has suffered periodic outbursts of religious and communal violence that have claimed more than 13,000 lives since 1999, according to Brussels-based International Crisis Group.
Sectarian tensions have worsened this year, with clashes between Muslims and Christians around the central city of Jos claiming hundreds of lives since January. Army officers have seized power six times since Nigeria’s independence from the U.K. in 1960, once sparking a civil war from 1967 to 1970.
While many northern political leaders have urged Jonathan to uphold PDP policy, pressure to run is also mounting on him from his native delta region, home to Nigeria’s oil industry, which is the fifth-biggest source of U.S. crude imports.
Attacks on the oil industry by armed groups campaigning for local control of oil revenue cut more than 28 percent of Nigeria’s oil output between 2006 and 2009, according to Bloomberg data.
--Editors: Karl Maier, Ben Holland
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